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During my travels, my compensation for free accommodation for one night, was for me to write a daily travel diary. Of how I got to my next location, the people who would host me, the food I was offered and everything else. Below you find the archives of the highly extensive reports. Know that English is not my native language and most reports were written at high speed around midnight. Enjoy.

Saturday, 8 September 2001
Bergen --> Ålesund (N)

About taking part on a excursion along the Geiranger fjord, facts on Norway you'd never know and anchoring in the city of Art Nouveau, Ålesund.
I had a good reason to skip breakfast this morning, because of the waggling of the boat most of the night. I just slept badly.

But the lunch (a buffet of fresh salad, cold fish and numerous sandwich fillings), made it all good for me. The sun was shining and the view from the boat onto the fjords was something I would never forget.

Behind me sat an American lady, who I had seen walking alone a lot on the boat, who was talking with some other Americans. “Oh, you are from San Diego? I am from San Francisco! What a coincidence.”

Then she started talking about almost every odd-seeming encounter she had ever had with Europe and she had to giggle about anything if she was saying something very stupid.

With the snorting sounds she launched during all this, she probably couldn’t help anything about everybody looking up from their nice fresh salad or one of the numerous fillings on their sandwich.

After lunch I got ready for an excursion that would take everybody who had assigned for it, for a tour along the fjord of Geiranger.

Yesterday everybody could join in this excursion and pay 450 Norwegian Kroner (55 Euro/US$ 51) for it. As I got the complete two days on the boat for free, I asked the lady at the reception if that also included the extra excursions.

“No, officially not. But if you want to, I will just fill out a form with your name and cabin number.” And suddenly I became a free passenger on the excursion.

The excursion started as a smaller boat got connected with the coastal steamer and took us the shore. Here everybody, about 50 people, got in to a coach bus that took us out of the valley by a small zigzag road going up the hill pretty steep.

The bus drove through valleys, along mountain cliffs, waterfalls and streaming creeks, farms, lakes, rock avalanches (or what is left of them) and of course the bus guide told us all the facts that he wanted us to know (they always tell you the things they want you to know, that is also a fact).

Some random facts I remember and you definitely will not know (because I didn’t either):

* Skiing originated in Norway. Words like ski and slalom are Norwegian.

* Something everybody has in its kitchen, the cheese-slicer, origins from Norway.

* Norwegian farms are subsidized by the government, to prevent the farmers to emigrate to another country of start another business in bigger growing city.

* The Lutheranian church in Norway is sponsored by the government.

* The most eaten food product by Norwegians is, and you’d never have guessed this, is pizza. The average Norwegian eats about 19 kilograms of pizza per year.

* Northern Norway is known to tourists as the Land of the Midnight Sun. North of the Arctic Circle, the sun does not set between the middle of May and end of July; conversely the sun does not rise between the middle of November and the end of January.

* The largest ethnic minority in Norway are Sámi (Lapps, but that is a serious bad word) living Northern Norway (Finnmark) who number about 20,000.

Around 6pm the bus arrived in Ålesund, a city situated on several islands right by the entrance to the Geirangerfjord.

Ålesund is internationally renowned for its Jugendstil architecture, German Art Nouveau. After a town fire in 1904 Ålesund was rebuilt in the distinctive architectural style with turrets, spires and imaginative ornamentation.

The bus ride through the town revealed a lively urban scene with pleasant restaurants and cafés, and the scenic Brosundet canal with its fishing boats.

For all the tourists in the bus this was a great experience, to see so much beauty in this stylish city. Most of them did not believe me when I told that I live in a 1920 Art Nouveau house myself in my hometown Zwolle. Most of it was familiar, and thus more a home coming thing for me.

Back on the Midnatsol boat again, I soon had another dinner and settled myself in my cabin, ready to write some reports on my paper notebook.

I hope that I’d arrive in Trondheim tomorrow morning with enough sleep behind my ears.

Good night Hurtigruten!


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