On the Fjærland Fjord, Mundal Hotel is celebrating its 120th anniversary this year. This family-owned hotel has creaking stairs, a great turret bed room, a library, a billiards room, a music room, deep leather chairs by the fireplace – and books; not just in the library but everywhere. Wherever you go in Fjærland, you’ll find books; indoors and outdoors, along the streets, in barns and in boat sheds. Four kilometres of second-hand and antiquarian books are for sale, mostly on a trust system: take the book you fancy and put money in the tin.
I’m in Pyramiden, once a showcase of the Soviet Union, a perfect mining community, set between mountains, glaciers and fjords in the Svalbard archipelago. Today, it’s an Arctic ghost town! The decision to abandon the settlement was sudden, its implementation even more so. The inhabitants were given just hours to pack their bags and leave. Remnants of that hasty departure are visible everywhere.
Every Thursday, Ashley and Jason Bartner organizes pizza night at their agriturismo. And it doesn’t hurt to have a chef in charge, a chef with years of experience working at top notch restaurants in New York and San Francisco.
Jason believes in the slow food movement, in cooking with the seasons and keeping it simple. You won’t find pizzas with everything here. Instead, each pizza has just a few ingredients, all fresh from the local meat and cheese market and from the garden.
Situated right outside Luxor, Karnak Temple is the largest ancient religious site in the world. An impressive avenue of ram-headed sphinxes connects it with Luxor Temple. Karnak is a place of records: everything here seems to be the biggest and tallest. Its scale defies description. The first pylon (gate) alone is 42 metres high (like a 14-storey building) and 118 metres wide. Ancient Egypt must have been in awe of its builders.
Barentsburg, you say? Where on earth… ? The Svalbard archipelago has four settlements of significant size, one of them is Russian. Norway has sovereignty over the archipelago, but the Treaty of Svalbard ensures all parties equal access to scientific and economic activities in the islands. Barentsburg is Russia’s last remaining settlement in the Arctic.