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Published: June 22nd 2014
Ålesund , west coast Norway 14 & 15 June 2014
Ålesund is built on a row of islands extending towards the Atlantic. The compact old city centre is thus surrounded by water and Ålesund is a major fisheries harbour. For hundreds of years, the town has been a trading centre for the region, and still is. Ålesund has also become an important centre for the maritime cluster of shipping, maritime industry and nautical education.
We arrived in the town, driving from Hellesylt and found a wonderful camp site right on the waters-edge - Volsdalen Camping, we highly recommend it.
We learned the architecture makes this city different from any other Norwegian city. In 1904, on 23 January, a huge city-fire totally destroyed about 850 buildings in the city centre as all the buildings were wooden.
The German Emperor Wilhelm II who used to holiday there, immediately offered his help, and only two days after the fire, the German vessels “Weimar” and “Prinz Heindrich” arrived the city, offering the "First Aid" help that was so needed.
After a relatively short time, Ålesund raised from the ashes, to become one of the most beautiful towns in Norway, in an amazing Jugendstyle architecture. The town was rebuild in the most modern style, Art Nouveau.
We visited the beautiful museum in an outstanding building, the Jugendstyle Centre where we learned more about the Art Noveau history. This buildings has many beautiful ornaments, and are mostly in very good and authentic condition. This building is in the typical Jugend architecture. They included a time machine that took us through the events of the big fire and the rebuilding of the town, which took 3-4 years and had assistance from all over the world. It was fortunate that Norway was going through a building slump, so many people were anxious to go to Alesund. We also had a coffee and lovely chocolate biscuit in their little, charming cafe, the Apoteker'n Cafe.
Over the years, many of the old Art Noveau style houses has been demolished, and have given place for modern buildings in glass and concrete.
We also visited the KUBE Art Museum. This is the museum for those interested in art, as well as architecture and design. It
is located in Apotekergt. 16, which is the former Norges Bank building, and close to the centre of Art Noveau. Here we found find temporary exhibitions, showing paintings, drawings, video art and graphic art, just to mention some of them. The exhibition was showing regional, Norwegian and international art based on the "loneliness" theme. There was even a table full of different shaped drinking glasses, with one tooth in each!!!! Not sure what this has to do with 'loneliness'!!!
We found the city centre is divided by canals. In one of them we find "Brosundet", where the buildings makes the waterfront. Quite unique in Norway, and it's easy to understand why the inhabitants of Alesund are very proud of their town.
From the city there is a beautiful view of the Sunnmøre Alps in the East. The 1st day we were there, the sun was shining beautifully. We almost saw a sunset.
After riding our bikes into the city, we walk up the stairs to Fjellstua from the city park for a breathtaking view of local fjords and mountains. We climbed the 418 stairs, stopping half way up where the view was stunning. At the top
of the mountain there are walkways that allow us to walk around in natural surroundings while enjoying the view of the islands and mountains around you. There is also a restaurant at Fjellstua.
Just outside the inner, city centre, the streets got steep and narrow. As we had ridden our bikes in from our camp site, which was 1.5kms away, we had to walk our bikes up a couple of hills!!! However, these streets in combination with the many beautiful buildings is adding a charming impression, which again gave the town it's unique identity.
We also road our bikes to the open-air museum, Sunnmøre Museum & Borgundkaupangen
with its large collection of old houses. We enjoyed the stroll between the picturesque houses and the indoor exhibitions, and got an insight into the cultural and architectural history of Sunnmøre.
Sunnmøre Museum has 55 old and distinct houses. While walking in between these houses we felt as if we were put back in time, and saw how people lived in earlier times.
In the main building the fascinating exhibitions on
archaeology and culture in the Sunnmøre region provided us with a unique insight into the life of the people who inhabited this area for several thousand years.
The museum's vast boat collection was also on display, including replicas of Viking ships.
After another full day of riding our bikes, walking and learning, we went back to our camp site which is an incredibly friendly place with many families. The reception area was in a large room which also had a TV and as it was the weekend, one of the main soccer matches, between Switzerland and Ecuador was on. There were a lot of people watching. Europeans LOVE their footy.
They also had fantastic internet connection so we had an evening of internet work while listening to the soccer. We were hoping the right results was an outcome, different to the results of the poor Brisbane Lions.
We decided to stay in Alesund for 2 nights so the next day after packing up, we headed for the islands of Giske and Godoya.
To get to these islands takes 2 under-water tunnels and a long bridge.
The municipality is named after the farm and
island Giske since the first church (Giske Church) was built there. We visited this church and saw it was surrounded by a cemetery and the majority of people buried there has surnames Giske so obviously a big family who had lived in the area for centuries. Later we found out that the Giske church is a beautiful marble church from the 12th century that was built as a family chapel for one of Norway's most powerful families.
The municipality is composed of four main islands: Giske which gives its name to the municipality because of its historical importance, Vigra, which is where Alesund's airport is located, Valderoya, where the municipal administration is located, and Godoya. There are also many smaller islands within its boundaries. There are 3 lighthouses on the islands, we visited the Erkna Lighthouse as well as the burial mound (which had been excavated). Giske is the site of Mjelthaugen, an ancient burial place dating from the Bronze Age. The site was the location of excavations in 1847, 1867 and 1878. These burial mounds are dotted all over Norway, which is how they buried their dead, with goods a chattels that they could use in their after-life.
As I mentioned, the main islands are all connected to the mainland of Norway by a network of tunnels and bridges. Godey Tunnel connects Godøy to Giske island. Giske Bridge connects Giske island and Valderøy. A causeway connects Vigra island and Valderøy island.
We then drove back to Alesund and headed for the Troll Road.
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