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Articles Blog

Lunenberg, Canada

Karyn Planett

New Scotland 

Well, Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia means “New Scotland.” And, you know what’s a really fascinating fact about this part of the world? Halifax, which is the province’s capital city, is just about exactly half way between the frosty snows of the North Pole and the swaying palms draped along the steamy Equator. Isn’t that fascinating? 

Something else that’s interesting is that this part of Canada is called “Atlantic Canada.” The rugged shores of these four provinces that include Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, are hammered by the pounding Atlantic Ocean to the east and lapped on the other side by the relatively tranquil Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Bay of Fundy. 

Historians tell us that, even though Nova Scotia’s population is nearly one million strong now, long before the Europeans slogged ashore there were only Mi’kmaq people here. They were traditional hunters and fishermen who tackled the rough realities and harsh conditions, and survived. Then, as the Europeans spread across the area, the Mi’kmaq suffered from conflict and disease for which they had no resistance.

You’ll learn more details about the settling of this region but the guides will mention the Norse, Irish, Basque, French, English and Spanish all lured here by the rich waters that offered up fine fishing. But it was James I who gave the mandate in 1621 to a Sir William Alexander to create the “New Scotland”. A mere two years later, Charles I gave the whole lot back to the French and it was they who coined the term “Acadia” as the name for the area. 

Things got a bit messy when the British and the Acadians went at each other hammer and tong. A rather unpleasant chapter unfolded in 1755 when the Acadians, close to 15,000 of them, were deported when they refused to pledge their allegiance to the British. It was then that many of them traveled south to Louisiana and became what we know today as the Cajun people. Others settled in outlying areas. But here’s where it gets really intriguing. Following these deportations, an invitation went out to British citizens, German people from the Rhineland, and any brave soul from New England to come and put down their stakes in Nova Scotia. Thousands followed as the explosive chapters unfolded in America in 1776. They were “loyalists” looking for a new homeland. The German settlers were under the watchful eye of George III who referred to their new land as “New Brunswick”, reminiscent of the Grand duchy of Braunschweig-Lüneburg. Sound familiar? And their influence is felt to this day because many residents trace their lineage back to Switzerland and Germany, as well as France. 

And, by the way, nearly one in every three Nova Scotians proudly traces his heritage back to the fine country of Scotland. 

Finally, here’s a bit of trivia. If you’re a movie buff you might recognize Lunenburg as the setting for such blockbusting films as Jumping the Broom and the very haunting Dolores Claiborne. Remember the solar eclipse? 

That Brings Us To Lunenburg

Well, as we said, its name harkens back to its German counterpart … Lüneburg … from where settlers came more than 250 years ago. Today, the city is recognized for its historical importance with the naming of its Old Town as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was not afforded such respect when American privateers stormed ashore and sacked the whole place when the town was only 30 years old. 

Her people were always attached to the sea either as fishermen themselves or boat builders on whose backs the economy was borne. The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic tells these tales as well as that of the Bluenose. A fine boat, this salt banker was built here at the Smith and Rhuland Shipyard in 1921 and recognized as not only the undisputed champion of the North American fishing fleet but also the victor of not one or two but four international schooner races between 1921 and 1938. The Captain was a man named Angus J. Walters. Bluenose II is her recreation for the original Bluenose sadly sank near Haiti in 1946. At the museum you’ll also learn the dark secrets of the illegal rumrunners who gained sizeable profits during the days of Prohibition.   

On a cheerier note, there is a lovely spot called Mahone Bay, appreciated by artists and camera buffs for its subject matter. So, too, a tiny place called Blue Rocks and the more famous Peggy’s Cove. Pause to chat up one of the locals, then sample a succulent lobster, some Digby scallops, a crunchy oatcake, or handpicked blueberries before wrapping up your visit to Lunenberg.