Saturday, 23 July 2016

Norway, Weekend in Bergen

Bergen Old Town, Bryggen ©Solange Hando

Bergen is the second largest city in Norway but you'd hardly notice. Bryggen, the old district, welcomes you with brightly coloured houses, quaint alleyways and all the charm of a traditional village while along the quay, yachts bob at anchor in the soft evening light.
The market is just steps away, brimming with seafood, fresh vegetables and fruit, including an irresistible assortment of berries you can eat as you go.

Voss near Bergen ©Solange Hando

You could spend a whole day just wandering through the streets but a short train ride away, the bucolic town of Voss lures you with lush pastures, toy-like houses sprinkled here and there, snow lingering on the mountain tops, even in summer, and a lake to cool you down.
There are cycling and hiking trails and a passion for extreme sports, be it white water rafting or tandem skydiving. 

Fjord near Bergen ©Solange Hando

They call Bergen the gateway to the Norwegian fjords and it is indeed the perfect place to enjoy a half-day cruise in a magical wonderland.
Try the catamaran tour around the island of Osteroy where the scenery is for ever changing, from verdant slopes to dramatic cliffs, from boundless water and sky to waterfalls cascading wherever you turn. You might just imagine elves and trolls peeping through the trees as Grieg's haunting melodies drift from your boat.

On Top of the World ©Solange Hando

Meanwhile in Bergen, there are hills to climb all around  with fabulous views of islands and lakes and the town at your feet. Easily accessed from Bryggen is Rundemanen where a funicular takes you up to a breathtaking viewpoint and a forested trail heads for the hill top and more spectacular views on the other side. 
But on a clear day, you cannot beat Ulrike Hill with its cable car, just a bus ride from the town centre, and its enticing network of open trails with views to die for in every direction.

Bundalet in the Western Isles ©Solange Hando

But would you like a true taste of Norwegian life? Sail for a day to the western islands, catamaran, ferry and mail boat where the captain and his crew (the postman) will guide you through myriad islands untouched by time. You won't find a more genuine adventure, no tourists around except a handful of travelling companions.

Back in Bergen, Relax and Enjoy the Sunset ©Solange Hando

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Rome, Trevi Fountain and others

Rome, Trevi Fountain ©Solange Hando

Did you know that Rome claims over 2000 fountains, the largest number in any city in the world? Top of the list is the monumental Trevi, one of the capital's best known landmarks featured in films and on postage stamps.

Built of gleaming white stone in the 18th century and set against the Palazzo Poli, it is said to represent the taming of the water brought along the 'Aqua Virgin' aqueduct, named after a young Roman virgin who discovered a life-giving spring 26 km away.

The Barcaccia Fountain in Rome ©Solange Hando

Meanwhile on the Spanish Square, below the famous steps, the boat-shaped Barcaccia fountain recalls the disastrous flood of 1598 when the Tiber brought myriad boats right up to this spot.

It was built in the 17th century by Pietro Bernini and his son and they say that on his death bed, the English poet Keats was soothed by the gentle sound of the water.

Fountain in Villa Borghese Gardens ©Solange Hando

In the vast landscaped gardens of Villa Borghese where the people of Rome love to relax on a hot summer day, water features include lake, pond and fountains.

The Borghese Gallery tucked among the trees displays Italian paintings and sculptures by Bernini, most admired an Apollo and Daphne.

Piazza Navona, Fountain of the Moor ©Solange Hando

On this colourful Baroque square following the contours of the Roman circus, three fountains keep visitors spellbound. Set against an Egyptian obelisk at the centre of the Piazza, you find one of Bernini's most celebrated works, the Fountain of the Four Rivers, Danube, Ganges, Rio de la Plata and Nile which symbolised the continents known at the time.

At the northern end is the Neptune Fountain and to the south the Fountain of the Moor, named after the statue of an African man wrestling with a dolphin. 

The Trevi Fountain by Night ©Solange Hando

But at the end of the day, most visitors head back to the Trevi, the place to linger long after dark, dreaming of the 'Dolce Vita' partly filmed on the spot. But if you'd like to return to Rome one day, be sure to throw in a coin with your back turned to the water. Just waiting to see if it works...