For this post I’ll just focus on the shore excursion today. First, to the Shieling in Urke and second a walk through the streets of Alesund. For some of the other information and experiences, please go the the website and take a look at the ‘Snippet’ Series of Posts. If you select ‘follow’ on the homepage or at the bottom of each post, you’ll receive an email notification each time a new Snippet or other post is uploaded.
Urke is a small village on the Norangsfjord. Year round there are approximately 50 people living here and during the summer there are more who rent a cabin and come for vacation, or who own their own summer house and spend time here. Urke is a fairly self sufficient community with small industry in fish farming, sheep/goat farms, and a small power plant. There are only 3 of the original farms left now in the village.
Urke is 1 of 4 small villages in this municipality. Whilst it feels fairly remote, the highway to Oslo is not too far away and there is a ferry that regularly runs across the fjord to a larger village where the residents can shop, work, go to school (there are 5 children living here), and where the post comes from.
The fish farm is really a hatchery employing 14 locals. Once the fish have hatched and reach a certain minnow size, they are moved up to another fishery along the fjord to be further grown. The sheep and goats graze freely in the foothills of the tall mountains. There is a greenhouse in the village where the locals grow their vegetables and fruits.
Mt Slogen is one of the peaks nearby and is apparently well known in mountaineering circles. It is 1500+ m high and Queen Sonja who is a mountaineering enthusiast has climbed it numerous times. She is now 83 years old and still known to visit mountains and go hiking. She is also an artist and painted the peaks here and then donated them back to the National Mountaineering Society.
Our excursion today was to take us on a ‘leisurely’ 3.2km hike uphill to a ‘Shieling’ or ‘Settre’ (not sure of my spelling), where in times past the farms milkmaids would spend the summer milking the herds. Our guide, Inger, told us stories from her mother who actually worked as one of these milkmaids during her youth. She would remember fondly the summers all the village girls would head up to the mountains – unsupervised – and live in the cute huts. They would work morning and evening, but their spare time was spent also singing, dancing and on the weekends the local boys would come up to visit – again unsupervised.
The huts themselves were all in a small group, one for each of the local farms. The girls would hand milk up to 40 animals each per day. The milk would be collected every few days and kept in milk urns in the river to stay fresh, or they would also churn to butter and make cheese while they were there.
Our hike was incredible. We started off at the wharf and walked through the very small town and followed the river up stream. The ice was thick on the shady side of the rocks and the gutter streams were frozen solid. We had the most perfect weather, clear skies and sunshine with the fresh cold air. The hike was rated 3/4 perhaps for the gradient to get up to the shieling or (insert name here). We slowly peeled off our layers as we climbed!
Along the way Inger stopped to tell us some interesting things about the mountains. We passed the site of an annual avalanche. Some years are worse than others. The 2018 Avalanche didn’t clear until after April which was very late. The whole road was closed off for a number of months.
We also learnt about the trolls. They are real you know… There is a forest troll called Hildre who was particularly beautiful with her long blonde hair and very alluring. She would entice the men to come and visit her, it’s not known quite what happened next, but they never returned. Apparently whilst beautiful to look at from the front, she was every bit a troll when observed from behind! Hildre also expected the milkmaids to leave behind some food when they left after the summer otherwise she would take her revenge by stealing or killing cattle.
The other thing to know about trolls is that if they get caught out in the sunlight they actually turn into rocks. It seems in this area many of the local trolls missed the memo and found themselves transformed to pebbles and rocks.
When hiking in Norway, if you come across a red T on a sign it is directing you towards mountain huts that are stocked with food, blankets and beds. When you leave, you note down what you have used and at the end of the season you will be sent a bill. If you are a member of the hiking club you will pay a nominal amount, if not, the cost is still not high but a little more.
Many of the steps and stone paths along the hiking routes are built by Nepalese Sherpas. The sherpas come to Norway during the summer and work for a very good wage carrying rocks to the higher areas. This is work they are used to doing and have their own special techniques for carrying and delivering heavy loads. They return to Nepal in the off season.
Upon arrival at the “Sette” (Shieling) we were greeted by Nellie who had prepared afternoon tea including traditional dried meats (lamb, pork, salami) handmade flatbread, potato salad, lafse (a sweet celebration pastry) and a plum and apple juice as well as coffee/tea. This was served on rustic outdoor tables decorated with mountain flora, and blankets also laid out for our comfort. Nellie had also prepared the cabins with candle to show how they were likly to have been when in use many years ago by the milkmaids. It was such a simple but welcoming arrival after the steep hike.
We had time to wander around the huts and really appreciate the way the local farm girls would have spent their summers. Quite ideallic really!
The walk back was much easier – downhill all the way! We did divert and come through the town from a different direction which meant we saw the local deer hunting hides as well as the farms and different housing.
It wasn’t long before the tender boat arrived to take us back to the Nordlys for refreshments and a talk by the Expedition Team. Our next stop in a couple of hours time is Alesund. Pronounced ‘Olysund’ where will have an hour or so to explore the Art Nuveau Streets before returning to the ship for dinner and the nights journey further North.
We are told that we are now within the Northern Lights range and have our phone set to make sure we get woken during the evening if the lights appear.
Alesund is a city on 5 islands. We had just a couple of hours to have a look around and the main point of interest here for this length of stop after the sun has set is really the Art Nouveau architecture. The town itself was destroyed by fire back in 1904 and so the rebuilding occurred during the Art Nouveau movement giving Alesund its unique style.
Forgive the quality of some of the following pics. They were taken without a tripod and flash. However, you should be able to see enough to appreciate the gorgeous architecture.