16 June 2017:
Ålesund, Norway:
Fire and Fish

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We arrived in Ålesund, Norway on a gray and misty day, which suits the place very well. I accompanied a group of guests on a visit to two of the outlying islands, Giske and Godøy, passing through six or so of the 900 tunnels dug through mountains and under the seabeds of Norway.

I used the flat light and mist to paint a portrait:

ÅLESUND TODAY

We went out to Giske Island, home to a few hundred very hardy folk as well as the old Giske Church, built in Norman style as a Catholic place of worship in the 12th century as a family chapel for the Giskes. Today it is a Lutheran church, and it includes some spectacular carvings, restored in modern times.

Farmers in the region store their harvested hay and silage in rolls. The local nickname for them: “Troll Eggs.”

And then we stopped for a visit to a remote lighthouse, and to a café at its base. The café was promising Heimelaga brennsnut, which translates as Homemade Burnt Snout. Brennsnut is the name of a hearty vegetable and meat soup, served very hot, hot enough to scald your nose.

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2017. All rights reserved.

OUT OF THE ASHES

There is are many things terrible about a great fire. Lives, property, history lost.

But if you’re looking for something positive about the destruction of a city by fire, there is this: when a boomtown burns down and is rebuilt, the result is often a handsome showpiece of a particular style.

Such was the case in the core of the City of London after the Great Fire of 1666.

Virginia City in Nevada in 1875 at the peak of the silver mining boom. And San Francisco after the earthquake and fire of 1906.

And in the place where I live now, Nantucket Island, which was devastated by a fire in 1846 that destroyed the old whaling town but not the fortunes of the whaleship captains.

Each of these places was rebuilt quickly, cleaner and more stylish than before the fire.

So too, Ålesund Norway, which was almost totally destroyed on January 23, 1904.

The oft-told story is that the fire began after a cow kicked over a torch and in the cold night a wind-driven fire raced through the wooden town, destroying about 850 homes, killing one person, and leaving more than 10,000 residents without shelter.

Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany had been a frequent vacationer to Ålesund and coastal Norway.

After the fire, Wilhelm sent four warships with materials to build temporary shelters.

And then the town was rebuilt in stone, brick, and mortar in Jugendstil, the Germanic version of Art Nouveau style.

ÅLESUND ON A SUNNY DAY

Today, Ålesund has the most important fishing harbor in Norway, amongst the most modern in Europe. The local catch includes cod, whitefish, and herring.

You’ll see the equipment for production of stockfish, which is unsalted fish—usually cod—dried by cold air and wind on wooden racks.

In fact Norway is one of the prime suppliers of stockfish, baccala, baccalao—all the same thing—to places like Italy and Portugal and elsewhere around the world.

And then there is Lutefisk, which is a whole other kettle of fish.

It is made from aged stockfish (air-dried whitefish) or dried/salted whitefish (klippfisk) and lye (lut).

It is gelatinous in texture. Its name literally means “lye fish”, and it is somewhere between fish and fish-like jelly. Try it—you might like it—or perhaps not.

All photos and text Copyright 2017 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

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