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Panorama picture from Bergen Municipality in Norway


Named after the famous fiddler Ole Bull. Ole Bull was born in 1810, and became very early known as a first class violinist. His solo performance with the great orchestra of the Paris Opera at the age of 25 marked the beginning of a series of concert tours which took him over the whole of Europa and America.

He was one of the greatest violin virtuosos of his time, and awoke an interest in the qualities of Norwegian folk music both at home and abroad. This was of great significance to other composers amongst them, Edvard Grieg. In 1850 Ole Bull founded the first Norwegian theatre, with Henrik Ibsen as the first instructor, followed by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.

His contemporaries regarded him as a great and cherished national symbol. Despite his constant travelling, he always managed to spend summers at home in Norway, first at the family estate of Valestrand, and later on the island of Lysøen. On Valestrand he rebuilt the former estate with a view to creating a home for his French wife, but she died before the work was completed. His second wife, the American senator daughter Sara Thorp of Madison, Wisconsin, accompanied him to the summer villa on Lysøen built in 1872.

Ole Bull referred to the villa as his "Little Alhambra", and a visit there willl show you why. The villa with its russian onion dome, elegant trelliswork, the pierced-wood Moorish arches and twisted columns of the high ceilinged music hall is an unique pearl in Norwegian architectural history. Ole Bull died on Lysøen in 1880, and his wife Sara and their daughter Olea continued to spend their summers on Lysøen. So did his grandchild Sylvea Bull Curtis, connecticut, who donated the whole property to the Society for The Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments in 1973.

Ole Bull transformed his 175 acre island property into a fairy tale kingdom by having romantic paths with white shell sand, ponds, and gazebos made, and by planting exotic trees and bushes in the native pine forest. The landscaping has been continued ever since his death, and today the island is a popular recreational area for the public.