Wednesday 20 April 2011

Vikings, Vikings, Vikings...

The Sognefjord is the longest fjord in Norway and the second longest in the whole world, stretching 205 km into the Norwegian mountains. And undoubtedly it is one of the prettiest fjords you can imagine. Other than the comparably gentle Lysefjord (you still remember, do you? Seems a long time ago….), it raises about 1300m above the water level, featuring near vertical walls all along with gushing waterfalls aplenty. But the mighty forces of the ice were so much fiercer than "down South", and so we are travelling with up to 1000m of water below our keel. This is some cut in the landscape! Reaching Flåm at the end of the fjord gives us an idea what the area might be like in peak season: They are well prepared for mass tourism, huge parking lots for coaches, castle-sized souvenir shops and well honed logistics around the famous "Flåmbana". Which we are getting on in great numbers, of course - it is said to be one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. An old, rattling train screeches out of the station and immediately up into the mountains. On a distance of 20 km we climb nearly 900m, passing through 6 km of dark, musty tunnels, always flanking the inredible Flåm valley, sometimes looking far down on small farms or villages, roaring meltwater streams, or the occasional pasture, sporting a few horses here, some sheep there. 
Cross-country skiers are mounting the train on each stop, as we have reached snow level by now. Once arrived at Myrdalen, some carry on with the Oslo-Bergen express, while most of us have a short break in the lofty train station before we hop on the coach again to take the ride back to Flåm, the fjord and FRAM. 
And now we take fjord cruising to the next level, as we turn left into Nærøyfjorden, a side arm of the Sognefjord, the narrowest of all. Feels a bit like FRAM is sqeezed between the towering walls on both sides. Only very few houses are to be seen left and right, in this remote end of the world. But believe it or not, the deeper we scramble into the fjord, the better the connection to other places: Gudvangen, the village at the very deep end, sits at the entrance to the worlds longest tunnel that is carved incredible 24,5 km through the hard rocks that build up this giant geological trap. Apart from that, Gudvangen has quite a bit of Viking history to offer. Enough to bring out the Nordmann blood in the expedition team, which lead to inexplicable amusement among our guests. The final chord of the day is struck by our chef who serves a de-li-cious barbeque dinner, which we enjoy out on deck, under the waterfalls of Nærøyfjorden.