Have you ever thought of retiring peacefully to some small corner of your country but was always torn between a place near the mountain or the sea side? Welcome to Flam, located right on the mouth of a fjord, this small town has both towering mountains and a sea front.
I fell in love with the hostel the moment I saw it, the accommodation rated up there with my accommodation in Saariselkä, Lapland (Finland). Mountains on the back, a river and the sea on the front, a beautiful garden, a small outdoor café, and lot of benches to eat outside – life couldn’t be more idyllic.
Don’t take my words, take a look at the pictures here and decide for yourself. But here is the catch, the hostel is open only in the March to October season. The hostel is a popular destination among campers too, and I saw lot of RVs parked around.
After I did my laundry (ha ha, I know), I fixed myself a sandwich from the grocery I had brought in a supermarket in Bergen. I came to understand how even a bland sandwich could taste so much better when you are in such a stunning surrounding.
The whole day was spent doing nothing, I checked out the rail museum (free entry) and went to the small supermarket. I can’t possibly miss the visit to a supermarket, it’s an excellent opportunity to try out some local food without burning a hole in your pocket and there is always a possibility to catch up with locals. The cashier at the store was a young woman from Spain; fact is most of the people who worked in temp tourist jobs are foreigners.
Later in the day, I rented a bike from the hostel and paddled up the mountain alongside a beautiful meandering river. The road goes parallel to the train line and one can cycle upto the waterfall viewing platform without much sweat.
I liked the place so much that I decided to stay atleast two more nights, which unfortunately meant I had to strike off my time from Oslo. Over the course of the next three days, I went to a short cruise on the fjord, Borgund Stave church and Ulvik via Voss.
And yeah I almost forgot I also took the famous Flam-Myrdal train. In all honesty the train ride, though adventurous, failed to impress me. The stats are fascinating though, in 20 odd km Flamsbana, a regular gauge railway, covers an attitude difference of 865 meters! The train stops in between at a waterfall for just enough time for you to click some pictures. As of 2016, the ticket costs NOK 440 return and 340 NOK one way. You can book in advance online on nsb.no or can simply buy the ticket from the Flam station. For updated timetable check here.
I took the Nærøyfjord cruise, a quintessential Norwegian fjord experience. Nærøyfjord with a narrowest section of only 250m is UNESCO World heritage listed site which stretches for 20km from Flam to Gudvangen. On the either side are the steep snowcapped mountains and in the summer you’d see waterfalls everywhere. I wondered how people lived in villages like Undreal seemingly cut off from the world. But then again it’s a proof we don’t necessarily need to complicate our lives and one can lead a simple but happy life.
There are myriads of packages you can choose from. As always I picked the most economical one.
Borgund stave church: An old stave church dating back to 12th century located in Borgund. Getting there could be quite tricky as the public transport is very limited. In all honesty, the church itself is nothing special but it’s the journey which makes the effort worthwhile. Still, if I had to choose again I’d rather go on a hike or on a mountain bike ride around Flam.
To get here, from Flam take the bus going to Lærdal which passes through the famous Lærdal tunnel (24.km! world’s longest). From Lærdal you need to get on another bus which you have to deboard somewhere on the E16 highway. From the drop point you need to walk on a flat road (630) for about 45 minutes or so to reach the church. The whole area is extremely beautiful; you’d see several farms around with sheep grazing idly. Those little bastards went crazy when I went near the fence, couple of them tried so hard to get under the fence over to me. But then the watch dog came running, barking at me, I had to leave. So, long my friends.
The church has a small entry free to get inside; there is a visitor center nearby with a very tiny museum that houses an impressive prehistoric collection of artefacts from the Viking age. I really liked the comb made out of bones with fine engravings.
Ulvik: Ulvik is a town located on the Hardengerfjord and is known for its fruit orchards, the best time to see them in full swing is May. The Hardengerfjord stretches from Ulvik to Norheimsund and is a part of popular cruise packages. On my final day, I took the bus to Voss and then to Ulvik from there.
I had booked the night train from Voss to Oslo, saving me a day and accommodation for one night. When you are in Norway, every penny counts!