29.06.2010 50 °F
I wrote this late last night but the internet was giving me fits (we ARE in the middle of the North Sea), and after spending $20 in internet time hitting refresh and selecting the same pictures, I gave up. So just pretend it's last night ...
Yet another great day – sorry for the repetitive starts but they just keep on comin’! Thanks for all the comments yesterday – it makes us happy to get them! We docked in Flaam today (it is actually Flåm but in English they write “Flaam”), and it was a breathtaking area, full of fjords, waterfalls, lush greenery, and postcard-like views. We had an all-day tour scheduled, which included a long train ride, lunch, and a return on the bus.
Overnight, we drove inland through Sognefjord, the deepest Norwegian fjord, which goes 115 miles inland and reaches 3,700 feet below sea level and up to 6,000 feet above sea level. All this, despite being only 2.5 miles long at its longest point! Fjords are amazing things. We got off the ship this morning in Flaam, which is a small community of only 350 inhabitants, but is popular with tourists. It was absolutely gorgeous already, and the tour hadn't even begun! We hopped on a train that would take us to Myrdal, and then Voss, another popular tourist location (and home of 19 Olympic medals from the last winter Games!)
The views outside of the train were spectacular. Once again, you really can’t put it into words. Just think – steep cliffs, deep greens, and massive waterfalls everywhere. The houses that are built on these massive cliffs are amazing – we wondered how they get food, how they have contact with civilization, etc. (By the way, 98% of Norway’s electricity is actually powered by the several waterfalls they have!) A few views from out of the train here:
Our first stop was at Kjossfoss Waterfall, which was gorgeous. We got to get out of the train and take a look, and we saw this dancer high on the cliff (you can see her in one of the pictures) doing some lyrical-like dance. When we got back into the train, a local started telling us about her, and this was probably my favorite part of the day. It turns out she “is” a real-life, mysterious troll living in the mountainside of Kjossfoss Waterfall (trolls and gnomes are extremely popular in Norwegian legend). Her name is something that starts with an H, and she has a beautiful face and beautiful dancing that tends to lure men into her cave. However, she happens to have a tail (!), and when the men see her tail, their eyes change so that, if they ever see sunlight again, they will explode. Therefore, they are forced to stay inside the cave with her forever, and never return to civilization. Sounds like a crock, but this woman HONESTLY believed it. No joke! We heard several other examples of “legends” having to do with trolls, and the Norwegians expressed various degrees of belief, but this woman was serious!
Shortly after the Kjossfoss Waterfall, it started to rain and hail. We were on a train finished in the 1940s, and apparently it doesn’t drive well in rain, so we had to stop for a while until the worst of the storm passed.
Once we got to Voss, we walked to the Park Hotel (still in the rain!) for lunch. This was definitely the worst part of the day – we had probably 150 people on the tour, and we were ALL in the same room, using the same small buffet line, with about 3-4 waitstaff. It took at least an hour before we got seated with our food, and while the British raved about how good it was, we honestly just didn’t enjoy it that much (probably due to our mutual dislike of unidentifiable salami-looking meats). Oh well! In the hotel, we bought a gnome (!!!) and some Norwegian cough drops that did a great job. We wish we could have looked around Voss a bit more, as we think it would be a fun and interesting city, but lunch took too long and it was pouring, so … onto the bus we went.
The bus took us to a few more amazing stops, the first of which was Tvinde Waterfall. This was enormous, and so much fun to see! Apparently, if you drink water from the waterfall, you’ll stay young forever, but Kev wouldn’t let me try it Also of note, this waterfall (of ~600 feet) completely freezes in the winter, and several people try (with mixed success) to climb it each year! We took a video here and at a few other stops today, but I haven’t yet figured out how to upload videos, so that will be a treat for later.
After the Waterfall, we drove down Stalheimskleivane, the steepest road in Norway. The gradient was 18% the entire time, with really tight switchbacks, and in a huge passenger bus, this is a bit scary! However, the views were completely breathtaking, so it was worth it! Trust me, the pictures don’t show you how steep this was!
At the bottom of Stalheimskleivane, we drove to another fjord called Gudvangen Fjordtell, which was by far Kev’s favorite sight of the trip, and possibly mine as well. All we did here was look, but we could have sat there for days and days just staring – it was amazing! There is a small, rustic hotel at the bottom of the valley, and we set a goal to come back and stay there at some point in our lives.
The bus then took us back to the ship, at which point we relaxed a little while, changed, and went to dinner. We really enjoyed dinner tonight! I had beet carpaccio as an appetizer (amazing!) and Kev had shrimp with butter/ flour mixture, made into a cake (about as strange as it sounds!), then we both had French onion soup. I had salmon as an entrée and Kev had sirloin steak, and we finished with brownie and cream ice cream (Kev, with an awesome face) and lychee compote (me).
After dinner, we walked around the ship and took in some of the views as we were exiting the fjord, had a few drinks, and went to a comedy show, which was very British- and mature-crowd-centric. Half the time, we couldn’t understand the comic, and when we could understand him, we only thought he was funny about half of that time, so we ended up leaving halfway. All in all, it was an amazing day. Even though we really only sat on trains and buses all day, we’re both tired, so we’re heading to bed. Tomorrow we’ll be in Olden, another town in Norway, but we have no excursions planned, so we’ll see what happens! Hope you all are doing well and thanks for reading!