We decided to make this trip in winter because we wanted to see the Northern Lights (which obviously you cannot see in the summer). We were also hoping for lots of snow because for once, we do not have to worry about driving in the snow and a husky ride without snow does not seem like much fun. The cold does not really worry us because we are well equipped for travelling in cold weather – we still have the clothes we wore when we went to Antarctica. Our one addition to help us walk in the snow this time are a set of studded overshoes for walking boots.
Surprisingly there is a website devoted to the weather you will get over the next few days on a Hurtigruten trip.
Updated daily, it shows the predicted weather four days ahead from any of the stops en-route. This screenshot was taken just before we left for Norway and shows that it has started snowing towards the north which is just what we wanted. We were hoping to see lots of snow but they tell us here that the weather has been unseasonably warm over the past week or so and that their version of the weather forecast for snow is not looking particularly good.
The weather during our second day aboard the Lofoten starts with rain and mist. The seas however were not very rough and our first open water segment (where the sea is said to be rougher) was not too bad, particularly when we are in the lee of the islands. Right up north we are told there is no shelter so we are hoping we have our sea legs by the time we get there.
Today’s route takes us from south of Floro to some way south of Trondheim.
Torvik (the third of six stops today) is typical of the small communities we visit en-route. This isolated
hamlet is on one of the numerous islands which are dotted along the coast – many of the islands are connected to each other by bridges
and where there are no bridges, there is usually a ferry service. We are running about 30 minutes late when we arrive at Torvik and because keeping to the schedule is important for this “bus service”, as
we are pulling up at the quayside, the Captain realises that there is no cargo to be unloaded or passengers to discharge and nothing to be picked up and so we do not stop at the quayside but proceed immediately back out to sea. An announcement then comes over the tannoy commenting that following this (unusual) rapid “non stop”, we are now back on schedule for our next port of call at Alesund.
Alesund – the Art Nouveau City of Norway
Norwegians keep telling us that Alesund is the most beautiful city in Norway. Following our visit and tour, we can agree that it is “beautiful” but perhaps not “the most”. Virtually all of the city was destroyed by fire in 1904 apart from a few
buildings (such as the above) on the outskirts of town
and some of the buildings in this photo - the harbour lighthouse is now a one room hotel popular with newly weds and the white houses behind it date from pre-1904. The large building top middle is a post 1904 school.
Following the fire, the town was rebuilt in the Art Nouveau styles of the time. Apparently, following the fire, architects from many European countries were involved in the redesign and their country influences show in some of the buildings. Some 80% of the original Art Nouveau buildings remain and we got to see a lot of them during a very wet guided two hour walk which by the time we get back to the boat, we decide is well worth the discomfort.
As a consequence of the redesign, a lot of grand buildings line the quayside and many of the streets.
This is the narrowest house in town – originally it did not have a front door and entrance was gained through the door on the left. Now it is an art gallery.
Typical of the Art Nouveau influenced building designs are:
Many of the houses betray their architectural influence through the style of freeze or decoration on the house.
This style is said to be Scottish (a thistle leaf)
this is said to be English (a rose)
this is Belgium (apparently fruit / flowers / leaves is the theme). The French theme is (unsurprisingly) ladies and there is also a Chinese theme and
a Norwegian (Alesund) theme which is a Fishing Knot.
Today we see the buildings as beautifully painted in bright
colours but we were told that this is a new development. Originally all of the buildings were grey
and when in the 1960’s someone referred to Ålesund as the Grey Dull City, it caused so much annoyance in City Hall that they decreed that coloured buildings were to be encouraged provided permission and agreement on the colour was sought before the building was painted.
The Art Nouveau museum of Ålesund is in what used to be a pharmacy and it contains a variety of
Museum (centre) and Fish Market steps
very high quality artefacts from the period – all of the explanatory text was in Norwegian so we may have missed some important points when going round.
Glass windows from the period feature around the house
and also there are some very nice wall hangings on display.
The original pharmacy cash till is in the entrance area and is a perfect example of the decorative style of the period.
Wood carving work is very good with exquisite detailing.
The main staircase was a beautiful example of craftsmanship in
timber. The newel posts showed an Owl face which was the symbol of
the family who lived in the building when it was a Pharmacy.
The vases and glassware were particularly nice
There were a number of furniture items from the period. I do not know if they are local or simply examples from that time.
A dining room has been created and formally
set reflecting the taste of that time.
Even the ceiling has been recreated (it is rather hard to take a picture of a ceiling so imagine the above at the correct angle.
The wallpaper in the dining room is a perfect reproduction of that used in houses post 1904.
But as in all cities, the city planners still manage to make mistakes. I present to you:
Alesund City Hall which is an 11 storey building in the city where the 1904 design rules dictate that no building should be more than four or five floors. So when you approach the city from the sea, you see this large grey blob towering over all other buildings.
We also have the visitors centre and cafe on the top of the nearby mountain from which there are great views of the city (we did not have time to go up, we spent too long looking at buildings)
but turn around and look out to sea and you gaze upon
one of the islands near the city which was in the mist and rain when we arrived and was backlit by the setting sun (and it had stopped raining) when we left.
The bus (boat) schedule is unrelenting and we depart on time as the sun sets and a few hours later arrive in Molde where we get off for a short walk and note a number of shops selling
Norwegian national costumes and very Christmassy
displays in the flower shop windows
and then on to Kristiansen where we saw a statue of the Clip Fish Wife (apparently famous) and opposite a Clip Fish Boy
and I will always remember that the city manhole covers feature the Clip Fish Wife.
Just as we have got into our pyjamas, there is a knock on the cabin door and the Purser tells us that the Bridge have sent down a message saying that there are faint glimmerings of the Northern Lights – so it is on with cold weather clothes and up onto the fly deck (next to the bridge) where we are able to convince ourselves that we can see the occasional glimmer of the Northern Lights on the horizon .