It has become a pattern with us that we vacation every other year in Norway. Two years ago we drove to Rjukan and stayed there for a few days before ending up in Notodden for the blues festival. This year we decided to drive to Ålesund and Molde, as I have always wanted to see these cities. I have heard a lot about Ålesund and how I had to visit it. Molde is known as the city of roses and jazz. It is internationally famous for its annual jazz festival; this year, Pat Metheny and Herbie Hancock were among the invited performers. We arrived in Molde a week prior to the festival’s start, a smart idea given that most hotels are fully-booked during the festival week and we would not have gotten a room anywhere.
We left Oslo early on a Monday morning (July 10th) with the aim of making it to Fjærland the first day. We drove via Kongsberg and Geilo; the drive on the Fjærland Road took us through some lovely areas. Fjærland itself is a small town, but an incredibly lovely one on the Fjærland Fjord. We stayed at the Fjærland Fjordstue Hotel, run by Bård and Linda Huseby. We really enjoyed our short stay here, and can recommend this hotel. It is truly picturesque, situated right on the fjord, with a lovely terrace overlooking the water where one can sit outdoors and drink coffee or have a beer. The dining room also overlooks the water. We spent one night at the hotel, enjoyed a walk around town before dinner, and then a very good dinner afterward. I took some lovely photos of the fjord and the surrounding mountains on the morning of our departure.
On the advice of the hotel owner, we decided to check out the Supphellebreen glacier arm, which is not far from the hotel. We drove out to the edge of the arm and walked to the body of water that lies beneath the glacier arm. It is amazing to see something like this in person; I have never seen a glacier up close before, and was surprised to observe that the ice in the glacier had a bluish tinge. I took some photos, and then we drove on. At my urging, we decided to check out the Haugabreen glacier as well, but that turned out to be a rather nightmarish drive up a gravel-covered dirt road with a 20% incline in order to reach it. My husband is a good driver and his Porsche managed the trip up and down again, but I would not want to repeat the experience any time soon. I don’t have the nerves for steep narrow roads with no protective railings. I kept wondering if we would end up going over the edge. As it turned out, we made it to the top, but found out that we would have to walk a bit in order to reach the glacier, so we decided against doing that since we had a long drive ahead of us to Ålesund. On our descent, we met a large dump truck carrying gravel coming up the hill. There was no way we could pass it, and we could not back up as it would have meant backing up the hill from which we had descended, so the truck had to back down, and it did. I was impressed by the truck driver who took it all in stride. I would have been a nervous wreck.
We made it to Ålesund by late Tuesday afternoon and checked into the Brosundet Hotel, also right on the water. This hotel was also quite nice; I liked the fact that both breakfast and dinner were included in the price, also that the kitchen staff provided cake and coffee during the late afternoon before dinner. The dinners were standard fare—turkey wings the first evening and lamb stew the second evening—but it beat having to find an open restaurant (many restaurants close in July in Norway—right during the height of tourist season, which makes no sense to me at all). Those that were open were quite expensive; main courses were in the forty to fifty dollar price range. Overpriced, in my opinion. Ålesund is a quaint city, with many old stone buildings (a big fire in 1904 destroyed most of its wooden buildings), but there were a fair number of buildings in need of repair and renovation. It did not strike me as a wealthy city, but I could be wrong. While we were there, the annual boat festival got underway, and we enjoyed a flyboarding exhibition that was just about the coolest thing I have ever seen (see video in the next post). Otherwise, we walked around the entire city and out to the Aquarium, which is also known as the Atlantic Sea-Park (Atlanterhavsparken). The aquarium is well-worth visiting; it is right on the ocean, and has large outdoor open pools for seals, otters, and penguins. The large indoor open pool holds a variety of fish, manta rays, lobsters, starfish, and anemones.
We left Ålesund for Molde on Thursday morning, and arrived in Molde around lunchtime. The weather was very nice, so after we checked into our hotel (Molde Fjordstuer Hotel) we took a long walk around the city, ate lunch and then hung out at the hotel until dinnertime. This hotel was modern and quite stylish and I enjoyed staying here. It would be nice to visit the city again at some future point during the jazz festival.
We left Molde for Bygdin on Friday morning, with planned drives up Trollstigen and through Geiranger. I’ll let Wikipedia’s description of Trollstigen suffice—a serpentine mountain road, narrow with many sharp bends, and although several bends were widened during 2005 to 2012, vehicles over 41 feet long are prohibited from driving the road. I’m very glad my husband is a good (and confident) driver and that his Porsche could make it up Trollstigen and then down and up the road to Geiranger, which was equally serpentine and a bit nerve-wracking in my opinion. We stopped to have coffee at the Hotel Utsikten (literally the View Hotel), which had breathtaking views of the Geiranger Fjord. After that, we drove on to Bygdin through mountain country, and arrived at the Bygdin Fjellstue Hotel in late afternoon. The nice weather was conducive for walking, so we took a good walk before dinner. We stayed at this hotel for one night (we stayed here before in 2002, my first trip to the mountains in Norway), and managed a walk along Bygdin Lake on Saturday morning before we left for home.
We were quite lucky with the weather; most of the time it was sunny and fairly warm. There was only one evening/morning in Ålesund when it rained heavily. Although there was a lot of driving on this trip, it was endurable because we drove along many scenic routes (my husband’s plan) rather than standard (often mind-numbing) highways. It’s no wonder that Norway is considered to be a beautiful country; this trip merely confirmed that fact.
(I'll post photos in my next post, as well as videos of the flyboarding performance in Ålesund).