One of the highlights of my blog trip travels so far has been the cruise on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth maiden voyage to Norway. From the lively and moving Southampton ‘Sail Away’, via a mill-pond smooth North Sea crossing to the fascinating Norwegian sites of Stavanger and Lysefjord, the Flåm rail trip from Sognefjord and the ancient port of Bergen, every moment created its own unique memories. The pinnacle of that trip was, without doubt, sailing slowly through GeirangerFjord, squeezed between towering mountains and cascading water, through some of the world’s most impressive scenery.
We cruised into the fjord in the early morning through mist and rain, creating an atmosphere that was evocative but frustrating as the impressive grandeur of this UNESCO World Heritage Site was draped in shadow. Often described as the ‘quintessential fjord’, Geirangerfjord is an 8 mile long sliver of green water that slides its way between precipitous mountains decorated with streaming waterfalls and mostly uninhabited farm buildings clinging to their rocky sides. When we got to the end of the fjord, the ship performed a delicate turn to get into position for us to disembark. I discovered later that she was kept in place by Satellite positioning as it is far too deep to drop anchor.
Disembarking by boat we were shuttled across the water to the village where a cluster of souvenir shops and cafes serve the regular stream of visitors that visit this popular destination. Although there are only about 250 permanent residents in Geiranger, during the season about 130 cruise ships visit bringing several hundred thousand visitors every year. I was struck by the way the area seemed to quickly absorb all us tourists and how easy it was to find a quiet corner to explore. Wandering up a lane at the back of the village I found a large stream thundering over jagged rocks, white painted cottages, an octagonal wooden church with a well-tended graveyard and this old wooden hut overgrown with weeds and bright green moss.
I’d booked a tour up Ørnevegen (the Eagle Road), the steepest stretch of road up the mountain side from Geirangerfjord towards Eidsdal. The road turns through 11 hairpin bends to the highest point 620 metres above sea level. At the viewing point of ‘Eagle Bend’ I got a phenomenal sense of nature’s grandeur; far below lay ‘Queen Elizabeth’ , an insignificant craft amidst this awesome landscape. To the right was the Seven Sisters waterfalls crashing down in silvery sheets into the dark waters below. The skies had blessedly cleared and the view is one that will stay with me forever …
On our way back down the mountain, the tour stopped off at the Norwegian Fjord Centre, telling the intriguing story of local people’s daily life and recreations in Geirangerfjord. I ‘experienced’ an avalanche and learnt how this lethal snowfall is caused. The beautifully laid out shop sold lovely jumpers, delicate glassware, regional produce and many other tasteful souvenirs to tempt the visitors. I spent some time watching young volunteers using traditional crafts to recreate a typical farmstead.
At the end of the day I was extremely fortunate to be invited onto the ‘Queen Elizabeth” bridge as Captain Chris Wells and his crew set sail from Geiranger on our way our next port of call, Bergen. The loud boom of the ship’s hooter reverberated around the mighty mountains as we slowly inched our way along Geirangerfjord. As we passed the streaming ribbons of the Seven Sisters Waterfall the Captain said that Norway and its fjords was one of his favourite places in the world to take his ship – and it is easy to see why …
Many thanks to everyone aboard ‘Queen Elizabeth’ and especially to Lisa Page from Cunard for a marvellous trip – and converting me to the joys of cruising!
Writing this post brought back so many happy memories of this wonderful trip but without doubt Geiranger is the place I remember the most. Sailing along these fjords is the best way to see them as the ships can get really close to the scenery. At times you feel as if you can touch the sides – must be very difficult to naviagate but our Captain and crew made it look so easy! I’d love to return someday, especially to see it in the sunshine 😉
Wonderful, just wonderful! My husband and I cruised the Osterfjord and saw the Pulpit Rock only a few weeks ago. It was our first time in Norway but it carved deep memories into our hears so much so that we are already planning a new trip to Norway. This country is addictive!
Thanks so much Laura – isn’t it a lovely country. As you say, very addictive. Did you see the article on Stavanger & Lysjefjord and Pulpit Rock? http://www.thequirkytraveller.com/2011/05/the-historic-port-of-stavanger-lysefjord We passed under Pulpit Rock – people sitting on the edge dangling their feet over the edge – brave or crazy?!
Brings back so many great memories Zoe! The amazing views we had every night from our table in the Princess Grill, seeing how small Queen Elizabeth looked next to the huge fjords and the beautiful scenery we woke up to each morning!
It was great joining you on your first cruise too!!
Oh and remember when the goats came running down the mountain during our tour? That was a personal highlight! 🙂
It was a real pleasure to share that trip with you Lisa – and weren’t we spoilt! That was a very special table with a very special view … I recall seeing that strange thunderous sky one night – most spectacular. Those goats at Lysefjord got an honourable mention (and photo) in this post http://www.thequirkytraveller.com/2011/05/the-historic-port-of-stavanger-lysefjord
I love Geiranger too and have been there three times (so far).
I recognised the location of photos 1 and 4 immediately – Eagles Bend lookout point – as I walked up there a couple of years ago.
We will be going again on Queen Elizabeth next July, and all the way up to the North Cape too on that voyage.
Looking forward to it a lot.
It is a stunning view isn’t it Richard. How fab to be going on QE again – and to the North Cape. Sure you will have a wonderful time. If Captain Chris Wells is captaining that lovely ship, say hi from me!