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Oslo, Bergen and Alesund Norway


My ancestors came to the great plains from the fjords and rugged coastline of western Norway.
In 2017 my son and I travelled to the old country - to the Art Nouveau city of Alesund where my grandmother, Olivie Ostrem, managed the knitting store in 1898 - she emigrated to America in 1904, shortly after the devastating fire that destroyed the town.
She never saw the fanciful rebuild.
My grandparents grew up near the spectacular Geiranger Fjord, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

They came from small mountainside farms, just a short drive from Alesund. Walking distance to the village of Emblem.
The sign, below, points to the farm where my grandmother grew up:

My great-great grandfather died at sea. The widow, my grandma's grandmother, smartly remarried and her second husband eventually died from leprosy.
Leprosy used to be called Hanson's disease for a Norwegian Doctor by that name. There is a leprosy Museum in Bergen.

Our journey started out in Oslo - we arrived by Norwegian Air on 28 Sept about 6 pm local time. The airport is a distance from the city. We took a one hour bus ride from the airport to the city centre and then walked to our hotel.
For one hundred and sixty dollars per night we stayed in a small but clean room with a bunkbed and a sink - shared bathroom down the hall.
Norway is an expensive country and I chose the Saga Poshhotel for its central location and nice lobby with a luggage storage room.

On Sept 29 we saw The Storting, the Norwegian Parliament Building:

We walked along the Main Street, Karl Johan’s Gate, to the royal palace.

Oslo is an old enough city founded by King Harald Hard-Ruler in 1049. It fell into obscurity in the thirteenth century when half the population died from the bubonic plague. Then around 1624 it burned to the ground and King Christian the Fourth rebuilt the city and renamed it Christiana. The name reverted back to Oslo in 1928.

The Norwegian Royal Palace

Looking down Karl Johan’s Gate from the Palace:
We wanted to see the changing of the guard, which was a pretty simple affair
The changing of the guard at the Norwegian Royal Palace takes place daily at 1 pm:

Next stop the Nobel Peace Centre:
Lobby of the Nobel building:

Alfred Nobel, (1833 - 1896), was a Swedish chemist and the inventor of dynamite. His handwritten will left the bulk of his vast fortune to the Nobel prizes, four of which are awarded in Sweden. At the time of his death Norway and Sweden shared a loose union as well as the same king.
His will, written in 1895, did not give a reason for his desire that Norway would choose the winner of the Peace Prize. The prizes for chemistry, physics, medicine and literature are awarded in Stockholm.

It is a pleasant, overcast day, about 12 degrees C

Down by the water, the catch of the day
The Harbour is very clean - and not one whiff of fish!!

Akerhus Fortress overlooks the Harbour Promenade:

As we approached the distinctive, glacier-like Operahouse we could see people strolling and cycling on the roof.

Soaring ceilings, the lobby of the Operahouse, elegant in its simplicity:

The windows are 49 feet tall and afford stunning views as well as natural light.
Norwegian boatbuilders designed the golden oak wave wall, a warm contrast to the marble exterior and walls of glass.
The lobby is open to the public, free, there is a restaurant, and the exterior is a plaza and walkway, affording spectacular views of the city and fjord.

From an international competition with a pool of 300 entries the Norwegian architect, Snøhetta, won. His original, organic design was awarded the European Union’s Prize for Contemporary Architecture in 2009.

The opera house, built in 2008,
has musical rods on the roof and a few at the entrance. It was a pleasant fall day so we joined locals and sightseers and strolled around on the roof - a big, sloping, public square along the Harbour Promenade.

‘She Lies’ in Oslo Fjord in front of the Operahouse is a stunning sculpture of stainless steel and reflective glass - created following another international contest by the Italian sculptor Monica Bonviconi, who was born in Venice and lives in Berlin:

Although it is suppose to represent an iceberg, to me (and likely countless others), it looks like a magical ship with sails, floating on
Bjørvika Fjord, perfect, I loved it!!

When I think of Oslo I think of this gorgeous monument to a seafaring people.
It is said to depict change, longing and hope and it does all of this and more as it glistens and turns on its own axis at the whim of the winds and the tides, seeming to float although it is anchored in a concrete foundation.

We had put in a good first day, lots of walking and fresh air!

Norwegians enjoy a good standard of living and score high on the contentment index. Education and health care are free. Not only is a University education no cost, students receive a cost of living allowance to encourage them to pursue higher learning.

We hung out in the lobby of our hotel at the end of our day. Jeff is showing off his miniature four dollar cup of coffee:
We had finished a long walk and were jet lagged from our twenty plus hours of travel the previous day.
We had time to kill before our train to Bergen left at 10 pm!! The sofas were comfortable so I had a little nap.
Eventually we walked to the train station and bought fast food for a late supper.

The all night train to Bergen:
Fare was about 64 Dollars. I booked months in advance so got a deal, a miniprice - we were on one of the most scenic train journeys in the world but didn’t see a thing!

The train is clean and on each seat is a sealed bag with a blanket, eyemask, inflateable pillow and earplugs. Nice touch, you don't get that on the economy flight on WestJet.

It was not a restful journey, I didn’t really sleep but I relaxed until we had to switch from the train to a bus at Voss at 5 am - we arrived in Bergen at 630 am, not an auspicious time to hang out but at least there was an indoor waiting room with benches and there was a coffee shop that was suppose to open at 7 am.
Across the street was a kind of tourist information office which would open at 9 am. As it turned out the girl who worked at the coffee shop was over an hour late, and when she did show up was fairly nonchalant about setting up, but by and by we got a coffee and a sweet roll.
We managed to get a map and some verbal instructions at the tourist office and walked to the Hurtigruten Cruise office where we stashed our luggage in a locker and set out to see the town.

Some observations about Norway: clean, quiet and expensive. We won’t get cheap seats at the Opera here!! Expensive for us, but the Norwegians can afford it!

By ten am we were walking around the hilly area and having coffee on an outdoor patio even though it was raining today, Oct 1.

Bergen gets 240 days of rain per year - some call it the rainiest city on Earth!!

Bergen is a popular destination, very picturesque with seven mountains and the sea, colourful wooden buildings brighten up the landscape of this very rainy area!! The city was part of the Hanseatic League.
Bryggen, the old town by the water, is colourful, picturesque, touristy and has shop after shop of expensive souvenirs. Toques were fifty dollars!!

Bryggen - the waterfront, is chilly.
A long wool dress, a bunad, would be a comfy layer in this town.
There was a big market nearby, lots of food stalls and I bought cured venison, sliced paper thin, bread and cheese.
By 430 we were back at the Hurtigruten and amazingly we got to board!! Our cabin would be ready at 6. Now our good times began!!!
It was wonderful to sit on comfy chairs onboard. We had to watch a mandatory safety video, it showed where the lifeboats were and how to put on the thermal suits. A bit sobering.
Our cabin was wonderful with two portholes.

I never ventured out again til breakfast but Jeff was out and about and did a load of laundry (free).

I had a very long shower and then we had supper - the bread, cheese and venison hit the spot! These simple groceries had cost over twenty dollars but it was much cheaper to dine in our room than to eat in the restaurant. A big buffet breakfast was included in our fare.

We had chosen the extended tour of Hjorunfjord - the ship let passengers off in Alesund in the morning but for the same fare you can stay on board and sail down Hjorungfjord til evening.
It was a fabulous restful day, stunning scenery, comfy chairs, nice enough to spend time on the deck.

Hjorunfjord through the Sunnmøre Alps:
Dining room on the Hurtigruten:

The ship docked in Alesund at 5 pm. As I picked my way down the Gangplank an Asian tourist in front of me said ‘Cheryl and Jeff.’
Naturally I looked up and to my profound amazement saw the signs, the Norwegian flags, the little blonde kids, over a dozen smiling strangers, our relatives:
Tears sprang to my eyes, it was so unexpected! Months later I still tear up thinking about it!!
As we posed for a group photo after the introductions, I noticed a few Asian tourists snapping our picture also! ‘We felt like a famous family,’ my (third) cousin Hilde remarked.

Across from Alesund is Godoya - Gods Island, where my great grandfather was born on the Wild West side:
The world’s best breakfast buffet is served at the Scandic Parken Hotel in Alesund!! Our room was nice, very modern, private bath, breakfast included, about 150 per night.
The world’s best coffee is served in Norway. Flavourful, robust, strong and hot.
Waffles, omelettes, various breads, sausage, bacon, yogurt, cereal, sweet breads, cured lamb, smoked and pickled fish, cheeses including brown and blue, crackers, cakes, boiled eggs, at least four massive tables loaded with food, crisply dressed waitresses and chefs, shots of fresh juice, fresh fruit and veggies, all manner of good things - I don’t usually eat breakfast but I tried to do it justice!!

The Aksla viewpoint was quite close to the hotel, 418 steps up from the town park, we walked to the top with some of our cousins:
Alesund is built on a series of islands, an archipelago, the Venice of the North:

Lunch was served at my third cousin's coffee roasting business. Pots and pots of strong, flavourful coffee accompanied the breads, cheeses, meats, fruits, jams - there was even a tube of caviar as well as sparkling water and juice.

Hard boiled egg and caviar. And of course, butter.
A good combination, grapes with cheese. Another good combo is brown cheese and jelly.

After lunch we drove via undersea tunnel to Alnes, on the west coast of Godoya Island:
The yellow house is where my great great grandparents lived:
The lighthouse at Alnes was built in 1876:
View from Alnes - looking out to the sea:
Our cousins had prepared supper, delicious lamb stew with apple cake for dessert. We dined in a charming summer house overlooking the sea.
My grandfather and great grandfather were fishermen - they rowed from their boathouse near Alesund to the fishing village of Alnes on Godoya.

We toured the area around Alesund on our second full day and saw the farms where my grandparents grew up. Three of their children were born in Norway and took their first steps on a hillside above the Hjorungfjord - we ate lunch and supper that day in a house within a stones throw from where they once lived, 114 years ago.

Taken from the very spot where our ancestors lived, looking out to sea:

Imagine the tremendous hospitality of these distant Norwegian ‘cousins’ - the first meeting in over a century! Imagine that somewhere in Asia there is a picture in somebody’s travel album, recording the historic moment when we all met for the first time in Alesund Harbour!!

A supper of venison stew, tender, mild, delicious.
Dessert: sponge cake layered with meringue and whipped cream, the world’s best cake, Norway’s National Cake since 2002 - Kvæfjordkake:

Alesund has a decent climate even though it is the furthest north I have ever been. On 4 October it is 14 degrees C. Winters do not get too bitter, the coldest recorded temperature was minus 11 degrees C - January, the coldest month typically hovers around 2 degrees C. (36 degrees F).

The town park below the Aksla viewing point has a statue of Rolo, ancestor of William the Conquerer, donated by the city of Rouen, France in Normandy.
Ganger Hrôlf, the first Duke of Normandy, commonly known as Rolo the Viking is believed to have been born on the Island of Giske near Alesund in 845 AD. I doubt he was my ancestor but some shirttail relatives could well have been part of his crew.

A not very big city with a harbour, Alesund is a gateway to the Geirangerfjord, the most spectacular Fjord in Norway. Hjoringfjord is also in close proximity.
The Hurtigruten, a cruise company that plies the west coast, docks twice a day in Alesund's harbour. We came on the Finn from Bergen, taking the long scenic route along the Hjorundfjord.
The name Alesund depicts the shape of an eel - a narrow twisting inlet snakes through the town which is built on islands.
The 1904 fire started on the island nearest the harbour but quickly jumped to the adjacent island. Only one person died, a seamstress, who wasted too much time trying to save her sewing machine.
Some boats were saved by purposefully drowning them.
The German Kaiser, Wilhelm was a fan of Alesund and sent help and supplies to rebuild the formerly wooden frame town. For three years there was lots of work.
The city was rebuilt in the 'Jugendstil' Art Nouveau - so there is no shortage of spires and turrets.
A whimsical little city grew up from the ashes. The knitting store is gone - only the jail and Church and the one single house, below, remained standing.
The largest cod fishing enterprise in Norway is in Alesund.

We had to make our way to the airport on 4 October in the early afternoon. We had planned to take a bus but our relatives looked after us - they gave us a send off on Vigra - a packed lunch, candies and chocolate - six were there to see us off - hey, we hit the jackpot on relatives in Norway!!
Our memories are our most treasured souvenirs of the land of our ancestors. Still we carried back gifts from our relative, cushion covers, a Bible, a wood ornament. Gee I gave them a bottle of gin, and suspect they don’t drink! Never assume.

We flew from Alesund to Prague on Norwegian Air (changed planes in Oslo):

Yes we ❤️ Norway!! Love the area around Alesund. This leg of our journey was special and personal - never to be duplicated - cherished memories!!
We left home on 27 September and travelled through Europe for 75 days with carry on luggage and a tight budget - and had a fabulous time. Norway, Czech Republic, Germany, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Malta, Spain and UK. 13 countries.

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 15:52 Archived in Norway Tagged bergen oslo cod fjords budget vikings genealogy nobel sandwiches ancestry bryggen alesund open-faced storting vigra alnes godoya archipilego rollo Comments (0)

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