Saturday, March 31, 2018

Liverpool Reprise, 2017

We last visited Liverpool in 2011 and, at that time, had focused on cataloging some of the numerous city center pubs, visiting both cathedrals - Roman Catholic and Anglican, checking out China Town and marveling at the disappearance of 7-1/2 miles of dockland. In doing so, we completely overlooked the tawdry "birthplace of the Beatles" and the sorry little industry that has sprung up to exploit their fame. So, taking advantage of a brief stopover in this reinvented city, we decided to make amends. (Incidentally, if you ever find yourself in this interesting burg with a few hours to spare, a visit to each of the cathedrals is highly recommended to witness the dramatic differences in style.)
It is probably not possible to accurately separate fact from fantasy in the Mathew Street reconstruction that passes for the Beatles birthplace today. It is about sixty years since the group first appeared and, for a decade or two at that time, Liverpool had already been laboring under a painful transition from vibrant dockland to dereliction and latterly on to rebirth as a commercial center over the following decades.
Many years after hitting the music scene spotlight it was recognized that the Beatles were indeed an enduring phenomenon and that some kind of shrine marking their origin should be developed. In the interim however, buildings had changed hands, been re-purposed or even torn down and replaced, making the identification of many features impossible. In true huckster style and simply ignoring inconvenient facts, the entrepreneurs, intent on chasing their pots of gold, latched onto whatever property was available and developed a mishmash of make-believe and reality that continues to draw myriad tourists on a daily basis. Additional pictures here.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Rotterdam, Netherlands, 2017

Courtesy By Unknown Public Domain,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=196261
We stopped off in Rotterdam, Netherlands for a couple of days last summer. The sixth busiest port in the world and the largest in the western world, Rotterdam is a major conduit for the import and export of goods and materials for all of northern Europe.
During WWII, the Germans seized the port after bombing it into submission in 1940. From this moment on, the city became an Allied target for the remainder of the hostilities. By the time the war ended in 1945 all but two historical buildings remained salvageable in the city center with the rest of the area being reduced to a wasteland.
Post-war reconstruction gave rise to much experimental architecture during the latter decades - the eighties and nineties - some of which was somewhat over the top. Nonetheless, the city is again a vibrant cultural and commercial success albeit with a few questionable oddities on display and very little in the way of historical sights. For more images, click here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Bergen, Norway

With it's current population approaching 300,000, Bergen is Norway's second largest city. It was, in fact, the largest city in Norway as recently as 1830 and actually served as the country's capital back in the 13th century. The current capital city, Oslo, is currently three to four times larger than Bergen. The city was founded in 1070 and, following steady growth, had become a bureau city of the Hanseatic League by the end of the 13th century ensuring great wealth for the many merchants in town. 
The area around the original quays, now a World Heritage Site, came to be known as Bryggen and is presented to tourists as a series of retail stores. Sadly, there are few historical building examples in the city owing to numerous fires over the centuries which burnt razed large areas.
Bergen Port continues to be Norway's busiest, both in terms of freight and passengers with more than 300 cruise ship calls bringing nearly a half a million passengers to Bergen each year. More pictures here.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Alesund, Norway

Alesund is located in More og Romsdal county at the top of Norway’s Western Fjord country. With the Sunnmøre Mountains as a backdrop, the town of almost 50,000 people straddles several islands stretching out into the Atlantic and all connected by bridges. 
A fire in 1904 destroyed much of the town which was subsequently rebuilt in stone using a dramatic Art Nouveau style. This style flourished between about 1890 and 1910 throughout Europe and the United States and is characterized by the use of long, sinuous lines.
Alesund is also home to one of Norway’s largest fishing harbors, is a base for cod and halibut fishing trawlers and is also
the headquarters of the Arctic sealing fleet. Slideshow here.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Corner Brook, Newfoundland, Canada

A novel mode of transport into town
Corner Brook, population about 20,000, has the distinction of being the most northerly city in Atlantic Canada. It was our lot to stop by there for a few hours last August before launching east toward Greenland. 
What excitement!
The fifth largest city in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Corner Brook is located at the mouth of the river Humber on the west side of the island. Fairly typical of small towns all across North America, it really offers nothing much for the typical cruise ship tourist beyond a bus ride into town, a stroll around the limited shopping and then back again. 
Most exciting sight was anchor
maintenance on the big boat
After the first modern survey by Captain James Cook in 1767 the area had only grown to about 100 inhabitants a century later but was eventually propelled into being by the arrival of the anchor for the present city, the Corner Brook Pulp & Paper Mill, a major employer in the region. The city now boasts the largest regional hospital in western Newfoundland, is home to a few federal and provincial government offices asa well as the Grenfell Campus, Memorial University


.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Last summer we paid a brief visit to the capital of the Isle of Skye, Portree, in the inner Hebrides of Scotland. Contrary to expectations, Portree is not an ancient hamlet with thousands of years of history but was created as a fishing village a scant 200 years ago. 
It is situated on the east side of the Isle of Skye and overlooks a sheltered bay boasting a pier designed by Thomas Telford, a notable Scottish Civil Engineer. Portee's population of about 2,500 souls, is largely supported by tourism. Click here for slideshow.