There are people who become our source of inspiration for great deeds. Events have taken place, which motivate us to do something extremely impressive and there are art creations, which we touch, hear and see and this is enough to provike strong emotions. In addition to all this, there are places on earth where people change completely. Places, visiting which make us become better, landscapes, color scheme and so far unknown shapes of which leave us enchanted and nature footage, which follows the entire life as a background. Today’s Monday inspiration is Svalbard Islands in Norway, near the North Pole. Snow-covered environment, colorful, primitive forms of housing and wild nature, where the polar night and colourful northern lights replace each other, while polar bears and deer wander in the streets.

Svalbard is an archipelago near the North pole in Norway, in the Atlantic Ocean. The islands are covered with snow during 8-9 months, but despite this, it is still warm. Landscape is mountainous, here is Norway’s largest glacier Austfonna largest islands are Spitsbergen, Nordaustlandet, Barentsøya, Edgeøyaand.

Initially, the term “Svalbard” (cold embankments) are mentioned in 12th century Icelandic texts.

American Willem Barents discovered the archipelago in 1596. In 1600 – 1750 the whale industry was ongoing there, which significantly decreased their number. After that, whale hunting was banned. In 1906 John longearma founded the first mine and on 9th February, 1920, Svalbard Treaty was signed in Paris, whereby it became incuded in Norway.

In the history of Svalbard, a remarkable fact is the events going on during the Second World War. In 1941, during a military operation “gauntlet” (Gauntlet) the Soviet population was evacuated, the Nazi government took over the archipelago and placed Meteorological stations there. Nazis invaded the remaining Norwegian garrison in Spitsbergen in 1943. At the same time, they destroyed the settlements in Longyearbyen and Barentsburg. In 1945 The Nazi weather stations lost touch with the island’s governing bodies, the remaining soldiers were captured by seal hunters. This is how the Nazis were banned from Svalbard. After the war, the Soviet government offered the island to be under the supervision of its military presence,but was  refused in 1947. Two years later, Archipelago signed the agreement and entered “NATO”.

The area of archipelago is ​​63,000 square meters. Here you will meet a lot of old mines and wildlife. The environment is full of fat, polar bears and northern fluffy deer, which walk directly in the streets. Also, whitefoxes and noisy seals, which are surrounded by numerous species of sea birds. However, the most important sightseeings are those which local wildlife offers. “Northern Lights”, “Polar Nights” and “Midnight Sun” are those events, which attract a lot of people in this area. There is no visitor, who is not surprised by the impressive color range, that glow during the Northern nights (mid October-March), sky-blue bright nights, when no dark place remains on the islands (October 26 -16 February) and the midnight sun, which never goes down in the summer period and the rays are constantly shining upon the sea (19 April-23 August).

The fact that almost 65% of the territory of Svalbard consists of protected areas and among them three nature reserves, six national parks and over 15 varieties of bird species unique to this place, speaks for itself. White landscapes create the environment and despite the cold, nature offers us incredible diversity. The most attractive is probably unspoilt environment, modest buildings of different colors represent only an attempt to escape from monotonous monotoruli whiteness.

The capital and the largest settlement in Svalbard is the city Longyearbyen with 2,040 inhabitants. Here is the administrative centre. 72% of settlers are Norwegian, 16% – Russian/Ukraininan, while the rest 12% are from different nationalities.

 

Other settlements:

Barentsburg (Russian mining community) – 500 inhabitants

Ny-Ålesund (Norwegian International Research Center) – 25 people

Svea Gruva (Norwegian mining community) – 240 commuters

Hornsandi (Hornsund) (Polish research station) – 11 people

Nowadays the island is a gathering place for fishing, scientific centres and lots of tourists. This snowy side of its nature attracts everyone who wants to experience life in the most intense ways.

 

 

 

 

A Few interesting facts about Svalbard:

 

1. Longyearbyen is built on stilts.

The ground in Svalbard is permafrost, which means the soil is permanently frozen the whole year round. In Longyearbyen the permafrost ranges from 10 to 40 meters deep, with an active layer that melts each summer as the temperatures rise. The slilts, or piles, keep the building away from the active layer to prevent flooding and sinking!

 

2. It’s customary to take your shoes off before entering a building

It’s a local custom to take your shoes off indoors and you’ll see a sign kindly asking you to do so in many establishments. This extends to hotels, the Svalbard Museum, the church, and the tourist information office. But don’t worry, slippers are often provided to keep your feet from getting cold!

 

3. Check your gun at the door!

More than 3,000 polar bears live around Svalbard. they are curious and sometimes hungry after not eating for months at a time. It is required to carry and know how to use a high-powered rifle anytime you leave the settlement.While it became a usual sight to see everyone casually walking about town with a rifle slung over their shoulder, guns are not allowed inside any building.

Clever signs remind you, “All the polar bears in this shop are already dead, please leave your weapon with the staff.”

 

4. Snow scooters are the preferred mode of transportation.

There are no roads outside of the settlements of Longyearbyen, Barentsburg and Ny-Ålesund and the roads do not connect the settlements with each other. Snowmobiles, called snow scooters in Svalbard, are crucial for transportation in the long winter months. They are so crucial, in fact, that there are 4,000 snow scooters for Longyearbyen’s 2,000 residents.

 

5. The sun does not rise for 4 months!

The sun sets each year for the very last time on October 25th and it will not rise above the horizon again for four months. The sun officially returns to Longyearbyen on March 8th, when it is finally high enough above the horizon to illuminate the steps of the old hospital.  Solfestuka is a week long celebration to welcome the return of the sun and the entire town gathers on the steps of the old hospital at precisely 12:15 to await its arrival.

 

6. The streets have no names.

The streets of Longyearbyen do not have names; they simply go by numbers. As Peter Adams said, “Grown men do not build houses on streets that are named Blueberry Road or Teddy Bear Yard!”

 

 7. You can’t have a cat as a pet.

You won’t find cat food at the local co-op. Svalbard is home to abundant Arctic bird populations and cats pose a problem for the bird life. So Svalbard has prohibited them.

 

8. Reindeer wander through town.

The Svalbard reindeer have no natural predators and so are very docile animals. They wander right through town and aren’t generally bothered by people being nearby.

 

9. It’s illegal to die.

Yes, you read the right! Death is forbidden. Longyearbyen only has a small graveyard that stopped accepting new burials over 70 years ago. Why? Because the bodies never decompose. Scientists found that bodies are perfectly preserved because of the permafrost.

So if you’re going to die, go do it somewhere else. It’s the law!

 

 

Author: Nanuka Zaalishvili

English Edit: Nino Namoradze

 

 

 

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