Oh dear. If running woefully behind on writing up my trips wasn’t bad enough, I’m now going to start writing about them entirely out of order. I suppose there’s no law against it, but still it feels wrong! Please, forgive me.
A couple of years back, I took a fabulous trip to Croatia with my pal Pascal. Turns out, we’re a great travelling duo. So this year we decided to embark on a new adventure together. We considered a number of options, but the idea we finally settled on was a rail trip across Norway and Sweden. So a couple of weeks ago we set off – for the dramatic west coast of Norway.
I have visited Norway before – my old job sent me on project in Ålesund for a few months, flying me back and forth each week. While I got a taste of what the country was like then, I always knew I would have to return one day to see it properly. Norway is of course world-famous for its stunning fjords, and plenty of incredible landscapes besides, so I was very excited to explore without having to get up at 7am to schmooze clients and work on data visualisations.
Our first stop was Norway’s second largest city, Bergen. It sits on the west coast of the country at a latitude equivalent to that of the Shetland Islands. So it’s pretty far up there. An important port city, it has a compact centre wedged between the water and steep hills. As well as some charming and colourful architecture to see, it is also just a stone’s throw from mountains, forests and lakes, which are all easily accessible on foot from the city. We therefore spent a lot of time in Bergen walking. Along the harbour, up the hills, down the city streets, and among the forests.
Bergen left a good impression on us. The streets were clean and pleasant, the walks were plentiful and scenic and overall we decided it was a lovely place to spend a couple of nights. The only negatives were the lack of nightlife (this would become a recurring issue on our trip) and how expensive everything was. I mean, seriously Norway, wtf. I didn’t enjoy paying around £9 for a beer, or £12 for a cheap meal (Burger King). However, Bergen was just about beautiful enough to make up for the high prices.
Our next leg of the journey took us north east to the village of Flåm, located at the end of the Aurlandsfjord. Despite its tiny population, Flåm plays host to hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, who arrive largely by cruise ship, or via the Flåm railway. The trainride from Bergen to Flåm was impossibly scenic – the railway hugged the side of numerous bodies of water, providing us with sensational views of the forests and mountain scenery. Please enjoy some of the blurry photos I took out of the window of the moving train 🙂
Flåm has pretty much everything you’d need for 2 nights in the mountains. Hotels, a smattering of restaurants, many shops selling waterproof coats, and a supermarket. We were keen to do some hiking while here – which we sort of achieved – although it wasn’t quite the intrepid adventure we had hoped for as the main trails just went along the roads. We did climb up to a waterfall overlooking the valley however which was pretty magnificent.
The highlight of our stay here however was undoubtedly the 2 hour ferry ride we took from Gudvangen up the Nærøyfjord (I’ve no idea how to pronounce it either) and back down the Aurlandsfjord to Flåm. Now perhaps due to experiencing many disappointments in my life, I was fully anticipating the weather to be crap for our trip in Norway. I mean, it’s not exactly famous for its sunshine and warmth is it – and we were here in mid-September. I was ready to make the best of it. But somehow, inexplicably, we were blessed with some of the most splendid weather imaginable. I was practically jumping for joy while on that ferry, as we got to experience all this stunningly gorgeous scenery with dazzling sunshine and clear blue skies. It was an absolute dream come true – just look at the pictures! It was absolutely magical.
Our visit to western Norway had been a delight (and we would find, the overall highlight of our trip). We only spent 4 days in total there, showing that visiting would easily be doable as a long weekend from the UK. The ferry ride on the fjords was easily one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had travelling and not one I will soon forget. Nevertheless, our stay here had to come to an end and it was time to move on to our next destination, Oslo.
But I think I shall save that for my next post.