"" Writer's Wanderings: Islands And Underwater Tunnels: Alesund, Norway

Friday, May 19, 2023

Islands And Underwater Tunnels: Alesund, Norway

Alesund is a city but to me it just seems like a large town. I like the feel of it. It seems unhurried although this day with two large ships in port it was full of tourists. It was also the second day of the Constitution Day celebration. A lot of stores and shops were closed but we weren't staying downtown for long.

This is our third visit to Alesund and we'd pretty much done all there was to do in town. This winter while in Florida, we had busily researched alternatives to some of the ship's offered excursions which are often a lot more pricey than booking something on your own. Through Tripadvisor's Viator, we found almost an identical excursion in Alesund that took you to the islands outside the city. It was almost half the price of the ship's similar excursion.

After some correspondence with the tour company, I was assured of the pickup being right next to the pier (in fact it was in the parking lot where all the excursion buses parked) and that they guaranteed you would be back to your ship before the required onboard time.

The night before we docked in Alesund, I received an email from excursions.no, the tour company, with a pdf map of the pickup point. After breakfast and near to the time of leaving for our meeting time, I went out on our veranda which overlooked the pier area. Sure enough when I focused my camera on a white minibus and zoomed in I could read the words, excursions.no on the side. Easy peasy.

When I booked, I thought part of it would be on a boat. I could not imagine that there would be that many underwater tunnels but I was soon to learn that tunnels connected all the islands. Amazing. One source I found said there were 8 miles of tunnels between the islands. That sounds about right as one was more than 4km and another over 3km. We lost count along the way.

The best I could understand of how they build them is that they dig a trench. Not sure how you do that in such deep water but then they lower large sections of tubes, somehow connect them and then pump out the water. Sounds really complicated but through most of the tunnels there were three lanes of road. Going down there was one lane and the other side coming up there would be two so vehicles could pass the slower traffic on the incline. One tunnel however had only two lanes and turnouts at some points for one way traffic. I tried not to think about being 460 feet below the surface.

"Please leave"

Our first stop was on the island of Giske where there is a historic church. It was built in the 12th century of all white marble. Local legend has it that Rollo the Viking who later became the first ruler of Normandy was born on Giske. There is supposed to be a family tree inside the church but we encountered a bit of a problem when we entered.

Our driver said that we were lucky, the church appeared open. In fact, they had opened the church to an excursion group that appeared to be from the Princess ship that was docked behind us. The group was all seated and there was a lady, I'm guessing a local, who was at the front pulpit. When she saw the first of our small group enter she stopped her talk and said, "If you belong to this group, have a seat. If not, leave. These people have paid for this."

I snapped a quick picture and turned around thinking Bob was behind me. He didn't hear her, or he didn't listen. We have this conversation often. Can you not hear or just aren't listening? Anyway, he snapped several pictures before he came back out. Our group joked about being thrown out of a church the rest of the morning.

Through another tunnel and out to the island of Godoya where the Arles lighthouse stands. It is quite picturesque and reminds me of some of the east coast lighthouses in the States. We only had a half hour stop here sadly as the coffee shop that kept the key to the lighthouse looked inviting. Our driver got the key and opened the lighthouse to us. 

The lighthouse was built in 1937 but before that enterprising fishermen in 1853 had their own lighthouse which consisted of three candles in a shack in the same spot. Those lights were extinguished in 1861 and in 1869 the Norwegian Lighthouse Services took over erecting living quarters for a lighthouse keeper and of course later the taller structure that has a lens dating back to 1905. Everything is fully automated now as seems to be the case with most lighthouses of the world.

Bob's lighthouse view

One look at the stairs and I handed Bob my camera. There was no way I was chancing that climb with my bad ankle. I sat and chatted with another lady and we decided that we could perhaps start an enterprise with the long rope and winch we saw above our heads. Perhaps we could raise and lower people for a fee. Lots of giggles and chuckles as we planned. I think she was from the UK. 

The excursion bus we'd encountered at the church arrived just after all of our group had gone up. Apparently our people had to wait half way down for all of their bus load to climb up. We were glad to get ahead of them after that although I think that may have been the problem we encountered a little later in Alesund.

The tunnels seemed to be even longer returning to the city. There were no other stops along the way. Our excursion included a last stop at the top of the town mountain, Aksla, where there is a spot for you to view the city and surrounding area. 

We've been to the top before but it was never as busy as it was this day. Was it Constitution Day visitors or just the influx of two cruise ships? There is now a hop on hop off bus as well as the city train which is what we took in the past and I don't recall all the large tour buses climbing the mountain either. 

Love Norway's colorful buildings

Our driver found a spot to park and gave us fifteen minutes. More than enough time for a "Chevy Chase nod" and back in the minibus. While we'd seen the view before, it is always breathtaking and this time we could pick out the places on the islands we'd been to before this. I was amazed at how far we'd driven. 

The thrill of the trip though was the drive back down the town mountain. Our driver had to back up half way as well as the hop on hop off bus in front of us to allow for three large tour busses to make the turns and navigate the narrow road on their way up. Glad I wasn't in the seats on the side that looked down the mountain. I heard one lady tell the other, "Just don't look."

This lovely troll caught my eye.
Hand carved wood, I believe.

Back on the ship, we had lunch and then ventured out for a little walk. It was just a beautiful day, it was a shame to waste it inside. The temperature was in the lower 50s and the sun was warm with a fresh little breeze now and then. Perfect.

And to add to our perfect day, the entertainment for the evening was a singer, Helen Wilding, who was wonderful. Great voice, good stories and lots of humor. She's from the UK and had the distinction of singing at the engagement party of William and Kate.

What a day!

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