Flam is for tourists, of that there is no doubt.
Anywhere that has a train that stops in a tunnel so you can get out, take pictures of a waterfall and be serenaded by some character dressed as a mythical legend with piped music has got to have tourism nailed right…….
But before the tourists, there were the locals, and you have to have some sympathy for them, because if I lived here, I would not want massive cruise ships coming up my Fjord.
Flam is for tourists
I wouldn’t want to be living here with this load of invaders; certainly Flam is for tourists, and it shouldn’t be!
Let’s start by leaving Bergen on a train…..
Actually, you feel pretty relaxed after a lovely local train trundle from Bergen up through Voss and climbing over the mountains to the railway station and junction of the regional mainline at Myrdal; unaware of the tourism honeytrap you are about to encounter.
Opened in 1908 this little station is where it all happens (at 866 metres above sea level). Looking back at our visit to the amazing Jungfrau railway in August 2013, makes me realise that this is really nothing compared to that 3,454m station – Transfer from the regional red train to the tourist green one – and off you go!
From here, the famous Flåm Railway winds its way down to the tourism mecca of the fjord below.
It’s hard not to get caught up in the tourist shots; ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ seems to be designed for the sort of traveller who wants to see the entire country in 24 hours while in a sprawling queue behind an iPad waving umbrella holding tour guide, helping them from ship to shore, to train to hotel to plane. Not for me thanks.
Norway in a Nutshell…..No thanks!
You see; it could be a nice place without the tourists. But with a major travel interchange big enough to welcome the QE2 and load them on a big train, then sadly the only way to enjoy the area is to get on a boat and out of town, up the Fjord.
Now we are getting somewhere!
taking a regular ferry up the fjord with a cup of coffee and your camera is the way to really take in the scene for a few hours; so after we packed up and stored our bags away, it was time for the highlight of the week so far – the fjord tour and cheese making…
We start off with a little bus through amazing tunnels to Gudvangen; this was only built 20 years ago and until then this part of the world was cut off by road and only accessible by boat!
From Gudvangen we jumped on to the 10.30 ferry/boat out up the Fjord and were soon sailing past Styvi and Dyrdal, getting to Undredal after an hour and a half; a very pleasant cruise.
We hopped of in Undredal and were met by a guide; a super local chap.
He took us on a tour of village and the highlight was a look inside the amazing church.
Undredal Stave Church (Norwegian: Undredal stavkyrkje) is a stave church in Aurland Municipality in Sogn og Fjordane county, on the shore of the Aurlandsfjorden.
The church is part of the Undredal parish in the Indre Sogn deanery in the Diocese of Bjørgvin.
The church is only 12 by 4 metres (39 by 13 ft) and has only 40 seats, making it the smallest stave church still in use in all of Scandinavia. The parish only includes one small, rather isolated valley, with only 116 parishioners, making it the second smallest parish in the Diocese of Bjørgvin.
Ostesmaking (cheese tasting and explanation) was all very good in the village, I can see why they were happy to be cut off until 1989 when the tunnel and road was built!
Soon it was time to be back on the bus to Flam. (Sadly) And after a look in the railway museum, pick up our bags, have a coffee and then get back on the Flam Express to connect for Oslo train later.
While waiting to board it was good to chat with some elderly American fellow travellers, on a three week Scandinavian mini tour they have also taken in St Petersburg (jealous now)!
The scenery on this late afternoon trip was superb from our reserved seats on the Myrdal -Oslo leg – a 4.5 hour spectacular over the mountains and down to our final destination.
Itmay not be Switzerland but i don’t think I have been on a more stunning (regular) train ride in such comfort at such altitude.
Even better, unlike Northern Rail, the hotel emailed a menu through and we ordered some snacks and beer for our 10.30pm Oslo arrival – now that is pretty cool!
All in all, a pretty good couple of days – despite the tourists!
Tip for next time – avoid at all costs and take to the hills!