I should have blogged ages ago about my June trip to Portugal but eye problems meant that computer work was frustrating. Then a couple of weeks ago I went on a Fjord cruise with a friend, despite not being a lover of cruising, mainly because it left from my local port of Southampton. The cruise was similar to a summer one I’d done a few years ago, but this autumn/winter one promised different views of Norway’s fjords.
To mark my return to blogging, I thought I’d start, not with Portugal, but with Norway, and not with the cruise, but with my time on land and one of the delightful towns we visited.
First up was the beautiful Romsdalsfjord and the town of Åndalsnes, located beneath towering snow-topped mountains at the mouth of the Rauma River. Its privileged position has made this Norway’s mountaineering capital, a centre for hiking, trekking and all season climbing in the impressive mountains that surround it, Romsdalshornet, Trolltinden and Vengetindan.
Entering the town in the early morning I was struck by its small size, it looked more like a village than a town, neat little white houses clustered around a small harbour (but a deep one that can accommodate large cruise ships which bring tourists all year round) hemmed in by snow-capped mountains.
Looming up from the middle of the town was a building of such modernity that one immediately knew that this was no ordinary town: anywhere that had such an outstanding piece of architecture just had to have a lot going for it.
As the sky gradually lightened, I became aware of movement above the town and noticed gondolas travelling to a nearby mountain from a dark garage-like building beside the modern one. Things were looking better and better.
The very modern building turned out to be the Museum and Mountaineering Centre, something of which the town is very proud, understandably so, as not only is it a design of total modernity but it has Norway’s tallest indoor climbing wall, it offers various activities, and the full mountaineering history of the region is on display . If you want to get fit, or just to ensure you are adequately prepared for the hike ahead, you could try the 210-metre challenge, or any one of a number of the challenging climbs that are available there. People come from all over Scandinavia come here just to use this climbing wall.
But if you’re not into climbing, or like me, not into that type of physical activity, there’s the Romsdalen Gondola right next door which will take you all the way up to the top of Nesaksla’s summit where you can walk around the top and look with delight at the magnificent scenery all around you: or climb further up to gaze on even more fantastic views of rivers, lakes, snowy mountains and tiny figures climbing up the mountain below. On the summit, the Eggon restaurant awaits with great coffee and freshly cooked Norwegian food sourced locally.
I choose the latter and spent a wonderful day just pottering on top of the mountain and watching the hikers struggle up and down the rocky face of the ridge opposite. Below were lakes, rivers and the town of Andalsnes itself, and what seemed little pockets of cultivated ground. The weather changed hourly it seemed, and went from dark and stormy to incredibly bright and sunny – but it was always cold.
That’s where the wonderful mountaintop restaurant came into its own with nourishing food, great coffee and a selection of cakes to die for. I’m talking saucer-sized pancakes with hot sour cherries topped with whipped cream and chocolaty things that I just had to refuse or I wouldn’t have made it down the mountain again.
I could have headed for the Romsdakstraooa steps and climbed all the way to the top of Mount Nesaksla, 708 metres above Romsdalsfjord, for the same scenic views but although I love snowy mountain tops and awesome views, I gave this one a miss as I’m well past my mountain-climbing days!
Andalsnes is buzzing both summer and winter. It’s a perfect base camp for anything from mountain hiking to summit hikes, long treks with stunning vistas of the Romsdalsfjlla mountain ridge, or leisurely car, coach or train journeys through some of the most wonderful scenery you will ever see.
The town is a transport hub, being the final stop on the Rauma Railway which offers a scenic two-hour journey considered to be one of Europe’s most beautiful train journeys (Lonely Planet, 2022). It follows the course of the Rauma River as it descends into Lake Lesjaskog along which it forms many magnificent waterfalls, travels through lush valleys and mountains and crossing over the famous, natural stone Kylling Bridge with a dramatic view of the foaming river below.
That’s enough to tempt me back: that and the sour cherries on pancakes with cream!
All photographs used in this blog are mine, apart from the two which I have credited to the respective photographers, and Visit Norway which gave me permission to use these images.
Next stop NARVIK, occupied by the Germans during WWll where there is a Museum devoted entirely to its place in that war.