|Country Information & Lifestyle|
Island of the Devils
Bermuda, the “Jewel of the Atlantic”, is a British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic Ocean and the second most remote island in the world. Bermuda is actually a chain of some 180 coral islands, islets and rocks, most of these are uninhabited, but eight of the larger ones are linked by bridges and one causeway. The coastline is characterized by small bays of pale, pink coral sand and surrounding vivid blue-green waters.
Nobody knows precisely when Bermuda was discovered but it takes its name from Juan de Bermudez, a Spanish sailor, whom we know was able to thread his way through the reefs in 1515 and anchor his ship, La Garza, close to land, but it is widely thought the Juan de Bermudez actually arrived here in 1505.
Known by mariners as the ‘Isle of Devils’ the island remained uninhabited despite visits by Spanish and English ships, until in 1609 when a hurricane blew a British ship called the Sea Venture onto the reefs, that a settlement was begun. Commanded by Admiral Sir George Somers, the Sea Venture was on her way to the New World settlement at Jamestown, Virginia with settlers and supplies.
Initially slave laborers, and then thousands of British convicts, toiled at the project for decades, often succumbing to yellow fever, on this then-remote island outpost. Slavery and bondage ended by 1834; today you can catch a glimpse of that legacy by taking a self-guided tour along our African Diaspora Heritage Trail. See the slave graveyard at St. Peter's, the oldest Anglican Church in the New World.
People mistakenly believe that Bermuda is part of the Caribbean. In fact it is hundreds of miles north of the Bahamas in an astoundingly beautiful stretch of the Atlantic, a mere 650 miles (1,046 km) east of North Carolina and flights from New York and other eastern US cities reach the shores in less than two hours.
Sitting like a tiny atoll in the mid-Atlantic amid-st the cerulean blue ocean, Bermuda has 75 miles of dramatic coastline and magnificent pink sand beaches. The unique location provides an extraordinarily pleasant climate that rarely sees extremes of either hot or cold; the islands are warmed by the nearby Gulf Stream.
The only source of fresh water in Bermuda is rainfall, which is collected on roofs and catchments (or drawn from underground lenses) and stored in tanks, as there are no lakes or rivers. Each dwelling usually has at least one of these tanks forming part of its foundation.
Bermuda’s culture is a rich fusion of British colonial history and African heritage that has developed into something unlike anywhere else in the world. You may spot a judge walking through Hamilton in a powdered wig, see a bobby directing traffic or overhear a passionate conversation about a local cricket match.
African influences, whilst subtler, can be found in the dance and music, especially reggae, calypso and the rhythm of the Gombeys – the magnificent dancing and drumming troupes that often take to the streets. The famous ‘Bermuda shorts’ were originally borrowed in the early 20th century from the British military’s uniform for hot climes. Although often colorful – pink is the favorite color- do not mistake the shorts as informal, they are taken very seriously. In fact a law was passed no shorts shorter than six inches above the knee.
The occurrence of ships and planes mysteriously disappearing in the area called the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ has made the island famous around the world. The Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute has a comprehensive display on the Bermuda Triangle.
At any time of year, lush greenery covers the hillsides, sprinkled with bursts of color. The blossoming flora provides a picture-perfect backdrop to every Bermuda retreat; the purple bougainvillea is especially popular. The gardens range from large, formal estates to miniature jungles or simple vegetable plots with local farmers selling fruits and vegetables at roadside stands.
Bermuda is divided into nine parishes and St George's is where Bermuda began. Named after the legendary dragon slayer and patron saint of England, St George’s was Bermuda’s original settlement and one-time capital until 1815. The town is situated at the east end of the country and a delightful one in which to walk around. The town’s history is visible in its many narrow, quaint lanes and alleyways leading away from the harbor, which were originally footpaths to the houses. The dwellings are picturesque with their well-maintained gardens colored by banana and paw-paw trees.
The hub of town life is King's Square, featuring stocks, a pillory and whipping-post where criminals were punished in days of yore. The Town Crier appears here on occasions in traditional costume to re-enact scenes such as committing the town drunk to the stocks and securing the town gossip on the Ordnance Island ducking stool. In December 2000 St George was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Along the southwestern shore, the parish of Warwick offers some of the finest pink-sand beaches and coves in Bermuda, including Horseshoe Bay and one of the best public beaches, Warwick Long Bay. Between them are numerous lovely coves such as Jobson's Cove, which is a favorite for beach weddings, and an offshore reef offers great snorkeling and diving opportunities.
Hamilton became the capital in 1815 and is a thriving center, the hub of international and local business on the island. But Hamilton also has a unique character, as it is packed with historic buildings, churches, shops, museums, galleries, parks and gardens – all set alongside a beautiful natural harbor. Frequent arrivals of cruise ships berth next to Hamilton’s main thoroughfare known as Front Street. You can enjoy a meal in one of the restaurants along the harbor front where the mood is relaxed and amiable, take a quaint horse-drawn carriage, visit the elegant Royal Yacht Club or just relax and enjoy a Mai Tai.
Ireland Island is the northwestern most island in the chain and lies within Sandy Parish. During the 18th century the Royal Navy bought part of the island to use for a lighthouse and dockyard. The lighthouse was never built, but the dockyard became a strategically important one for the navy during the wars of 1812-15. Great warships called at the Dockyard over the years from tall masted man-of-war to the ironclad, to the steam-driven dreadnought, to the diesel-turbine frigate.
The monumental gates of H.M. Dockyard swung open to the public in 1951, ending some 150 years of service as the bastion of Royal Naval power in the Western Atlantic. As you visit Dockyard today, the sweep of history is all around you in the fine old stone buildings, wharves and fortifications. You step back in time to the era of the British Empire, when Britannia ruled the waves.
Somerset Island is one of the main islands of the chain that makes up Bermuda. It lies in the far west of the territory and comprises about half the parish of Sandys. The Somerset Bridge links the island to the mainland and the Royal naval Dockyard.
The village of Somerset lies in the northern part of the island which is connected to Boaz Island in the northeast and the Bermudian mainland in the south by bridges and to the city of Hamilton by regular ferry.
Flatts Village has existed for centuries as a settlement and a number of former warehouses and prominent homes survive. Flatts Bridge crosses the inlet at the settlement and the Aquarium, Museum and Zoo are located on the north side of the inlet. Tuckers Town is a small, exclusive community in St George’s Parish, at the mouth of Castle Harbor on Tuckers Town Peninsular on the main island.
Island cuisine is a reflection of the blended heritage and coastal access to premier local seafood. Two relatively unique Bermudian dishes are salted codfish with boiled potatoes, the traditional Sunday breakfast, often eaten with Bermuda bananas which are smaller and sweeter than other bananas, and Hoppin’ John, a simple dish of boiled rice and black-eyed peas. Fish is widely in the form of local tuna, wahoo, and rock-fish and fish chowder seasoned with sherry pepper sauce and dark rum is a favorite across the island as is pawpaw casserole.
Though the times are changing, Bermuda still has an old time feel about it, including the islanders' propensity for protocol and love for pomp and ceremony. The Bermudans honor old world manners “Good morning” and “Good afternoon” are a must. Bermuda feels like Heaven on Earth, a Paradise where you can escape and dream, so come on what are you waiting for!