Friday, October 16, 2015
Europe 2015 - Cruising into Flam Norway
Another night of gliding through the Norway fjords brought us to village of Flam located at the end of the scenic Aurlandsfjorden, which in turn is a tributary of the Sognefjorden. This would be the smallest population centre we would visit on the cruise but it by no means was less spectacular than our other ports of call.
Vivid green grass and rushing waterfalls hinted that Winter wasn't too long gone from these parts. And as we would see later in the day, that Winter was still hanging around not far from town..
The highlight of the visit to Flam is to catch a ride on the portion of the Flamm railway that runs from the port of Flam 12 miles up into the mountains to a small rail stop that connects the railway onto other parts of Norway. This portion of the railway is one of the steepest in the world, at a rate of 1 in 18.
Here's good tip for those pondering this train ride.....the train does not just go to Myrdal station and then come back, at least not per se.
As this is a working national railway, people can buy a ticket to Myrdal and beyond by transferring trains at Myrdal and continuing. Be aware.....you can buy a ticket up to Myrdal, but as there are people coming towards Flam the other way, you may not be able to catch a return train as the coaches may be sold out. Here's the trick....once you get of your boat "run" to the train station in town (a couple of minutes from the boat) and get in line first to book your round trip tickets.
We weren't that experienced yet, so we stood in a long line up and had to book tickets for later in the day. All good, except we had to "kill" time for a few hours.
Click on the pictures to see them full size......you'll marvel at the beauty
We opted to catch the tourist tram that went around the village and puttered up the beginnings of the mountain valley to older areas of the village.This let us A) keep out of the rain for a while, and B) get a slow closeup view of parts of the village we might not have seen.
The quaintness of the older sections of the area were enhanced by the dreary day, the greens and browns some how more vivid to the eye. This was the side of Norway we wanted to see....strong and vital life set against a backdrop of soaring mountains and wild rivers.
After touring the village by the "pretend" train, we sauntered over to the old railway station which was now the Flam Train Museum housing all sorts and manner of transportation, mostly revolving around train life. The museum also hosted many "live" exhibits telling the story of the making of the Flam railway.
Most people had a summer and winter ride....one with wheels for the summer and one with slide rails for the winter. In the mountains of Norway they have real winters folks, not just a couple of snow flakes now and then.
If you were lucky you could hitch a ride on the motorcycles converted into sled cars.
It was almost embarrassing to look across the inlet to know how we had arrived, all the while complaining about the rain. We are surely spoiled compared to even just a generation ago.
ALL ABOARD ! We're on our way !!
Small settlements took advantage of level land where it could be found in the mountain valley. Each new bend in the tracks brought either a new vista or a new settlement, or both.
Low laying clouds weren't actually that low, were were just climbing that high that quickly. Wouldn't be surprised if we seen snow....locals said there was still a bit of snow at the top.
One track up, once track down, and only one place on the mountain with enough space to make a "passing" zone for the oncoming train.
And right on queue, here are the remnants of the previous winter hanging tough into May. The road in the picture was the old road used while the railway was being built. Now that's a crazy drive.
Scenic stop both on the way up and on the way down is this rugged mountain waterfall fueled by the melting snow. And yes it was cold up here compared to down in Flam.....bring your big coats.
Pretty well all the train riders took advantage of the the scenic viewpoint to snap pictures and wonder about the hard life living high in the mountains isolated in a place like this.
Enhancing the experience is a Forest Spirit that comes alive and runs about the ruins while it sings its siren song to attract weak men under its spell. Might have worked on me if there was indoor plumbing at that place!
Our coach stopped in one of the tunnels along the line when the train stopped at the waterfall...it was a bit different walking along a train tunnel as, since we were kids, we were warned to "stay out of tunnels"!
Continuing on and nearly at the top we go past an alpine hotel..and do you see how much snow is still here! There is 3 feet still on the ground - can you imagine how much there was during winter?
End of the line - it's the small train station located at Myrdahl.The train waits for 10 minutes, then reverses and heads back down to water's edge at Flam. We had just gotten back on the train a few minutes earlier after stopping at the waterfall....many parts of our bodies were still cold so most opted to stay on board and just enjoy the view before we started back down the tracks to Flam.
This was definitely a highlight...beautiful mountain vistas, a touch of winter to augment the vivid greens, and a ethereal fog to lend a bit of mystery for our trip both up and down the mountain.
The full set of pictures from Flam may bee seen here on my Flickr site...go see them, the area is beautiful
Back on the ship we scurried to our cabins to warm up and we were all delighted to see yet another creature waiting for us. Wasn't too hard to see why the dinosaurs went extinct....they couldn't handle the Norwegian winters.
Only one day left on our cruise and the big town of Bergen awaits us....next stop Bergen, an outpost of the Hanseatic League from the 1340s.
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