Sunday Special – The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

In the Andalusian city of Granada you can see the stately Alhambra, a red-brick fortress and former residence of kings standing on the rocky hillside overlooking the River Darro.¬† It’s name in Arabic, qa’lat¬†al-Hamra, translates as The Red Castle, reflecting the colour of the fortress.¬† Considered one of the finest examples of Muslim architecture in all of Spain it¬† is not a surprise that it is one of the most visited places in the country.¬† The history surrounding this complex spans centuries. Historical records indicate that it was built in the 9th century CE as a minor military fortress though its illustrious history truly began when it was rebuilt in the 13th century and a royal residence was constructed by the Nasrids. Reconstruction the oldest part of the complex (the¬†Alcazaba) took place along with additions of towers and ramparts. Through the centuries it became a citadel with the adding of courts, royal palaces, a medina, army barracks, gardens, and more. It grew in size and splendour.¬† Later constructions were in the Renaissance style, during the time when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella held court there. In the early 1500s Charles V tore down and began building a new palace that bears his name.¬† Time went on and the fortress was eventually abandoned through the 1800s and even Napolean had a hand in the destruction of a portion of this incredible complex. Seemingly lost, Alhambra was found again in the 1900s. Extensive restoration of the complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site designation in 1984 has given life once again to the is fine example of Moorish design.¬†


Inside a Nasrid Palace in Alhambra РPhoto credit: Ronny Siegel, Alhambra in Granada 011, CC BY-SA 4.0


Alhambra at night РGranda, Spain РPhoto credit: Javier rodriguez jimenez, 037 (2)fotofrafia nocturna del patio de los leones, CC BY-SA 4.0


Alcazaba portion of Alhambra, Spain РPhoto Jebulon, Alcazaba, Alhambra, Granada, Spain, CC0 1.0



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 (Bergenshalv√łyen 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.
  • Fl√łibanen Funicular – Spectacular vistas can be taken in at the top of¬†Mount Fl√łyen. 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¬†Sch√łtstuene; 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.


Bryggen, Bergan (Norway), UNESCO World Heritage Site РPhoto credit: giggel, 2010-08-06 РBergen РBryggen РKontore der Hanse-Kaufleute Рpanoramio, CC BY 3.0


Fjords of Norway РPhoto credit: The original uploader was Eltouristo at French Wikipedia., Fjord, CC 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.


Levanzo coastline РAegadian Islands, Sicily (Italy) РPhoto credit: Robert Vassallo, Levanzo island Рpanoramio, CC BY-SA 3.0


Church interior on Favignana Island, Aegadian Islands РPhoto credit: Tommie Hansen, Church at Favignana Island, Sicily (Italy) Рpanoramio, CC BY 3.0


The waters around Favignana, Aegadian Islands, Sicily РPhoto credit: René Bongard, Crystal clear water at Favignana Рpanoramio, CC BY-SA 3.0


Sunday Special – √Öland Islands, Finland

Want to practice you Swedish while in Finland? Then head to the autonomous Finnish archipelago of √Öland, just off it’s southwestern coast, in the Baltic Sea. This region of Finland is completely neutral, demilitarized, and is strictly Swedish speaking and has been since 1921. It is comprised of 6,700 named islands and 20,000 that they haven’t named (that would be a big project). I’ve heard you can even rent an island if you so wish.

The capital of Mariehamn is a wonderful starting point and is best explored by foot. It seems a quaint city with plenty to explore and cafes to rest your wandering feet.¬†¬†Island-hopping is a popular way to see a number of these islands. Take a ferry and go off to see the Franciscan monastery on¬†K√∂kar or explore the historical paintings on the church in¬†Kumlinge.¬† Looking to stay active? Then cycling, hiking, fishing, and spending time on the water in a canoe or kayak are available. And don’t forget to try some of the local craft beer produced by Stallhagen with many varieties. They have even recreated the world’s oldest known beer when a crate of the beer was salvaged from a shipwreck at least 170 years old. Now that is a brewery that I can admire.


Stallhagen’s historic beer – looks tasty! – Photo credit:¬†Jonnie Nord,¬†Stallhagen Historic Beer,¬†CC BY-SA 4.0


View of ship in Mariehamn, capital city of the Aland Islands, Finland РPhoto credit: Digr, AX Mariehamn view, CC BY-SA 4.0


Kokar Island, one of the numerous Aland Islands in Finland РPhoto credit: Muymuymyu, Kokar, CC BY-SA 3.0