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Published: September 18th 2019
Our group was leaving for the train station at 11am. The train was leaving at 12:03pm and the station was only a couple of blocks from the hotel. We had walked over to the station the previous evening on our way home from the bar and familiarized ourselves with the layout and food options. We still wanted to try and fit one more museum in before we left Oslo so we told our guides that if we were not in the lobby at 11am, we'd meet them at the train station.
We got up early to make sure we were packed and ready. Hotel checkout wasn't until noon so we left our bags in the room and timed our walk to the Nobel Prize Center so we would know precisely how long we could take. The Center didn't open until 10am and we were waiting when they unlocked the doors.
One of our fellow travelers had visited the day before and gave us the low down on the layout. As the docent scanned our Oslo passes, I asked for directions to the room with all of the winners as we were pressed for time. He stepped around the counter and said, "Come with me." We followed him through the center as he explained to us the various exhibits and the importance of certain people.
There was an enormous display on climate change and another on sexual assault/trafficking and war. He led us to a very dark room where tiny lights were illuminating the ends of "sticks" and every 4th or 5th stick had an ipad attached. Each of these ipads would light up if you were near it and highlight a Nobel Prize winner.
They were not in chronological order which I think is brillant because it really led us to see many people that weren't familiar to us. He took us to one ipad in particular with a woman on it named, Bertha von Suttner. She was the 1st woman to win in 1905 and the entire reason we have the Nobel Peace Prize. Alfred Nobel had fallen in love with her but her heart belonged to someone else.
At this point, before he left us, the docent told us not to miss "the book" in the next room which detailed the life of Alfred Nobel. We thanked him for his time and our little private tour and he left us to wander through the room.
It was really neat to have the room to ourselves for a while as the other visitors still had to go through the other exhibits before they got to us. Many familiar names and faces appeared on those ipads. Some I hadn't heard in years and others I had forgotten had won. Some were an interesting read because I had never heard of them and the number of times that organizations had won instead of a particular person was surprising.
Our time was running short so we ducked into the next room to learn about Alfred Nobel. There was a really cool book that was interective and each page detailed a bit of his life and how he earned his fortune which he later turned into the cash awards for the prize winners in 5 categories. Incredibly interesting and eye opening.
We hightailed it back to the hotel and still managed to grab our bags and meet everyone downstairs at the appointed time. Whew! Time to head to the train station!
Once there, some people, including us, headed off to grab some food for the train. Mom and I each grab a sandwich, water and a little something sweet for dessert. It doesn't matter where on Earth we are, if we don't like the food, we'll be fine as long as there's a bakery around!
Transportation in Scandinavia is very punctual and at precisely 12:03pm we were pulling out of the station on our way to Myrdal and Flam. The trip would be a few hours so there was nothing to do but sit back, relax and enjoy the journey. The train would stop every so often to drop off or pick up passengers but the time seemed to go rather quickly.
Before long we were pulling into Myrdal (which is on top of a mountain) where the precipitation was not quite snow but more solid than rain. This is where we were to disembark and change trains. The Flamsbana Railway is listed as one of the world's top trips by train. We were hopeful for good scenery even though the weather was less than ideal. September is not peak tourist season and this meant the train was not full. In fact, our car only had about 20 people on it.
We all stationed ourselves by the windows on either side as we have been assured both sides would have good views. The precipitation continued and the clouds were rather low but it didn't take away from the beautiful valley with waterfalls that opened up on the left side. There were 8 winows in the car that opened and everyone pushed them down so we could get pictures without rainspots. Unlike previous picture opportunities, no one hogged all of the window space. Great pictures for everyone! It takes an hour to get to the bottom of the fjord valley and along the way, we saw more than 100 waterfalls, rushing rivers, tiny villages, sheep and hay rolled up and wrapped with white plastic. One of the people said, "There's another marshmallow farm!" Ha!
Arriving in Flam (the small village at the end of the fjord. Population 400), we got off the train and walked about a football field and a half to our hotel. It's a beautiful building featuring a 4 story glass front reception area with an observation deck two more stories above that!
We had about 30 minutes before our dinner reservation and we settled into our room which looked out to the fjord. I could sit on the bed and see waterfalls coming down the mountain. The other discovery was the heated bathroom floor which came in very handy when drying out wet clothes and shoes!
The dinner buffet was a seafood lovers paradise. Salmon three ways, trout, mackerel, shrimp, mussels, crab claws and roast beef of whale. Yep, that's what I said. I had to move away. There was also cured meats, lamb and goat and pork neck. Salads, potatoes and breads rounded out the selection.
The next morning the weather was the same, rain and wind. Now, as I said before, nothing is going to ruin this trip. We were supposed to ride the train back up halfway and walk a path back down but instead we decided to walk along the fjord and see it from the other side. It was uneventful but we did get some great pictures of the little harbor and hotel.
The afternoon was reserved for our fjord safari cruise and it was leaving rain or shine. We had to arrive 30 minutes early to get geared up. It started with what looked like a snowmobile suit but designed to keep you warm both from wind and the water should you happen to be thrown out of the boat.
Next, a hat and googles, boots that you could put your whole shoe in, and gloves with liners. Now, you know that I'm short and most of you have seen my tiny hands and feet. Throw in that oversized thermal suit and a pair of googles. Yep, looking pretty good. Attractive to eskimos and polar bears.
After we got dressed and the 15 of us piled into the boat, Erik the Red, gave us our safety instructions, told us they'd never had anyone go in the water and assured us that his 3 years of experience was adequate to captain our boat. We were off!!
A few minutes later which I'm certain Erik was testing the nerves, resolve and balance of his passengers, I'd been sprayed at least 4 times tasting salt water, screamed a time or two and thought I would lose my seat. We were flying across the fjord in the zodiac, back and forth to see each waterfall, cutting across the wakes of bigger boats. It was exhilarating!
The fjords don't produce big waves. There isn't enough open space so you might get some rolling waves from another boat but for the most part a light chop is as bad as it gets. Once we were out of the cove at the end of the fjord, the water really calmed down and we sat back to enjoy the ride.
Erik would stop every now and then to impart a little knowledge, some history or point out something he'd seen. He told us that some of the waterfalls hadn't been this string since the snowmelt in the spring.
There was our silver lining. Strong rushing waterfalls, more than you could count on this rainy day. We were lucky. Most people don't get to see the power of the falls nor the number of falls. Many only show themselves when it rains.
As we rounded the tip of the Aurlandsfjorden and were about to turn into the Nærøyfjorden, I saw a large bird take flight low near the water. I pointed it out to Mom and together we watched it as we kept up with it in the boat. Suddenly, another swooped in from just behind us. I looked up to see it fly by noticing a white tail but the head was brown. It looked like an immature Bald Eagle except Europe is not in their range. As we watched the two magnificent birds fly and circle in front of us, Erik told us they were White Tailed Eagles and they are not normally seen. They come down to feed and then head back up higher on the mountain sides. The rain and low clouds must be the reason they were down at this level. Again, so fortunate!
Just as we sat there, watching the eagles, Erik pointed out a porpoise or two slowly making it's way across the fjord. We watched for another few minutes before we continued up the Nærøyfjorden. I told Mom that it's hard to describe what the fjords are like. We just don't have anything comparable. The scale is immense. You don't even realize how tall the mountains are until you see a house halfway up that is so tiny you don't even see it until someone points it out. When I took pictures, I tried to make sure something else was in the picture to give it scale.
We came to the end of the fjord and turned around to head back but not before Erik aimed the zodiac at a waterfall and pointed us into it 3 times, showering us from the force of the water. Those of us in the front of the boat were definitely soaked. (Later, when we got back to the room Mom had a huge U-shaped wet spot where the water had gone right down the front of the thermal suit!)
The ride back was ridiculously bumpy as Erik ran that boat wide open across the chop. We had run over the normal ride time and he wasn't wasting time getting us back. It was a wonderful way to spend a rainy day. Special and memorable. When you can't even keep track of the waterfalls, you know you've had a great day!
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