Strandhavet Viking Museum in Second Life

Strandhavet Viking Museum, April 2021

Despite having moved to Second Norway eight months ago – and having been pretty familiar with the estate a good while before that – I have to admit I only recently discovered the Strandhavet Viking Museum, tucked away on the northern island of the estate.  For those with any interest at all in Viking History, it is a compact treasure trove of information and artefacts.

Curated and operated by Katia (katia Martinek), the museum offers both indoors and outdoor exhibits to appreciate, and is richly informative on the Viking / Norse life and the extensive history and travels of the Vikings. From the landing point, the museum’s facilities might be split into three areas: the main exhibition building, the art centre and the outdoor displays.

Strandhavet Viking Museum, April 2021

The latter comprise two main displays – the Holmgang (duelling area) and the  burial mounds, each presented with information boards that will either supply visitors with note cards or links to web pages where information on Viking burials (including the Lindholm Høje burial site) can be obtained.

The main museum building is laid out much as a physical world museum tends to be, presenting a mix of large, open displays and those placed behind glass to protect them, and visitors are encouraged by rope barriers and the general layout to follow a path into the centre of the building.

Strandhavet Viking Museum, April 2021

This route will take you by way of learning about Yggdrasil and  Old Norse cosmology and the Överhogdal Tapestries, through displays focusing on Viking Life – dress, weapons, pastimes, architecture, transportation – notably the Viking long ship, which sits as the museum’s central display piece – religions (both pagan and Christian), law, and more. Again, individual displays offer note cards and  / or links for further information, and Katia has clearly taken considerable time to bring together a collection that offers genuine insight to Viking society.

At the time of my visit, the museum included an exhibition entitled Vikings in the East. Many of us are likely more than familiar with the westward voyages and activities of the Vikings – their coastal raids down long the Atlantic coast of Europe the around Britain, their trans-Atlantic voyages, even their travels to the Mediterranean.  What may be less familiar is their journeys east into central Europe and beyond. Vikings in the East helps to put much of the latter into perspective. If – like me – you’ve watched (and growled at) the seven seasons of Vikings, this exhibit offers a lot to help historically frame things.

Strandhavet Viking Museum, April 2021

The second of the museum’s building offers a display of Viking art, a small café and the opportunity to learn to play Berserker – which like chess, takes minutes to learn and a potential lifetime to master (although watching the animated playing pieces can keep players entertained!).

My  only minor niggle is that – again, appreciating the LI count – the museum feels a little cramped, and could do with perhaps being a little larger; the featured exhibit is a little crowded-in by the presence of the long ship. But that aside, Strandhavet Viking Museum is an entertaining, engaging and informative visit.

Strandhavet Viking Museum, April 2021

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A trip to La Vallee in Second Life

La Vallee, April 2021

Shawn Shakespeare pointed me in the direction of La Vallee, a Homestead region held by Som (Sominel Edelman) and home to his business Landscapes Unlimited – the in-world store for which is located overhead within the region.

The reason Shaun gave me the nudge is that currently the ground level of the region is sporting a design by Isha (Sablina), a talented region design whose work encompasses the likes of La Virevolte, Ponto Cabina, Field of Dreams – all of which have featured in articles in this blog – and, most recently a design on behalf of Gnaaah Xeltentat for Florence at Low Tide (see: Spring at Florence in Second Life).

La Vallee, April 2021
La Vallee is a design that serves two purposes: the first is to demonstrate Som’s latest off-region surround, the Alpine Valley MEGA, which goes on sale from May 1st; it’s also as a setting for exploration and – for those so inclined  – for entering Som’s “50K Photo Contest” that is focused on the setting.

As with the majority of Sablina’s designs, this is an incredibly restful setting, a tall island rising from the midst of a lake guarded by a ring of high alpine peaks where snow yet nestles in the folds and dips of rock where the snow has yet to fully penetrate.

La Vallee, April 2021

The island rises fairly tall and sheer from the waters, although on the west side, the lower reaches of the island slope more gently down to the water’s edge, reached by a switch back path of hard granite that drops away from the paved path that runs across the island’s saddle between its two peaks.

The first, and lower, of these peaks is home to the landing point: a small country station that faces a thatched-roofed cottage across a single line of track. An old steam loco is huffing its way towards this terminus across the high stone viaduct that connects island to the rest of the land (actually the region surround); but no passenger service is this – there are no cars riding along behind the loco’s tender.

La Vallee, April 2021

The taller of the two peaks is home to a pair of farm houses that sit together within a low wall of stone that rings them, a couple of gaps within its circumference offering the means to wander to the very edge of the cliffs. Pass through one of them, and you’ll find it also offers anther path that winds around the peak, outer edge marked by lengths of drystone wall to eventually return to the steps that lead up to the farmhouses.

This path is one of two that ring the peak, the second sits lower, reached by a crossroads in the path lining the farmhouses with the railway station. It offers a pleasing walk with plenty of views, together with a number of vignettes and places to sit and pass the time.

La Vallee, April 2021

Those who want to can wander further can fly over to the smaller island to the west – but keep in mind this actually blends with the region surround, so be careful of where you walk.

The beauty of this region really doesn’t require the level of description given here – its the kind of place that really speaks for itself during a visit. So with that in mind I’m going to say no more other than suggest that if you haven’t already done so – be sure to take the time to jump over and pay a visit. For those interested, a board at the landing point provides a a link to the region’s landing point – although specifics are a little light in terms of prizes, etc.

La Vallee, April 2021

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  • La Vallee (Landscapes Showcase, rated Moderate)

A view of nature and the lockdown in Second Life

* Nourish *, April 2021 – click any image for full size
We built this for our own fun last year during a global pandemic. We wanted to know what it would be like if Lockdown never ended… let the plants and nature take over. So welcome to our little piece of calm. Please explore all!

So reads the introduction to * nourish *, a parcel Shaun Shakespeare recently pointed me towards. Located on a Full private region, this is small parcel  – just over 2,300 square metres in size – that packs a lot into it.

* Nourish *, April 2021

Designed by Molly (MollyWolliDoodle) with the assistance of Matt (MatthSuogan), the parcel is focused on a street scene – but not your typical street. As per the description, this is a place where a pandemic lockdown has meant that nature has moved in, leaving the local businesses overgrown with the road and footpaths becoming cracked as grass makes its presence felt.

The businesses lining either side of the road look as if they haven’t opened in a long time – and not even social distancing has allowed their proprietors to  maintain their frontages, although their neon signs continue to shine as if to enticing possible customers.

* Nourish *, April 2021

Conversely, the local multi-storey – clearly no longer required for the purpose of parking cars – appears to have been taken over as a kind of club environment and social space. It stands a little at odds with the idea of a lockdown preventing people gathering together, so one can only assume that it has been taken over by those within the same social bubble.

The roof of the building has been converted into a place for games and partying – and quite imaginatively so; including the conversion of a locomotive caught on the elevated tracks that pass the structure.

* Nourish *, April 2021

This rooftop setting is actually the icing on what is a compact cake of rich detail. From the street slowly being reclaimed by nature through the multi-storey to the waterfront with its rough beach and broken house, there is plenty to catch the eye and the camera lens, and the apparent contradictions (subject to a never-ending lockdown and the construction of the place intended to bring people together) simply work. In fact, the contrast talks to the the realities seen within the current run of restrictions on public / social gathering.

* Nourish *, April 2021

There is a certain novelty to the setting that is engaging and which makes a visit more than just the opportunity to explore; it encourages visitors to spend time simply appreciating the design. And the novelty is more than skin deep, so to speak – should you drop in, be sure to walk down the steps to the subway; there is actually more there than might first meet the eye.

Compact, carefully thought-out and executed, * nourish * is visually engaging and fun.

* Nourish *, April 2021

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A beautiful land in Second Life

Hermosa Tierra, April 2021 – click any image for full size

A few days ago I received an invitation from Vally Lavender to pay a visit to her latest ValiumSL region build ahead of its official opening to the public at large.

Hermosa Tierra (Spanish for beautiful land) takes as its focus the lands of west Texas, as was the case for Valley’s previous design of MARFA (see: Deep in the heart of (west) Texas via Second Life). However, where MARFA drew on a actual place, Hermosa Tierra is born entirely out of Valley’s imagination, as she notes the the setting’s story:

Hermosa Tierra … is a fictional land on the West Texas border of Mexico and Texas (only separated by the Rio Grand River). It is loosely inspired by my impressions of the Big Bend National Park area, over 800,000 acres of desert, mountains, caverns, a vast and diverse range of flora, fauna and terrains.  The area is also rich in Mexican and American, specifically Texan, cultures.

– Vally Lavender, the Hermosa Tierra story

Hermosa Tierra, April 2021

This is an atmospheric build, both in design and in the tragedy of the backstory of Veleta, an artist, and her rancher husband and soul mate, Jorge. On arrival, I’ll confess that I felt I’d landed a lot further west along the border between the United States and Mexico; the setting with its surround of high peaks and mesas immediately brought to mind thoughts of The High Chaparral television series and its iconic theme song; so much so that I half expected Manolito to gallop past me at the landing point as he rode towards the Hacienda-style ranch house.

Hermosa Tierra, April 2021

However, west Texas this is, and of a time a lot later than the 1870s, as evidenced by the presence of two old pick-up trucks – although given one of these looks like it might date from the 1920s/1930s and the other the 1940s/1950s, we’re not really tied to a particular period of time, but can instead allow the story of Veleta and Jorge, and that of their great-great granddaughter, Vally, whisper to us a time it feels is best.

As one would expect from a region design by Vally, there is a lot to be discovered here. While a drought may well have led to the passing of the ranch – and of Jorge and Veleta – water has now returned to the land in the form of a fast flowing stream that bursts forth from a subterranean aquifer to the west, cutting its way northwards to vanish among the blocky mesa with their crowns of abode houses that stand guard over the land – perhaps reminders of the Pueblo way of life here.

Hermosa Tierra, April 2021
This stream, narrow and fast, is a natural drawing point for wildlife and domesticated animals alike (or semi-domesticated, in the case of the longhorn cattle). Cattle and horses, deer and bear are all equally drawn to the water, whilst a hopeful heron awaits, statue-like, the fortuitous passing of a fish. Stepping stones span the water, pointing towards the hacienda by way of a trail bordered by lavender and wild grass.

That times have been hard here can be seen in the decrepit barn siding the track up to the ranch, while the walls of the latter, doubtless once pristine and white, are showing their age and have become the home to ivy and vines. However, the house, the courtyard before it and a second barn a short walk from the hacienda’s gates all show clear signs of renovation and re-purposing, whilst the coral has also been renewed and is once again in use.

Hermosa Tierra, April 2021

Those exploring the land will find a lot to appreciate, from the smaller hacienda in the north-west that offers itself as a bar and places to rest, to the aforementioned wildlife and the various places to sit and appreciate the view. Travel far enough, and visitors might find themselves in a sinuous canyon, watched over by wolves and goats, whilst within the sheer walls, the hard work of a palaeontologist can be admired – but remember, look, don’t touch! When exploring, those who enjoy horse riding in SL can also perhaps get more into the spirit of the region by pulling on a wearable horse and trotting around.

Hermosa Tierra, April 2021

Hermosa Tierra is ideal for photography, and I recommend using the local environment settings when doing to – they are the idea backdrop. in fact, art is very much a focus for this setting, again as Vally explains:

Art is all around at Hermosa Tierra in a small way.  At the Hacienda La Veleta there will be rotating artists from the covers in Flickr group pool.  Since that has not begun, we start with a ‘Memories of Marfa’ exhibit.
At the large barn we will rotate selected artists from my Empty Chair Gallery.

Thus, this is a setting that is to be very much savoured and appreciated – and it will be available for people to do so for a while; the demands of the physical world mean that Vally is taking a deserved break from the pressures of region design and building, and will instead (hopefully) be able to appreciate her work as much as those who visit it.

Hermosa Tierra, April 2021

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Sakura Tales in Second Life

Neverending – Sakura Tales

One of the most familiar symbols associated with springtime is the cherry blossom, or sakura. In Japan, it is seen as both a sign of the end of the bleaker times of winter and also – in China at least – a time of renewal and also a life’s ephemerality.

I mention this because I recently took the opportunity to visit Neverending – Sakura Tales, the latest setting designed by Jayden Mercury and Valarie (Zalindah), a multi-faceted setting occupying a Homestead region that stands as a celebration of the sakura.

Neverending – Sakura Tales

Both Jayden and Valarie have a talent for designing settings that wrap a story within them – as can be seen with Adventures In Mad Wonderland, a location I wrote about at the beginning of 2021. Similarly, Valarie has been responsible for regions that both rich in narrative (see: Kintsugi: spiritual beauty and renewal in Second Life) and also with whimsy and nature (see: The charming whimsy of a Lightning Bolt in Second Life).

The story of the lost artist and poet Jay continued. He sat in front of his trailer at Mad Wonderland, thinking again of his life, grabbing his magical paper and pen, and started to draw again and a phoenix appeared. He knew he had to go and leave Mad Wonderland. He packed his stuff, his magical pen, and papers, went to say goodbye to his new friend, the Mad Hatter, who hugged him tight whispering: ´We will meet again in the future, my friend.’

– from the landing point at Neverending – Sakura Tales

Neverending – Sakura Tales

Within Neverending – Sakura Tales, Valarie and Jayden once again present an engaging setting that both embraces the full symbolism of the cherry blossom – renewal and  the celebration of life – together with elements than offer reflections of both Kintsugi and Lightning Bolt whilst also presenting a continuing of the narrative found within Adventures of a Mad Wonderland – just follow the clues for the story unfold.

The artist nodded, sighed, and joined the little boat. Excited to find out where the phoenix would guide him through the sea of Neverending, he sat and started to draw on his papers. Some flowers and trees popped up in his mind and on the horizon, he could see Sakura Tales – the new adventure of his story began….

– from the landing point at Neverending – Sakura Tales

Neverending – Sakura Tales

From the landing point, visitors are encouraged to seek out these clues whilst exploring land cut through by water, heavy with cherry blossom that shade grasslands awash with the colour of flowers. This is land with a distinctly Japanese in tone – not just because of the sakura, but in details large and small: from pagodas and Shinto shrines to lanterns, torii gates dragons and more.

The echoes of Kintsugi and Lightning Bolt can be found through a variety of touches- the mix of distinct highlands and lowlands, the use of water, and so on, whilst the cabin at the landing point carries a neat reference to Mad Wonderland. There are also numerous places across the region where visitors can sit and spend time, some of which are the stuff of dreams  – lying among the clouds.

Neverending – Sakura Tales

Whether it is by accident or design – I have no idea which it might be, but I suspect the former – Neverending – Sakura Tales also put me in mind of an iteration of the region, back when it was held by Amelie Knelstrom.

Back then it was called Neverending – Pigeon Island, and whilst it did not have any overt Japanese elements, it offered a spring-like setting rich in colour and cut by water in much the same way as Sakura Tales (see: Of pigeons and a Meaningless wander for more on that design). Thus, I couldn’t help but see something of a spiritual connection between these two very different designs.

Neverending – Sakura Tales

Restful, rich in detail and with plenty to discover, Neverending – Sakura Tales makes for a rewarding visit.

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The Summer of ’42 in Second Life

Summer of ’42
Hi Inara! I hope you’re well. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie Summer of 42, but I’ve created a new region based on the story. I hope you can make it by one day.

– Justice Vought

So came the invitation from Justice Vought, owner of Oxygen (see: Getting some :oxygen: in Second Life) and also the engaging Once Upon A Time, celebrating Second Life’s most famous residents, the Greenies, and Chocolate Factory, a homage to both Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder (1971), and 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, starring Johnny Depp.  Given this heritage, I hopped over to take a look as soon as time allowed.

For those unfamiliar with the 1971 film, it is a coming of age story written by screenwriter Herman Raucher, recalling the time when, as a teenager, he spent a summer vacation on Nantucket Island in 1942 and falls for a newly-married woman, Dorothy, whose husband has gone to England to fight in the war.

Summer of ’42

The film is noted for its haunting soundtrack by Michel Legrand and bitter-sweet story. It started as a means for Raucher to honour his childhood friend, Oscar Seltzer (“Oscy” in the film), who had been killed whilst serving as a medic during the Korean War. However, circumstance turned the story into a tale of the first adult experience of Raucher’s life.

The story uses a number of Nantucket locations – the town, the beach, the house where Dorothy shares for a short time with her husband before he departs for the war – and where Raucher most frequently sees her and has his final encounter with her (they would not have any contact for some thirty years after the – for Raucher – life-changing summer).

Summer of ’42

These aspects of the film are all engagingly interpreted by Justice within :Oxgyen: Summer of ’42, a homestead region directly adjoining :Oxygen: (you can cross between them via a wooden bridge, with the north side of :Oxygen: forming a backdrop to the landing point). Here, on the waterfront, stand the figures of two young boys – perhaps Hermie and Oscy from the film, possibly awaiting the arrival of their mutual friend Benjie.

From here, it is a short walk around to main street, with its post office, garage and movie theatre – which is showing Summer of ’42 alongside a film from the period of the film’s setting: Casablanca, and several other movies besides; some of which were actually made after 1942, such as It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), whilst others serve as neat little Easter eggs for Juctice’s work.

The street looks out over a wind-blown landscape with a smattering of trees, their backs bent against the wind that clearly passes over the setting. It’s a largely barren but photogenic view, dominated by a low hill on which a single wooden house stands, representing the house in which Dorothy lived and in and around which Hermie has his encounters with her. The house in turn looks down over a sweep of beach – perhaps the beach on which Oscy, Benjie and Hermie first saw Dorothy and her husband before the latter’s departure. The beach is again a photogenic setting.

Summer of ’42

However, it is inside the house that treasure is to be found, containing as it does touches that most directly draw on the the film’s poignant final scenes between Hermie and Dorothy.

These occur shortly after Dorothy has learned her husband has been killed in action and is dealing with her grief as Hermie arrives. These scenes are represented through the perfect use of props within the house – the record player, the table with ashtray and curling smoke, the mantelshelf photograph of a young US Army Air Corps pilot and another of his wife, sharing the space with a box brownie camera that may have been used to take one of them.

Summer of ’42

Most of all, there is the envelope, doubtless containing the telegram informing Dorothy of her husband’s death, complete with his service dog tags. Here, as can be found elsewhere on the island, are pointers to the film – a poster on the wall, and the soundtrack lying among a pile of records. A further nice touch is the book on the table with the letter, offering a reminder that as well as producing the film’s screenplay, Raucher also turned the story into a novel.

There are a few anachronisms to be found in the region – vehicles manufactured after 1942,  references to films films of the 70s, etc. However, these do not ruin the atmosphere of the setting; some of them can be put down to the availability of period props, whilst others – as noted – offer nice little Easters eggs for the things that have influenced Justice in his region builds, and the builds themselves.

Summer of ’42

And of course, the bridge to :Oxygen: means that the keen explorer can extend their visit by touring there as well. However, I’ll save that for another time.

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