Storlihytta cabin in Molde has a rich history. For Molde's inhabitants, the hike up to the cabin is compulsory. As the path from Hatlelia has been transformed into what is practically a hiking autostrada, there is no excuse to shy away from a trip to Storlihytta cabin and Varden. This goes for those who use a wheelchair, too. The road up may be steep, but the quality is impeccable. I'll show you some pictures in a bit.
Storlihytta was built in 1872 by the Grand Hotel. In 1901, the German yacht SMY Hohenzollern arrived with an armada of boats in tow as Emperor Wilhelm II paid a visit to Norway. This time, he took the trip up to Storlihytta to host a party.
These days you won't find any emperors in the cabin, but you will find a queen. At least a hiking queen. Maria Holo Leikarnes, who is the new manager of the Norwegian Trekking Assocation's (DNT) Molde and Romsdal office, is going to meet me at Storlihytta. The trekking association has taken over the responsibility for the cabin, which has had a colourful history since the GrandHotel days.
The moment I arrive at Storlihytta I see Maria Holo Leikarnes, the very person I am looking for. She is pushing a large wheelbarrow full of soft drinks – the supplies for the shop, which is open from 10.00 to 20.00 every Wednesday.
“There are lots of things we want to do with the cabin and the surrounding area, now that the Norwegian Trekking Association looks after the cabin. This is their hiking cabin number 522”, she says.
We sit down in the baking sunshine on the terrace, under the Norwegian flag and with coffee in cardboard cups. Leikarnes tells me all about their future plans for Storlihytta.
“Imagine a herd of goats with GPS collars that give them a mild thump when they go outside the feeding grounds. Now that would be something. The kids would love it and the vegetation would be grazed”, says Leikarnes.
I just know that Storlihytta is in good hands now. I'm very happy about it, and so is everyone who likes to go for walks around here.
After an hour with coffee and a friendly chat, I definitely want to explore the surroundings more. This is work, after all. From Storlihytta, there is a trail known as Old Vardeveien, which takes you to – you guessed it – Varden, the city’s main viewpoint.
“At work, just about to walk from Storlihytta towards Varden.”
“I'm leaving the house now, meet at Varden for a coffee?”, Odd Roar asks.
“Do I have a choice?”, I counter.
Seven seconds later, he confirms: “Not really, no.”
Varden – here I come!
Speeding up to some 140 steps per minute, I’m off to yet another gorgeous part of Moldemarka forest. The first thing I see at Varden is two or three buses with cruise tourists.
They have stopped to get a panorama picture of the fjord, of course. Everybody always takes the picture from the exact same spot. Why not just buy a postcard? But without a camera, you’re not a real tourist, only a traveller.
I chug over to Odd Roar, who is waiting for me at the cabin on the plateau.
“It's closed”, he says, referring to the café.
Nevertheless, we knock on the window. The proprietor opens and informs us that the café is in fact closed. He is expecting a private party tonight, so he won’t be opening the doors for tourists today. We are allowed to buy an ice cream, however – through a window.
No coffe for us, but we could enjoy the view.
“The telescope over there was already here when I was a kid”, says Lange, who is in his fifties.
“It was here when I was young, too”, I reply. “The coin slot was working then. But I can't remember that you ever had to pay to use it”.
“The telescope is probably the only thing that has been profitable up here for the past 50 years”, Lange says.
On the way back from Varden, I choose the well maintained gravel road, which is wide enough for two cars. It goes down through the Damefallet dam, the Mølleråsen hill and the upper part of town, before returning to the city centre.
Back in the centre of Molde, my body is provided with what my brain demands after a day of sun and photographing. Simple, quick and tasty food. There are a number of dining places by the harbour, from Molde Fjordstuer on the western side to Tangenten on the eastern. I pick one in the middle, a restaurant that serves an Italian style thin-crust pizza and ice-cold mineral water from Eira at the price of 18 Euro.
Delicious. Imagine Varden with regular opening hours and food like that.
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