My first trip to Norway - part 2

14th June
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The first part of this trip appears as a separate experience. In that, I left myself at Trondheim. From there I took the Oslo train over some high passes as far as Dombås, where I changed onto

The first part of this trip appears as a separate experience. In that, I left myself at Trondheim. From there I took the Oslo train over some high passes as far as Dombås, where I changed onto the Romsdal line to Åndalsnes. If the engineering of this line is inferior to that of the better known Flåm line, it must be a mighty close run thing. To my mind both lines are superb, both for their engineering and their scenery. Near the bottom the Romsdal line passes close to the Trollsvegen, the highest vertical cliff in Europe.



Åndalsnes has been severely criticised on some websites. I even read something from a woman who was impelled to ‘escape’ from there. Perhaps I am a soft touch but I simply cannot understand how Åndalsnes could have such a strong negative effect on anybody. It is an excellent centre for one thing, since not only is there that magical rail line but what has been called the ‘Golden Route’ over the noted Trollstige Pass. This is only open in the summer – and there was certainly enough snow around in June to explain why – when there is a bus and car ferry (and another bus) to Geiranger and there are also buses to Ålesund and Molde. As for Åndalsnes itself, it’s a village at the end of the wide Moldefjord. I like it and enjoyed my short stay there most of all in my holiday.

 One day I took the Tour Operator’s advice from the notes and made the bus and car ferry journey to Geiranger. This crosses the Trollstige pass by a wonderfully engineered route with tight bends – with mountains to the side named from chess pieces. Some of these names may be over-imaginative but I hope the photo of ‘The Bishop’ makes the name seem authentic enough. I had managed to get some food from the breakfast buffet at the hotel, although it was not yet officially open, and was able to eat it on the bus. There is an impressive waterfall low down the far side of the pass and we stopped for photos and a ‘break of nature.’ This phase of the journey ends at Eidsfjord, where you leave the bus and cross on a car ferry to Linge, where another bus is waiting.
 
Another bus is waiting and runs over the ‘Eagle’s Highway,’ descending to Geiranger. The first thing I did on arrival at this great place was to dive into a supermarket! I had not expected to require sun protection in Norway but it was a pressing need that day. The Geirangerfjord is spectacular, narrow with very steep sides, and it was clearly necessary to get onto the water. Fortunately I had heard (Rough Guide?) that the ferry to Hellesylt was as good as the tourist boats and a Hell of a lot cheaper. It was all I wanted: comfortable lounge, good cafe bar, commentary in English – what more do you want? The weather was clearly deteriorating so I returned fairly quickly to Åndalsnes after this in order to get the splendid views again – a policy that just worked.

   

The following day I took the bus round the fjord to Molde, ‘City of Roses.’ I managed not to see a single rose but the International Jazz Festival, which I had not anticipated, was more than sufficient compensation. One of the main attractions in Molde is the view from the park, from where a whole array of mountains on the other side of the fjord can be seen. At least, that is what they tell me and I have no reason to doubt it – but all I should have seen was low cloud so I preferred the jazz and the street market. I intended to take the long ferry crossing to the far side of the fjord and take the bus, which came from Ålesund back to Åndalsnes. There was a long wait and the musicians were taking a break. What to do?
 
Without any high hopes and just to kill time I took a boat to an island quite near in the fjord where the fishery museum is situated. Sometimes high hopes are dashed; this was the reverse. We were taken into various buildings and it was more a museum of the way of life of fisherfolk than of fishing as such – and amazingly interesting! Fisherfolk: not fishermen? Political correctness gone mad, when everyone knows that fishing was man’s business there? No; in each of the humbler dwellings, shared by about ten to twelve men, there was one woman, maid and cook. Their ‘beds’ could hardly have been more basic and the mind boggles about the nature of their lives. The long ferry crossing and the bus back were scenically unrewarding. I could have seen rain like that in England, far more cheaply!

 

And so back to Oslo with the firm intention of seeing as much as possible in the time available. I’m ont sure about the order and it could hardly be less important. I know I used my Oslo Card to terrific effect. I took Tunnelbahn 1 (Metro line 1) to its northern terminus, high over the city with wonderful views over the water and islands. I took a one hour cruise from near the Town Hall around the city and its islands – with a really good commentary in English. I visited the Town Hall, where there are splendid huge murals and the National Gallery, where among many treasures from the Norwegian Impressionist period, there was the picture that had first made Røros famous. Other than lacking the winter snow, it had not changed.

For much of my full day there, I was in Bygdøy, a peninsula with several museums, most of which met my requirement that they should somehow pertain specifically to Norway. Bygdøy can be reached either by bus or, more interestingly, by boat as I reached it. I spent a long time at the Folk Museum, mostly an outdoor museum that I like at least as much as Skansen, Stockholm’s more famous one. There were rural buildings from every region of the country, a 19th century ‘town’ with exhibitions in the attire of the time. Of course I was impressed by the stave church, the first I had seen but, daft as it sounds, I think I was most impressed by the wood store below! So much work just to store wood!

 

Then I visited the Viking Ships Museum, the Kontiki Museum with a model of the Balsam raft that made its journey across the Pacific seem unbelievable and the Fram Museum holding the ship used for polar exploration by both Nansen and Amundsen. This was a really stimulating morning. My only criticism is that the Fram Museum and the Viking Ships Museum could have done with the splendid system of lifts that the Swedes have in the Vasa Museum, enabling the less mobile to see all levels. I was far to tired to go up the steps like a ladder and then down into the Fram and back up – but I should have loved a lift that would have let me look down into the ship.

 

My only mistake the last evening was a trip on the ferry to the islands. I had carried a heavy waterproof all day to no avail and the sky was now clear blue. How nice to be without it – until half way to the boat the sky opened and sheets of rain came from it. To add insult to injury, I saw less than on my earlier free cruise! Still, you can’t win ‘em all and it was a great holiday. The following morning it was back to Manchester.

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