Sunday Special – Cape Verde (Cabo Verde)


Now this week I did pick an island nation! And why not? Today we will check out Cape Verde (or Cabo Verde) which lies 570 km / 350 miles west of Africa in the central Atlantic Ocean and is made up of 9 inhabited volcanic islands and 8 islets. It had been isolated and uninhabited until the 1400s CE when it was colonized by Portugal. In later centuries it was, sadly,  a major port in the slave trade due to its location. After the end of slavery the island saw a marked decline in economics until it became another popular port and stop in the shipping industry. The Portuguese then incorporated it into an overseas department in 1951. Seeking independence, Cape Verde gained it peacefully in 1975. Today it is a stable, democratic, liberal, and among the highest developed countries in Africa.

The capital city of Praia is located on the southern tip of the island of Santiago, which is also the largest. Santiago is where most of the population lives though the other islands do offer activities and interests such as hiking, beaches, snorkeling, surfing, culture. Here are a few more bits of info:

  • Santiago – The landscape is varied and ranges from beach to mountain, steppes to valleys. The capital city of Praia offers plenty.  The plateau area contains many older buildings and architecture such as the old city wall, the Presidential Palace, and Praia Cathedral. Rumour has it that some of the best waves are found around Praia so this makes it a good location for surfing. 
  • São Vicente – This island is home to the town of Mindelo which is considered Cape Verde’s cultural capital with traditional music being played regularly at cafes and restaurants along with modern pop music. Meandering around town you can take in the Mercado de Peixe (fish market) and a local market. Windsurfers and surfers can take to the water on beaches.
  • Boa Vista – The third largest island it is renown for its sandy beaches making it a paradise for sun worshippers looking for quiet getaways. The Cape Verde music of Morna originated on this isle. It is also a protected haven for loggerhead turtles as a result of the work of The Turtle Foundation which also looks for volunteers to help protect these gentle creatures.
  • Sal – Once a spot for the mining of salt this now small and flat island is building its tourism industry. With barely any cloud cover this island is perpetually sunny. Trade winds provide impressive conditions for surfing and windsurfing for much of the year. 

The remaining island all have something to offer, even if for a short duration. Cape Verde strikes me as a place where you will not be bored yet still retain a relaxed vibe while visiting.

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Beautiful Chaves Beach on Boa Vista Island, Cape Verde – Photo credit: RomazurChaves Beach in Boa VistaCC BY-SA 3.0

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Catching some wind on Sal, Cape Verde – Photo credit: CayambeCape Verde Sal kitesurfingCC BY-SA 3.0

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A misty day on the island of Santiago, Cape Verde – Photo is Public Domain (XanduÓrgãos, Santiago, Cape Verde, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons)

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Sunday Special – Bergen, Norway


A good friend of mine is travelling through Scandinavia and is enjoying herself very much. She has been sending me and our friends photos and videos of all the places she has visited, which I have to say I love seeing. One her favourite places so far is Bergen, Norway. So I thought I would post about it today. Let’s take a look!

Situated on the southwest coast of Norway, Bergen is its second largest city and sits on the Bergen Peninsula (Bergenshalvøyen in the Norse language). Historically it has played an important role as an administrative capital in the 1200s CE and been a key player in maritime trade and shipping well into the 1800s CE. Today it still boasts various industries including shipping, petroleum, tourism, and subsea technology in addition to being a hub for education, finance, and culture. Set in the backdrop of awe-inspiring nature this city has much to offer. 

  • Fjords – With 1,190 fjords in Norway it would make sense to take in the beauty they offer. Bergen is a natural stop to start exploring some of these amazing inlets in various ways. Bergen is only one of many stops along the ‘fjord route’. Many day cruises, trains, hiking trails, and kayaking options are in the general area.
  • Bryggen – This wharf along the harbour of Bergen is an important historical trade area and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The original buildings were built in the 1300s and repeatedly rebuilt after destruction due to fire, each time keeping meticulous care to the same building techniques as the original buildings. Today you see the buildings that have stood since 1702 CE.
  • Fløibanen Funicular – Spectacular vistas can be taken in at the top of Mount Fløyen. And to get there take this funicular all the way to the top. Not only does it have a great view it is a wonderful starting point for walks and hikes in the area. Additionally there is a restaurant and a fun children’s playground.
  • Bergen Fish Market (Fisketorget) – A part of Bergen since the 1200s it now has both an outdoor market (May – Aug) and indoor market (open year round). Its original location was in Bryggen but was moved in the 1556 to its current location and in later centuries buildings were constructed around it.
  • Museums – Bergen is home to a number of different museums. Some of them are the Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene; West Norway Museum of Decorative Art; the Norwegian Fisheries Museum; University Museum of Bergen (with various collections); and the Edvard Greig Museum Troldhaugen (former home of the composer).
  • Bergenhus Fortress – This fortress is home to building dating as far back as the 1200s and as recently as post WW II. The castle is the one of the best preserved stone structures in Norway.

These are only some of the many ways to take in this Norwegian city of history, nature, and culture. My friend is have a great time and the photos she has shared certainly show how pretty Bergen is and that there is always some event happening.

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Bryggen, Bergan (Norway), UNESCO World Heritage Site – Photo credit: giggel, 2010-08-06 – Bergen – Bryggen – Kontore der Hanse-Kaufleute – panoramioCC BY 3.0

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Fjords of Norway – Photo credit: The original uploader was Eltouristo at French Wikipedia., FjordCC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday Special – Maldives


Continuing on with islands, we’re taking a look at the Maldives [really I did not plan this – it wasn’t until after I picked this location that I realized it was an island destination :-)] . When I think of this South Asian destination set in the Indian Ocean, I think luxury hotels, azure waters, and blankets of white sand beaches. And also that it is sinking. Actually sea levels are rising and since the Maldives islands are the lowest country in the world,  this is a concern. In 2009 their government stated that they aim to make the country carbon neutral by 2019. In fact some of the inhabited islands may need to be evacuated and abandoned due to climate change. Geographically Maldives is far from a simple archipelago. It has over 1,000 coral islands that lay in a double chain of 26 atolls spanning 298 square km / 115 square miles. These atolls and islands lay above a submerged mountain range. And all the islands are surrounded by stunning crystal clear lagoons. Approximately 200 islands are inhabited with the capital city being Malé.

It is a country that has been one of the poorest in the world. Fishing and and boat building has traditionally been its main industries. In recent years tourism has flourished. Luxury resorts abound and tourism for its beaches and underwater marine life continues to grow. If you want to steer away from the high-end resorts there are a number of guesthouses to choose from as many locals have built their own as a business. The marine life in the Maldives includes corals reefs, over 1,000 species of fish, several species of dolphins, whales, sea turtles, mollusks and much more. Due to warmer sea water temperatures, coral bleaching is a growing concern. It seems a beautiful part of the world yet it is in distress. 😦

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Capital city Malé, Maldives – Photo credit: Shahee IlyasMale-totalCC BY-SA 3.0

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Beach at one of the islands of the Maldives – Photo credit – Nevit DilmenMaldives 09813CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Sunday Special – Aegadian Islands, Sicily (Italy)


I am intrigued by many islands in this world. Islands can be a fascinating microcosm of life and that often draws my attention. There a thousands of islands in the world of every size and shape. The largest being Greenland and the smallest….well, there seems to be a few claims so I’ll just leave it at that. Today we’ll look at a group of small islands off the coast of a larger island. The Aegadian (or Egadian) Islands lie in the Tyrrhenian Sea off Sicily’s northwest shores. The three main islands of Favignana, Levanzo, Marettimo and the the two small islands of Formica and Maraone total 37 sq km / 14 sq miles in size. Although not as well known as other Italian islands they do have a historic significance. Age-old cave paintings dating back to the neolithic and paleolithic periods can be found in Levanzo’s Grotta del Genovese. These islands also saw the end of the First Punic War after Romans defeated the Carthaginian fleet in 241 BCE in their very presence. Today the islands mainly attract Sicilians and some tourists looking for beaches, birding, scuba diving and snorkelling, hiking, and fishing. Easily accessible by ferry from Sicily’s city of Trapani or Marsala (Favignana only) you can day-trip or spend a few nights. One can even island hop via the ferry services. An interesting island adventure awaits.

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Levanzo coastline – Aegadian Islands, Sicily (Italy) – Photo credit: Robert Vassallo, Levanzo island – panoramioCC BY-SA 3.0

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Church interior on Favignana Island, Aegadian Islands – Photo credit: Tommie Hansen, Church at Favignana Island, Sicily (Italy) – panoramioCC BY 3.0

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The waters around Favignana, Aegadian Islands, Sicily – Photo credit: René Bongard, Crystal clear water at Favignana – panoramioCC BY-SA 3.0