Cruise Specialists Hosts Steve and Wendy are on the road (or high sea’s in this case) once again with the Voyage of the Vikings. In fact, this is their 7th time doing this particular journey! They started with some amazing sites in Bar Harbor and now they are on to Reykjavik.
Several years ago, we made a stop in Alesund, Norway when it was a national holiday. Everything in the city was closed but all the residents were out for a day long celebration.
We were treated to the official parade and were delighted to watch the local families carrying flags and banners and showing off their beautiful children and traditional costumes. It was a wonderful experience, but we had very little recollection of the city itself.
So we were happy to return here and we were not disappointed. We docked right downtown and could walk directly into the city center. The focal point of the town is Mt Aksla. It’s a small but steep peak looking down on the harbor and city. There is a visible stairway snaking up the face with 418 steps to be climbed to reach the overlook at the top. Since Steve has never seen a set of steps he didn’t want to climb, it was our first destination. The path starts in a small park right off the main street and immediately climbs. The views get better as you work your way up. It was wise of us to go early since even as we started down, the number of people had increased dramatically and it was getting too crowded to be a pleasant walk.
Back down on street level, we wandered through the Art Nouveau style buildings that are well known here and strolled among the cafes and shops that line the canal. The city streets are hilly so we found ourselves doing lots of up and down throughout the day. After 13 miles, we finally stopped for a beer at a café with a floating dock patio. Norway is a very expensive town and we knew our beer would be costly – and so it was at $12.00 per small bottle for the local brew called Tre Gamle Damer (Three Old Women).
As beautiful as Alesund was, our next day was even more dramatic. It started with a scenic sail through the Eidfjord. This was classic Norway. Little villages nestled along the water seemingly isolated from the world. Dramatically high and sheer cliffs rising on both sides, having been carved millions of years before by massive ice fields moving through. We discovered that these small villages are not isolated at all. There is an impressive network of tunnels and roads that connect even the sparsely populated parts of the country.
Our destination was the small town of Eidfjord at the end of the fjord. It was our favorite kind of place – small, quiet, seemingly remote.
The scenery in every direction was amazing. There were two big hotels right down at the waterfront and a host of other tourists who come here to enjoy the natural beauty. After a short walk around the town, we headed out to find what we had read was the oldest tunnel in Norway.
It was built in 1890 and was the original path for all vehicles. Today it is reserved for hikers and bikers as it was replaced in the 1980’s with a modern car tunnel. It was clearly carved from the glacial rock and has the feeling of being in a coal mine, except the ceilings are high. Along the way, we passed lots of bikers, which is a big sport in this area.
We walked as far as the Nature Center in the next town and back, stopping at the local grocery store for some delicious, freshly picked, local raspberries. It was a great day and we look forward to returning to this wonderful town next year.
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