History Of Sortland - A city is born - The Blue City

History Of Sortland - A city is born - The Blue City

The history of Sortland is not exactly a story about Roman defeats, Babylonian conquests or Mongol invasion... Nor is it a story about wonders of the ancient world, the cradle of civilization or the discovery of the new world. It's more like a short-story, really:

If the first Sortlending hadn't passed away in a tragic stone age accident, he could have been way past 5000 years now. He could also have been a lady.

A series of experiments with the old ferry in the Strait of Sortland, proved that the population of Sortland arrived from the east, from the Hinnøya island (the largest island in Norway).

Sortland played a major role during the Viking age as the headquarter for the two historical savages, -Karle and Gunnstein. Karle and Gunnstein were best-buddies with the modest Viking, Tore Hund (the "Dog" among friends).

There is a theory, that Karle and Gunnstein were the true brains behind the axe-case at Stiklestad in the year 1030, where Tore "the Dog" Hund was unfortunate enough to drop his axe in the head of King Olav the Sacred. Rumours tell about two persons etaing popcorn next to the Stiklestad battlefield shouting and yelling at "The Dog", trying to push him. Karle and Gunnstein threatened to publish some very delicate carvings in stone showing Tore Hund together with various sheep, if he didn't drop his axe at Olav the Sacred. The killing of king Olav the Sacred is, by a tiny minority, regarded as the start of the Norwegian history.

Paralysed by proud after being dedicated a whole sentence in the great Viking epic of Snorre Sturlasson, "Heimskringla", very little took place in Sortland from the Viking age and to the 19th century. Some lapps moved in, a church was built, generations of farmers died of age and sexually transferable diseases.

The origin of the name "Sortland" is still in the centre of discussion by a vast minority. Sortland has been given names as Svorta, Suorta, Swartalande, Swortuland, Suortland, Suortaland and finally Sortland. Sortland literary means "Black Country". To end the discussion, Sortland is now referred to as "The Blue City"...
Bjørn Elvenes on the day the painting started, July 14th, 1999
In the end of the 19th century, the Ellingsen family decided to do something about the outpost Sortland. As a result, Mr. Ellingsen founded the Sortland Sparebank in 1896, built a steamboat quay, a watermill, a power station, a boarding-house, the Kheops pyramid, a little hospital... among several other installations.

Around 1896, Sortland was described as a "Church-place with 33 houses and a population of 254". In 1922, the Coastal express was finally able to go through the Sortland strait and a new aera began. Very soon, Sortland evolved to be a church-place with 34 houses and a population of 256.

In 1978, the Vesterålen islands were connected to eachother by several bridges. This strengthened Sortland's place as a meeting place, a trading centre and even a cultural centre. Some years before, Sortland Library moved out of their closet (yes, literal) and got an own house.

The 19th of June, 1997, Sortland was awarded the status city. Hundreds of people changed their haircolor to black in order to celebrate the occasion. As a city, Sortland can enjoy the company together with other great cities of the modern world. Has anyone ever heard about Jian'ou (with a population of 55180), San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca (78799), Rabkavi Banhatti (60607), Zoltyje Vody (64900) or Vadsø?

Before the year 2003, Sortland will be painted blue from 50.000 litres of paint. The idea is to color it all, -facades, houses, roofs and even the streets. Read more about the plans at the Blue City.

Sortland - The Blue City

What can you do when the city is ugly and is accused for lacking a soul? Well, you could add colour to it... -Paint the city blue, for instance. About 50,000 litres of paint will be used to create a bright, light and delicate atmosphere. And Sortland will be known as The Blue City.

The "Blue City" project was first introduced by local artist Bjørn Elvenes and is part of the regional "Gulfstream Project" and the millennium celebrations. It is supported by the political authorities and will be Sortland's main millennium project.

A small town in Northern Norway of about 9 200 inhabitants. Became world famous around 1998, when a local artist, Bjørn Elvenes, suggested to paint the town blue to celebrate the new millennium. It didn't happen -- although an organization named "The Blue City" has been established, and some private people and shop owners have started to paint their property in various shades of blue, the town as a whole is still far from completely blue (as of late 2000).

The Vesterålen islands were connected to each other by several bridges. This strengthened Sortland´s place as a meeting place, a trading centre and even a cultural centre. Sortland is Vesterålen´s leading shopping centre. The range of shops, services and cultural activities is so great that you could believe yourself in a medium sized Norwegian city. It is no accident that retail turnover per inhabitant in Sortland is greater than in any other town in North Norway. Sortland is one of the few North Norwegian towns that have grown in the 80's and 90's, the result of a conscious decision to create a high standard of services in a pleasant place to live.
The aim is:

  • To renew and revitalize the public spaces in the town centre
  • To organize a somewhat confusing image into an exciting blue town scape.
  • To develop a modern town identity rooted in a tradition of sea and fisheries.
  • To generate positive energy to inhabitants and visitors.
  • To furnish a foundation for inventiveness, unity and life quality.
  • To inspire a return for those who once moved away.
  • To prove the force of an idea: The Art of the Impossible.

The idea is to give all house fronts and streets a varied pattern in design and character. Various shades of blue will be applied with a touch of contrasting colors. The blue will constitute a "motif", a movement, a form that changes from space to space. Each facade will be given its own identity, a soul, creating a unity which rests on a foundation of colored concrete.

One obvious reason for visiting Sortland is the chance to see how the city's downtown has been transformed with paint rollers and paint brushes. Sortland is also a handy spot for cod fishermen, who can cast their lines from Norway's 13th-longest bridge. Hikers are invited to walk up the nearby Steiroheia mountain for views of the coastal scenery and the Northern Lights, and budget travelers can catch buses to towns throughout the region.

The idea of 'The Blue City' goes back to the early nineteens, when Bjørn Elvenes considered painting the entire town blue overnight as a prank. He planned to spray coloured water over all the buildings, which would then freeze overnight leaving blue surfaces.

The prank never came about, but the idea evolved. Elvenes was involved in a meeting about possible millenium celebrations in the town hall, and although his idea was not formally proposed, he mentioned it in passing during a coffee break. A few days later, local politician Jørun Drevland approached Elvenes and asked to take the idea forward.

Elvenes' idea was to create a three-dimensional painting, in which observers can walk around. It is not intended to paint every single building in plain blue, but in his own words:

"A blue city does not need to be bluer than that required to be remembered by visitors as The Blue City."

More info: http://www.blaabyen.no/
The old warf at night - The Blue city, Sortland

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