Thursday, August 4, 2016

The best of Flam, Norway

If you have a vision in your mind of an idyllic Norwegian village you’ve probably seen pictures of Flam. This tiny fishing village (only 400 people) is tucked between the North Sea channel and imposing mountains with the Flam River between. It’s situated at the end of Aurlandfjord, a branch of Sognefjord, the world’s largest and deepest fjord and a World Heritage Site.
The dramatic scenery around Flam, Norway attracts many visitors.
In a land filled with storybook villages, Flam is one of the best-known. This beautiful paradise is the gateway to a magical land of expansive valleys, roaring waterfalls, grandiose mountains, and miles of untouched nature—a spot that even Norwegians consider perfect for a holiday.

Approaching this secluded town on a cruise ship, we saw waterfalls streaming from glaciers high in the mountains, which helped us get a sense of how the rock was carved millions of years ago. When the ice receded, the land was transformed, leaving behind expansive valleys and long fjords hemmed in by rugged cliffs. Today, bountiful waterfalls drop in thin strips like white ribbons decorating the  mountainsides.
It's a land filled with myriad waterfalls flowing down the mountains.
Flam Railway

Of course, we booked a ride on the Flamsbana, thefamous railway, often called the most beautiful train ride in the world. Along the way we were captivated by panoramic views of some of the most striking Norwegian landscapes, deep ravines, magnificent waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, and charming farms.
The Flamsbana exits one of 20 tunnels along the way to Voss.
Opened in 1944 after 20 years of construction, the track rises nearly 3000 feet in 12.5 miles—the world’s steepest rail incline (almost 80 percent of the line has a gradient of 55 percent). A major engineering feat, a challenge was building the railroad from the Myrdal Plateau down precipitous mountain sides to the bottom of the Flam Valley.

The ride from Flam to Voss, where we ended our rail journey, was just under two hours and included 20 tunnels, 18 of which were excavated by hand. Tunnels allow passage no matter what the weather is, which is important since abundant snow makes transportation challenging from October to April.
Massive, powerful waterfalls burst through the mountains.
The church is one of a few buildings
in Voss not bombed in WWII.
The journey to Myrdal took an hour, after which we changed trains and continued another 50 minutes to Voss. Here the landscape became less steep with lakes, forest, and more houses (many are summer homes). The people who live in the small towns along the way must be fairly self-reliant as the area is isolated—with the train as major access.

For the most part, the train proceeded slowly stopping at several of these villages, which provided an opportunity to soak up the magnificent countryside. We even disembarked the train at one stunning waterfall and felt the spray as we took pictures.
Scenic sites
At Voss, a charming lakeside town with a delightful array of shops and a tiny 13th century church, we enjoyed a sumptuous lunch in a hotel. This farming town, nestled between two of Norway’s most famous fjords, was the victim of massive bombing during World War II, so the center of the city has been rebuilt and looks very 1950-ish.

Larry in front of Kjosfossen Waterfall

On the return trip to Flam by bus, we stopped at magnificent Kjosfossen waterfall, a fine example of nature’s power and a highlight of the Flam train journey. This massive fall spreads in multiple streams over a large area with thunderous cascades tumbling over boulders.
The bus continued on the treacherous road down to the valley, navigating steep hairpin turns before returning us to the town and our ship.
Our bus had to navigate this extremely narrow, winding road
in the valley back to Flam
Whether you visit Flam by rail, bus, or boat, it’s a pristine and serene sanctuary, an iconic Norwegian village you won’t want to miss.

Magnificent view as our ship left the fjords around Flam.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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