And now, the final leg of our Norway trip!
…well, really, more like the middle.
Today, I am recapping the center part of our trip: the Flåm Railway and the Sognefjord cruise.
After our afternoon in Oslo, we boarded a train to Myrdal, where we would switch over the the Flåm Railway. This train is one of the steepest in the world on regular track lines, making a 863 meter (2831 ft!) climb /decent in the span of one hour. It passes through over 20 tunnels and offers many view points over waterfalls and spectacular valleys. For this reason, it is considered one of the most beautiful rail passages in the world. And, therefore, we had to take it.
And it was beautiful! Even the train from Oslo was amazing-following river beds that looked as if they housed lurking trolls as well as lakes and pastoral landscapes. But the Flåm line was even more astounding. We couldn’t stop pointing and ooh-ing and aahh-ing the whole time. It even made a stop over by a waterfall for a photo op (but the spray made a a photo impossible).
The whole trip from Oslo to Bergen took us 6 hours (6 hours of stunning landscapes!) but we did not arrive in Flåm until 9pm. Although it is a a major tourist destination, most people do not stay the night, which means that there are few places to eat and even fewer places to stay. We planned our trip just a few weeks before going and we got one of the last rooms available in one of the only hostels in town. All the hotels were booked and, when we arrived, so were the hostels and camp grounds. Even the trains from Oslo to Bergen were completely full on all 3 departures that day (what I am saying is: do not go to Norway and “wing it”).
BUT arriving in Flåm late in the evening, we had but one option for some grub around our hostel: the local food truck. You know you are in a small town when one of the 4 options for food on Foursquare is the local food truck. So we stopped on the way to our hostel, which was a ten minute walk from the station, and sat at a picnic table with some local beers while we waited for our reindeer skewers to cook.
Our hostel was odd- little houses broken into rooms and doorms, each with communal kitchens and bathrooms. Jimmy and I had the main floor room and we think we had a family in the rest of the house -not that we ever saw them in our short time there. But it was clean and comfortable and we woke up to some incredible views!
The next morning, we rented bikes from the hostel (after much finagling with the cleaning lady, who was the only staff person on site that day and was determined to finish cleaning before helping any one). We rode through the little town, which is situated by the river that lets into the fjord. They faced terrible flooding this fall the knocked out entire buildings and river banks, so a lot of reconstruction projects were underway. We happend across an old mill and a rock bed with dozens of rock stacks (where we also left our mark) before continuing on to the mouth of the fjord. We stopped to take in the view with coffee, fjord-farmed apple juice and small pastries at a darling hillside cafe before returning our bikes and picking up our bags. We had some time to kill in town before our boat, so we found our way to the “Viking Restaurant” where you can -literally- eat like Vikings. They serve ridiculously massive portions inspired by Viking cuisine and using only local goods. However, I think they dressed it up a bit for us! Either way, it was very good, very hearty food accompanied by great local beer in a hilariously hoaky but awesome setting.
After lunch, we set off on out 5 hour fjord cruise. We opted for the 5 hour express boat tour straight into Bergen to get the most out of our trip as opposed to the 2 hour short tour and bus into the city. I mean, the fjords are why you go there, so you should be there as much as possible! AS with everything else in Norway, the ship was at full capacity (though I did see two cute backpacking girls flirt their way aboard) and the line to get on started backing up 45 minutes before boarding! Which was reasonable, considering you had to elbow and fight for a spot by either a window or a railing.
We managed to snag a great spot on the corner back railing, which gave us incredible views down the fjord as we left. As you will see, I was on the wrong side of a Norwegian flag for a lot of the photos, so I ended up with some very Norwegian-patriotic pictures.
We spent almost the entire 5 hours outside on the decks, despite the fact that is was fairly chilly, rained a little, and was windy (they weren’t kidding about express!) and it was entirely worth it (as you can see!).
Also. 5 hours = a lot of photos. So…..enjoy!
Happy Anniversary to us!