From Geiranger we sailed back South past the rugged Norwegian coast. Having still been deeply impressed by Nature´s beauty and absoluteness, Norwegian Star was heading for her next and already second last destination on this most amazing cruise: Flåm.
But first, it was time to salute this impeccable day at Geiranger during the evening cocktail reception down at Spinnaker Lounge with a lovely glass of Appletini. These events are always a great way to catch up chitchat with some of the people who you have met during the cruise, but they are also a nice opportunity to get to know some of the Senior Officers more personally. Like the Master of Norwegian Star, Captain Konstantinos Fafalios or Hotel Director Hugo Vanosmael.
Still being quite exhausted from the long and tiring day, the evening called for a quick dinner at the Buffet. I was actually so exhausted, that I took a platter of cheese and a little dessert with me to the cabin where I began to look through the photos that I was able to shoot during my hikes. But my eyes didn´t last for long. Half an hour later, I already was in dreamland…
The next morning came up with the most perfect weather. While it was still chilly outside at 7:00 am, the sky was flawless and deep blue with some dramatic clouds tickling the tops of the snow-capped mountains around Sognefjord.
Reason enough to take the camera along to my morning workout at the ship´s onboard gym. If the weather forecast on your trip is good for the day, it´s absolutely recommendable to set your alarm clock! The scenic cruise through the Sognefjord that finally merges into the Auerlandfjord (Flåm lies at its very end) is very, very enjoyable and romantic.
And since Norwegian Star is scheduled to reach Flåm not before 9:00 am, seven is actually a good time to take a walk on deck and breathe in the fresh Norwegian air while watching the Natural spectacle around.
The city itself is actually very, very small, if not tiny. During the peak season, roughly 450 people live here. The rest of the year it is not even half. So when it comes to sightseeing, the old church from 1667 and the Flåmsbana Museum are more or less the only places to visit inside town. So if you were planning to just spend the day in Flåm itself, think twice. There is a few shops around and you can also grab a bite , but after an hour or less, you might be done with sightseeing and walking around.
So right after I had left the ship, I stopped by the railway station to get myself a ticket for the ride on the world-famous Flåm Railway.
The railway is the steepest train line on normal tracks in the world. Over 80 percent of the route has a gradient of approximately 5,5 percent. In roughly one hour, you are being elevated from sea level to 867 metres in the mountains, crossing phenomenal valleys with waterfall cascades and steep cliffs. It was named one of the “Top 10 train journeys in Europe” by National Geographic Traveler Magazine and the “Best Train Ride in 2014” by Lonely Planet. And it surely was an experience (44 EUR return p.p. – June 2015). Try to get a seat on the right hand side in the direction of travel for the most stunning views of Nature. Around half way, there will be a scheduled stop at the impressive Kjos waterfall.
While most of my fellow passengers were paying attention to the short vocal and musical presentation that was given at Kjos, I tried to sneak through the crowd in order to get some photos of the gorgeous and powerful cascade itself.
After another 30 minutes, the train reached the mountain top station Myrdal. You would be surprised, how many hikers and trekkers actually get off here to spend the night or to wander around. It was cold and still snowy when we got there. And since I didn´t buy my tickets online in advance (you can purchase yours here), I was happy enough that I had been able to make this journey at all. So while some people disembarked for a little hike or a cup of coffee and some freshly made Norwegian waffles at the Vatnahalsen Mountain Hotel, I found myself descending the steep tracks back down to Flåm again. But the journey was well worth it.
Back in town, the power of the sun urged me to take off my windbreaker. It was still too early to go back on board, so I took a long and relaxing walk onto the other side of the fjord. Some people from the ship passed me on bikes. That looked like a lot of fun as well. For any information on the railway itself or just some inspiration on what to do while visiting Flåm, you might want to check out this site!
Even though it probably would have been exciting to hike up the mountains around for a little, I could not complain about today´s personal excursion at all. I had Nature, I had panoramic views, I had a ride in one of the oldest trains in the world and I had stunning views during my walk. Nothing left than to be completely satisfied!
It was still light when we left Flåm. And even though I had witnessed most of the area already this morning from the ship, I stood on deck for a long time to see the sun slowly disappearing behind the mighty mountains, diving the surroundings into a pastel and warm golden light, slowly fading away.
And while I had laid on one of the loungers on the Boat Deck for a while, all covered up in woolen blankets, the fresh breeze was sending shivers down my spine and told me that it was finally time to go back inside, grab a drink and conclude this outstanding day with a feeling of happiness.