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Saturday, 28 July 2012

Ulvik, Norway

Welcome back to my blog! Today, I want to show you a little more of Norway, specifically Ulvik, located in the county of Hordaland.

Above: The village of Ulvik, as viewed from our ship.

Ulvik is a charming little village, located at the end of the Ulvik fjord, a side arm of the Hardangerfjord. Named after a farm, the village is visited by numerous cruise ships in the summer.

Above: The village centre.

Ulvik has a population of about 700 people, with more living in farms that surround the village and fjord. The centre of the village, Brakanes, has a cinema as well as a few shops.

Above: Inside the village church, built in 1859.

The village of Ulvik was nearly totally destroyed on 25 April 1940, during the German invasion of Norway, when fighting erupted between a German landing party arriving in boats, and a Norwegian force on land. Most of the village was burned down, and three civilians were killed. An unknown number of German soldiers were also killed in the fighting.

We visited Ulvik twice, but I only got off the second time. It was a glorious day, and I had a few hours to go hiking so I set off in search of a mountain lake, armed with a map!

Above: Looking back at the village and the Ryndam at the start of my hike.

On my walk, I passed many farms and settlements located in the hills and mountains surrounding the village. It must be a lonely and hard existence, especially in winter, but also a very peaceful one!

Above: One of the mountain farms I passed by.

The lake I was headed to was called Frystetjørn but even with a map, I managed to get lost a couple of times! Wandering through the wilderness without a path in sight was a little disconcerting.

Above: Getting lost up a mountain.

I eventually made it to the lake, which was a little anticlimactic but still pretty. The ground around the water was very boggy so it was tricky finding a safe place to take a photo from.

Above: Frystetjørn Lake, an 8 km round trip from the village centre.

Hiking back down from the lake, I got another good view of Ulvik and its surroundings (if you look carefully, you can just make out the Ryndam through the trees).

Above: Ulvik from above.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more blog posts soon.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Warnemünde, Germany

Welcome back to my blog! Today, I want to show you Warnemünde, a quaint German town on the Baltic coast.

Above: Warnemünde at dusk, as viewed from the ship.

Warnemünde (meaning Warnow mouth) is a sea resort, situated on the Baltic Sea in the northeast of Germany at the estuary of the river Warnow. Founded in about 1200, Warnemünde was for centuries a mere fishing village and in 1323 Warnemünde lost its autonomous status as it was purchased by the city of Rostock in order to safeguard the city’s access to the Baltic Sea.

Above: The bridge that lead into the town centre from the ships.

It was not until the 19th century that Warnemünde began to develop into an important sea resort. Today Warnemünde has approximately 8,400 inhabitants and aside from the Aker Warnow Werft ship yard, the economy largely depends on tourism. The construction of a modern cruise line centre in 2005 has contributed to Warnemünde’s establishment as the most important harbour for cruise line ships in Germany.

Above: Many boats on the river had been transformed into shops, selling fish to tourists.

For many cruise ship passengers Warnemünde is simply the gateway to Berlin, as many shore excursions visit the capital which is 2.5 hours away by coach or train. I took a tour to Berlin on my second time here and I'll be blogging about that soon.

Above: Collapsed deck chair / huts on the deserted beach!

Unfortunately it rained rather a lot during my first visit but I still had fun trying out a few bits of German I still remember from school!

Above: The Warnemünde Lighthouse, a famous attraction in town.

We were docked until the evening to allow guests to return from Berlin and so the ship hired an Oompa Band to come onboard and entertain the passengers. Upon our departure the port authority arranged a firework display for us which was rather fun!

Untitled Above: The Rostock Brass Band performing in the Lido.

I'll be bringing back the sunshine for my next blog: beautiful Ulvik, in Norway!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Helsinki, Finland

Welcome back to my blog! Today I am going to show you a little Helsinki, Finland's capital city. I took a walking tour during my visit and it rained. A lot.

Above: The Helsinki Cathedral is probably the most prominent building and symbol of the city.

Finland is a Nordic country situated in Northern Europe and bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland. With a population of only 5.4 million, Finland is the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. Helsinki is the country's capital and largest city with a population of about 600,000.

Above: The Senate Square.

Helsinki was established as a trading town by King Gustav I of Sweden in 1550 who intended it to be a rival to the Hanseatic city of Reval (today known as Tallinn). Little came of the plans as Helsinki remained a tiny town plagued by poverty, wars, and diseases (the plague of 1710 killed the greater part of the inhabitants).

Above: Inside of Helsinki's modern Music Centre.

It was not until Russia defeated Sweden in the Finnish War and annexed Finland as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809 that the town began to develop into a substantial city. During the war, Russians besieged the Sveaborg fortress and most of the city was devastated in a 1808 fire.

Above: The Central Railway Station Square.

Carl Ludvig Engel (1778–1840) was appointed to design a new city centre all on his own. He designed several neoclassical buildings in Helsinki. The focal point of Engel's city plan is the Senate Square. It is surrounded by the Government Palace, the University and the enormous Cathedral, which was finished in 1852, twelve years after Engel's death.

Untitled Above: The statue in the centre of Senate Square with the Cathedral behind.

Helsinki is, however, perhaps even more famous for its numerous Art Nouveau influenced buildings of the romantic nationalism, designed in the early 1900s. The master of the Finnish Art Nouveau was Eliel Saarinen (1873–1950), whose architectural masterpiece was the Helsinki Central Railway Station.

Untitled Above: Helsinki Central Railway Station.

Next time - it's Germany!