Day One/Two in Norway
By Eilene Lyon
After spending nine days in the Netherlands, we boarded a jet in Amsterdam for Bergen, Norway, to spend a week in the northwestern fjords. This was the flexible part of our trip, as we made no plans beyond the first day.
View of the Norwegian coast near Bergen from the air
Landing at the sleepy little airport on a Sunday morning, we didn’t even show our passports to exit. We had booked a rental car. Despite The Putterer confirming several times that there would be NO additional hidden fees for the rental, we were slapped with an overcharge at the rental desk for dragging the agent to the airport at the “ungodly hour” of 10:30 a.m., rather than the usual opening time of noon.
Perhaps someone familiar with Norwegian could explain the question mark on this hillside sign at the airport. Are we supposed to wonder if we ended up in the right place?
We discovered early on in our trip that April was not tourist season and the locals were still hibernating. Hotels were closed, restaurants were closed, museums were closed, etc. Despite that, we found plenty of things to do and sights to see.
Our first stop on a drizzly afternoon in Bergen was Håkon’s Hall and Rosenkrantz Tower. The Tower was shrouded in scaffolding, but we were able to wander through both buildings. Håkon’s Hall was built in the 13th century as the largest structure within the royal residence compound. In later centuries its original function was forgotten and it became a storehouse. In 1840, it was discovered for what it had been and was restored. It was heavily damaged by an exploding ship in the harbor during WWII.
View of Håkon’s Hall from Rosencrantz Tower
The main hall with the royal table at the head
The Rosencrantz Tower was constructed in 1560. There are two stairways and they have you ascend one and descend the other, visiting rooms on each floor. This building was also a royal residence.
Rosencrantz Tower shrouded in scaffolding
Be sure to engage the enemy in your medieval armor
A collection of odd faces displayed in one of the tower rooms
There was a special exhibit on one floor about the burning of the “witch” Anne Pedersdatter in the 16th century. Her case was unique in that most of the 300 people executed for witchcraft were poor. Anne was part of the privileged class, but two things worked against her: her husband had died, and she was a notably quarrelsome woman. Without her husband’s protection, the neighbors who loathed her were free to accuse her of hexes and fatal curses. (Warning to uppity women everywhere.)
The execution of a Norwegian witch, on display at the Rosencrantz Tower
Also in Bergen, we rode the funicular (incline railway) to the mountain top above the city for the panoramic view and hiked down, passing the witch signs I shared (here). Upon completing the descent, we explored the World Heritage site of Bryggen (closed).
Riding up the funicular
View of Bergen from above
At the base of the mountain was an unusual art installation – hand-knit tree bark!
Some buildings in old Bryggen
At 7:30 p.m. we boarded the Hurtigruten ferry. I wrote about the Dutch engineering genius, but the Norwegians have their own specialties: building incredible traffic tunnels through mountains (more on that in a later post), and running excellent ferries.
Our Hurtigruten ferry, the Kong Harald
The Hurtigruten ferries depart from Bergen every day on the south end of the route, and from Kirkenes at the north end. The entire route takes 12 days, round trip. They offer a number of shore excursions along the way. We were only going as far as Molde, just about 20 hours north. The ferry departed at 10:30 p.m. (i.e. after my bedtime).
Route of the coastal cruise on the Hurtigruten ferry
The cabins are spacious and comfortable. The ship is really more of a cruise ship than ferry. As soon as dawn broke, I was roaming around taking in the sights of fjordland on all sides. We ate breakfast in the dining room from a magnificent buffet.
We passed many small island villages along the coastal cruise to Molde
The lounge in the Kong Harald
There was one stop before we reached Molde where we had several hours to explore, Alesund. This coastal city covers five separate islands. We wandered the cobbled streets after first climbing 418 stairs up the “Sugar Loaf.”
View of Alesund from the Sugar Loaf
Some of the 418 stairs ascending the Sugar Loaf
At about 6 p.m. we arrived in Molde, pleased with our destination (we knew nothing about it ahead of time), which boasted a skyline to the south of a row of snow-capped peaks, descending to the water of the fjord. We settled into a hotel near the ferry dock, took a walk, had dinner at the hotel, and looked forward to our inland explorations to begin the next morning.
View of the sail-like Scandic Seilet hotel in Molde as we arrive (not where we stayed)
Sunset view across the fjord from our hotel room.
Feature Image: View of the Sognefjord from Kaupanger