Amazing Arctic Sights In Ny-Alesund

It's really fascinating to be here in Ny-Alesund not to mention that it's my very first visit too. Breathtaking typical Arctic scenery of snow-capped mountains and glaciers dominating the landscape is one kind of a view I should say amazing. With the cold but not freezing air temperature and the fact that the sun never sets during summer in this part of the world, visiting this place this time of the year is a whole lot interesting.
Located in the Arctic Circle at lat. 79 deg, Ny-Alesund is the northern most settlement area in the world. Inhabited not by ordinary settlers, Ny-Alesund is a research site housing scientists from several countries doing various researches.
Through institutes from respective countries, The Netherlands, Italy, China, France, United Kingdom, South Korea, India, Japan, Germany and Norway operate permanent research stations in Ny-Alesund. The research includes atmospheric, ecology, marine ecosystem, meteorology, space-earth measurement, earth and life sciences, climate, oceanography, glaciology, terrestrial and marine biology and sounding rockets to name a few.
Ny-Alesund is in the Svalbard Archipelago midway between the North Pole and mainland Norway. Though situated in the most remote part of the Earth, Svalbard is at the forefront when it comes to research leaving many cities on the mainland far behind. Other sites in the Svalbard Archipelago used by scientists includes Platafjellet and Adventdalen. In Platafjellet there is the base station for controlling large number of satellites orbiting around the Earth. From the top of Adventdalen, a station where they can follow and observe activities on the sun's surface.

Ny-alesund used to be one of Norway's ore mining sites but was eventually closed after an explosion incident sometimes in 1962 claiming the lives of several miners. Built in Berlin in 1909, this locomotive here is the first locomotive used in the ore mining industry in Ny-alesund. The locomotive was brought to My-alesund in 1927 from Salangsverket in Troms. It was used to carry coals from the mines to the quayside for the waiting boats that transported the coals to mainland.


Mellageret Kafe
Used for storing coffee, sugar, flour and dried fruit, this building now serves as a pub.

Ny-Alesund Post Office
This is the most northerly post office in the world.

Built by a company called Green Harbour Coal Company during the occupation of the coalfields, this red building is the oldest building in Ny-alesund from 1909.


This yellow building is India's National Center for Antarctic and Ocean Research. It was originally built in 1917 as living quarters for 40 people. Then the building was used as school for 18 children from 1958 until the closure of the mines in 1963.

This is the Nordpollhotellet or North Pole Hotel. Originally built as a barrack in 1917 that can accommodate 76 persons, the building became a hotel in 1937 to 1939. Badly damaged during the Second World War, today the building is use for accommodation.

This is the Arctic Tern

The Arctic Tern is a common nesting bird on Svalvard to as far as extreme northern and easternmodt part of Svalvard archipelago. It nests in pairs or colonies and ordinarily has one to two eggs. The arctic terns arrive in Svalvard at the end of May and by the end of August, it migrated down to south again. It flies all the way to the Antarctic to spend the winter in the pack ice belt. This makes the arctic tern the indisputed winner in long-distance migration category.

The Peace Wall In Belfast


"This is not just a wall of steel and cement but a wall of divided people", as the tour guide mentioned during the tour. This may not be of interest for some but for me it's worth visiting this section of Belfast. People who witnessed and eventually among the many who were affected during the political unrest that took place in Belfast years ago feels that there should be something to be remembered in that time. And translating it into expression in the form of art, all these wall paintings that we can see here today reminds everyone and anyone passing-by this place of that event.

Kristiansund On A Beautiful Summer Day

This is scenic Kristiansund on a beautiful summer day. With clear blue sky hovering above, I can imagine how captivating it is living here. Kristiansund is absolutely one of Norway's most beautiful places to visit.
Viewing from the ship these panoramic view of colorful low rise buildings, restaurants and serene calm waters in the harbour to name a few, I was thinking about going out and wander around Kristiansund even for just an hour. But I need to finish working with some very important tasks onboard, so I passed going ashore this time.
So for this visit, this is all I have in this beautiful Norwegian town - a beautiful photo of sunny Kristiansund.

Titanic Belfast Experience


Finally I made it to Titanic Belfast, the newest, the biggest and state of the art museum of the legendary M/S Titanic. Before I watched Leonardo Di Caprio and Cate Winslet as Jack and Rose in the box office hit movie "Titanic", I did not have the slightest clue how historically legendary M/S Titanic is. Though the characters were fictitious but the event was real and very well dramatized in the movie. Titanic Belfast stands at the head of the historic slipways where Titanic and Olympic were built and launched. The exterior of Titanic Belfast is a striking sight from any angle. If you approached the building from the plaza you will have had a view of the ingredients that created the world’s most iconic ship. Titanic Belfast stands 90 feet or 27.4 meters tall which is exactly the same height as the M/S Titanic from keel to deck. The S/S Nomadic is just about a minute walk from the building and about 5 minutes walk to Titanic’s pump-house and dock located 900 meters away. The people who conceived the grand idea of White Star Line’s Olympic Class ships and their key concepts that directed Titanic’s design, are reflected in the graphics on the east face of the building.
Now what's the thing about visiting Titanic Belfast when actually we can hook online and simply "google" everything we want to know about the Titanic. Well, it's all about the unique experience Titanic Belfast has to offer. Thinking how that tragic fate of the supposedly biggest ship during that time became this most remembered event at present, indeed made me more curious to know more, explore and learn more closely anything told or untold about the M/S Titanic. From the start of the construction to the finishing touches, the "who's who" passengers on the list, the navigational instruments, behind-the-scene happenings and a lot more. The sinking of the M/S Titanic and its discovery from the sea bed after many years may have been shown on TV documentaries especially on the National Geographic Channel or on Discovery Channel but I am 101% sure there's a lot more to discover or rediscover about the M/S Titanic at Titanic Belfast.
Buiding Titanic was a large-scale and complex task. There were many stages of work involved to get the ship ready for launch. These included laying the keel, framing, plating and riveting. To see how the Titanic was built, take the Shipyard Ride. Wondering around the M/S Titanic during its construction many years ago through the “Shipyard Ride” is really exciting and sort of realistic way to see the yards men at the shipyard doing the works. Of course it's not around the actual Titanic but the video and audio presentations did the tricks. The “Shipyard Ride” is a slow-speed journey through the Harland and Wolff Shipyard that includes gentle turns, changes in height, visual and audio effects.
Titanic and Olympic Slipways
Another way to make the most of your visit at Titanic Belfast is walking down the Titanic slipway and explore the life-size plan of Titanic’s promenade deck inlaid in white stone . Still posts on both sides of each slipway represent the stanchion of the Arrol Gantry, the crane used to construct Titanic. The posts are inset with vertical lights and outlines of Titanic and Olympic. The slipways are inset with continuous blue-lit glass, adding a 3D effect to the slipways at night. The lighting installations on the slipways are best viewed at dusk or by night.

Visit the Titanic Garden on the Olympic slipway where the proportions of Titanic’s victims and survivors are illustrated using grass lawns and timber decking. The victim’s names are recorded in a memorial set on vertical glass panels.
Visiting Titanic Belfast is absolutely the most exciting and hi-tech way to discover and explore the M/S Titanic. At Titanic Belfast, everything are presented in the most modern way. The use of video presentations and self guided tour with your own audio guide are just two fantastic innovative features of the museum that impressed me a lot during the tour. It's the first time I've been in a museum utilizing state of the art presentation.






Kirkwall's Medieval Saint Magnus Cathedral

For visitors who are on their very first visit in Kirkwall, the first thing that they would notice in this beautiful and picturesque little town is the prominent red and yellow sandstone structure, the Saint Magnus Cathedral. With its spire dominating the skyline of Kirkwall, even ships of highly sophisticated navigational instruments would occassionally take good use of the spire for reference.

Saint Magnus Cathedral main entrance
The Saint Magnus Cathedral may not be the grandest medieval cathedral I've visited but it is something interesting that is well worth a visit. Besides the history behind it which attracts visitors who are particularly keen on historical backgrounds among other things, the stillness of the atmosphere inside the cathedral is soothingly intense.

It is a beautiful structure indeed. The close arrangements of its huge column make its interior very unique. The stained glasses are notably beautiful too. The huge wooden doors on its main entrance as well as on the cathedral's side entrance complemented the church's hugeness. Other parts of the cathedral not to be missed seeing is the bell and the 18th century memorial stones at the church's cemetery.

I would say that my second visit in Kirkwall, the main town of Orkney in Scotland was more interesting and fascinating compared to my first visit. Why? It’s because I've seen and explored three of Orkney's interesting and historic places and landmarks.
First, I visited Highland Park Distillery and got the chance to taste their 12 year old whisky. Secondly, I visited the historic and beautiful Italian Chapel located on the hillside of an island called Landholm. And third but not the least, I was again brought back to Kirkwall's dominating landmark, the Magnus Cathedral. About 2 or 3 years ago, I already visited the cathedral actually but believe me I can't help but keep clicking with my camera just to get the best shot of this century-old cathedral.

Interior

Italian Chapel, A World War ll Landmark in Land Holm

Although we had overcast and grey sky on that day, the Italian Chapel was still a lovely spot to visit on the hillside of a small island called Landholm in Orkney, Scotland. It is a remnant from World War ll, so the Italian Chapel is really of historic interest. The Italian Chapel is a highly ornate landmark. The art and interior finishes of the chapel truly manifests a unique display of craftsmanship of the Italian prisoners of war that if not for its historical significance, the chapel will be more known for its colorful and unique embellishment.

The chapel as of today. The cross on the tower which was originally made of iron rusted away and has been replaced with an exact replica in bronze. The chapel was constructed by the Italian Prisoners of War who were stationed in Lambholm and helped to build the Churchill Barriers consisting of four causeways to block German U boats from entering Scapa Flow. The chapel consists of two Nissen Huts covered on the outside with concrete and later coated with bituminous felt and with a concrete facade to form the porch.


The interior of the chapel. The inside of the Nissen huts is lined with plasterboard and the altar end with fiber board, then skillfully painted to give the appearance of tiles and a stonework frieze.


The beautifully fashioned head of Christ modeled in concrete above the doorway.


The ceiling paintings to the left and right of the altar. The fourfold animal of Ezechiel, seen also in the vision of the Apocalypse, was according to scholars, applied to the four evangelists by Papias a disciple of John the Evangelist. The fourfold figure was broken up in order to set the four separate creatures at the head of each gospel at the codices.

The picture behind the altar was painted by Domenico Chiocchetti. The Madonna and Child is a copy of painting by Nicolo Barabino, a picture given to him by his mother.
The Holy Child holding an olive branch, symbol of peace, which is the theme of the picture. The scroll "Regina Pacis, ora pro nobis" as translated to English is “Queen of Peace, pray for us”.









Highland Park Orcadian Series Vintage Scotch Whisky

Previously my post about Highland Park Distillery was more on the preparation and processing of their finest Scotch whisky and a recommendation about drinking Scotch in such a way that its flavours and aroma is enhanced. For this post, obviously I am so excited to present few of their vintage Scotch dating back to the 1960s. Looking at the price tags, I don’t believe I can have a taste of their whisky this old. Thanks to my camera, at least I got few shots of it. Check this out.

Highland Park Scotch Whisky 1964

Highland Park Scotch Whisky 1968

Highland Park Scotch Whisky 1971

Highland Park Scotch Whisky 1976

Highland Park Scotch Whisky 1978

Highland Park Visitor Center

Highland Park Distillery, Where The World's Finest Scotch Whisky Is Made

What’s with the Scottish people and of Scotland that keeps me warm and highly spirited? It’s the Scotch whisky! I love Scotch whisky and this always tops my list for duty free shopping at the airport. How would you drink your Scotch whiskey? Would you add anything to it? Probably you would add ice but that is a very bad idea. How about adding a couple drops of water into it? Cranky huh! Well, this is what I learned when I made a visit to Highland Park Distillery, one of the world's finest producer of Scotch whiskey based in Kirkwall, Orkney. Why water instead of ice? It’s because water dilutes the alcohol in it and release its flavours, whereas ice masks the flavours.
My recent visit to one of the world’s finest producers of Scotch was fantastic and interesting. I’ve seen few behind-the-scenes stuff and I’ve learned something about how the production of their signature whisky.
I don't know anything about making whiskey but malt, water and yeast are three elements when combined produce a single malt whiskey. Highland Park Distillery has their supply of barley shipped out from the mainland and come through around Aberdeenshire. Then it is shipped up here and put in big metal tanks. Then the tanks are filled up with water and the grains soaked in there for about two days. Over that time, triggers the germination process of the grains. After two days, the water is drained away and the grain is now known as the grain malt because it is germinating. The grain malts are spread over the floor for about 5 and 7 days and over that time, they continue to germinate. And then there forms sufficient enzymes to convert its store of non- fermentable starch within the grains to sugars. Without the enzymes, the yeast will not be able to use the starch, it must be converted to sugar first.
 
Malting
This is the malting area. Floor malting as they called is the traditional method of soaking barley and converting the insoluble starches in the grain into sugars. These soluble sugars can be extracted later in the process to make alcohol. There are very few distilleries in Scotland that continue to malt their barley in this way.
Over the time, malt men come in every 8 hours and then they turn the malt by shovelling. Malt men were doing this for three reasons. It stops the grains from getting tangled, it soothes the grains on the bottom from rotting and from overheating. After 5 days with these grains on the floor, the grain malts are moved up and into the kilns and that's where heating and drying process begins.

Highland Park's Traditional Kiln 
Kilning
The malted barley is dried on the floor above the kiln and when it is damp it absorbs all the wonderful aroma from the Hobbister Moor peat.

Milling and Mashing
When the malt is dry it has to be ground in the mill to extract the soluble sugars. It is ground in the mill until it becomes grist, a dry rough powder. The grist is then transferred to the mash tun where the spring waters are added, after a time the water absorbs the goodness from the grist and the liquid now known as wort is extracted.

The stills are heated with submerged steam powered coils. The wash is heated in the first pair of stills until the alcohol rises off as a vapour. The vapour passes through the condenser where it is turned back into liquid, at this point we have weak concentration of alcohol known as Low Wines. We now repeat the process and by now we have the strong wine.

Warehousing
Once the spirit is collected it is then filled into the cask. The casks are made of oaks which allow the spirit to breathe. The spirit can only legally be called Scotch Whisky once it has been in a cask and matured for three years. Most of the whisky at Highland Park will remain in the cask in the warehouse for between twelve and thirty years.
 
Highland Park Distillery uses two types of traditional oak casks. They have cask all seasoned with Olorossi sherry that comes from the North coast of Spain and another type from the East coast of America. Cask made from Spanish oak results a spicy and dried fruit character, on the other hand cask from American oak produces lighter, sweeter vanilla, and butterscotch flavours.










What You Should Consider When Choosing Your Next Summer Vacation

Do you believe in the saying, “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us”? Are your vacations what make your life worth living? If so, you probably value every moment of your precious time off and hope to use it as wisely as possible.
Get the Most Bang for Your Bucks
Because summer is the most popular season for travel, it can also be the hardest time to have a truly enjoyable vacation. National parks as well as amusement parks, such as Disney World, all tend to be extremely crowded. And so it’s not uncommon to find yourself doing more waiting in lines and in stop-and-go traffic than engaged in actual vacation activities.
One way that you can get more bang for your bucks is to choose a destination that is not on everyone else’s summer vacation list. For example, head to a mountain resort instead of to the beach. Nowadays, many “ski” resorts offer exciting options such as mountain bike trail riding and ziplining during the summer months.
Or if you’re willing to gamble a little, you could book a Caribbean vacation during the summer, which is the off-season for this region. Of course, it is also the hurricane season. But if you choose wisely, you might be able to find a great bargain trip. Just remember that most hurricanes strike this region in August, September and October. In addition, the southernmost Caribbean countries of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao are rarely hit by hurricanes.
A Bucket List Trip
Every now and then, an opportunity to cross a trip off of your bucket list may unexpectedly present itself to you. Most seasoned travelers will tell you that if you have the money and the time that you should seize upon these opportunities. Why? Because who knows what your situation will be in a few years. For all you know, you may never, again, have the money, time or physical ability to make this trip of your dreams come true.
And if you do end up taking this bucket list trip, don’t forget to take lots of pictures. There is no better souvenir of a great vacation than beautiful photographs. Plus, nowadays, you can even use your photographs for your own custom postcards by using a service called Lettr.co . Unlike traditional postcards with generic photographs that you have to stamp and mail out; Lettr prints, stamps and mails out your custom cards for you while you’re still on the road.
Don’t Over Plan
It’s often hard not to overload your itinerary, especially when you’re traveling to a bucket list destination. For example, if you’re heading to Australia, you’ll probably want to visit Sydney, Melbourne, the Great Barrier Reef and Ayers Rock. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that Australia is actually the same size as the continental United States and, thus, underestimate the great distance between these must-see sites. So if you only have a week for a vacation, an itinerary that includes all of these spots will leave you exhausted and logging a lot of hours on planes or other means of transportation.
It’s especially important to include downtime in your vacation itinerary if you’re traveling with children. Few things can ruin a vacation quicker than an over-tired, cranky child. In addition, it also pays to be flexible when traveling with kids. If they would rather spend the day at the beach than go to a museum, you’ll probably have a much more enjoyable time splashing around the surf than dragging a sullen child from one art gallery to another.

Historic And Impressive Riga

House of the Blackheads
We were lucky to arrive Riga in warm sunshine because weeks ago Riga was all rain and cold. Riga is indeed one of Baltic's most beautiful cities. The spires from century old churches outlining the panorama in the Old Town, the trees and rivers in the parks, the beautiful and unique architectural designs on many of the city's old historic buildings, Riga is another beautiful and interesting city to see and explore. When I went around the city and walked through the old streets and boulevards exploring Riga's medieval architectures, appreciating the wealth of superb Art Nouveau style buildings and admiring all those well maintained and renovated centuries-old wooden structures, I felt like I was exactly on the same place way back hundreds of years ago. Exploring Riga by the tour bus is well enough to view the city around but to know Riga specially the Old Town more intimately I suggest doing it on foot. And that's what I did. I strolled about 3 hours around the Old Town and let's say only about an hour on a bus sight-seeing around Riga.
Riga is the largest city in the Baltic. This year Riga was declared the European Capital of Culture. It has the largest airport in the Baltic State, the Riga International Airport. It has daily ferry service to Stockholm. So there are quite a lot Swedish visitors coming in to Riga especially during weekends. Swedish find Riga prices very attractive, so besides visiting Riga for tour visits, Swedish also enjoy frenzy shopping in Riga. Riga was founded in 1201 by the Germans so to these days we can see much of the architecture in Riga is heavily German influenced. Most of these buildings that were built hundred years ago are now offices and embassies s of Spain, Uzbekistan, and Austria to name a few.
Riga doesn’t have so many high buildings. Most buildings are from 4 to 5 floors with no elevators and were built during the Soviet time. And there is one very interesting and sensitive thing that was discovered during the renovation of these buildings. Guess what? Microphones were found in every room. Yes it is but in Latvia nobody is talking about it.

Best panorama of the Old Town. Here we can see the towers of St Peter’s Church, Dom Church, Jacob’s Church and Riga castle dominating the skyline.

Art Nouveau Style Buildings
Along Alberta and Elizabetes streets, buildings of splendid architectures of symbols designed by Michael Eisenstein are to be found. He has built 15 buildings each of different style. These buildings have large columns, long balconies, ugly faces against ghosts, dragons, flowers and a lot of rings, owls above entrance doors, flames and etcetera.
 

 One of the many well-preserved and renovated wooden buildings in Riga

Here is a building built during Stalin’s time - this was a KGB prison. It was recently turned to museum and opened to the public after closed for so many years during the Soviet time. This building has many sad stories that some people especially those present during the Soviet times did not want to see or visit this place.
 

Built in 1901, this very old tram is still running and is going to the zoo during weekends.

Riga is a very green city. It has many parks and squares.

Parliament Building

 Freedom Monument
This is one of Latvia's national symbols. It shows a woman holding three stars. These 3 stars are very important to Latvians because it represents geographical parts of Latvia - western, northern and eastern.
 

Latvian National Opera House

Latvian Academy of Art
One of the state universities, the Latvian Academy of Arts. It has interesting and beautiful windows and towers built in the end of the 19th century.

The Three Brothers
 

Riga’s Nativity of Christ Cathedral or Christmas Cathedral
Riga’s Nativity of Christ Cathedral or Christmas Cathedral is the largest Russian Orthodox church in the city. A symbol of architecture and stability, it features pure gold on the tower. Can you imagine how expensive it is? The church is open 7 days a week. Ladies entering the church have to cover their head with scarf and must wear dress and not trousers.
 

Congress of House
Congress House built for communist party congress. There are 3 pyramids each for entrance for underground parking.

Betanos Arts center, a special center where artists get arts inspiration.
 
The main street of Riga is the longest street and it already earned five names. During the end of 19th century it was named Alexander Street then later became Freedom Street. During the German occupation it was named Adolf Hitler’s plaza then Lemon Street and Freedom Street again.
 

Swedish Gate
 
Black Balsam
Black Balsam is the national drink of Riga. When Catherine II was sick in 1752, a German chemist decided to make some drink and mix anything he had and it help. So now Latvia has this national drink in dark brown .How to drink the Black Balsam if it is too strong for you? Simple, you only have to mix it with juice.

Riga central market
It has 5 pavilions housing different products. One for meat and sausages, one for bread and cakes, one for dairy products, one for vegetables and fruits, one for fish. You can bargain for the price and can taste before you buy too. You can buy things here at cheap prices.
 

Longest house in Riga
It is 238meters long, longer than a football field













Mc Donald's in Riga

Newly opened library







 

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