Today was our day to start the attack on Norway’s spectacular Fjord country. We left the hotel in chilly overcast with a spitting rain. Had our luck run out? No telling about the weather here since it rains somewhere over 250 days a year!
We made our first rest stop at this spectacular rest stop, getting pretty damp – but couldn’t miss the photo op. The entrepreneur who set up this spot put in a huge rest stop knowing full well how many fjorders would pay to see it. Going one step further…
…he put in a pay toilet for about $1.50 a person, with the ability to take your credit card. Smart guy.
He also has a sod-roofed out-building, typical of the area to keep you taking photos, and hopefully drinking and needing to use the toilet again I guess. The small islands going north of Bergen have extensive oil drilling areas.
As we drive along you can see small salmon farms. Fish do make their way up the fjords, but because of the geography where the sea meets the fjord not enough oxygen enters the fjord to support many fish.
Still spitting and cool we continue through the heart of Norway’s fjord region until we get to the ferry taking us the rest of the way to Voss.
It’s probably one of the most beautiful ferry rides anywhere, even in the gloom.
The fjords are distinct from lakes because they are always at sea level, and essential fingers of the sea, even affected by the tides. Waterfalls carving down the walls of the cliffs are everywhere.
And, to look on the bright side, we get beautiful clouds cuddling up to the mountains, warming them on this chilly day. What these picturesque little homesteads are doing there and how they get supplied is a bit of a mystery.
[FYI EXTRA: A real WOW on the trip to the ferry, was going through the second longest tunnel in Norway with added surprises. It was the first time we’ve seen a tunnel that has not one, but two circles (roundabouts) in it. Imagine the enormous circular support above that space. And, even more WOW, the tunnel, somewhere in the center, actually has the longest suspension bridge in Norway (or maybe in all of Europe) emerging from the tunnel, going over the fjord, and re-entering the tunnel again on the other side. The cost to enter and traverse the tunnel – $80 US!].
The cruise through this section of the Hardangerfjorden, the longest Norwegian fjord ends in Flåm where we picked up the scenic Flåm Mountain Railway and connection to Myrdal.
Coming into Flåm, we were shocked to see that one of the largest Cunard line cruise ships was in the tiny port. As we wandered around the touristy little town, we saw lots of cruise ship tours. And groups coming back we guess from round trip scenic tours on the railroad.
The town was situated in this beautiful part of the fjord.
The hour long scenic train ride traverses 2,600 feet in elevation and passes through 20 tunnels (ruining photos all along the way). Amazing mountains (as the sun actually starts breaking through).
We made a stop at this roaring waterfall where we were surprised by the appearance of one of the dangerous underground people, singing and dancing to loud piped-in music. It gives an actor/dancer a great job and is pretty wild around this gorgeous sight. I think the Vietnam tourist group near us really believed she was as advertised. (If you blow up this photo you might see her on a rock in the top right. If not, let me know and I’ll link you to a video that tells it all).
A transfer to this beautiful, comfortable train that would take us to Gudvangen where we met our coach again for the final push through lush fruit country at the base of the fjord to our magnificent hotel, the Ullensvang.
The precursor of the hotel was started by a parish pastor who could speak English and French. As tourists found out about the area in the early 1800’s the pastor would advocate for his parish and would help travelers find food and lodging at his little guesthouse. As numbers grew he kept expanding until it became the place it is today. It’s still run by his descendants. The public rooms on the ground floor are much more a museum. Above, the queen depicted on her thrown (King’s taking the pic).
Actually the Queen of Norway frequents the hotel regularly, and in fact, was here during the previous SmarTours trip – damn, just missed her.
This is our first evening view from the back of the hotel.
FYI – these are just a few of the public areas. There is even a wine cellar with hand carved doors and a place for special dinners.
The topper of all, however, was dinner. The hotel buffet/smorgasbord is completely authentic and expansive, in a beautiful setting. We’re doing it again tomorrow and I promise some photos for you foodies (vegetarians and vegans be forewarned).
We started with aquavit and beer and then did the dinner in traditional order starting with three types of herrings, then cold fishes, cold cured meats (including scrumptious duck breast), then hot meats, salads in between, then cheeses, then sour cream porridge over cured beef, then seven types of cake, fruit and ice cream and sorbet, then coffee and teas taken to the veranda. Yes, we did do it all and waited quite a while to go to bed.
Tomorrow up Hardangerfjord to the Hardanger Folk Museum.