Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Over Hill and Dale

I woke up in a foul mood, and looking out at the fog which enveloped the hotel and the ferry and the rest of the world made my outlook on life even more miserable. Sure, another day in beautiful Norway, and all I'll see is FOG. Hmph.

I apparently was quite toxic for about an hour this morning, and the dismal breakfast at the hotel didn't help (the only criticism of the hotel, btw -- they were otherwise fantastic, but breakfast was quite awful) and I was in full-on Grinch Mode by the time Mark jollied me into the car to drive into Alesund proper and see all the neat architecture. I'm fairly certain I flounced out to the car and grumped. Not even the promise of good wienerbrod made me even remotely happy.

Don't worry, it's temporary, and gone by the time we had walked around the teensy little harbor in Alesund to see the perfectly planned town that Kaiser Wilhelm paid for in 1907 (nearly the entire town burned to the ground in 1904 and the program to rebuilt it was designed and planned as a completely cohesive, harmonious development.) Some of the buildings in town are really lovely -- Art Nouveau is not usually my thing, but the floral and geometric decorations are great, and some of the big old baronial-style stone buildings are quite cool. The main streets are lined with buildings that were designed by Norwegian architects and master builders -- all in stone and brick, to avoid the problems with fire that plague nearly every town in Norway. It's a rather fetching town, but I don't quite see the "planned" aspect of it, in most places. And, of course, modern (ie., 1960s) architecture has intruded quite rudely.

At this point, the sun finally peeked out and my crabbity moode evaporated with the fog. Of course, we still have no place to stay tonight, and I'm at least a little nervous that we'll end up sleeping in the car or in a hut somewhere without sleeping bags....but, we'll deal with that when we figure out where we're going to end up after today's adventures.

From Alesund, we drove over to Andalsnes and the Trollstigen -- Troll's Ladder, a windy road that climbs to the top of a mountain pass in eleven hairpin turns -- including a small bridge under the Stigfossen waterfall. The drive is actually not that hairy (the road down to Lysebotn was acttually much steeper and convoluted), but it's fun to do -- people in caravans (RVs) and even huge tour busses make the climb (10% grade) and eleven narrow turns...although most of them do just what we did: stop every half-step and leap out of the car to take pictures of the rock face and
waterfall and other cars and the steep drop-offs at every turn. It's not quite a game of bumper cars, but with everyone making stops at random, it can get interesting!

At the top, we paused to look back over the steep hill, and plunged down the other side to get on the ferry to pick up The Eagles Road down into Geiranger. Another eleven hairpin turns,and some absolutely breathtaking scenery of the Geirangerfjord.

At this point, we saw the ferry chugging its way into the fjord (past the enormous cruise ship which was belching out blue-ish smoke and hazing up the whole fjord) and decided that we'd try to catch it. Serendipity, of course -- but the car ferry here from Geiranger to Hellysylt is one of the most scenic trips on the fjords, according to a number of guidebooks, and we sort of tripped into it. Pulled into line in time for the ferry guy to sell us a ticket, drove on board, and we were off. The sun decided to disappear as we got on the boat, of course, but that didn't diminish the stunning views from the ferry of the waterfalls, farms, and cliffs on this small fjord. It's only a little over an hour, but it's a really impressive hour!

The sun peeked out again just enough for me to get one of those perfect mirror-image photos (well, about two dozen of them, really, I sat on the bank and clicked away for a few minutes) of the mountains, the trees, and the smooth, still water.

We did finally call and find a hotel for the night -- on our first try, which made me feel a bit better. We're staying at the Vinsnes Hotel in Stryn,which is just a bit south of the end of our ferry trip -- a lovely old turn-of-the-century hotel with all the quirks and creaks we've come to expect of an old house. It looks like a lovely place, I'll let you know tomorrow.

And tomorrow? We're not really sure. Probably a cruise on the Naeroyfjord and the Flam railway, but if the weather sucks, we may drive out east to see a string of Stave churches. We'll see!

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