Fjiords of Norway, Part 1

imageAugust 27-30, 2016 mostly rain with patches of sunshine

All repacked with freshly laundered clothes, Barry and I roll our bags along the relatively quiet Saturday morning streets of Oslo to enter the National Theater Station. Here we nearly take the wrong train, to connect to the larger Oslo Central Station. Once in the main station, we settle into our next train and head east, quickly out from the urban area into surrounding farms and fjords during our two plus hour ride.

image image image image image image image image image imageI continue to drink in the sheer “greenness” of this wet, misty country, having so recently traveled from drought weary California. To spite myself, my eyes strain among the green leaves and ferns for some contrast.  a Was that a red gnomes’s hat, just some red berries on a large bush that we sped past? Sturdy houses, red barns, churches, are on the fjord walls in rows as though one giant Norwegian troll used massive, muddy hands to place them up on their tidy shelves. The constant dripping and flowing of water is everywhere, rivers just outside the train and along all the fjord walls, and in the form of countless waterfalls. Barry and I joke about some laundry that we see drying outside under an overhang. How does anything get dry here?

This train ride, voted one of the 20 best in the world, takes us over Norway’s “mountainous rooftop”, through storybook villages until we stop at the town of Geilo. We are booked in a grand hotel, the Dr. Holmes Hotel. The name doesn’t come from Sherlock’s companion, but from Doctor Ingebrikt Christian Holm. The booklet in our room says that he was a specialist in respiratory diseases and personal hygiene (huh, yuck?). In 1909 he put his knowledge into action and established Dr. Holms Hotel.
http://www.drholms.no/index_e.aspx.

What a joy to be in this classy type of place that just feels right. Teehee. The room overlooks the small valley. Ah! We enjoy the gorgeous outdoor jacuzzi, with a grand view. When that gets chilly, we go to the indoor pool and indoor jacuzzi. Ah! Then we warm up again the sauna, since we are in Norway after all. Ah! Such relief from all the stress of travel. Oh, well, that’s bullshit. There no stress, this is day has been absolutely beautiful. The dining room is elegant and our meal is perfect and this day should be locked in Tupperware and enjoyed another day, even as leftovers.

The next morning in this alpine paradise, I expect James Bond to show up in the lobby with his skis and gun. However, I don’t think Norwegians do drama, they are so polite and calm and reserved. So instead of a chase scene, there is an amazing breakfast buffet that captures my full attention.  Of course, it’s Scandinavian style:  smoked salmon, herring in tomato sauce, several types of sausages and cheese, several types of fresh rustic beads, croissants, yogurts, muesli, dried fruits, fresh fruits, salads, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, fried ham….ah! I could really get used to this. We didn’t try out the spa, there are so many exotic treatments available. Though I am no skier, I’d love to go hiking here. I think they have kayaking too.  Perhaps a return trip sometime?

We board another train and just over an hour later arrive at Myrdal. From here, we leave the NSB rain to board The Flåm Railway or the Flamsbana (which is so much fun to say!) I thought yesterday’s train travel was beautiful, but the Flamsbana is the most spectacular train journey I have ever taken. It took us for an incredible 20 km ride with a 900-metre descent, past tundra, glaciers, possibly thousands of silver ribbon waterfalls, and dramatic drops.

The ride ends in the little village of Flåm (also so fun to say). The downside of the Flamsbana is that the train is very crowded, and we must deal with people pressing us into lines when it’s time to disembark the train and board a ferry. With my suitcase trailing behind me and a “don’t fuck with this grandma” attitude, I roll over the feet of some disagreeable Spaniard. If looks could kill, I would be vaporized. However, I shan’t be detoured from my goal, get on the fjord!

From the Brochure:

“From Flåm, you’ll be transported by boat onto the Aurlandsfjord and into the World Heritage-listed Nærøyfjord, the narrowest fjord in Europe. This is perhaps the most beautiful and wildest arm of the Sognefjord, with its tall mountains, mighty waterfalls and small farms clinging to the steep mountainsides.”

We are blessed with a little bit of sunshine and decide to sit on the top deck for the best views. It is otherworldly beautiful, breath taking. As the ferry pulls into small villages and we see the folds of the fjord walls before us, wispy clouds hanging within the crevices, we snap hundreds photos. I repeat the mantra, “remember this forever, hold this memory close. ” I am torn between putting my camera down to soak it all in or snapping every inch of it to hold on to it all forever.

The weather changes and it gets colder and rainier. We are getting cold and luckily we arrive at our stop for the night, Gudvangen Fjiordtell. . This is at the end of the fjord, it a dramatically stunning landscape. Nearly all the people from the ferry take busses into the night, probably to a larger town. We are staying in the little speck of a place, but a world away from everything. The hotel is fun, with a huge Viking hall with huge windows that face this surreal view.

The hotel is like a Viking play house. I have to admit to really enjoying the wooden carvings, sod roof, skylights that view the waterfalls and clouds and the animal hide on the bed.  We lie in bed and watch the smokey looking clouds curl over us and the tincel of waterfalls glitter on the fjord wall.  Maybe I can get Barry to wear the animal skin tonight and let me call him Thor…..again?

 

i can’t load the photos here with the intermittent wifi that we’ve had.  I will add a idea when we get home, it’s just too beautiful, and I am going to savor making a video.

 

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