Friday, December 9, 2011

July 8-10


The Ålesundet is one of the waterways separating Ålesund's islands
Ålesund may have built around fish, but these days its claim to fame is that it burned down in 1904 (check) and was rebuilt in pastel.

There's a definite Art Nouveau feel to this burg, with the old fish houses (where the cod was shorn of its liver for oil, and, after drying elsewhere, packed for export) cleaned up and painted in pleasing pastel hues.   In addition to the old fish houses, many of the buildings within the center of the city were erected after the fire in Art Nouveau style. The distinct roof lines, varied window shapes, trim decorations and painting, doors and turrets all are in accordance with the style of the day.

Details under windows accent many Ålesund buildings
\We stayed two nights in Ålesund, which gave us a full day in the city. Jean Sue and I split in the morning to go to the museums which interested each of us the most.

Jean Sue headed to the Art Nouveau and Kube museums, the first dedicated to the century-old art form, the second to modern art. The Art Nouveau museum featured an original Gustav Klimpt; the building itself was the former Swan Pharmacy (the family lived on the second floor); the wallpaper and woodwork, including staircase, were astounding, the style a forerunner to the Arts and Crafts movement.

While Jean Sue was going for the arts, Bob headed to the fish, i.e., the Fisheries Museum. Housed in a former fish house on the water, the dark interior told the full story of the Ålesund fish industry with artifacts and multi-media displays. What most impressed was the ambient sound incorported into each area of the museum. Bob was also impressed with a short film depicting the herring industry in the immediate post-war years, and the simulator of the captain's chair and bridge of an ultra-modern vessel. It looked like the bridge from the Starship Enterprise.

Klippfisk plate at Hammar og Kamari
Our hotel was located on a pedestrian mall in the heart of Ålesund. Both nights we ate at a neighboring restaurant, Hammar og Kanari. Since bacalao (dried cod, which, depending upon exactly how it is preserved, is called either Stokfisk or Klippfisk in Norway) is one of the pillars of the town's historic economy, Bob tried it one night. Good flavor, but very, very firm -- the salting/drying process, even after proper freshwater reconstitution, produces a flesh that is meat-like. To his taste, it was even tough.

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