On the road to Flåm

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August 21st 2016
Published: August 24th 2016
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Having escaped the drunkard, naked Mancunian at the hostel I am relieved to find the bus station pretty easily and soon a few of us board the extremely new, clean, high tech coach. As we drive through the suburbs of Oslo we see marina after marina packed with small motor boats and yachts. When we leave the city behind us we pass pristine lakes dotted with little islands, some with cute wooden houses on. The countryside is just rolling hills for a while but soon the land is reaching skywards until I'm having to crane my neck to see the tops. By the side of the road there are pine forests, but I'm loving more the understory packed with Christmas trees! By the sides of all the fjords just off the road are little wooden houses and shacks used as holiday homes. Everything seems so clean and fresh as if the air must be extremely cold outside but it's actually sunny and hot today so this is purely an illusion. I have to pay attention to the time and not fall asleep despite my lack of hours kip last night as there is a change of bus to negotiate. I hear some other passengers asking the driver about changing buses to Flåm so at least I'm not the only one. We pass through a pretty town called Ringerike with loads of colourfully painted wooden houses very reminiscent of the ones I saw in Iceland and New Zealand. Again there is water nearby and everything so clean. No sign of rubbish or graffiti.

We have a little break at the change over place in Fagernes, a pretty little town, again by the water. There's time for a little wander so I go down by the water's edge and find a white wooden bridge crossing over to a tiny Christmas tree island. There's nothing on the island bar trees and a bench plus some boat jetties.

We continue on through more and more spectacular scenery. At one stop we pick up some people and I spot this amazing church looking almost like a Chinese pagoda. I find out later it's Borgund Stave Church built around 1150!

We have another forty-five minute food stop and after looking at the obviously meat dominant menu I give up trying to find something vaguely edible and just ask the young waitress if they have anything vegetarian. She smiles and says 'This is Norway! But I'm sure our chef can put something together for you.'. I end up with herby potato wedges with melted cheese on top with a large mixed salad and chivey mayonnaise dressing. Not bad!

I waddle back to the coach and we set off again the mountains getting higher and higher the closer to Flam we get. But we are not on twisting mountain roads clinging to the side of heart in the mouth precipices oh no, no, no! Norwegians seem to be of the attitude if you can't go over it and you can't go around it then what the feck let's just tunnel straight through it! One such tunnel seems to never end. It must be miles long and I begin to wonder if I've boarded the bus to hell, my many sins catching up with me as we seemingly career deeper and deeper into the bowels of the earth, but eventually the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel appears and with relief I live to sin another day! I find out later that this is the Laerdal tunnel and it's an amazing 24.5 km long! Wowzer!

And so we finally pull into the very pretty Flåm and I spot my hostel as we're driving in. It also has a campsite but I'll be in a six bed mixed dorm. Let's hope there's no drunken Mancunians this time. I decide to investigate a pub recommendation after checking into the hostel so make my way back to the harbour area and the Viking pub. It's dark inside with loads of chunky wooden chairs and tables and a central, sunken circular seating area surrounding a fire. I find out this is a real ale pub with some of the beer brewed on the premises and some at a brewery in Flam village nearby. There are long thin trays with about six taster glasses of some of the beers on offer, but I plump for a cinnamon and orange flavoured wheat beer, very refreshing after a long day on the road. I take a few photos and even ask a couple of girls at a table near me if they mind me taking one of their table it's so unusual.

On my walk back to the hostel I see the big catarmaran ferry I'll be catching to Bergen in a couple of days time. I also see crowds of people queuing for the Flåm mountain railway I'll be taking the next day. I'm amazed to find there's a supermarket still open so get a few provisions - ouch expensive BUT not as much as if I were eating out which is just eye watering! When I get back to my dorm who turns up a little later but the same two girls from the Viking pub. They are Americans Cat and Tiffany and are actually quite entertaining and friendly. There's also a Korean guy and later another American couple but I didn't warm to them after I overheard her complaining about the filthy mattresses (which incidentally weren't!).

I struggle with the internet for a bit both in the kitchen and the dorm but have to give up in the end it's so intermittent. Just as well really, I need to catch up a bit on some sleep. Goodnight Flam. Tak fer de kafe see yer termorrer!

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