Going on a Hurtigruten ship is an experience in Norwegian history. It is the only Norwegian word I really know – “hurtig” means fast. It all came about in 1893 when a young entrepreneur named Captain Richard With left Trondheim on a steamship named “Vesteraalen” sailing into Hammerfest to a cheering crowd in 67 hours – a half hour early!
When Captain With took the challenge to create an express boat service between Trondheim and Hammerfest, there were only two marine charts and 28 lighthouses north of Trondheim. He was a pioneer in Norwegian history and helped to foster the economic powerhouse that is modern day Norway.
Ships have been operating on the Coastal Express for over 100 years. Since 1936, a Coastal Express ship has left Bergen heading north every day – with some minor interruption when Norway was occupied by the Nazis of course. The names of the Coastal Express ship company has changed over the years, from Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab in 1893 to the much easier to pronounce Hurtigruten today.
I’ve almost finished my journey so we’re going back to nostalgia mode now. Leaving Bergen is dramatic. These are lots of excursions you can take from the ship and I think it’s worthwhile to research them before you leave home and decide what is most likely to rock your boat. Nothing is cheap in Norway so I decided to just see what I could see from the ship – a mini adventure. Some people have booked the excursions just so they have someone to guide them back to the ship. It really depends on how good your sense of direction is. The towns are pretty tiny though so it’s not hard to find your way home.
If you go on the excursions, the days will likely feel much more hectic. If you just follow the ship’s timetable, there is lots of downtime. If you go later in the season, it’s likely fun to hang out on deck or pop into the Jacuzzi. It’s not a cruise ship so there aren’t many activities on board but there is lots to see out the window and you can eat and drink pretty much all day and night. Internet is not 21st century but you can generally find a signal. And you can always pile on your fleece and walk around on deck 5 to snap photos without glass in the way.
Your first stop will be Alesund. If you’re lucky, it will not be raining. I was not so lucky but persevered and found my
way (after a few false starts) to the 418 steps to the top of Aksla mountain. It wasn’t too bad but I was breathing heavy for the last 50 steps. People coming down encouraged me to keep climbing, saying it was worth it – so I did the same for other tourists when it was my turn to come down.
It is worth it, even on a rainy day. I can imagine it would be glorious on a sunny one. Alesund is definitely worth checking out. Norwegians are keen on building wooden houses – and then burning them down it seems. I guess it gets boring in remote places…
The town of Alesund burnt to the ground in 1904 so was rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style, making it one of the more intriguing cute towns in Europe. This is also a gateway to the Geiranger Fjord I gather – but not until June…
Perhaps I will return someday when the sun is shining and boats are sailing in the Geiranger Fjord? 🙂