Ålesund is within easy striking distance of the next major towns north up along the coast – Molde and Kristiansund, at 80km and 150km respectively. Neither is especially riveting, but Kristiansund does boast a handsome coastal location plus a handful of mildly interesting sights recalling its heyday as a centre of the klippfisk (salted, dried cod) industry. The more appealing of the two routes between the two towns incorporates the Atlanterhavsvegen, a short but dramatic stretch of highway that hops from islet to islet on the very edge of the ocean.
MOLDE is an industrial town that sprawls along the seashore with a ridge of steep, green hills behind. Despite its modern appearance, it’s one of the region’s older towns, but was blown to pieces by the Luftwaffe in 1940, an act of destruction watched by King Håkon from these very same hills just weeks before he was forced into exile in England.
Straddling three rocky islets and the enormous channel-cum-harbour that they create, KRISTIANSUND has a splendid coastal setting, but it somehow conspires to look quite dull: the Luftwaffe is at least partly to blame as it polished off most of the old town in 1940, and, although Kristiansund dates back to the eighteenth century, precious little remains from prewar days. One minor exception is the handful of antique clapboard houses that string along Fosnagata, immediately to the north of the main quay, but otherwise the gridiron of streets that now serves as the town centre – just up the slope to the west of the main quay – is resolutely modern. There is, however, a more forceful nod to the past in the klippfiskkjerring statue of a woman carrying a fish standing at the south end of the main quay. The statue recalls the days when salted cod was laid out along the seashore to dry, producing the klippfisk that was the main source of income in these parts until well into the 1950s.