Monday, 22 August 2016

Solvorn, the prettiest village in the Sognefjord - and Urnes Stave church just across.

Solvorn is a tiny village located on the western shore of the Lustrafjorden, in Sogn og Fjordane, Norway. Solvorn sits directly across the fjord from the village of Ornes, place of the precious 12th-century Urnes Stave Church.

Coordinates: 61°18′ N, 07°14′ E
Population:  ~ 230

The fjord waterfront of Solvorn.

Solvorn has a long history as a trade center, with a church, a courthouse and a harbour serving the people who lived around the lake Hafslovatnet and its surrounding villages.  Solvorn received a post office in 1841, which was recently closed in 1995.

Most houses are painted red or white, as usual in Norway's arctic and sub-arctic latitudes.

Many of the houses date back to the late 19th century. Presently, Solvorn has a church, a store, school, hotel and café. There are a couple of farms but the majority of the population is working either in the tourist industry or elsewhere in the region.

Picture postcard main street.

The charm of Solvorn - colourful wooden houses with fenced gardens with a view to the fjord.

A small green yard, then a boathouse, opening to the bay.

Along the beachfront, the boathouses were owned by local farmers and merchants, who took their products by boat to towns and markets around the fjord.

Some of the wooden red painted boathouses are newly restored.

The Wallaker Hotel

Solvorn is home to the historic Walaker Hotel, a classified house dating back to about 1650. 

The rooms are also finely decorated to feel centuries old - though with all modern amenities.

A magnificent garden overlooking the fjord.

The romantic gazebo in the garden.

Linahagen Café

A combined grocery shop and café, the only 'urban' public place where you can buy goods, meet people and have tea or coffee and a cake.

There has been a regular ferry route from Solvorn to Ornes, across the Lustrafjorden, since 1859. The beautiful crossing is a must before the visit to Urnes church.

Urnes Stave church

The wooden church of Urnes dates back to the Viking age (c. 1130), in transition to Chritianity, and is the oldest one of its kind.

Stave churches constitute one of the most elaborate and advanced wooden buildings in North-Western Europe during the Middle Ages.

The wood carving decor of exquisite quality on the outside includes elements of Viking tradition from the 11th century.

Wood carved pannels: above, a snake curling upwards being bited by another animal, probably illustrating a theme of norse mythology.

Deep into de fjord, the night comes down softly in the late hours of Summer days. Tranquility reigns in the small village of Solvorn.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Ussuriysk, in the Russian far east: a renovated siberian town

At 43º N , this almost unknown asian town can hardly be someone's Ultima Thule. But its surrounding nature and some European atmosphere can be a surprise in such a remote off-track location.
While Vladivostock is well known and used to visitors, Ussuriysk remains almost a secret just 100 Km inland to the north.

Ussuriysk is a far-east Siberian town, on the banks of the Ussuri river and near the Khanka Lake, about 60 kilometers from both the Chinese border and the Sea of Japan. It lies south of Khabarovsk (see Ultima Thule here) and north of Vladivostock.

Coordinates:  43° 48′ N, 131° 57′ E
Population:  ~160 000

Arbat Street, the best kept in the old town.


From 1115 to 1234, the southern area of the modern Russian Far East was under the Jurchen Jin Dynasty, a nomadic asiatic people.

Ussuriysk was founded in 1866. Due to its advantageous geographic location at the crossing of transport routes, the village experienced rapid growth during the 1870s, turning into a trade center. Its role increased after the railroad connected Khabarovsk and Vladivostok (now a part of the Trans-Siberian Railway).

The central part of the city, including Lenina, Chicherina, Krasnoznamyonnaya, and Ageyeva Streets, is of historic value.

Arbat street, around which lies the old town, has been under restoration, most of it is now colorfully painted and aligned with trees, gardens, benches.

The pedestrian Arbat street

Rich merchant houses are lined along Arbat street.

The inevitable cast-iron love bench.

This was the imposing old Post Office.

A few wooden houses featuring woodwork around the windows still survive in the oldest boroughs.

The Jin Stone Tortoise

A 12th-century stone tortoise from a Jurchen grave of the Great Jin Dinasty (1115-1234) is displayed in Ussuriysk's central park. It's the richest archeologic feature of the Museum.

The large tortoises represented by the sculpture live in large number in the Khanka Lake.

In addition, the Museum exhibits photos, documents, tools and other testimonies of the past centuries.

The Theater
Ussuriysk Drama Theater

Built in 1937, he was then the City Theatre. It currently offers a classic program and children plays.

It's one of the most loved and protected buildings in town.

Church of the Holy Protection

The church has four domes, bell tower with seven bells. Among the relics, an old icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov.

The Church, was built in 1914, but only recently has been recovered for the orthodox cult.

It is the only religious building in the krai that has been kept without any reconstruction since 1917 and is used for its original purpose.

The iconostasis and some of the old relics.

The Old Movie Theater

One of the oldest buildings in town, the "Grand-Illusion" movie theater, now "Rossya", built in 1908-1909.

Café bar "Green Island"

On Lenina St.

More westernly Café "Shazka":

Despite the low latitude, winters are icy cold and the town always hides its colour under the white of snow.

The charm of Ussuriysk in winter

Around Ussiriysk

Lake Khanka

Lake Khanka´s waters covered with flowered lotus.

Ussuri River

Ussuri river through Primorsky territory

The Ussuri is a tributary of the Amur river; it flows north from the mountains of the Krai, and establishes the Sino-Russian border separating Siberia and Manchuria, until it flows into the large Amur at the great city of Khabarovsky. During the border conflict, the river was a stage of combats between the two armies.

The river flows through taiga-covered flat land.

The Ussuri is feared after strong rainfall, which usually results in catastrophic flooding, and its waters invade Ussuriysk lower areas.

Primorsky Krai, bordered by China, North Korea, and the relatively warm waters of the Sea of Japan, is the southeasternmost region of Russia, located between 42° and 48° north latitude and 130° and 139° east longitude.

The Primorsky Krai and the Ussuri Tiger living grounds (dark orange).

Highlands dominate the territory of the krai. Most of the territory is mountainous, and around 80% of it is forested. There lives the...

... magnificent Ussuriysky Tiger.