On three islands and between two bright-blue fjords lies Ålesund, home to 45,000 inhabitants and one of Norway's largest harbors for exporting dried and fresh fish. About two-thirds of its 1,040 wooden houses were destroyed by a fire in 1904. In the rush to shelter the 10,000 homeless victims, Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II, who often vacationed here, led a swift rebuilding that married German art nouveau (Jugendstil) with Viking flourishes. Winding streets are crammed with buildings topped with turrets, spires, gables, dragon heads, and curlicues. Today it's considered one of the few art-nouveau cities in the world. Inquire at the tourism office for one of the insightful walking tours.
When there was every reason in the world to stay away and see the ruins, one woman traveled to Greece to get to work.More