Sunday, 30 August 2009

Galicia, the Iberian Ultima Thule

The celts, the romans, the suevi, the visigoths and even moors and vikings visited Galicia as a last destiny before the sea.

An wild rocky coast that also offers large safe inlets (the Rias) and optimal conditions for settling and defending against enemies. Celt settlements (castros), dolmens and engravings in the rocks can be found all around.

The romans finally defeated the Gallaicos (Galicians) in 137 BC. Roads, bridges, walled cities and aqueducts are their usual legacy. Then came the Suevi and the Visigoths with the first kingdoms, that between some fighting started peaceful mingling. All ended up with conversion to catholic religion.
The moors hardly got here - this region had no interest for them. They just now and then came to collect taxes...
Later, some Viking raids aimed at Santiago the Compostela by landing at Catoira. Fortifications still exist in the area.

Nowadays, Galicia is still a land to explore, with unspoiled coast, almost untouched beaches and steep cliffs, small fishing ports, unvisited forest parks, magnificent grain stores (horreos) in stone, megalithic era remains (dolmens, family tombs).

In Corcubión I found the spirit - a quiet large bay (Ria), white houses with framed glass balconies (galerias), other houses supported by arches, an almost mediterranean feeling in such a remote place, near cape Finisterra - the end of the earth, where mare tenebrosum starts!

In La Coruña, the main town in the far North of Galicia, you can find all this in a larger scale. Good museums, narrow up and down streets in the old town, an old tramway line, walks on the cliffs, the impressive Hercules tower - a lighthouse, first built by the romans (it's base still remaining), then rebuilt in neoclassic style. And the fantastic glass balconies facing the ocean, reflecting the sunset in thousands of mirrored windows.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Short break, bye with Bach and Gould

I'll be off for a few days.
Until then, I leave with the Thulean divine Goldberg Variations Aria by J.S. Bach, Glenn Gould plays.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Crow Brings Daylight - an Inuit Myth

I love this daylight creation myth. It shows how much the people of the North value the light of the sun they scarcely have just for some months...

Long, long ago, when the world was still young, it was always dark in the north where the Inuit people lives. They thought it was dark all over the world until an old Crow told them about Daylight and how he had seen it on his long journeys back and forth between the northlands and the south.

Yet many of the younger folk were fascinated by the story of the light that gilded the lands to the south. They made Crow repeat his tales until they knew them by heart.
"We could hunt further and for longer," they said. "We could see the polar bears coming and run before they attack us."

Soon the yearning for Daylight was so strong that the Inuit people begged Crow to bring it to them. Crow shook his head. "I am too old," he told them. "Daylight is very far away. I can no longer go so far." But the pleadings of the people made him reconsider, and finally he agreed to make the long journey to the south.

He flapped his wings and launched into the dark sky, towards the south. Crow flew for many miles through the endless dark of the north. He was about to turn back when he saw the dim glow of daylight at the very edge of horizon. "At last, there is daylight," said the tired crow. As he flew towards the dim light it became brighter and brighter until the whole sky was bright and he could see for miles.

Suddenly, the daylight world burst upon him with all its glory and brilliance. The endless shades of color and the many shapes and forms surrounding him made Crow stare and stare. He flapped down to a tree and rested himself, exhausted by his long journey. Above him, the sky was an endless blue, the clouds fluffy and white. Crow could not get enough of the wonderful scene.

The exhausted bird had landed in a tree near a village that layed beside a wide river. It was very cold. As he watched, a beautiful girl came to the river near the tree. She dipped a large bucket into the icy waters of the river and then turned to make her way back to the village. Crow turned himself into a tiny speck of dust and drifted down towards the girl as she passed beneath his tree. He settled into her fur cloak and watched carefully as she returned to the snow lodge of her father, who was the chief of the village people.

It was warm and cosy inside the lodge. Crow looked around him and spotted a box that glowed around the edges. Daylight, he thought. On the floor, a little boy was playing contentedly. The speck of dust that was Crow drifted away from the girl and floated into the ear of the little boy. Immediately the child sat up and rubbed at his ear, which was irritated by the strange speck. He started to cry, and the chief, who was a doting grandfather, came running into the snow lodge to see what was wrong.

"Why are you crying?" the chief asked, kneeling beside the child. Inside the little boy's ear, Crow whispered: "You want to play with a ball of Daylight." The little boy rubbed at his ear and then repeated Crow's words. The chief wanted his favourite grandson to be happy, and told his daughter to fetch the box of Daylight balls. When she opened it for him, he took out a small glowing ball, tied it with a string, and gave it to the little boy. It was full of light and shadow, color and form. The child laughed happily, tugging at the string and watching the ball bounce.

Then Crow scratched the inside of his ear again and the little boy gasped and cried. "Don't cry, little one," said the doting grandfather anxiously. "Tell me what is wrong". Inside the boy's ear, Crow whispered: "You want to go outside to play." The boy rubbed at his ear and then repeated Crow's words to his grandfather. Immediately, the chief lifted up the small child and carried him outside, followed by his worried mother.

As soon as they were free of the snow lodge, Crow swooped out of the child's ear and resumed his natural form. He dove toward the little boy's hand, put out his claws, and grabbed the string from him. Then he rose up and up into the endless blue sky, the ball of daylight sailing along behind him.

In the far north, the Inuit saw a spark of light coming toward them through the darkness. It grew brighter and brighter, until they could see Crow flapping his wings as he flew toward them. Crow dropped the ball, and it shattered upon the ground, releasing Daylight so that it exploded up and out. Light went into every home and illuminated every dark place and chased away every shadow. The sky grew bright and turned blue. The dark mountains took on color and light and form. The snow and ice sparkled so brightly that the Inuit had to shade their eyes.

All the people came from their houses. "We can see for miles! Look how blue the sky is, and the mountains in the distance! We couldn't see them before." They thanked Crow for bringing daylight to their land. He shook his beak. "I could only carry one small ball of daylight, and it' ll need to gain its strength from time to time. So you'll only have daylight for half the year." . The people said: "Half a year of daylight is enough. Before you brought the daylight, we lived our whole life in darkness!"

And so that is why, in the land of the Inuit in the far north, it is dark for one half of the year and light the other. The people never forgot it was Crow who brought them the gift of daylight and they take care never to hurt him - in case he decides to take it back.

(traditional inuit oral tale)

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Summer night, falling stars

A something in a summer’s noon —
A depth — an Azure — a perfume —
Transcending ecstasy.

And still within a summer’s night
A something so transporting bright
I clap my hands to see —

Emily Dickinson

Monday, 10 August 2009

Port Lockroy, a touristic Thule in Antarctida

Port Lockroy (Lat. 64°49'S, Long. 63°30'W) is a natural harbour on the Antarctic Peninsula, situated on Goudier Island.

After its discovery in 1903, it was used for whaling and British military operations (Operation Tabarin) during World War II and then continued to operate as a British research station until 1962.

Port Lockroy has been fully restored to its 1962 condition when it was closed. The buildings were renovated in 1996 by a team from the British Antarctic Survey and since then opened to visitors during the Antarctic summer.

The Trust operates the site as a ‘living museum’, by the proceeds of a small gift shop. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Antarctica

The restored Base’s two buildings are the boathouse and the Bransfield House (accomodation for the summer crew, post office, shop and museum).

The main base building, Bransfield House was the first permanent British government building on the Peninsula, and has been much modified over the years.
Mail is picked up by a passing ship and delivered to the Falkland Islands, where it is transported to England.
The museum itself was pretty small. It used to be a research station that housed a maximum of 9 people.

Port Lockroy is a beautiful 800m-long natural harbour offering shelter and a secure anchorage to large vessels. Port Lockroy is surrounded by beautiful landscapes of mountains, icebergs and bays, frequented by antarctic fauna.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Arctic Summer

The Arctic summer is a short but intense burst of life. For just a few months, the harsh climate of the Arctic relents. The sun shines day and night. And in come the birds Snowy owls live on the tundra and hunt during the day, unlike their cousins, the great horned owls.The arctic summer is a time of brightness and life.

Snow and ice clear to reveal a landscape of colourful tundra and bright alpine flowers on the shores of clear blue, iceberg-strewn fjords.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

A visit to the Azores - São Miguel Island

Ponta Delgada, the main town.

A Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores islands have volcanic origins.
Lagoa do Fogo
Cryptomeria, the Japanese cedar, is a conifer extensively grown for its timber; the large trees here reach 70 m and cover the extint volcano hillsides:

Hot springs are mostly located in the center of the island. São Miguel has several stratovolcanoes, the largest of them Sete Cidades, Fogo and Furnas.

The Terra Nostra Garden, fed by hot sulphuric springs:

Tropical forest? No, just a local Nature Park.

Hydrangeas are considered to be a symbol of the archipelago and decorate roadsides:

The Northeastern coastal road has the best panoramic sights of cliffs and sea.