BALESTRAND, an appealing first stop on the Sognefjord, has been a tourist destination since the middle of the nineteenth century, when it was discovered by European travellers in search of cool, clear air and picturesque mountain scenery. One of the visitors was Kaiser Wilhelm II, who became a frequent visitor, sharing his holiday spot with the tweeds and bustles of the British bourgeoisie. These days, the village is used as a touring base for the immediate area, as the battery of small hotels above the quay testifies, but it’s all very small-scale, and among the thousand-strong population farming remains the principal livelihood.
An hour or so will suffice to take a peek at Balestrand’s several low-profile attractions. Lining up along the harbour are the old post office, which features temporary displays on the town and its environs; a brace of art galleries; and an aquarium, the Sognefjord Akvarium.