Helen Rose Outdoor Diary: Norway
Norway, Olden and Alesund – October, 2022
Recently I was on a cruise to Norway. This was my fifth visit to Norway and I have visited most of Norway from south to north and out to Svalbard. All the visits have been fascinating but this time I specifically wanted to visit Ålesund for the famous architecture. I find a lot of the Norwegian landscape and culture reminiscent of Scotland. Perhaps that is why I feel at home there. The weather is also not unlike in Scotland and can vary many times within the day.
The cruise left from Rosyth on the central east of Scotland on the Balmoral, one of the Fred Olsen fleet. The fleet has smaller cruise ships so can navigate the Norwegian fjords. It took one and a half days to cross a very calm North Sea to reach our first port. There were lectures on Norway and entertainment on the ship and of course, being a cruise, a lot of eating and drinking!
Olden and Loen
Olden is a village in Vestland County and located at the mouth of the Oldeelva River at the northern end of the Oldedalen valley on the southern shore of the Nordfjorden The fjord is 106 kilometres long and is the sixth longest fjord in Norway. The ship was berthed at Olden and there was a bus on the pier to the Loen Cable car which is billed as fjord to sky in five minutes! It is one of the steepest cable cars in the world. The top of the cable car is at Mount Hoven at 1,011 metres which is higher than a Scottish Munro! The views are to the Jostedal Glacier Park and the terrace viewing platform gives excellent views along the fjord to the mountains of Melheleimsfjellet at 1,706 metres and Aveinsfjellet at 1,500 metres.
In the afternoon, I walked in to Olden Village to visit the famous church there. The old Olden church is a wooden cruciform church located on the site called “Sjøatunet”. The church was built in 1759 and has a seating capacity of 250. The master builder was Jon Langeland. The church used to be a “sokn” church for the Olden “sokn” in the parish of Innvik until the new church in Olden was consecrated in December, 1934. The old Olden church is the only cruciform church in Nordfjord. The reason why it was built like this was the fact that it should be able to withstand strong winds. The previous church was destroyed by a heavy winter storm, and this episode was a shocking experience for the villagers. They decided that they did not want to experience anything like this again. The church has weathered the storms for nearly 250 years, and has undergone repairs only when storms have damaged the structure.
Very little of the interior has been changed. The very special hat pegs on top of the sides of some of the men’s pews date from the period when the church was new. These pegs are made of debarked young birch tops with several twigs cut in suitable lengths.
In the evening, the ship set sail out of the fjord and we passed Hornelen, the highest sea cliff in Europe. From the top there is a staggering 860 metre drop straight down into the fjord. The Hornelen Mountain promises stunning views from either the top or in a boat cruising through Norway’s fjords. It is possible to hike to the top of the cliff but travellers should be forewarned the trek is only for seasoned hikers as it is steep and challenging. Couch potatoes and others may want to see it from a boat. Not only does Hornelen, located in Bremangerlandet Island, offer unique scenery, the cliff also is used in naval navigation.
Ålesund is a port town at the entrance to Geirangerfjord and is the largest town in north-west Norway. It is renowned as a perfect Art Nouveau town having been rebuilt in 1907 following a devastating fire in the winter of 1907 when all the buildings were wooden. Since that time, all houses in Norway have been built in stone, marble or brick. The town is built on three islands with a backdrop of an impressive mountain landscape. The history of the town is told in the Jugenstilsenteret (Art Nouveau Centre) located in an old pharmacy building which has retained its original interior including the house above where the pharmacist lived.
Ålesund was a thriving fishing town until the fire raged through the town destroying more than 850 houses, leaving 10,000 people homeless. Surprisingly, only one person died in the fire as people fled to the mountains. All of Norway pulled together in rebuilding the town and it promoted the use of stone, marble and slate from quarries in Norway. The houses surrounding the port were primarily for the fishing industry but are now used as private residences.
There is a statue, adjacent to the museum, in recognition of the hard work done by women working in the fishing industry in Brosundnet.
We looked over to the cute lighthouse on the peninsula which is now used as a very expensive honeymoon suite!
Art Nouveau style was most popular between 1890 and 1910 during the Belle Époque period that ended with the start of World War 1 in 1914. It was a reaction against the academic art, eclecticism and historicism of 19th century architecture and decoration. It was often inspired by natural forms such as the sinuous curves of plants and flowers. Other characteristics of Art Nouveau were a sense of dynamism and movement, often given by asymmetry or whiplash lines, and the use of modern materials, particularly iron, glass and ceramics to create unusual forms and larger open spaces. Therefore, it was the dominant style in 1904 when the rebuilding of Ålesund was starting and the building was finished in 1907 designed by Norwegian Architects and Designers.
The design also applied to interiors and within the Apothecary’s house, there was evidence of it in the dining room and stained glass decoration but folkloric motifs such as carved owls were woven into the design. Art in the interior in a common style is to uplift and inspire the residents.
On the walking tour we passed the smallest house in Norway in a terrace of Art Nouveau buildings.
It is also possible to climb the 614 steps to Mount Aksla from the City Park in Alesund to view over the islands.
A trip to Norway would not be complete without mentioning the Vikings. We have strong historical associations with them in Scotland and have an annual festival dedicated to Vikings in Largs on the coast of south-west Scotland. We walked up to the City Park to see the statue of Rollo funded by the Norwegian immigrants in Fargo in the USA. Rollo was a Viking also known as Gange Rolf. He is said to be from the island Giske outside Ålesund and fled to France in 911 where he founded Normandy. He was the forefather of William the Conqueror, the first Norman King of England and most noted for the Norman Conquest in 1066 which changed the course of history in England.
The cruise was a combination of a relaxing holiday and a visit to Ålesund which has been on my wish list for many years to see the Art Nouveau buildings and style. The entertainment on board included an excellent Show Company of singers and dancers and a speed violinist Oliver Lewis All very enjoyable including a Singing for Fun session led by the singers of the Show Company.
Coming attraction; Raasay.
This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
Filed under: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
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