The good ship Queen Elizabeth had sailed calmly along the Sognefjord, one of Norway’s longest and deepest, to arrive at ridiculously pretty Flåm in Aurlandsfjord. We were booked on the ‘Norway In A Nutshell’ tour to explore the alpine countryside, returning to the ship on the famous Flamenbaum railway. Never having been a great fan of tours, this cruise has been an education; I have so enjoyed having all the hassle taken out of planning a trip, knowing that I was being shown the best this country has to offer, in comfort and stress-free. Another bonus is that our Captain, Chris Wells, won’t sail away until the last tour passenger is back on board; a boon to someone like me, who has a problem with time-keeping …
Our first stop was at the head of Gudvangen Fjord where we took pictures of replica Viking boats and men pretending to be Vikings. I would have liked a bit more time to escape and simply sit quietly, absorbing the beauty of the scenery but we had to get on. Then it was a leisurely drive through the Naeroy Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, bedecked with spring flowers and mountains newly covered in snow. Everywhere you look there are waterfalls, streams and tumbling rivers that would delight the heart of the most ardent white-water kayaker. Passing through numerous tunnels, our guide explained that they had mostly been made in the past 20 years and have greatly improved the infrastructure of this mountainous country.
The excruciating bends of the Stalheimskleivane, the steepest road in Norway, were negotiated with slow precision and then we were at the lovely Tvinde Waterfall. Having been told that the waters have rejuvenating powers, many of us took a few icy gulps on the off-chance. Then it was on past the quaint village of Gudvangen to the rather unprepossessing town of Voss, badly bombed during the war, but with a pretty old church and lovely lakeside views. Following the sound of a brass band, we found a little procession of young women in traditional dress, performing a dance for some local dignitaries. These unexpected glimpses into a country’s traditions are one of the many things I love about travel.
After a rather good lunch (great salmon & other fish in Norway) we went to the station to catch a train from Voss to Myrdal, 2,845 ft above sea-level, for our connection with the Flåmenbaum train. This ‘adhesion-type railway’ (no idea!) travels slowly down the vertiginous mountain-side at a gradient of 80% – VERY steep.
We got out in one of the 20 tunnels to look at Kjosfoss Waterfall – another surging torrent of water, the beauty of which no photo can replicate. Returning through the tiny village of Flam the wooden church looked like a toy from a child’s farm set. The scenery on this train journey is beyond superlatives; it rightly stands as one of the most spectacular train rides in the world.
Back in Flåm there was only time for a couple of quick photos before we had to return to our ship. A little brass band was seated on the quayside playing merrily as we embarked. Walking up the gangway, with its banner proudly declaring ‘Queen Elizabeth‘, I was happy to back on board after a yet another truly memorable day out in marvellous Norway.
Many thanks to Cunard for a great Norway cruise experience – Sognefjord and Flam are highly recommended!