We spent our first night aboard the Hurtigruten eating caviar, looking out the window, and trying to make friends with the fellow guests. We were the youngest pair there by at least 30 years, but I think I’m being generous with that number, and it was probably closer to 40. We did happen to make somewhat friends with couple of Germans, who stayed on the boat with the entire trip with us. Mostly our friendship involved the oldest and biggest of the men making fun of Jeff and I for being young rascals. Anyway, first thing the next morning we arrived in Ålesund.
In 1904 there was a fire in Ålesund that burned down all of the wooden buildings leaving only a church (now rubble though) and the city jail standing. Most of the cities population was now homeless, 10,000 people out of a total 12,000. Help came right away though from other parts of Norway as well as from Germany. Young architects trained in the Art Nouveau style came and rebuilt the city giving it’s modern appearance that it is known for. In order to maintain some Celtic and viking traditionalism, a few buildings are decorated with turrets and gargoyles.
Ålesund is a smaller version of Bergen, but also a huge player in Norway’s fish export business. The town occupies a small peninsula that allows for zero expansion of the city center. Most people who work in Ålesund actually live on small neighboring islands.
After Ålesund, our day was filled with sitting on the boat, as our great big ship was going to go chugging into the Geirangerfjord.
This fjord is 20km long and can only be navigated by boat, as the walls of the fjord are sheer cliff faces. It is one of the most popular fjords in Norway, receiving 600,000 visitors a year and over 150 cruise ships come into the fjord.
The fjord is one of the most inhospitable areas for farming, yet still a few farms made the attempt. Though now they are mostly abandoned.
A few things threaten the fjord, one of which is that some corporate douche-bag wants to put power lines over it, which would obviously degrade the natural beauty of the area. The second reason the fjord is threatened is that a nearby mountain is beginning to erode into the fjord. If a significant chunk of the mountain were to fall into the fjord, a tsunami would occur destroying two of the neighboring towns in about ten minutes.
In the fjord there are three famous waterfalls that tumble over the vertical cliff faces with clear icy glacial water. One is the Seven Sisters, called this because of the seven small waterfalls the trickle next to each other. Another is the Suitor, which is directly across from the Seven Sisters and spends its eternity trying to wow the sisters. The last one is called the bridal veil, which is named so because right before it reaches the fjord, the water spreads out over a rock like a thin veil.
|The Suitor – for a size reference, there are kayakers at the bottom of this waterfall, little dots on the left.|
|The Bridal Veil|
At the closed end of the fjord is the city of Geiranger, which is a sleepy quiet town apart from the giant cruise ships that come into port everyday. If one where to drive into the town, the last 7km is a twisty steep road that makes Lombard street in San Francisco look like a child’s slide, with 11 hairpin turns. All of them overlooking the narrow fjord. Suck it Lombard.
|Final descent into Geiranger, with 11 hairpin turns.|
|Geiranger hides behind this ginormous cruise ship|
After hanging out for an hour near Geiranger we headed out again, passing all the beauty of the fjord but this time in reverse. We spend the whole day on the boat, but the next day promised more walking around time. To entertain ourselves, Jeff was drawing cartoons that you can find at his blog, and I was reading a Harry Potter fan fiction called Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. I recommend both to entertain you until my next posting next week.