No one bats an eyelid when the cruise ships nudge their way up the Geirangerfjord today, but the first one to arrive – in 1869 – gave the Norwegians a spiritual shock: it was packed with Quakers bearing tracts and bent on saving souls at a time when the locals thought themselves good Lutheran Christians already. The Quakers may not have had much luck as missionaries, but they were certainly taken with the beauty of the Geirangerfjord and spread the word on their return home: within twenty years the village was receiving a regular supply of visitors. Seizing their chance, local farmers mortgaged, sold and borrowed anything they could to buy ponies and traps, and by the end of the century tourists were being carted up from the jetty to the mountains by the score. In 1919, the horse was usurped when a group of farmer-cum-trap-owners clubbed together to import cars, which they kitted out with a municipal livery – the region’s first taxi service. The present owner of the Hotel Union has restored a dozen or so of these classic cars, including a 1922 Hudson, a 1932 Studebaker and a 1931 Nash, and garaged them at the hotel: hotel guests can sometimes admire them for free – ask at reception.

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