Photo by Lucas Vallecillos
In Norway, I embark on a ferry to Hellesylt through the world-renowned Geirangerfjord.
This S-shaped fjord rises steeply out of the water into wooded slopes of great beauty, where abandoned farms add to the atmosphere. I am sure I am not the only one to daydream about swimming ashore to live out my days in such an idyllic setting. In winter, I am sure life here is much less tempting.
Imagination has been allowed to run free in the stories about the waterfalls that tumble into the fjord. “The Seven Sisters” is a set of seven falls, the tallest of which drops 250 meters, which are said to be flirting with another waterfall on the opposite shore called “The Suitor.”
At the ferry port of Hellesylt, I join Route 655 though a part of the country that has been described as “Switzerland, with fjords” for its tidy wooden farmhouses and pine forests. My next stop is only a few hours away in Ålesund, a charming town spread over two islands with a historical center built in lovely Art Noveau style. “In 1904, a fire razed the entire city, destroying 850 houses and leaving 10,000 people homeless,” says local historian Geir Steinar, as we gaze out over the view from Mount Aksla. “We had to rebuild and Art Noveau was the style of the time. Remarkably, it took only three years.”
We walk around Brosundet, a marina that is the heart of the city, flanked by Art Noveau houses that are reflected in its waters. “This is the liveliest place in Ålesund,” says Geir. “The whole city takes a stroll here, or a drink, or dines in one of the restaurants.” He greets a family sitting on the deck of a boat moored in the harbor. “They are my neighbors but they love to pass evenings enjoying life in the harbor on their yacht,” he says. “They even spend days at a time on it.”
Ålesund is historically famous for its cod, and I spend the next day driving further north to Bud, a picturesque small fishing town. This is the start of the Atlantic Road that zigzags to Kristiansund, once a world center for dried cod that was exported as far as South America. Again, oil and gas are now the major industries here, but the beauty of the landscape remains mostly untouched. This drive has been called the world’s most beautiful and winds along a wild coast, passing tiny islets and jumping across elegant bridges.
I stop at the Storseisundet Bridge to take a picture of the marvel of engineering that has become the emblem of this Atlantic Road. The sun is coloring the sky a deep red, reflected in the water around me. With green hills, snowy mountains and blue water, nature offers up a rich palette of intoxicating colors that awaken a deep longing within me to explore further horizons.
I may not have fallen into a fjord, but I have certainly fallen for this land that gave birth to them.
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