Scandinavia, Day 8: Flåm

Travel by Adam on 2009-02-26 03:28

A fjord is the wake of an ancient glacier. During the last ice age, glaciers crawled across most of Scandinavia, especially Norway. The resulting geography is a rugged and breathtakingly beautiful landscape of these deep fissures which cut across the country.

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I said goodbye to the wonderfully accommodating staff of the Eidsgaard hotel and caught the afternoon train to Gol. I needed a day of relaxation after yesterday’s intensity on the mountaintop, so taking the next leg of my cross-country train trip was the perfect activity.

Two hours took me to Myrdal, a tiny station perched just above one of the fingers of Sognefjord, the longest fjord in Scandinavia, stretching 205 km (127 miles) from the Atlantic (and nearly 30% the width of Norway).

Sognefjord

From here I caught the Flåm railway down into the valley. This is a short but incredibly dramatic trip, one of the steepest railways in the world. The valley is host to numerous waterfalls, which were frozen into crystalline beauty in the wintertime.

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The train terminated at the water’s edge, where I checked into the Fretheim hotel. The view out to the fjord and up to the surrounding mountainous peaks is astonishing. My hotel room has windows facing up, because it’s so steep you get a better view that way.

Fretheim Hotel

While walking about, there were patches of what seemed like rain - although it was more like a fine blown mist, not like any rain I had felt before. Looking up, I saw that the high winds at the peaks were blowing loose snow off of them, which was melting on its way down to the valley. (The temperature is just a smidge above freezing, since the valley provides some protection from the elements). Thus, apparent areas of rain that are actually misted snowmelt.

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I was the only one on the Flåm train, giving me the sense that I had my own private chauffeured train. We took a brief stop at one of the few waterfalls which was not entirely frozen, and the crew just stood around waiting until I was ready to continue. Then at the hotel, there are perhaps ten other people staying here today (its capacity is around 200). This is a good place to come for someone who enjoys solitude.

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Expenses: $336. $40 Gol -> Myrdal train, $40 Myrdal -> Flåm train, $26 laundry (the only way I could fit all my snowboarding gear into a pack that would fit on my back was to keep clothing to a minimum, so a mid-trip laundry stop was a necessity), $100 food (including a $75 splurge for a fancy diner - one can only survive off of cheap pizza and candybars for so long), $130 hotel.

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