– Why have I not come here more often? The plane has barely touched the ground before I ask the question. Joe says nothing. Just sits there and looks out the window. It is the view of the mountains and a sense of belonging that makes me ask the question.
Ålesund, the beautiful city by the North Sea. My father was born here and had he not died when I was only six years old I might have had a closer relationship to this city as well.
But now we are here, and soon we are sitting by a large dining table, with a cup of tea, just looking out the windows. We have an amazing view and we enjoy it. The mountains are laying there so quiet in a magical light where the sun plays hide and seek with the clouds. In the fjord the fishing boats are slowly driving back and forth in search of fish.
When we can finally tear ourselves away, we stroll around the city center streets where Art Nouveau reigns supreme. On the night of 23 January 1904 Ålesund burned to the ground. Aided by strong winds the fire spread very quickly. Over 800 houses burned down and 10,000 people became homeless. When the city was rebuilt, it was under the influence of Art Nouveau that was so popular in Europe at that time. This has made Ålesund an architectural treasure worth preserving.
We greet the huge seagulls, admire the details of the beautiful buildings and curiously we glance down into the fishing boats at the pier. – You can not come to Ålesund without tasting the seafood here, I say to Joe. Later we find ourselves with my family enjoying the most delicious, juiciest crayfish I have ever tasted. Meanwhile, we talk about the family that once lived, the family that are with us now, and the traces they have put on Ålebyen.
It could have turned into a disaster! Half the city’s fire brigade seemed to show up when it caught fire in a frying pan on Hotel Brosundet. We felt a little worried there for a while, but fortunately, it appeared that the fire died out quickly.
I had forgotten how steep it is here! We climb up the steep, narrow roads and the stamina I thought I had seems absent. We forget to count the steps to the viewpoint Fjellstua, and who cares when you can admire such an amazing view from here. Joe is peering through his binoculars. Far out there is the popular Hurtigruta heading to port.
– Are you English? someone asks behind us. An elderly man who has wandered around us wants to talk. He looks at Joe and points. A white bench stands in memory of a young English pilot from the RAF who gave his life here during the war. Joe finds it interesting. Although he once was in the RAF himself he did not know they had pilots up here during the WW2.
Before the man leaves us, he points again and says that there are several bunkers up here left after the war. Before I know it I see Joe disappearing into a crack wanting to explore.
The small wooden building in Fjellgata 2 (corner of Grensegata) was spared from the fire. It is said that the man who lived here had a revelation from an angel that he was safer inside than outside and refused therefore to leave his house while fire ravaged the area.
The next day we see Ålesund in a different perspective when we board the ferry that will take us over to Langevåg. Ten minutes later we go ashore and head for this little journey’s shopping spree. Devold and Bergans have their factory outlets here, and, as great fans of Devold, we are looking forward to finding some more goodies.
There are products with errors at reduced rates (and the errors are usually just cosmetic), good deals on various items and of course the ordinary products. Time flies as we browse, run in and out of fitting rooms, decide, and change our minds again. But in the end, some lovely woolen items do come home with us! At Bergans we find what I hope will be perfect trekking trousers. No complaints at the price! Our wallets are slim and our shopping bags stuffed when we take the last ferry back to Ålesund.
In a photo album at mom’s place there is a photo of my dad and me standing by the Hurtigruta. Now I’m standing here with Joe looking up at the ship MS Trollfjord. Visitors are allowed to come aboard, so we grab the opportunity for a peak.
We take the elevator up to the deck. Looking into the lounges, thinking of the world’s most beautiful voyage as they call it. For better or worse – I remember the TV pictures from the ship during a journey in a storm. The plates were flying all over. Smashed glass everywhere. But I can also imagine the admiration of tourists while in the narrow fjords here in the west as the ship glides slowly between the mountain walls.
It was way too short a stay this time, but we were very lucky with the weather and I am glad Joe could experience a glimpse of our beautiful and dramatic west, the Sunnmøre Alps, Ålebyen and of course the family I have here.
We’ll be back!