Friday, 25 March 2016

Vardø: Where Ancient History Meets Modern Arctic

Travel by car through a picturesque tundra of the Varanger Peninsula, take a Widerøe flight, board a Hurtigruten cruise liner – and you will find yourself in one of the most peculiar towns of Northern Norway

Vardø: Where Ancient History Meets Modern Arctic

It may seem that you are in the edge of the world, but soon you will understand that it is also a center – a center of the Norwegian Arctic history, pomors trade, fishing trade and starting activities in the Barents sea – first and foremost shipping industry and offshore mining. 

Vardø will impress you with its location on a windswept island, connected with the mainland with the oldest in Norway underwater tunnel. Being the last stop on the way to the North Pole, Vardø will refresh you with its climate. And it will surprise you with amiability of the locals. 

Varanger Museum, Norway

However, it may also make you sad. Today Vardø is just a shadow of the flourishing trade center of the Barents Region it used to be just a hundred years ago. Although restauration works have been carried out in the recent years, the town is full of ramshackle historical buildings that make the impression of charm and melancholy. Statistically, the population of Vardø decreased by 20 per cent for the last decade and equals to approximately 2800 people. 

Vardø is the oldest town in Northern Norway and one of the oldest in the north of the Arctic Circle. It received its official status in 1789, but its history goes far beyond that date. First, Vardøhus Fortress was built there in XIV century for protection from the powerful Novgorod Republic. The modern fortress in the form of an eight-pointed star that is open for tourists was built in 1734-1738. During its almost 7-centuries' history, this northernmost fortress accepted a fight only once, in 1940, during the invasion of the Nazi troops. 

Vardøhus Fortress, Norway

When in Vardø, visit the Varanger Museum, the Pomor Museum and the Vardøhus Fortress. If you have time, walk along the coast. In the eastern part of the island, you may enjoy great views to the Hornøya island and the open Barents sea. Turn to the south, and between the domes of Globus II radar, you will see the south coast of the Varangerfjord.

Yukigassen (snow fight)

In November, Vardø hosts blues festival. In the end of March there is a yukigassen (snow fight) festival. At the end of July each year, Norwegian-Russian markets are held in Varanger. The Pomor festival marks the trading which formerly took place between the Russians and Norwegians up until the time of the Russian Revolution. Fish was traded for other wares such as wheat and timber. 

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