Sailing east from the West Falklands during the night took us to the East Falklands, where we moored in the early morning outside the capital Stanley. The only sizable town of the Falklands, Stanley is the capital, and would be our last encounter with a town for nearly two weeks. After clearing landing procedures, and driving to the main street of Stanley, we stepped into a windy, cold, and rainy boulevard. Foam from the sea waves was blown across the empty boulevard; it was Sunday and the town looked deserted. We first walked to the Christ Church Anglican Cathedral, the southernmost Anglican cathedral in the world. Four large whale bones form a huge arch in front of the cathedral; and while the cathedral itself would not look out of place in the UK, the whale bones reminded us that we were close to the Antarctic region. The cathedral itself is, obviously, rather small inside; we decided to continue walking along the boulevard as our time was limited.
Walking west, we came across the mast of the SS Britain on display on Victory Green, before reaching the 1982 Liberation Monument. A half circular wall with plaques are the background of a statue that rests high on a stand. Names of young soldiers on black marble, flowers, the statue high above our heads: it gave us a moment to reflect on the consequences of war. I remembered the news of the early 1980s as it came to me, a teenager: Argentina invading the Falklands, or the Malvinas as they call it, and the UK waging war to oust the invaders at a cost of several hundreds of mostly young casualties. It seemed so futile: a war about small, remote islands with many more sheep than humane inhabitants (at the time, the population of Stanley was barely more than 1,500); claims by both parties seemed almost absurd. Reminders of the war are all over Stanley: memorials, tanks in the garden of the museum, and even a Thatcher Drive, named after the prime minister who decided to wage war in the Falklands.
From the monument, we continued along the coastline and the curving boulevard, until we reached the Battle Monument, in memory of the Battle of the Falklands of 1914 between Germany and Britain, and the very interesting Falkland Islands Museum which is choke-full of all kinds of historic memorabilia, and which even has an array of objects on display in its garden. From the museum, I went my own way, cruising through the backstreets of Stanley, with cute, colourful old houses and tall chimneys, until I came to the house of Mike Butcher, an anti-whaling activist who has put whale skeletons in his garden. Inevitably, the enormity of the skeletons was impressive. Mike himself came out of his house, and ended up not only showing his reindeer, the only one on the island, to me, but also taking me for a drive to the mine fields around Stanley. He told me that he had unknowingly walked the fields right after the war, where now they are clearly marked. Plans to finally clear the fields have never materialized, and according to my new-found Falkland fried, the mines still regularly claim the lives of cattle who do not obey the signs. Thankful of the private excursion and insights given by Mike, I walked back to the boulevard and to our ship, passing a cemetery on the way - and realized that from here, the next few weeks would only see sea, ice, and wildlife. I could not wait.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Stanley (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Stanley.
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