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|Queen Elizabeth 2 - 2004|
|The Land of the Midnight Sun - Part 2|
We saw from the TV view that we were approaching Hellesylt at 7.00, so went on deck to take photos. Unfortunately the new Canon A75 decided to refuse to focus, and then the lens wouldn't retract. So, it was back to a traditional SLR and the older A60. There are no moorings so we anchored near to Hellesylt so that passengers taking overland tours to Geiranger could disembark.
We had decided to stay on board for the 90 minutes cruise to Geiranger along the majestic Geirangerfjord, one of Norway's prettiest fjords. It is a narrow channel with three spectacular waterfalls - Seven Sisters, their Suitor (opposite) and Bridal Veil Falls. We had booked an afternoon tour from Geiranger to Mount Dalsnibba. QE2 was at anchor and the transfer by tender to the pier was efficient and we boarded our coach.
We drove out of Geiranger, up past the octagonal church, the Union Hotel opposite the Norwegian Fjord Centre, then past old farms and camping sites to the viewpoint of the Flydal valley. Here we stopped to admire the view down towards QE2 at anchor, with the village of Geiranger below. It is a popular and classic viewpoint which is used for local postcards.
The coach continued to climb above the snow line, passing Djupvatn Lake, and along a private scenic road to the summit of Mt. Dalsnibba (1465 metres), from where we had an even more impressive view down of QE2 and Geirangerfjord.
There is a large souvenir shop and restaurant at Djupvatn Lake, and we were able to stop on our way back to buy the inevitable postcards.
We had noticed the old Geiranger road crossing our route, signed Knuten, and we were able to explore a small part of it, including admiring an old bridge which is still used by vehicles.
Geiranger is a very small village, without very much to do. We admired a few shops, photographed our first statue of a troll, and caught a tender back. The last tender was at 17.30, and we then set off on our way back along the fjord. Sunrise today had been at 3.46 and sunset would be at 23.23 so we knew that there would be plenty of light for more photos. Indeed the views of the waterfalls were different with the light coming from the other side.
Alesund is built on 3 islands and is the largest town on the northwest coast. Leaving QE2 at the cruise terminal it was only a short walk to the pretty Brosundet Canal where the fishing fleet is moored. They export klippfish, split and dried cod.
This area has some of the nicest art nouveau buildings, from when the town was rebuilt after the fire of 1904. We explored the western side of the town, and found a supermarket where we bought the traditional brown Norwegian goat cheese.
We were more fortunate with a visit to Alesund Church. It was open from 10.00-14.00. It dates from 1909, after the fire of 1904 which destroyed the previous building. The stained glass windows behind the organ were a gift from the German Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1905. The emperor was a friend of Alesund, and gave considerable assistance to the rebuilding of the town after the fire. The organ was new in 1945 and was a gift. We were fortunate in hearing the organ and a trumpet practicing for a wedding the following Saturday.
We also wanted to visit the east of the town and climb Mt Aksla, but decided to go back for lunch and then came out again in the afternoon. It was 418 steps to the summit of Mt Aksla from the Town Park, reaching a height of 189 metres. There was a restaurant and viewing terrace, and the views in all directions were excellent. We continued along a footpath to a tower, just underneath the large TV masts. The footpaths were well signed and in good condition. It was not necessary to have proper walking boots. The east of the town is where the main shopping centre is found. Many streets are pedestrian and it is a pleasant town to amble around. As well as tunnels, there are ferries (Fjord1 line) linking Alesund with other islands in the north.
QE2 arrived at Trondheim this morning at 8.00. There was a complimentary shuttle bus service to Torget, the market square, in the centre of the town. Because of the distance and timing, we decided to carry a light packed lunch (Ryvita, ham and cheese courtesy of the Lido ) so that we could stay out all day.
There was an organized QE2 walking tour, so we decided to base our walk on the same route, but in reverse. Trondheim is one of Norway's oldest cities, founded in 997. It was the first capital of Norway, and still the city where new kings receive their ceremonial blessing. It is known for its broad streets and attractive wooden buildings, mainly rebuilt after a fire in 1681. After arriving in the market square we looked for a fax bureau. We wanted to fax home about the broken camera, and QE2 had problems with satellite communications this far north. But first we visited the Royal Residence "Stiftsgaarden", the largest wooden building in Scandinavia. The mansion was constructed between 1774 and 1778 as a private residence but was sold to the State in 1800. It contains furniture from 1847 and 1906, dates of earlier coronations. Although only available in Norwegian, we purchased the guidebook so we could look again at the beautiful photographs.
At the end of our guided tour we asked about a fax bureau and were directed to a shop behind Var Frue Church. There our fax was scanned and emailed, all at no charge. With the spectacular scenery and the helpful people Norway reminds us of NZ.
The next visit had to be to see the 11th century Nidaros Domen cathedral, built over the site where the saint and martyr King Olav Tryggvason had originally been buried. We passed by his statue which presides over the market square. Entry tickets had to be purchased, but they gave access not only to the cathedral with its crypt and tower and the organ concert at 13.00 (which was very good), but also to the Museum in the Archbishop's Residence next door. Inside the cathedral we were able to join the end of a guided tour, and then sit next to the entry to the tower to listen to the organ recital. The recital finished at 13.20, and the tower opened at 13.30 but everyone queued patiently. We managed to be first up the steps after the energetic guide, and the views from the top were very good. Unfortunately it had begun to rain. From the tower we could see the hill with the Kristiansen Fort, from where there is a good view down of the town. We had planned to go there next, but in the changing weather we decided to shorten our walk. We had a quick look at the crypt before leaving the cathedral. Later we realized we had missed the Crown Jewels, which are kept in one of the side chapels. King Hakon was inaugurated in 1906, and it is still the official site for coronations.
The Archbishop's Residence is Scandinavia's oldest secular building, dating back to the Middle Ages. It contains the Archbishop's personal Mint, preserved in its original state, as well as original sculptures from the cathedral. In the same courtyard there is also free entrance to the Army Museum. We sheltered there during a shower, but did not have time to look round.
From the cathedral area it was just a short walk to Gamle Bybrua, the old town bridge lift bridge, built in 1861. The waterfront, from the bridge out to the sea, is lined with colourful old buildings.
In the increasing rain we made our way along Munkegata towards the shuttle bus. Our impression is that Trondheim would be a good touring base; it had a lot of reasonable shops, and local knitwear was not expensive, presumably because locals buy it too. We overshot the bus stop as far as the canal and the fish market Ravnkloa, but were glad to get back on board and into the dry.
Early the next morning we crossed the Arctic Circle, at 3.52, and each received a certificate to commemorate the event. Then we needed to stay wake until midnight, so we could appreciate the Land of the Midnight Sun, as we passed North Cape on Mageroya island, at 71 degrees 10 minutes and 21 seconds. It is not exactly the furthest north part of Europe; nearby Knivskjellodden is just slightly further north. By cruise ship we were north of both. It was cold and Pauline's full l;length pink mohair coat was an essential accessory. We had our photo taken and took photos for others. The midnight sun broke through the clouds just as we arrived and hit the clouds over the North Cape, but we did not see the famous "sunset". A strange feature is that there is a little rocky projection like a horn making it yet another 'Cape Horn'.
We anchored at Skarsvag, and went ashore by tender. We had booked an expensive excursion to the North Cape Plateau, and had deliberately chosen the first trip which left at 8.30. This was basically a shuttle bus which included an entrance ticket to the North Cape Visitors Hall. Arriving on QE2 there was no other way of getting there, other than hiring a ride on a reindeer as it is too far to walk in the time available! Our trip included a short stop at a traditional Sami tent with reindeer and souvenir shop. Unfortunately the weather of the previous evening had deteriorated and there was very poor visibility.
On arrival at the Visitors Hall, the video presentation about the North Cape was good, and there was a useful display of stuffed local birds. The inevitable souvenir shop provided a source of postcards, which were postmarked by the special Post Office. We also purchased a small piece of local rose marble, as a candle stick. It is really beautiful and said by experts to be rare. We ventured outside in the mist to view the hollow sculptured globe near the edge of the plateau, then walked down the tunnel to the grotto with a panoramic view through large picture windows.
The Thai museum, was a reminder of the visit of the King of Siam, and St John's chapel was built as a modern oasis for reflection. Outside, we had time to admire the monument of the seven Children of the Earth, with the Mother and Child sculpture, built in 1989, before heading back.
We had plenty of time to wander around Skarsvag village and take photos, and were pleased to see a QE2 refreshment centre serving hot soup or coffee before catching the tenders.
Peter and Pauline Curtis
Most recent significant revision: 15th July, 2004