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Arland O. Fiske: Molde — the ‘city of roses’

It was on an August Monday afternoon that we arrived in Molde, the “City of Roses,” on Norway’s West Coast. This community of 21,000 people barely survived the ravages of World War II. All but a few scattered houses in the center of the city were destroyed.

The Allied forces were undefeated when the British and French evacuated their forces for the defense of their own homelands. Enemy aircraft struck day and night to destroy Norway’s struggling army in late April 1940. King Haakon VII barely escaped from Molde on the British cruiser Glasgow amid burning docks and buildings. The Norwegian troops were left behind without weapons or supplies to hide in the countryside or be captured. This is still a sore spot in the memory of Norway’s Resistance fighters. They felt betrayed by their allies. By May 1, the fighting was all over.

Today, Molde is a peaceful place, having been rebuilt into a beautiful and modern city. It’s located in one of Norway’s most scenic tourist areas. I enjoyed walking down to the docks and watching the huge luxury liners come into port as they traveled between Oslo and North Cape above the Arctic Circle. I’d like to board one of these boats and visit all the coastal cities. Molde is an area of unusual beauty famed for its scenery. Roses have been planted to help the people forget the war years and they grow everywhere to gild this lily of the north.

We were fortunate. Ocean clouds often roll in to darken the skies of central Norway, but we saw the region in bright sunshine. The air felt clean, as if it were filtered. Out in the surrounding countryside of fjords and mountains is an unspoiled vacationland enjoyed in both summer and winter. Hiking and skiing are popular pastimes especially in these parts. Off in the distance, the snow covered mountains glisten whenever the sun shines. You can spend a whole day in one spot and have a change in scenery every few minutes as the sun circles around the horizon.

The Town Hall with its copper façade stands in the center of the city. There you will see a statue of the Flower Girl with her basket filled with roses. The Romsdal Fellesbank (community bank) stands at the main corner of the business district, covered with ivy. Nearby is the Veoy Church that stands as a symbol of faith in the heart of the community.

An annual jazz festival is held in the summer. Folk dancers come to perform for large crowds. Besides these, theatrical productions, music, art and a large selection of sporting ad recreational activities make Molde a virtual paradise.

Sailboats in the bay make a beautiful picture. There is also a Fisheries Museum. Visitors can get an impression of the difficult life of the coastal fishermen. Fishing boats are displayed that once provided the catch for Norway’s large export of fish.

If you travel in this area, be prepared to use the ferryboats. Each county (fylke) operates its own transport system. They operate efficiently and on time with aid of government subsidy. Molde is about 150 miles southwest of Trondheim, the main Norwegian city north of Oslo, and about 40 miles south of Kristiansund. Farstad is about 20 miles north.

If you visit Molde and don’t have relatives or friends to host you, I recommend eating at the Alexandra Hotel. Better food you can hardly find. But don’t be in too much of a hurry, stop to smell the roses.

Next week:  The Independent Order of Vikings.

ARLAND FISKE, a retired Lutheran minister who previously lived in Laporte and now lives in Texas, is the author of 10 books on Scandinavian themes.