The last outpost – Vardøhus Fortress in Vardø

Vardøhus, Leica M Elmarit 2.8 28 asph., Kodak Ektar, Varanger | ©

Some things are just there, ideally never to be used. And yet it is good that they are there. In this case, the Vardøhus fortress in Vardø is today something of a romantic open park decorated like a fortress, but the threat from Russia should be warded off early on. After all, Vardø is the easternmost point of the Kingdom of Norway.

Russia so close – the Vardøhus fortress in Vardø

We are here in the picturesque yet so unreal Vardø, a microcosm in a region where my slightly shivering wife would not dare to leave the house in autumn, right? At least I want to experience a winter here. the surroundings of Vardøhus fortress, but also Vardø, remind me a little of pictures that I have seen of Greenland. Somehow I have always been fascinated by the Arctic region.

And now we’re here, right in the middle of it. Yes, to the east it gets even more extreme, even colder. But here, after all, I’m on the western European mainland as far northeast as it just can’t go any further. And so the environment is rough, so peaceful is the landscape.

Vardøhus fortress – and Norway remained Norway

Vardøhus, Leica M Elmarit 2.8 28 asph., Kodak Ektar, Varanger | ©

Vardøhus, Leica M Elmarit 2.8 28 asph., Kodak Ektar, Varanger | ©

Now Norway was once a country of many tribes and small empires. It was later under Danish rule. But up here on the fish-rich Barents Sea, others would have liked to have had the say. Above all, the Swedes and the then Novgorod Republic (Novgorod is now one of the most beautiful Russian cities). In any case, as early as 1307 Håkon V. Magnusson built the first fortress Vardøhus, oriented towards Russia. What it meant under such conditions to build such a plant in Vardø in Finnmark is hard to guess. After all, the fortress Vardøhus left the necessary impression and it remained peaceful.

The new Vardøhus fortress was built in the 15th century and was intended to withstand the development of weapons. Either potential enemies were not interested in this completely barren area or the Vardøhus fortress did not fail to have an effect.

The Vardøhus fortress in Vardø was also a court of justice and what happened here in the Middle Ages until 1692 was as cruel as it was perverse. Because the accused of witchcraft were tortured, accused and executed at the stake. Vardøhus Fortress has been one of the scariest places in the witch hunt.

The cannons of Vardøhus Fortress were only used late. In 1808, during the continental blockade against England and Russia, they shot at English ships trying to circumnavigate this trade blockade.

In their desperate actions during the Second World War, they even shot German planes with these old cannons from the Vardøhus fortress, but could not prevent the German Wehrmacht from occupying them.

Vardøhus fortress today

Castles, palaces and fortifications all have a common origin. And that is based on resentment, war, power and oppression. Despite all the romance, you should be aware of this in all these buildings. So much the better that today they have turned into peaceful meeting places.

The Vardøhus fortress in Vardø has long fascinated people from the southern parts of the country and even the kings of the country have never given up on visiting this place.

When King Christian IV paid a visit to the Vardøhus fortress in what is now Vardø in 1599, he carved his initials into a beam of the complex and all subsequent kings did the same. Today, this bar is a little gem in the small museum in the preserved coastal barrack from 1811.

Of trees that shouldn’t exist here

Anyone who has traveled by bike or car will have been accompanying the treeless landscape in the polar surroundings for a long time. There are no trees here in Vardø, almost none. Because in the 1950s the commander in charge wanted to change it, at least a little. He planted a mountain ash in the middle of the Vardøhus fortress.

The only tree from Vardø quickly became famous, it was looked after and looked after, even in winter the tree was wrapped up warm. But, as we know, the winters here are brutal. Less by extreme temperatures than by icy storms and precipitation. No tree can have deep roots here. And so it was the winter damage that brought this single tree down in 2002.

But the community did not want to put up with this and so instead of the cleared tree, planted a new mountain ash surrounded by other shrubs of the same wood.

When the sun finally reappears on the horizon in January, it pops

We are so high up here in the north that the sun never sets in the summer months. Conversely, it means total darkness at the turn of the year. The more people long for the sun again. As soon as it comes across the horizon in the south at noon, of course, it is celebrated. Then the children in Vardø school leave everything behind and are allowed to go home for the rest of the day.

The sun is then greeted with two gunshots from the cannons of Vardøhus Fortress.

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