Through the Fjords of Norway - A Day of Sensory Overload
The Fjords of Norway. We had heard about the beauty of this part of the world virtually all our lives, and now we were going to see it. Yet we were completely unprepared for its awesome and overpowering beauty.
Our trip started in Bergen, Norway. We boarded our boat and found a comfortable seat with big windows to give us a good view.
Using the map of our intended route, we began to anticipate the scenery we were to experience. Our route is shown by the yellow line on the map.
Soon underway, we cruised north through the outer islands, passing under dramatic bridges, some of which were actually floating, due to the extreme depths of the water (below right).
Soon we turned east into Songnefjord and the views of the sheer cliffs loomed ahead of us.
Our views were interrupted by stops at small towns along the way (below left). At one, a grand hotel graced the shore, a favorite for summer English vacationers, we were told (below right). We learned from a fellow passenger that in many cases our boat is the only access the residents have to the outside world or other towns on the other side of the fjord. A quick review of the route map (above) made this very clear.
Proceeding on, the fjord narrowed, causing us to feel even less significant in this grand landscape.
Further on, we rendevoused with a sister ship for a mid-fjord exchange of passengers. Both ships moved cautionously together, a gangplank was extended, people moved quickly across, the gangplank was retrieved, and soon we were again on our way - all in about 90 seconds. The Norwegians really know how to do this.
We now moved into a still narrower section and passed still another sister ship. We learned that the surrounding mountains were about 1300 meters (4000 feet) high and the water was a similar depth. A fellow passenger told us that during the Cold War the Russians tried to sneak their submarines in the depth of the fjords, but the Norwegians had tracked them and quietly told them to leave while they could - a fascinating story.
Soon we arrived in Flam, our destination. We stood, looking around in wonder at this small village surrounded by sheer, tall rock faces rising up from the dark blue waters of the fjord.
As we stopped to search for a cafe for a snack, we were suddenly surrounded by dozens of bikers. It seems they rent bikes from shops at the top of train line and ride the winding road down through the valley. The bikes are then loaded on the train and returned to the top for the next day's riders.
We easily found the terminal for the Flamsbana, the train that would take us from Flam up about 866 meters (2830 feet) to Myrdal, all in about 20 kilometers (12 miles) - an amazing accomplishment. We learned that this train is specially equipped with extra powerful engines for the trip up and 5 sets of brakes to assure a safe trip down. This part of the trip is noted as the blue line between Flam and Myrdal on the map above.
Soon we boarded the train in anticipation of a incredible ride. We were not to be disappointed.
Soon we pulled out, the train beginning the climb almost immediately, hugging the walls of the canyon, with wonderful views.
Before long we could look ahead from the valleys to the final heights the train would have to climb.
We make a brief stop at Kjosfossen Falls, viewing the massive rush of water that we learned drives electric generating turbines built into the surrounding rock walls.
Further climbing took us through tunnels carved from the rock walls, with occasional windows allowing a view to where we had been minutes earlier.
With one last climb the train pulled into the station at Myrdal, 866 meters (2830 feet) above where we started about an hour earlier. Here we transferred to the mainline train which would take us to Oslo.
Riding along as darkness fell, we reflected on our experience. We had started the day in the beauty of the coastal islands and traveled by boat and train deep into Norway's geologic heart. The awesome country we had traversed exhilatated our minds and overloaded our senses. We felt small and overwelmed by all we had seen and experienced. We dozed as the train headed toward the lights of Oslo.
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