"" Writer's Wanderings: The Flam Train Adventure, Norway

Thursday, May 18, 2023

The Flam Train Adventure, Norway

It was just before seven in the morning when our ship docked at the Flam Cruise Terminal. Flam is a small picturesque town at the very end of the Aurlandsfjord. There is only room for one ship to dock so a second ship had to tender their passengers to shore. 

We rose and scurried to the Lido Deck for breakfast. Normally we eat breakfast in the Main Dining Room but we didn't want to chance the service being slow since we had to be at the World Stage just before 9 to check in for our excursion--The Flamsbana (The Flam Railway). 

At our scheduled time we, along with 123 other passengers lined up and marched to the train station a little ways from the ship and boarded the train that was there. Our excursion group took up a couple of cars and I think the other ship's group were in another one or two cars.

Our hour long ride is said to be one of the most scenic train rides in the world. It is very highly rated in all the travel media. With snow still capping some of the mountains, and trees budding out for spring along with the sunshine that blessed our day, it truly lived up to its scenic reputation.

The train windows had obviously been cleaned for us so on our way up the mountain, it was easy enough to get pictures of waterfalls and small villages and farms if you were lucky enough to snap at the right time. If it wasn't a tree flying by in your picture, it was an unexpected tunnel. We all learned to snap quickly and take what we could get. Eventually, you just sit back and enjoy the ride.

On the way to our destination, the Vatnahalsen Hotell, we stopped by the Kjosfossen, a large waterfall. The train allowed "five minutes" for passengers who wished to get off the train onto a platform in order to take pictures of the stunning waterfall. It was a generous five minutes and not without some entertainment.

We had been told the story of the Huldra, a beautiful nymph that tries to lure men into the mountain forest with her song and dance. Our guide said the only problem was that she would have a cow's tail and would look for a Christian man to marry her. If he did marry, the cow's tail disappeared but unfortunately she would eat his soul and he would not enter heaven. 

A minute or two after our stop, a sweet mystical song began to play and a woman in red appeared at the edge of the falls about half way up and danced a bit. Research confirmed my suspicion that it was a college student. Apparently the girls that appear are dancers from the Norwegian Ballet School. 

Our arrival at the Vatnahalsen Hotell was about an hour after we had boarded. The hotel must be a popular place in the winter as there was all sorts of things to indicate skiing or snowmobiling. Even snow! A path had been cleared and salted from the train platform to the hotel porch and entrance. 

Inside the hotel was an eclectic mixture of furniture and decoration. There were a few levels of public rooms, one which was a small banquet room with tables set for us with coffee and a buffet of waffles with sour cream and jam. It was a tight squeeze with all of us but we had an enjoyable time with our tablemates.

There was an hour an a half before the train would return to take us back down to the town. When we'd had our fill of waffles, we decided to walk around a bit since we'd be sitting another hour on the train. Outside there was a bit of a chilly breeze now and again but the sun warmed you in between the gusts.

We didn't stray too far from the main area between the station and the hotel. There was probably about two feet of snow pack yet that was slowly melting. Inside the little station we found warmth and stayed there a bit until everyone started gathering. 

Frozen lake near hotel

We hoped to be one of the first on to get a good seat next to a window on the opposite side of our ride up the mountain. I guess we just don't push enough but our seats were good enough to see out and snap a picture or two. Mostly I told myself it was time to just observe and take it in. Too much picture taking spoils the experience.

After a late lunch (thank goodness for all those waffles to ward off starvation) we took some time to wander about. It was Constitution Day in Norway and there were several people we saw dressed in national costumes. 

Not a heated pool.

As we were passing through the security gate, the guard kept looking up and finally pointed. There were a dozen parachutes descending. We held our breath as they landed on a small beach next to a rocky cliff. Don't know how they managed that with those little gusts of wind.

Several food trucks and vendors were set up in the small square that is surrounded by a hotel and two stores and of course the train station. There is also a large ferry that docks near the station that must be a connection between the train service and other cities and towns in the area.

Flam schoolhouse

Of course the sail away just after we had dinner was spectacular. I love the Nowegian Fjords. They never disappoint. Bob managed front row seats in the Crows Nest (the inside observation deck) just after I had given up to go to our veranda and sit comfortably. I guess people finally decided they needed to eat. Bob and I stayed perched there with our feet up (giving my ankle a well-deserved rest) until he decided to go to listen to our favorite piano duo. I opted to stay. People had thinned out. It was peaceful. And the view was mesmerizing.

We are far enough north now that the sun sets between 9:30 and 10 depending upon how many mountains are around us. I waited it out to see if maybe there would be a great sunset.

 Maybe it wasn't  a sunset exactly but the clouds parted a few times and sent shafts of light shimmering on the water. I thought that was pretty spectacular sunset or not.

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