Friday, April 10, 2015

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Iceland

Even the bark of this tree makes a nice image.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Iceland

Found this Icelandic mushroom near the waterfall.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Iceland

Here is a smaller Icelandic waterfall.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Iceland

Goðafoss (Waterfall of the Gods) is among Iceland’s larger waterfalls and also is very beautiful. Goðafoss is closely connected with one of the most important event in Icelandic history, the conversion to Christianity from heathendom or “the old custom” in the year 1000.
At that time Þorgeir Þorkelsson, chieftain from nearby Ljósavatn was lawspeaker in Iceland. As such he was faced with the task of settling the growing disputes between Christians and those who worshipped the old Nordic gods. Despite being a heathen priest himself, he decided that all of Iceland should be Christian, as is famously recorded in the Sagas. Legend has it that, once he returned back to Ljósavatn from this historic Alþingi, he dispensed of his heathen gods by throwing them into the falls in a symbolic act of the conversion. This, according to the legend, is how Goðafoss got its name.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Iceland

Akureyri Botanic garden.
This flower picture will have to hold you for awhile as I am off traveling again. Enjoy!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Iceland


There is a great Botanic garden in Akureyri. The garden is one of the northern most botanical gardens in the world. The Public Park was opened in 1912 but the Botanic section in 1957. There are about 6600 alien taxa growing in the garden in beds and nursery and around 430 species of the native taxa. 
A wide variety of both Icelandic and foreign flora are to be found there and new species are always being added to the collection. Please enjoy!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Iceland

Akureyrarkirkja or The Church of Akureyri is a prominent Lutheran church in Akureyri. Located in the center of the city, and towering above the city on a hill, it was designed by Icelandic state architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, and completed in 1940.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Iceland

Then it was off to Iceland. We visited Akureyri which is a town in northern Iceland. It is Iceland's second largest urban area after the capital Reykjavik. The Norse Viking Helgi magri (the slim) Eyvindarson originally settled the area in the 9th century. The first mention of Akureyri is in court records from 1562 when a woman was sentenced there for adultery. In the 17th century, Danish merchants based their camps at the current site of Akureyri, which was one of the numerous spits of land in Pollurinn. The main reasons for choosing this spot for trading operations were the outstanding natural harbour and the fertility of the area. Permanent settlement at Akureyri started in 1778, and eight years later, the town was granted its municipal charter by the king of Denmark (and at the time Iceland also) along with five other towns in Iceland. The king hoped to improve the living conditions of Icelanders by this action because at the time, Iceland had never had urban areas. As far as the king was concerned Akureyri was unsuccessful, because it did not grow from its population of 12. It lost its municipal status in 1836 but regained it in 1862. From then on Akureyri started to grow because of the excellent port conditions and perhaps more because of the productive agricultural region around it. Agricultural products became an important sector of the economy. It is surrounded by mountains, the highest being Kista (1447 metres) and another peak of 1538 metres at the head of Glerádalur. There is a narrow coastal strip of flat land; inland is a steep but low hill. In earlier times a few spits of land (Icelandic: eyri, thus Akur-eyri) jutted from the narrow coast, but a lot of land has since been reclaimed from the sea so that today the coastline is more even except for the largest, Oddeyri, which was formed by the river Glera which runs through the town. It is thought that the name of the town is derived possibly from the name of a field which may have been situated near some of the sheltered locations by the river. The body of sea between Oddeyri and the end of the fjord is known as Pollurinn ("the Pool") and is known for calm winds and a good natural harbour. Akureyri today is centered on Ráðhústorg (Town Hall Square) near the northwest corner of Pollurinn. The districts of Akureyri are: Innbær, the oldest part of town on the strip of land between the hill and Pollurinn south of the central area; Brekkan, on top of the hill; Oddeyri on the peninsula with the same name; and Glerárhverfi on the north bank of the Glerá (also referred to colloquially as Þorpið, 'the Village'). Because of the town's position at the end of a long fjord surrounded by high mountains, the climate is actually more inland than coastal, meaning greater variations in temperature (warmer summers, colder winters) than in many other inhabited parts of Iceland. However, the mountains shield the town from strong winds. The relatively warm climate (for its latitude) allows the Botanical Gardens to flourish without need of a greenhouse. The area around Akureyri has one of the warmest climates in Iceland even though it is merely 100 km (62 mi) from the Arctic Circle.

Here is a view from the city looking at one of the surrounding mountains.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Faroe Islands

Even native grass makes a nice picture.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Faroe Islands

Here is the picturesque village of Leynar. The village is on the western coast of the island of Streymoy. It has a "large" population of 120.
 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Faroe Islands

A great looking flower from the Faroe Islands.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands comprise 18 islands, separated by narrow sounds or fjords. The largest island is Streymoy with the capital, Tórshavn. We left the "big" city and explored the island where we visited a wood carver. Here is the carving greeting us on his studio wall.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Faroe Islands

I love to find old windows with wavy glass. Homes built before the turn of the 20th century have a very distinct characterization - a wavy appearance that can distort the images behind it. While some people believe this waviness is simply a result of the age of the glass, it actually has to do with the techniques used to make glass at the time. The two most popular styles of glass during the 19th century were crown glass and cylinder glass. Each of these styles was created by involving the process of glass blowing, which largely contributed to the rippled and slumped appearance of windows in old homes. Here is a fine example.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Faroe Islands

The town of Torshavn had some photogenic houses - this is one.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Faroe Islands

As we entered the harbor at Torshavn this was our view of this colorful town.  Torshavn is the capital and largest city of the Faroe Islands, a country situated between Scotland and Iceland. Torshavn is located in the southern part on the east coast of Streymoy. The Vikings established their parliament on the Tinganes peninsula in 850 AD. Torshavn thus became the capital of the Faroe Islands and has remained so ever since. All through the Middle Ages the narrow peninsula jutting out into the sea made up the main part of Torshavn. Sources do not mention a built-up area in Torshavn until after the Reformation in 1539. Early on, Torshavn became the centre of the islands' trade monopoly, thereby being the only legal place for the islanders to sell and buy goods. In 1856, the trade monopoly was abolished and the islands were left open to free trade. The town has grown rapidly ever since the turn of the 20th century into the undisputed administrative, economic, and cultural centre of the Faroes. The name of the town means Thor's Harbour, and is likely named after the god of thunder and lightning in Norse mythology.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Shetland Islands

This Shetland Pony was sad to see us leave.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Shetland Islands

I imagine this young man was embracing his Norse heritage at Jarlshof.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Shetland Islands

Shetland had some nice looking wild flowers.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Shetland Islands

Jarlshof is the best known prehistoric archaeological site in Shetland, and has been described as "one of the most remarkable archaeological sites ever excavated in the British Isles". It contains remains dating from 2500 BC up to the 17th century AD.
At the end of the 19th century, storms ripped open the low cliffs at Jarlshof, near the southern tip of Shetland. They revealed an extraordinary settlement site embracing 4,000 years of human history. Upon excavation, the site was found to contain a remarkable sequence of stone structures – late Neolithic houses, Bronze-Age village, Iron-Age broch and wheelhouses, Norse longhouse, medieval farmstead, and 16th-century laird’s house. The excavations also produced a wonderful array of artefacts.
The first people to reach Shetland probably landed not far from Jarlshof some 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. Visible remains from this first settlement include a Bronze-Age smithy, built around 800 BC, and houses with distinctive cells formed by buttresses extending into the living space.
The Iron-Age village was built upon the earlier settlement. The houses were also round but lacked the buttresses of their predecessors, thus providing more space. Two had souterrains (underground passages) attached; they may have been grain-stores.
After an apparent break-in occupation, a broch was built at the site. Standing now to a height of 2.4m, it was probably much higher; Mousa Broch, 10 miles to the north, still stands 13m high. The broch was soon joined by other dwellings, including a large aisled ‘roundhouse’ and a byre.
During the first centuries AD, the broch collapsed and was abandoned. New structures replaced it, called wheelhouses because their roofs were supported on radial piers, like spokes in a wheel. This was a time when Shetland was probably being occupied by the Picts, Scotland’s oldest indigenous people.
Vikings from Norway settled at Jarlshof in the 9th century. The longhouse forming the heart of the farm is still clearly visible. The farmstead expanded and contracted over time – some 12 to 16 generations. By the 13th century, this had been replaced by a farmhouse, with barn and corn kilns attached.
Shetland passed from Norway to Scotland in 1469, and came under the control of Earl Robert Stewart, illegitimate son of James V. His son, the tyrant Earl Patrick, built ‘the Old House of Sumburgh’ that today dominates the site. The name ‘Jarlshof’ (earl’s house), though it sounds archaic, was actually bestowed on the site by Sir Walter Scott, in his novel The Pirate. The proper name for the site is Sumburgh, derived from the Old Norse borg, ‘fort’.
Here is a view from up top looking down on the settlement.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Shetland Islands

Here is one more Shetland pony - This time a young colt.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Shetland Islands

Here is a Shetland pony, out standing in his field.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Shetland Islands

A beautiful world that was carved and shaped by ice; where the geology is so fascinating that the islands are a global Geopark; and where the landscapes and seascapes provide endless inspiration for photographers and artists. And there is much more to Shetland than awe-inspiring nature and wildlife. Shetland has a truly unique culture, as you’d expect of an island group that has been inhabited for over 6,000 years and sits at a North Atlantic crossroads.
Shetland's world-famous small ponies can be seen throughout the islands - grazing by the roadside, on the beaches or on the heathery hills. Appearing to roam wild, the ponies are, in fact, all owned and tended to by local crofters. These captivating creatures stand up to 42 inches, or 107 cms, high at four years old or over. Charming and instantly recognisable, the ponies can be seen in any colour known in horses except spotted. The coat changes according to the seasons: a short summer coat which should carry a beautiful silky sheen and, by contrast, a double coat in winter with guard hairs to shed the rain. This thick winter coat, coupled with a profuse mane and tail help to protect the pony against the often harsh conditions of the islands. For at least 4000 years, in comparative isolation, these fascinating small ponies have roamed the exposed hills and moors of Shetland. This unrestricted lifestyle has led to the evolution of a unique and hardy breed, befitting the environment.
From the 1840s, Shetland ponies began to be used in British coal mines as new laws forbade the employment of women, girls and, later, boys. Hardy, resilient and very strong for their size, the ponies made ideal substitutes as they were able to pass through low underground tunnels hauling truckloads of coal. At first, ponies were simply rounded up and exported from Shetland but, from around 1880 until the end of the 19th century, there were breeding pony studs in the islands. They are also very cute as seen in this picture.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Orkney Islands

The neolithic settlement of Skara Brae lies near the dramatic white beach of the Bay of Skaill. Skara Brae is the best preserved groups of prehistoric houses in Western Europe. The Neolithic village of Skara Brae was discovered in the winter of 1850. Wild storms ripped the grass from a high dune known as Skara Brae, beside the Bay of Skaill, and exposed an immense midden (refuse heap) and the ruins of ancient stone buildings. The discovery proved to be the best-preserved Neolithic village in northern Europe. And so it remains today. Skara Brae was inhabited before the Egyptian pyramids were built, and flourished for centuries before construction began at Stonehenge. It is some 5,000 years old. But it is not its age alone that makes it so remarkable and so important. It is the degree to which it has been preserved. The structures of this semi-subterranean village survive in impressive condition. So, amazingly, does the furniture in the village houses. Nowhere else in northern Europe are we able to see such rich evidence of how our remote ancestors actually lived.Village life appears to have ended around 2,500 BC. No one knows why. Some argue that it was because a huge sandstorm engulfed their houses, others that it was more gradual. As village life came to an end, new monuments were beginning to rise up on mainland Orkney, including most importantly the chambered tomb at Maes Howe and the impressive stone circles at the Ring of Brodgar and Stenness.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Orkney Islands

It was raining pretty good when we next visited the one iconic site that has come to represent Orkney's ancient heritage, the Ring o' Brodgar. Because the interior of the Ring o' Brodgar has never been fully excavated, or scientifically dated, the monument's actual age remains uncertain. However, it is generally assumed to have been erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC. The stone ring was built in a true circle, almost 104 meters wide. Although it is thought to have originally contained 60 megaliths, today, only 27 stones remain.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Orkney Islands

The Stones of Stenness is one of two of Britain’s best-preserved prehistoric monuments (the Ring of Brodgar is the other).  The best guess as to their function is that they were involved in activities and ceremonies celebrating the relationship between living and past communities.

Archaeologists call monuments of this kind ‘henge monuments’. The henge itself was the substantial ditch and outer bank, a considerable physical obstacle around the circle of standing stones. The only way into and out of the circle was via causeways (one in the case of Stenness, two at Brodgar).

The two sites sit in one of the richest Neolithic landscapes in Europe. This was a place of stone circles, villages and burial monuments, where people lived, worshipped and honoured their dead.
The Stones of Stenness may be the earliest henge monument in the British Isles, built around 5,400 years ago. Yes - older than Stonehenge! The site now lacks its encircling ditch and bank, though excavation has shown the ditch to be 4m wide and 2.3m deep. The four surviving standing stones, stone stumps and concrete markers outline an oval that was around 30m in diameter.

The focus of the interior was a large hearth; it is still visible. That the hearth was significant can be seen from the line of features that marked the approach to it – a paved path, two stone settings, another setting that was apparently a second hearth, and finally the uprights of a three-stone ‘dolmen’. Pottery and animal bones recovered during excavation tell us that Neolithic visitors cooked and ate plenty of food at the site.

 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Orkney Islands

Then it was off to the barren and wind swept Orkney Islands. Orkney is a land of rolling green fields, rugged coastlines and spectacular pristine beaches. Approximately seventy islands and skerries make up Orkney, with up to 20 of those inhabited. Most of the 21,000 strong population live on the largest island, the mainland, though many of the inner and outer islands of Orkney also support thriving communities, each with its own distinct identity. The name "Orkney" dates back to the 1st century BC or earlier, and the islands have been inhabited for at least 8,500 years. Originally occupied by Mesolithic and Neolithic tribes and then by the Picts, Orkney was invaded and forcibly annexed by Norway in 875 and settled by the Norse. The Scottish Parliament then re-annexed the earldom to the Scottish Crown in 1472, following the failed payment of a dowry for James III's bride, Margaret of Denmark. Orkney contains some of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic sites in Europe which is what I came here to see.
This Lighthouse known as Helliar Holm, Shapinsay, or Saeva Ness Lighthouse was built in at the end of the 18th Century by brothers David A Stevenson and Charles Stevenson. The Harbour Trustees of Kirkwall, the Commissioners of Supply, and the Road Trustees of Orkney wanted the lighthouse to be situated on a little island called Thieves Holm, but the final decision was made to situate it on Helliar Holm. The lighthouse, which is 12.8m (42 feet) tall was first illuminated in 1893. Adjacent two-storey keepers' cottages were built at the same time. Amongst lighthouse keepers were former joiners, seamen, fishermen, shoemakers, railway carriage cleaner, lorry driver, blacksmith or Farm hand. In 1967, when the lighthouse was automated, last of the keepers left Helliar Holm and this chapter in of its history was closed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Scotland

Then it was time to leave Edinburgh, but not before we had a look at the Royal Yacht HMS Britannia. It was home to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family for over 40 years, sailing over 1,000,000 miles around the world. A little known fact - Britannia was the only ship in the world whose Captain traditionally was an Admiral. Nowhere on her side will you see her name, yet she is recognized around the world. She was built for the dual role of becoming a hospital ship if needed. Now retired and permanently berthed in Edinburgh as a museum and open to the public.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

Scotland

Scone Palace also had some rare white peacocks. Although commonly thought of as albino, white peacocks, or peafowl as they are known, are in fact a genetic mutation of the more common Indian Blue Peafowl. This mutation, called ‘Leucism’, causes a lack of pigments in the plumage which in turn gives them their stunning pure white appearance. However, unlike albino birds they have blue eyes.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Scotland

The lawns around Scone Palace are home to free-roaming peacocks.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Scotland

The Moot Hill was the Ancient Crowning Place of the Kings of Scots. It is located immediately in front of the Palace and is crowned by a tiny Presbyterian Chapel, which, like the Palace, was Gothicized around 1804. A replica of the Stone of Scone sits in front of the Chapel. The Stone of Scone, also called Stone of Destiny, Scottish Gaelic Lia Fail,  that for centuries was associated with the crowning of Scottish kings and then, in 1296, was taken to England and later placed under the Coronation Chair. The stone, weighing 336 pounds (152 kg), is a rectangular block of pale yellow sandstone (almost certainly of Scottish origin) measuring 26 inches by 16 inches by 11 inches.  A Latin cross is its only decoration.
According to one Celtic legend the stone was once the pillow upon which the patriarch Jacob rested at Bethel when he beheld the visions of angels. From the Holy Land it purportedly traveled to Egypt, Sicily, and Spain and reached Ireland about 700 BC to be set upon the hills of Tara, where the ancient kings of Ireland were crowned. Thence it was taken by the Celtic Scots who invaded and occupied Scotland. About 840 AD it was taken by Kenneth MacAlpin to the village of Scone.
At Scone, historically, the stone came to be encased in the seat of a royal coronation chair. John de Balliol was the last Scottish king crowned on it, in 1292, before Edward I of England invaded Scotland in 1296 and moved the stone (and other Scottish regalia) to London. There, at Westminster Abey in 1307, he had a special throne, called the Coronation Chair, built so that the stone fitted under it. This was to be a symbol that kings of England would be crowned as kings of Scotland also.
Attached to the stone in ancient times was allegedly a piece of metal with a prophecy that Sir Walter Scott translated as
Unless the fates be faulty grown
And prophet’s voice be vain
Where’er is found this sacred stone
The Scottish race shall reign.
When Queen Elizabeth I died without issue in 1603, she was succeeded by King James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England (or Great Britain). James was crowned on the Stone of Scone, and patriotic Scots said that the legend had been fulfilled, for a Scotsman then ruled where the Stone of Scone was.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Scotland

We went into the countryside to visit the heart of Scotland's history - Scone Palace.

Scone Palace is a place that breathes history like nowhere else in Scotland. Today, in the 21st century, it is the home of the Earls of Mansfield, and a major attraction to visitors from all over the world. Fifteen hundred years ago, it was the capital of the Pictish kingdom and the centre of the ancient Celtic church. In the intervening centuries, it has been the seat of parliaments and the crowning place of Kings. It has housed the Stone of Destiny and been immortalised in Shakespeare's Macbeth.
Poised above the River Tay, the Palace overlooks the routes north to the Highlands and east through Strathmore to the coast. The Grampian mountains form a distant backdrop, and across the river stands the city of Perth. Two thousand years ago, the Romans camped here, at the very limit of their empire. They never defeated the warlike Picts, who later came to rule Scone, but the followers of St Columba had more success. By the early 7th century, a group of early Christians, the Culdees or servants of God, had established themselves here.

Here is a view of the Palace.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Scotland

Then it was off to Edinburgh, Scotland where we received a royal welcome.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

London

Here is a swanling (also known as cygnets) fluffing up for the day in St. James's Park.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

London

It was a hot day in London when we saw this horse parade going by Buckingham Palace.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

London

St. James's Park has some wonderful flower beds.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

London

Here is a Black Swan showing off his ability to stand on one leg.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

London

St. James's Park has a large collection of birds. Shown here is a vocal Black Swan (Cygnus atratus).

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

London

In central London is the wonderful St. James Park. Within the park is the Duck Island Cottage - a Swiss Chalet for a British Bird-Keeper. This pretty cottage was built in 1841 as the home of the bird-keeper in St. James's Park. It also had a club room for the Ornithological Society of London, which once helped to look after the park's ducks and geese. The design, like a Swiss chalet, was intended to be a contrast to the grand architecture of government buildings nearby.

Monday, January 5, 2015

London

While in London we visited the Festival of Love which was held on Southbank (Thames River). This exhibit caught my eye.