June 17, 2010

the nœrøyfjorden

This morning we got to sleep in, have a relaxing breakfast, catch up on some email and reading, and then we started our long day’s journey. As I’m writing this its 10:45 and we are still an hour out of Oslo. Of course it is also still full daylight outside, and we are hopeful that it will still be light for our short walk to the hotel when we arrive.

The first leg of our trip today started with the same Sognefjorden ferry that we arrived in Balestrand on yesterday. Only this time we rode it for only 45 minutes. When made a mid-fjord transfer to another ferry, this one was actually a passenger and car ferry, which took us down the “Narrow Fjord” This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the narrowest fjord with boat traffic on it. It is spectacular! We stopped counting waterfalls because there were simply too many. The steepness of the cliffs coming down to the water was just beautiful. We passed three tiny villages that have no roads leading to them, the only way in or out is by boat. The natural scenic beauty of this part of the world really is stunning. Along the way in the fjord I had a quick glimpse of two porpoises as well!

Our final destination for this ferry was Gudvangen, this is a tiny little town on the other side of two very long tunnels from Fløm. There is not much here except for some souvenir shops, a small restaurant, and the ferry landing. We had about an hour and half to wait for our bus to Fløm. The bus stop was literally a wide spot in the highway from Bergen, but our bus was right on time to take us to Fløm. Right outside of town was the first tunnel, it was 11.4 kilometers long. We had a short break and then another 5 kilometer tunnel. After this tunnel we were in Fløm, and the railway station.

The final legs of the journey are by train, we started off on the Fløm railway. Which goes up into the mountains 20km, at about a 55 degree slope! It is the steepest non-cogwheel railway anywhere. Again the scenery and waterfalls were marvelous. We spent the entire trip looking out the windows of the train and snapping pictures as fast as we could. We were not quite sure about this train trip when we first boarded as a hoard of toga clad norwegians got onto the same train car as us. They were quite loud and all carrying a can of the local brew. They were on the train for less than 1 km before they all got off the train, in the middle of nowhere. For all we know they are still wandering around the hills near Fløm celebrating some strange holiday we don’t know about.

The final stop of the Fløm railway is at Myrdral which basically consists of a train station up in the mountains. When we got off the train it was actually snowing! We had a short wait for the Bergen to Oslo train to come along and we jumped on. We have been riding in Coach 2, which looks to be the student car on the train. It seems that many students from Bergen must be returned home to Oslo for the summer.

Tonight we will check into the Thon hotel in Oslo, and I suspect we will all sleep in again tomorrow morning.