23 Mar Kristiansund: A idyllic Norwegian town on the North Sea
by Richard Phipps from United Kingdom
On the plane to Oslo, the midway point in my trip, I read Scandanavian Airlines monthly magazine to pass the time. An article that caught my eye was all about ‘bleisure’, a new trend, they claimed, where business travelers were mixing their work with leisure while on company time. This proved to be a fitting read considering I was on my way to Kristiansund on the Norwegian North Sea Coast on my first ever business trip abroad. I had 3 nights to mix my work, a trip to a firm who dealt with the preparation of oil drilling equipment for the North Sea oil fields, with exploring a town I’d heard of but knew next to nothing about.
I arrived in the darkness of an early March evening, stepping off the plane on to the icy runway. It was cold and snowy back home in Yorkshire, England, but not quite to this extend. You know the blast of heat you get when stepping off the plane when taking your Summer holiday? Well it was like that in reverse. Fortunately, I was prepared and the moonlit fjords I could see from my taxi to the Quality Hotel Grand in Kristiansund town centre left me anticipating the spectacular views come sunrise.
A hearty hot breakfast at 7am following a few pints of Dahs, a beer from Trondheim, the night before was the ideal start to the shockingly cold morning. The wind was devilish; I was pretty convinced my ears had succumbed to frost bite within minutes of stepping outside the door. I opted to walk to work, just over 3 miles, to experience the Nordic town while I had the time. It was bliss; tranquil in the early morning rays as the water of the Ramnfjorden lapped against the sea walls and fishing vessels. I took a route along the coast, the wooden 2 and 3 storey buildings an array of colour. It’s how I’d imagined a coastal town, awash with varying hues; crimsons, sky blues, sunflower yellow. I crossed from Gomalandet, one of the islands that make up the town, to Nordlandet, over the Nordsund Bridge, one of the many photogenic spots for cityscapes. The water glistens beneath the awaking town, overlooked by snowy forested peaks. My destination lay overlooking Kvernesfjorden towards the island of Frei, the largest of Kristiansund’s islands. Here I spent the majority of my two days,overseeing the work but always gazing out over the bay towards Freikollen, a 2,000 ft high mountain, itching the put on my walking boots and summit the peak. Although I do enjoy my job, I would rarely lack motivation working in such a stunning surrounding.
After hours of supervising, measuring and documenting, my day was finally mine. A swift taxi ride back to the hotel (a 10 minutes/3 mile taxi ride came to 190 NOK, or £18 ) and a quick change of clothes and I hit the streets, headed towards Innlandet, the smallest of Kristiansund’s main islands. I hadn’t planned on walking here for any particular reason other than to stretch my legs and get some cityscape snaps and the island duly obliged. The highest point on the island, Bautaen, rises 64m above sea level and was a WWII lookout. This provided the best views from the island itself, looking across the Sorsundet Strait towards Kirklandet. Innlandet was sleepy, its nineteenth century wooden houses providing a spectrum of colour in the setting sun. Fortunately it survived largely unscathed during the World Wars so it retains its old wooden homes. The 400 metre long Sorsundbridge, standing 38m high was the highlight of the walk however, on the way back. Looking east you could see the moonrise over the mountains behind the town below, to the west a pastel sunset over the fjords. It was time to head back and grab some dinner.
My choice of restaurant, recommended I might add by the locals, was Sjostjerna, right in the centre of town. It was so tasty that I dined there twice, resisting the urge to experiment elsewhere. Klippfish was highly advised, essentially Cod, fished from the Norwegian North Sea and dry salted. I had a slightly odd yet delicious variant of this, dripping with cheese on a salsa bed, served with tortillas, guacamole and chili potatoes. The friendly waitress gave me a lowdownof the local beers and I chose Ronui, an IPA from RandhavByryggeri, the towns own brewery. For any craft beer geeks like myself, I would highly commend Norwegian beer and urge you to have a tipple. The second night I had the fish balls, a locally traditional dish of cod, onion and potato fish balls served with sausage, bacon and boiled potatoes. The two things I learn about the Norwegian eating habits are that they eat healthily and they like big portions! The stereotype about the price of beer is also true, £9 a pint! Fortunately for myself and No9 Pub where I chose to experiment with the selection of beers, my work, whether they liked it or not, paid for 4 or 5 bottles.
Day 2 brought much the same; a crisp stroll to work, more measuring and documenting, a final sign off and a taxi ride back to the hotel. This time however, I wanted to see more of the natural Norway that you see splattered across Instagram, the majestic Fjords, the forested hills, the shimmering icy cold waters. Given that I had 2 hours to sunset I held little hope of seeing anything remotely idyllic from a natural perspective but I ended up pleasantly surprised. A 15 minute walk from the Quality Hotel Grand saw me reach Varden, a watchtower with 360 degree views across the town. I could see the forested western part of the island from here and set out along the wooded paths, half skating my way along on the ice. All was peaceful and calm, not a soul in sight and suddenly I felt that I was in rural Norway, Viking country, supposedly miles away from the town I had been in the centre of only 20 minutes ago. A break in the trees revealed a picturesque vista overlooking Kvernesfjorden, a calm settled sea between the town and the fjords beyond. A bench provided the ideal viewing platform and somewhere I could have sent hours just gazing at the scene if only I had more time to while away.I followed the path further west, meandering towards the signs for ‘Klubba’ the rocky outcrop and the most western point of the island. Here I felt alone, the ever diminishing sun glistening over calm waters, snowy peaks in the distance and wonder at what lay beyond. My Norway trip was coming to an end, my flight departing in a few hours so I took a few more minutes to enjoy the landscapes before hiking back to reality. Just then a ferry emerged and started to pass into the bay, passengers on deck staring in wonderment and anticipation at what was the come. My journey had ended but Kristiansund continued to inspire.