Riding the ferry along Sognefjord from Flåm to Bergen

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Europe » Norway » Western Norway » Flåm
August 23rd 2016
Published: September 19th 2016
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I get to harbour area a little too early to actually line up for the ferry so I treat myself to an ice-cream - surprisingly cheap for Norway - and go over to the picnic tables near the beach to have a read and relax in the lovely sunshine. How lucky am I to have had such great weather for this trip?

Soon it's time to head over to where my ferry is now waiting. There are only 12 people in the queue so far so I'm in luck and plonk myself in position number 13 - unlucky for some but not me as it means I'll be able to head up to the front of the boat for a prime spot. We have quite a long wait and more people start to arrive and join the queue. It gets VERY long and I'm really glad I came early. Eventually there is some movement on the boat from some of the staff and after quite some faffing about they eventually open up the barrier and start checking tickets and letting us on. I find somewhere to store my luggage and then rush up to the top deck at the front of the boat and claim my spot right in the middle. Perfect! The ferry is pretty big and is a catamaran style so will likely be pretty fast. After a long wait for all the passengers to get on board we set off on the dot of 3.30pm and head off out of Flåm past the massive cruise ship that's moored up taking the place of the one that was there the day before. It makes our large ferry look tiny in comparison. I'm glad of my fleece once we get going faster when we're out into the fjord proper as it's pretty chilly despite the sunshine.

The views along Sognefjord are spectacular - mountains all around and so close to us as we head through the fairly narrow fjord. Every bend we take gives us another beautiful view. We stop at various pick up points on our way and are able to watch the boat being skillfully maneuvered and the gang plank/jetty being put into place. The houses we see are really distinctive, mostly wooden, some with gorgeous carved verandas and balconies and some painted in lovely bright colours; reds, oranges and yellows. One of the most picturesque communities is that of Balestrand with its dramatic mountain backdrop. There is a gorgeous and very huge hotel taking pride of place called Kvikne's Hotel which I'm guessing costs quite a bit more to stay at than my little hostel dorm rooms! I've since found out that this hotel was built in the 19th century but is most famous for being where Kaiser Willhelm II was staying when he was informed of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand which set of a chain reaction of events leading to the start of World War 1. The chair he was sitting in is still in the hotel, so says the hotel's promotional literature anyway. I'm guessing there's also a toilet that he sat on too, but funnily enough they don't think to mention that! As we're leaving Balestrand I notice a gorgeous looking church, ornate and made from wood. It's in what I think of as viking style but is actually known as a 'stave' church. This one's called St Olaf's Church and isn't actually that old having been built in 1897. It still looks really pretty though.

We pull into another beautifully positioned town called Vik, again surround by a beautiful backdrop of overlapping mountains. The buildings are really colourful and pretty; no high rise here. We drop off quite a few people here and pick up some more who will be coming with us all the way to Bergen.

I forgot to mention that I'm no longer positioned at the front of the boat. It got way too cold and windy and apart from one hardy young lady who stayed there the whole time (I kept popping back for a bit of a blast and some photos without the wake of the boat in the water and saw her there every time!) most people have decamped to the rear of the boat and so watch where we'd been rather than where we are heading TO. There is much taking of selfies with the Norwegian flag that's fluttering from the stern of the boat. People take it in turns to have a go with the flag. I've got so adapt at taking a selfie with my little camera (I can't see what I'm taking as it doesn't have this option) that I get mine sorted at my first attempt. I then use other passengers in my photos to provide some focus and scale to the great scenery we're enjoying.

I spend much of my time with a massive grin on my face. This trip is truly awesome. What a way to see Norway in all its glory. I can't recommend it enough. As time passes we get to a much wider part of the fjord and as the sun is now starting to go down the light is just so beautiful making a stunning water colour wash painting draped across the sky. All too soon we enter the narrower section of the fjord that leads to the city of Bergen. It feels like we're going so much faster, but it's just the close proximity to the land on each side making it feel this way. At one point we get an intercom announcement saying we will have to slow down for the next section due to speed restrictions in this area, but to be honest it's hard to tell the difference. It makes me smile thinking of our 5mph speed limits in the Broads National Park where I work. It would probably take about 2 weeks to get to Bergen if this were the Broads!

And so we eventually pull into the bustling harbour city of Bergen. After disembarking I pass the fish market that I'd heard about and also see some market stall/eateries. It's all a bit too fishy stinky for this vegetarian so I head off to find my hostel for the night. I'm staying at the YMCA - allegedly 'it's fun to stay at the YMCA' so I'll have to let you know how I get on!

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