Ålesund, Norway, Start of a New Leg

Ålesund is the first stop on the Norwegian leg of our cruise journey.  Our cruises have been divided up into two-week chunks.  About 80% of the people on the ship get on or off every two weeks.  There are only a few of us left who boarded the ship in Fort Lauderdale.  We had the Transatlantic leg, the Canary Island leg, the Baltic leg, and now the Norwegian leg.  The last one before we leave this ship for a month in Great Britain.

Alesand with Mount Aksla

Ålesund is the first town on our trip up the western coast of Norway.  Tom and I scheduled a shore excursion to the islands of Giske and Godøy but it didn’t leave until 2 in the afternoon.  Consequently, Tom and I had the morning free to explore the city on our own.  There weren’t many places we wanted to see and the old town is very walkable from the ship.


Tom and I started by heading up to Mount Aksla, along with everyone else from our ship and the Celebrity Apex which was also docked in Ålesund.  Mount Aksla is the highest point in the city and has a lovely overlook of the area.  There are 418 steps to get up to the top of Mount Aksla.  The path begins from Byparken, which is a lovely town park with a famous statue of Rollo.  Rollo was a Norwegian Viking who became the first Duke of Normandy.  He was also William the Conqueror’s great-great-great-grandfather.  Tom believes he is descended from Rollo.

After following an upward sloping path for a while, we started up the stairs.  The stairs allow people to go up and down the mountain, but there is only a rail on one side.  There are places where the steps are very narrow and you have to stand aside to let people go the other way.  With hundreds of people climbing and descending, the stairs can be very crowded.

Tom’s picture from the top

I was doing okay climbing the stairs.  We had to pause often enough that I could catch my breath.  But the number of people knocking into me and the steepness of the mountain beside the steps made my vertigo kick in.  I made it up to step 250.  At that point there was a wide space with a couple of benches.  I sat down and told Tom to continue on up the steps without me.  I was able to catch my breath and regain my equilibrium before starting back down the steps. Going down was even scarier than climbing up, but it was the only way to get off the mountain.

The views of Ålesund were spectacular and Tom enjoyed the view from the top.  When we reached the bottom, we walked around the old town for a while.  Unfortunately it was Whitsunday, which is part of a three-day national holiday on Pentecost weekend.  All the shops except for the souvenir shops and a few restaurants were closed.  Nevertheless, we did manage to find some yummy kanelbulle before we headed back to the ship for a light lunch.

Most of the shops were closed

In the afternoon we climbed on a bus for a shore excursion to the islands of Giske and Godøy.  Tom and I had been laughing about these names ever since we first signed up for the shore excursion.  Every time we say them, we think of Gidney and Cloyd, the moon men from the Rocky and Bullwinkle show.  No relation, of course, but they sound close enough in our brains.

Our guide, Sygge in the red

In order to get to these islands our bus drove through tunnels underneath the sea.  Easier than building bridges tall enough for the ship traffic and strong enough for the weather.  Our guide was Sygge, who was from Iceland.  She said she had to move to Norway in order to find a husband because she was too closely related to everyone on Iceland.

Alnes Lighthouse

We went to Godøy first, where we enjoyed a long walk on the beach and saw the Alnes Lighthouse.  The lighthouse was built in 1876 and is still in use today.  After Godøy, we headed to Giske through another tunnel.  Giske is the place where, according to legend, Rollo was born.  We visited a small amphitheater where they do living history presentations in the summer.

Giske Church

Then we went to the small Giske Church, built in the 1100’s out of marble.  Although the church is built from marble, the inside has been plastered over and the outside is covered with chalk, so you can’t see the marble.  Sygge said that all seven island churches are served by one Lutheran priest so they aren’t open every Sunday.

Giske gravestone

The most striking thing, to me, about the church, was the cemetery surrounding it.  Most of the people buried in the cemetery were named Giske or Giskeodegaard, the prominent family name.  Sygge said there weren’t anymore Giskes on the island.  I guess they all died.  When we finished at the church, we climbed on the bus and headed back to the ship.

Tom and I had a beautiful day in Ålesund, Giske and Godoy.  We enjoyed the mix of exploring the town on our own and getting out to see the countryside.