Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
The only thing Belfast does in moderation is moderation.
Always, it has been Brobdingnagian in spirit. Always, it has lived large.
Once it was the largest linen producer in the world. And had the largest ropeworks. It was the largest manufacturer of fizzy drinks; largest shirt maker; had the largest flax machine works; largest tobacco factory; largest handkerchief factory. Jonathan Swift, when he was living at Lilliput Cottage near the bottom of the Limestone Road in Belfast, imagined the nearby Cavehill Mountain a sleeping giant. Big in Belfast is the roar. Annalisa Wray of Belfast holds “The Guinness Book of World Records” for the loudest shout on Earth, a deafening 119-decibel effort.
My friend Virginia Moriarty, born and bred in Belfast, has a theory, which she espouses while I pay a visit. She calls it the “Second Child Syndrome.” Throughout the 16th century, the Noble families of the British Empire (Barons, Viscounts, Earls, and Dukes) would grant their first son title and estate inheritance. Second sons were out of luck. But since 1603, when a victory over the Irish in Ulster allowed Britain complete control of Ireland, the Lords of Scotland and Wales and other parts of the Empire would often send their second sons to the remote, rocky, incommoding land to stake claims. And, these second sons, denied the attention or privilege of their older brothers, set out to prove themselves. Pop psychologists call it an ingrained inferiority complex that drives a compulsion to do things bigger and better, often, though, without self-examination. Sigmund Freud said the Irish were “the one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.” When I ask Virginia, who happens to be second in birth order, about this she says there are many manifestations of the Second Child Syndrome, and certainly over-compensation is one; equivocation is another. “I used to be indecisive; now I’m not sure,” she volunteers.
Whatever the reasons, Belfast remunerated with bigness. Beyond-the-pale amplitude. It was a town with few natural resources…everything from coal to timber to iron had to be imported. And yet for a time, a century ago, it was the world’s leading industrial city, anchored by the biggest shipyard in the world, and there it created the biggest man-made moving object in history….the ocean liner Titanic.
Writer Andrew Wilson in a 2012 article in “Smithsonian Magazine,” speculated that “Titanic” is the third-most widely recognized word in the world – trailing only “God” and “Coca-Cola.” Daniel Allen Butler said the same thing in his 1998 book, “Unsinkable.” My reaction: Really? Outflanking 9/11 or Michael Jackson or JFK (of Irish descent), Barry Obama (his great-great-great grandfather was Irish), Bono, Van Morrison or Guinness? What about Noah’s Ark? Regardless, I would hazard that most, until recently, would not have associated the city of Belfast with Titanic. Certainly Southampton where most of its passengers made way into the fatal ship; or Liverpool, where it was registered, and which was emblazoned high on its stern to be seen in a raft of recreations and films, including James Cameron’s little contribution. Or Cherbourg, where it made its second stop and some of the wealthiest and best known passengers boarded. Or even Queenstown (Cobh), in the south of Ireland, its final dock, where a large number of third class passengers emigrating to the United States fed into the bowels, sort of like the lower-deck passengers on an a380 today. And then there is Newfoundland. The doomed ship was in near constant communication with Cape Race on its Marconi wireless prior to hitting the iceberg as passengers passed along greetings to folks all over North America; and Cape Race coordinated the rescue efforts with other vessels after the incident, just 300 miles off the Newfoundland coast. So, at the end of the day, Belfast was not a big part of the popular story, its coordinates invisible to most narratives.
And after the disaster, Belfast went quiet. Titanic was a dream not remembered.
Beforehand, the city was unbelievably proud of what it had created in Titanic and its sister ship, Olympic. Some 15,000 shipbuilders won a living fashioning the “unsinkable” ship, something aloof to weather, with the strength to ignore such bagatelles as icebergs. It was not just the biggest, but the most luxurious liner ever willed to existence, incorporating the most advanced technologies of the time. Belfast beat the world. It was their place, their time.
It’s easy to imagine the inflated chests, the crow and brag that infused the city on April 2, 1912 when, at 8:00 pm, Titanic’s giant screws thrashed through the waves and the ship blinked its farewell as it vanished into nothingness.
But, with the unfathomable death of Titanic, swallowed by the sea as if a pill, accusations were leveled at all parties, including the shipbuilders and their materials, the design, the size of the rivets and general craftsmanship. The reply was, “there was nothing wrong with the ship when she left.” But, again with the pop psychology, the second sons, under the pressing weight of conscience, felt ashamed and Titanic was a subject not to be broached in Belfast for many, many years. Optimism and sense of purpose drained away like water from a punctured container. Greatness had passed.
Cut to the present. Now, it might be said, the city should be called Titanic Town. Just as James Joyce jibed, “It would be a good puzzle would be to cross Ireland without passing a pub,” it would be a puzzle today to cross Belfast and not pass the word Titanic.
Somewhere along the way somebody had the bright idea of turning lemons (there were 16,000 on Titanic) to lemonade, not only embracing the Belfast association with the tragedy, but turning the “built here” stamp into its main tourist magnet. It was an attitudinal sea change. Today the official slogan is “Our Place, Our Time,” and the city is awash in exhibitions, tours, cruises, concerts, collectables, drinks (Titanic Tea, Titanic Whiskey and Titanic Quarter Ale), snacks (Titanic potato crisps) and folderol, all branded Titanic. There is the Titanic Light Show, the Titanic Bike “N” Boat tour, the Titanic iPad app, the Titanic suite at the Europa Hotel, the Titanic Road Rally, Titanic Triathlon, Titanic Cemetery tour. Down the road, at the Grand Opera House, “Titanic, the Musical” is playing. Even the grocery stores feature iceberg lettuce.
The cornerstone of the jamboree is Titanic Quarter, formerly Queen’s Island, and the great display case is Titanic Belfast, an angular, silver-colored construction that some think suggests an iceberg rather than the bow of a mighty ship, as was intention. I mistakenly call the 150 million dollar, ineluctably grand edifice a “museum,” and am promptly chastised by one of the staff… “It is not a museum. It is an Experience.” That approach might be because there is little actually of Titanic to see in the building, or even around town. On the whole, Belfast is more about the spaces Titanic left behind.
One, of course, is the 880 foot-long Thompson Graving Dock, where Titanic was hauled to check and clean its hull and fit the propellers. Standing on the edge of this naked 44-foot deep footprint one at last gets a sense of how huge this ship was, or at least it allows imagining. And Colin Cobb, a self-professed Titanorak who runs Titanic Walking Tours, brings it home sharing that the dock could hold 21 million gallons of water, or, in terms better understood in Ireland, 168 million pints of Guinness.
But that’s just it…Belfast is more about the idea of Titanic than the tangible. It’s the absence that teases, inviting us to color in the book, to put ourselves in the story.
Part 1 of 5: More of the series will be presented here or click here for the series at Huffington Post.
5.17.13 at 9:53 pm | $1000usd in CASH PRIZES for Independence Travel. . .
5.10.13 at 7:56 am | Our Inspiration Travel Writing Contest had sixty. . .
4.24.13 at 4:21 am | Thanks to Dave from Dave's Travel Corner for. . .
3.19.13 at 4:36 am | Hello from Pokhara! Our time in Nepal has been. . .
1.30.13 at 7:51 am | Reading Chetan Bhagat's Revolution 2020 in. . .
1.2.13 at 9:26 am | Travel Writing Contest: FREE ENTRY, $200 CASH. . .
5.17.13 at 9:53 pm | $1000usd in CASH PRIZES for Independence Travel. . . (16)
10.8.11 at 12:00 pm | Just because everyone says something is a good. . . (4)
11.29.12 at 6:15 am | Lisa's first article on National Geographic!. . . (4)
June 8, 2012 | 11:46 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
What inspires you? Where will you go next?
Join us for a travel meet, mingle and get inspired happy hour!
Meet us at XBAR in Century City. Hyatt Regency Century Plaza
2025 Avenue of the Stars Los Angeles, CA 90067
PARKING: $8 with validation or 2 hrs free at Century City Mall
June 12, 2012
Have you seen Caine’s Arcade yet? We are having a raffle to raise money for the Caine’s Arcade Foundation!
An overnight stay at the gorgeous Hyatt Regency Century Plaza
TOURificEscapes Sites & Bites of Hollywood Tour for 2 ($200 value)
$100 in travel with Groundlink, the next generation car service
Enjoy an evening in the XBAR at the Century City Hyatt ($50 value)
(2) bottles of Napa Wine from the Napa Valley Wine Project
Signed TRAVEL LITERATURE
: The Voluntourist by Ken Bud, Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli, Richard Bangs, Red Goddess Rising by Halle Eavelyn, The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman,
Video 101: Tips & Tricks for Awesome Visual Storytelling by Lisa Lubin
Memberships: MemberTravel ($99 value)
TrekR Travel Washcloth
Giftbags from Jetset Extra
More about this event at http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/los-angeles
June 6, 2012 | 9:01 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
We asked Dina Bernat-Kunin to share about her recent trip to gorgeous Ojai, California for a powerful and fun Women’s retreat.
The road to Ojai is very familiar to me. I call it freedom road. I usually avoid being the driver because I just hate driving. Being the passenger allows me to relish the relief I feel while traveling. But on this trip, I offered to drive a close friend to the Ruach Nashim women’s retreat up at Camp Ramah in Ojai, California. My friend, Andrea, was in no condition to drive as she was experiencing the trauma of having to move out of her house almost immediately after her home was flooded. How ironic for her that the theme of this retreat was water. As I thought about water, images of the spray from the Banyas waterfall flooded my mind. As a Healer and an Ima, I am always working on cleansing and clearing, both physically and internally.
I couldn’t wait anymore for my freedom! My anticipation built as I exited off of the 101 freeway to the 33. It would not be long from here. The flood of memories began. My husband and I have a history of coming up here for our getaways. Sometimes we’ve made it a family trip, but more often Ojai is our couple’s refuge. I felt my heart beat with more excitement as we passed the Blue Iguana Inn. A big exhale pours out of me with a sigh. I was waiting for that exhale all day. “We’re free! We’re free!” I yell. Andrea’s understanding smile is happy for me, even though she was still recovering from a hectic week. I took another long breath, releasing the “Aaahhhh” of relief. For some reason, I was happy to be driving. Huh, new experiences were already happening.
I did not grow up at this camp, but my kids have. They live for summer at Ramah. When they ride this road, they have a different flood of memories. Their Ojai freedom came from being a child in a place that they’ve always felt safe, independent and joyous. Don’t we all want that!
Andrea and Shawn had been encouraging me to come for quite a while. This women’s retreat has been going for 7 years. Family, finances, and work always presented obstacles to going. But a voice inside of me insisted on coming this year.
As I sat in the introduction circle of 75 women of various ages, I noticed how busy my head had been. My brain was still working, still prioritizing other things that were not at Ojai, and still a little unsure of what was to come. I didn’t want to experience this weekend with all that garbage talk in my head. I wanted to be here, to truly be present with the women in front of me. With determination and some trepidation, I stepped into the circle.
As the workshop progressed, we met each other through song, dance and Moving Torah. This was Andrea’s amazing creation as she brought a unique life to each word, to every song as the Torah moved through our bodies. All together, we mimicked, sculpted, and flowed with the feelings and meanings of our words. Like the waving of hands which welcomes in Shabbat, a spirit of joyous womanhood entered the collective body of the group. I loved the feeling of being fully immersed in the spirit and energy of women. What a gift. As my mental resistance melted, I allowed the current of Shabbat to carry me into an ongoing rush of amazing davening, incredible learning, and the joy of hanging out with great people. I was just soaking up each moment!
Prior to coming on the retreat, I had asked Rabbi Shawn Fields-Meyer, the Retreat Coordinator, if there was any opportunity for me to offer a learning session at the retreat. “Yes!” she responded with great enthusiasm, “Shabbat afternoon, for Spa Ramah, people offer different kinds of relaxing and nurturing sessions”, Shawn shared. I was so excited. It was a chance to share the work I had been developing in my private practice as a Healer called Deep Body Listening and Body Dialogue. At lunch, I told the group about the newly offered session, gushing with enthusiasm.
Then, panic struck! So many women came up to me saying, “I’m coming to your session!” I had assumed that everybody was going to take a Shabbat nap! It turned out that the idea of being gently guided to connect deeply with our bodies was very appealing. I had mentally prepared for maybe eight people showing up.
Twenty eight women poured into the workshop space! It was the first time that I would be presenting my new work to a group, and 28 women show up. To calm my pounding heart, I gave myself a pep talk. “Be open to having a new experience, Dina”.
Something clicked as I stood before this group feeling confidence and joy. I brought them to feeling our hearts, asking them to feel their chest in a more intentional way. Textures, colors¸ temperatures, shapes, and emotions arose in the women. So rarely do we, as women, get to focus our full attention on our own bodies. So often, we are caring for others. But today, it was our turn to feel the warmth of our own hearts. Using specific breathing techniques, I guided the group to bring this warmth to the bottoms of their feet as we touched upon each body part. “Do this slowly and thoughtfully so that each place in your body feels received”, I kept repeating. “Now, ask your body where you need attention the most. Just listen and receive whatever message your body has to give you. As the participants learned to listen more deeply to their bodies, I directed them in bringing their heart energy to each neglected spot. “Feel the gift of bringing that warmth to your OWN body.” Women shared how nurtured their body felt and they expressed gratitude for being able to attend to their body in this new way. The feeling of exhilaration washed over me and I felt so energized leading this incredible session.
Shabbat came to a close, allowing us to participate in an evening of arts. There was something for everyone; writing, drama, Moving Torah, ceramics and silk painting. The rooms were just vibrating with an intense creative energy everywhere.
In return for the enormous gift of participating in this retreat I expressed my gratitude and enthusiasm by asking to be included in the planning and coordinating team for next year. To all those who will be at next year’s retreat, I can’t wait to see you next year on the road to Ojai!
Dina Bernat-Kunin, LCSW has a private practice in the Pico/Robertson section of LA. Her sessions offer Intuitive Exercises, Energy Healing, Talk Therapy, and Deep Body Listening and Body Dialogue. She can be reached through her website www.dinabernatkunin.com
More stories, photos and videos from us at WeSaidGoTravel!