Getting to Flåm

The road to Flåm from Gudvangen has opportunities for deep sleep. The kind of sleep that is delicious, because like all forbidden things that carry the tag of deep delight, it is not a good idea to nod off behind the wheel and in the middle of a tunnel. For one, you stand the risk of disappearing into another realm – akin to the road safety warnings that pop up all over the Norwegian country. Of a girl fading away. That road sign gave me the heebie-jeebies. You shall spot it in the roll-call of photos below.

There is also the unappetising thought that there would no possibility of a picture-perfect village tucked into a valley encircled by steep mountains, no ooh-ing and aah-ing at thundering waterfalls in close quarters and trying to catch a reflection of the self in the emerald waters of the fjord. Instead there would be a foray into the vast unknown.

The purpose of the extensive prattle is to lay it thick that tunnels in the Norwegian country can and will call upon your patience. We had passed a fair line-up of tunnels starting from Norheimsund that morning. The fatigue was setting in fast as we had woken up at a ghastly hour, when only lost souls and drunks roam the streets of Northampton, to make the journey to Heathrow. As much as it was bang for your buck to take these early-morning flights into Europe, it also meant that we were sleep-starved zombies walking around in a kind of stupor on the first day of all our trips.

The Gudvangen Tunnel stretched out for 7.1 miles, and despite a weakness of finding childlike joy in every little thing that life throws my way, which includes tunnels lit up in psychedelic colours, I wanted to scream with frustration. You see, we had to take the tunnel twice over. Now the tunnels lead into each other in quick succession often, cutting through hills, and there is no space for error while driving on these roads. Part of the fault lay in the fact that we could not identify Gudvangen and kept wondering if we had missed it along the way.

By the time we got to Flåm (pronounced ‘Flaam’, where ‘aa’ is enunciated as in London), we were two wilted humans. It was the sight of the man and the woman sitting on the bench by the fjord with their cups of coffee that made us sit up. The pretty yellow cottages with their red roofs beckoned to us. Somewhere inside one of those cottages life-affirming coffee awaited us. And a bite to eat possibly. The deal with eating in Norway is that your heart shall be in your mouth. I know I repeat myself if you have read one of my earlier posts. But a medium-small pizza marked up at £25 (roughly 270 NOK) is enough to send anyone’s blood pressure rocketing up. But what needs be must be.

Flåm by itself is an unassuming village made up of a small bridge, a handful of eateries and a public toilet, all of which stand at the end of an arm of the second-longest fjord in the world, the Sognefjord. But the most important thing that you need to know is that it is a gateway to a world of unparalleled beauty.

First on the list is the Flåm Railway. It has been touted to be one of the world’s best train journeys. It spans 12 miles cutting through mountain tops while offering you spectacular views of fjords, ravines, waterfalls and mountain farms. The whole gamut. We could not take it. It is on my mind that we shall return to Flåm, take the Flåm railway into the mountains and hike to Trolltunga.

The second possibility for all you lovers of hiking is to go up into the mountains and explore Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord, known to be the world’s narrowest fjord. Imagine standing on the cliffs and peering down into the glassy waters of the fjords. It is bliss. I can vouch for that. If there is one hike you want to do in Norway, however, make your way to Pulpit Rock. You shall remember it forever, as long as you live.

Bikers have the option of setting off on the Rallarvegen, an old works road that runs along the Bergen and Flåm Railway. It is called The Navvies’ Road because it was the construction road used to build the Bergen railway tracks. Bicycles are available for rent at Haugastøl, Finse and Flåm and accommodations too. You would possibly want the option of resting tired muscles out on a 50-mile long route. Just keep in mind that the season is between July to September.

It is only when you find yourself in a certain situation that you appreciate words that have been spoken by another person in another age. You identify with a complete stranger. Flåm put me in mind of Lord Byron. For he had observed: “There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more. Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. Nature always wears the colours of the spirit.”

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Norwegian countryside 
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Cautionary signs
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Driving on the roads of Norway. Everyone drives in a sane, well-ordered manner, but once the clock strikes six, something comes over the Norwegians. They speed up and transform into Grand Prix drivers. A Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kinda situation crops up. Go figure.
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Reed-thin waterfalls stream their way down the mountains 
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Flåm
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The lovely cottages in Flåm
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By the fjords in Flåm
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Exiting Flåm
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Quaint mountain cottages
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Toodles, till the next tale from Norway.

 

Published by

Arundhati Basu

The great affair in my life is to travel. I count myself immensely fortunate that my partner shares this passion. We are a team that likes to spend time planning and plotting out places to go. Destination check, flights check, accommodation check, cheesy grins check. Off we go.

73 thoughts on “Getting to Flåm

  1. You had me laughing out loud, Dippy! 😀 I’ll watch the behaviour of the Norwegian drivers around 6. Are they stark raving hungry mad?? 😉 Wonderful photos once again, thanks for sharing! x

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    1. Stark raving hungry mad. You nailed it. I am positive that a button is pressed somewhere 😉 After 6. It was mystifying. You are Norwegian too so you could shed light on it for this ignoramus xx

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    1. Mary, thank you 🙂 That makes the heart smile. Do you think it can smile? I wonder why I say that often. I have been working on one and it is a slow process mingled with self-doubt and criticism. I do not know if it will see the light of day though xx

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    1. Hey Abby, isn’t it? But that sign is effective. It makes you think of the thin line which divides this world and the unknown one. It is gorgeous – this part of the world – and I hope that you get to go there one day xx

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  2. There are some long tunnels driving through the mountains in Japan too. They can be quite nerve-wracking, can’t they? The road sign of the creepy girl doesn’t help. The destination is very pretty though.

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    1. And you should Miriam. These scenes are worth the effort. I am so sorry that your comment landed in my spam folder! I find it annoying that it does so and I check it so irregularly. I have to remember to keep going daily now it seems :-/

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      1. It’s perfectly fine. Now you remind me to check my spam folder. One time I didn’t check for a whole week and got 12 pending and a couple dozen spam. I hopped over just now, I have 7 in spam!

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    1. Hello Lorelle, thank you for dropping by and leaving this lovely comment. The after-6 drivers! Ah maybe you can explore that mystery and let me know your take on it someday 😉

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  3. Last night HB2 and I sat wondering about whether we will travel much when he retires. He has travelled SO extensively in his life and I have done a little but mostly living in places rather than visiting as a tourist. And we concluded that there are a few places that we must go and Norway was top of the list (along with Iceland) … and then there you are with another beautiful post. And having lived in France and Italy and Boston I will be interested to see where the drivers sit on the madness Richter scale. Xx

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    1. Madness Richter Scale. I believe you have just coined a term. Is HB2 a code name for your husband? 🙂 I know what you mean because most places I have visited is thanks to Adi’s work. It allowed us to stay and live like locals in a few countries. At times it was annoying because the comforts of home were still a flight away and I hate eating food outside all the time. Right now I cannot wait to be in my own kitchen in a few days. I digress as usual but the travels we did on our own were better because Adi too got a chance to see places with me. And by seeing, I mean really exploring the nooks and crannies of a place. Like the Scandinavian ones. We are yet to go to Iceland and it is high on our list too. Norway is one of my soul countries. The way of living is just so easy to relate to. Do you have a soul country? xx

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      1. HB2 is indeed my husband. I call him The Husband with Two Brains and HB2 is my Chemical formula for that 😉 You have exactly the same attitude as me to being in a country and I absolutely relate to your need to be in your own kitchen … what a celebration that will be in a few days! As to my soul countries … France and Italy with out hesitation. I lived in Rome for a spell when I was in my twenties and absolutely loved it. Fortunately I love France just as much since that has always been the place my husband wanted to return to (he lived here for 9 years throughout the 1980s) when he retires. I enjoyed New England very much and I think I could make Vermont my home but in general it didn’t strike that deep chord of content and just fitting as soul countries (I love this expression) do xx

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      2. Thanks Osyth, I love the idea of soul countries just because I cannot envisage living in every country and making it my own. England was easy to fall for and I can foresee France and Italy fitting in easily too. To live in Rome in your 20s. Ah the romance of that! You have ‘lived’ it up then 🙂 I am happy you are in indeed in your soul country right now. Makes life a rum prospect.

        HB2 sounds ‘two brainy’ indeed. I would quail opening my mouth – and revealing the floppy bits that stick out of my poor little one – in front of him.

        Here’s to creating that deep chord of content with a cuppa tea xx

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  4. Heyyyyy did u go off to another holiday after cornwall? Aaaarghhhhh…I am bursting with jealousy! Such a paradise man! Seems to be just my kind of a trip. Stunning pics and wonderful post as usual! xx ( I am mad jealous, mind u lol)

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    1. Hey Mallika, this post is part of a backlog of my various trips. The Norwegian trip was in August last year. After Cornwall, we could fit in just one Yorkshire holiday which I am yet to post about. Haha thanks but you are in loverly Ireland which is full of gorgeous possibilities and just a hop, skip and jump away from any lovely European destination 😉

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      1. I see!? well, it looks stunning! I forwarded the link to hubby and put this place on our bucket list! When we lived in the UK, we traveled and explored sooo muchh! Sadly, in Ireland weather is even more unpredictable than uk so last year, hardly any short breaks. Rain is a huge factor! No big holiday either as we wanted to travel to India. Now that summer is here, looking frwd to exploring Ireland more and maybe a nice holiday abroad in august-sep! This post makes me want to put on travelling boots so bad! ? x

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      2. That is a noble thought. If you want to put on those boots, surely they are waiting to be put on, Mallika. Once you start seeing the stunning landscapes around Ireland, your summer will surely look up. Here’s to planning and plotting till then. The process is half the fun 🙂 xx

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  5. Brilliant photos! But I have to admit, your description of the pre-dawn trips to airports (and train stations) to take advantage of reduced fares brought back memories. Still a bit groggy from a trip to Transylvania several months ago that began with a midnight boarding of a cramped train car. Your train travel was obviously more picturesque than ours…
    Thanks for sharing this gorgeous getaway with us!

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    1. Thank you Gabe. Transylvania and midnight train trips…why it sounds full of delicious possibilities. We did not get to board a train – which is why I do have it on our list of future Norwegian trips.

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      1. wow-guess I AM still groggy;) I missed that you weren’t able to take the 12 mile train ride on this trip… I’m almost as embarrassed by my oversight as I am excited to read about your next trip when these images get added to the collection.

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  6. Always a dream of mine to visit the Fjords! Perhaps one day. Gorgeous photos! Are the waterways really that green? Amazing color – looks like melted emeralds. Thanks for sharing – Sigh! – Neek

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  7. […] first day of our Norwegian vacation was about sparkling blue skies adorned by billowing clouds. As a […]

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      1. Amen! Driving is essential there, I believe. I am going to polish up my skills soon so that I can help my husband on those roads though I do not know how eager he would be -to allow being driven into a fjord 🙂

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    1. Hey Nisha, thanks! I will look this up. Might take some time because I am still travelling 🙂 xx

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  8. I think you and I would have been in Norway roughly at the same time. Summer 2016 and in the same areas! Funny coincidence that I only found this post now that I am looking at your older Norwegian posts. How come you couldn’t take the railway down to Flåm after you went to the top? I took that train in 2004 and it was so crowded I opted to stand in the vestibule so I could get to a window to see the view. These photos make me swoon. And well done getting to Pulpit rock. I am past the point of being able to manage that climb now.

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    1. I am so delighted that you brought them back to my attention. I am going to read them all over again and time travel for a while. It was one of my favourite travels. What a coincidence that we were wandering around the same area!

      I wonder if we passed each other like sailing ships, never realising it.

      We did not take the train because we were out terribly late. Also, we were knackered. We were on one of those ghastly early morning flights to Norway from the UK. The day had stretched itself too long – like elastic.

      Trolltunga is still on my list as is the train.

      Thank you Amanda, the photos make me wistful. As for Pulpit Rock, it remains just the most wonderful dream. Funny, it was just the other day it seems. Time likes to travel way too fast! xx

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      1. It feels like a few months ago that I was wandering around Norway. I have a Danish friend whose very fit and agile 19 year old son did the Trolltunga trek with his strong mate. They made it – over 8 hours it took them and they mentioned it was the hardest thing they had ever done! I hope they had time to enjoy it for a while before heading back!?

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      2. I am green with envy at this lithe young boy hopping up to Trolltunga. I am sure he jumped at the end of the troll’s tongue – which I might not have the heart to try.

        I cannot wait to do this hike. Diffcult climbs get me going. I was most upset and moaned a fair bit when our plans fell foul of the weather.

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      3. Exhausted — I would say! The weather is unpredictable but I like the spirit of the Norwegians when they say you dress for it. We were almost going to cancel our trip to Stavanger. But the woman at the hotel reception changed our minds. And I am glad
        we did. xx

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