Letting Go of the Burden of “Must See” Lists

Days 35-36, 2023 North Atlantic Adventure

Thursday and Friday, June 15-16, 2023; Molde and Trondheim, Norway.

This cruise up the coast of Norway is something of a consolation voyage. Originally, we were to sail to Svalbard, an archipelago far north of Norway’s North Cape. Sadly, the cruise line canceled those ports. I think Norway is requiring the use of a lighter (and more expensive) fuel in the area. Our attempt to sail to Svalbard on the Volendam last summer also fell through, as Holland America took the ship out of service to house Ukrainian refugees.

I first learned of Svalbard and the most northern town of Longyearbyen a couple of years ago when I read about it in the New York Times. I suppose I will need to look for an expedition ship or Norway’s Hurtigruten line if I want to get there.

Instead we are traveling north from Bergen, probably the most popular cruise port in Norway, to the North Cape. We won’t be traveling up dramatic fjords as we did in April, but we are still surrounded by beautiful scenes, including snow-topped mountains in the distance.

Yesterday we docked right in the middle of Molde, a rather quiet town not too far from the more popular cruise port of Alesund.

Many passengers took shore excursions that included drives on the Atlantic Highway, a scenic road connecting the many islands of the region. Otherwise, locals rely on fully electric ferries to connect Molde to highways farther south.

I took advantage of easy access to town to explore by foot, heading for the Molde Cathedral, a stark contrast with cathedrals I recently visited in Canterbury and Edinburgh. This was Scandinavian in design, with a tall bell tower.

Luckily, I arrived before the tour buses, and enjoyed sitting quietly while listening to a pianist and cellist. It was a magical interlude, reminding me of a similar experience in Tonga three years ago. I love how disparate points of the world touch my soul in similar ways.

Molde is known as a city of roses, but we were too early for the blooms. Bushes were filling out tall cages along the main streets, and it isn’t hard to imagine how beautiful the city will be in a few weeks. Beds on the roof of Town Hall promise a delightful scene.

Along the waterfront, teenagers were taking advantage of the sunny warm day from a newly built sauna floating on the water. The day might have been warm, but I imagine the water wasn’t.

Today in Trondheim (third largest city in Norway and its original capital), we weren’t quite as close to the city center, but it was a comfortable walk on another sunny and warm day. This weather isn’t typical, and it seemingly brings out all the Norwegians.

My intention had been to walk to Nidaros Cathedral, the burial site of Saint Olav, the king of Norway in the 11th century. Surrounding it is a park with the archbishop’s palace and museums.

On the way I deviated to cross Gamle Bybro, the Old Town Bridge, leading to the Bakklandet area full of traditional wooden houses that line the riverbank.

When I found a quiet bench (they are everywhere) and sat a while to sketch, I had a mini epiphany (an epiphaminy?).

I let go of the burden of needing to see everything on the “what not to miss” lists for these ports. This is my life, not my vacation, and I don’t spend my life filling my days with sightseeing. So instead of heading back toward the cathedral, I took a photo of it over the treetops and wandered along paths and lanes – photographing flowers, manhole covers and weathered old doors.

I enjoyed a hamburger in a restaurant along a crowded canal and shopped in a grocery for spicy Pringles for my cabin stewards. I even saw what looked like a crosswalk sign for Dick Tracy (although one of my sisters swears it indicates an alien “beam me up” point).