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.