Thursday, 30 September 2010

Vardø, Norway's arctic fronteer

Vardø (pop. 2 600), facing the Barents sea near the russian border, is the easternmost town in Norway - east of Saint Petersburg and, strange as it may seem, east of Istanbul !

Location: 70° 21' N., 31° 02' E.

The port of Vardø, on the Barents Sea, remains ice-free all year round thanks to the effect of the warm North Atlantic drift. 

The rich fishing stocks in the sea around are the main reason for the town's existence. Fish processing plants and a rapidly-expanding tourist trade provide the primary sources of employment.

The town is also the northern termination of European route E75.

In August 1944 the allied bombings destroyed many of the old buildings and the town was almost entirely destroyed by fire. Nevertheless, there are many buildings which escaped the wrath of the flames. Vardø is home to North Norway's largest wooden building, the old primary school:

Another wooden landmark is
the home of the Chief Justice, built in 1919:

Vardø also is the most northerly fortress town in the world and the only town in Western Europe which lies in the arctic climatic zone. It is also the oldest town in northern Norway
The Pomor Museum,

Vardø's major attraction is the Vardøhus Festning, a fortress dating back to the late 13th century (although the present structure dates from 1734).The fort is an octagonal, star-shaped fortress built in the period 1734-1738.

Vardøhus Festning is home to two rowan trees which are carefully nurtured and warmed in winter since these trees cannot normally survive in Vardø's cold climate, north of the Arctic tree line. Originally, seven trees were planted in 1960; the one that survived managed to blossom twice, in 1974 and 1981. The tree finally succumbed to cold weather in 2002, but two new saplings have been planted in its place, at both sides of the officer's quarters entrance stairs.

The fort's garrison salutes the returning of the sun after the long arctic night with two shots every year. This is to mark the end of the Arctic winter darkness. Then students at the Vardø schools can leave for the rest of the day.
Vardø is a port of call on Norway's Hurtigruten ferry service.