When I had a chance to see the fabled fjords of Norway last spring, I naturally chose the longest and deepest one: the Sognefjord, which stretches for 127 miles and is 4,291 feet deep. (That’s the better part of a mile).
We settled in a beautiful branch of the King of Fjords, the Nærøyfjord. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. We chose to stay in Aurland, a peaceful small town a short drive away from the cruise-ship commotion of Flam.
Instead of taking the famous “Norway in a Nutshell” tour and being herded from boat to bus to train on a hectic schedule, we were lucky enough to rent our own wheels. There were six of us, and the rental company proudly announced they had upgraded us to a nine-person van. Well, OK, but did the van have to announce to all the world that it was a rental?
And did it need to have about a hundred dings and dents which we had to document before we set off?
Once we were under way, the van worked out fine. All our luggage slid right in, and everybody had a personal window to watch the scenery from. My trusty Garmin GPS cheerily followed (and led) us up and down highways and tiny dirt roads with no names. (My son finally understood why I plunk a big extra screen on the dashboard instead of just checking Waze on my phone. There’s no phone service out in the wilds, but the satellite reaches everywhere).
The best choice we made was to stay at the Vangsgaarden, a venerable historic hotel in Aurland. We rented two of the six new little waterside cottages. The cost was reasonable, considering how expensive Norway is in general.
The almost-midnight sunsets in early June were spectacular.
The older buildings date from the 1700s, when wealthy people began venturing into the fjords for vacations.
The place reminded me of old-fashioned Minnesota lake resorts, the ones where I spent long summer days with sand between my toes.
I like old stuff, even old technology stuff.
I felt as though I’d arrived at the cozy home of a kind elderly aunt, one with time to spend reminiscing about the old days.
There was even an attention-seeking cat named Lotus, spiffy in his springtime lion cut. He liked to push all the brochures off the table and watch a human put them all back. We obliged.
Norway felt like home. And in fact, my brother once tried to track down family connections from the Norway fjords. Sadly, it seemed no relatives were left.
I thought the hotels, boats, buses and trains would be closed all through the long dark winter, but I just read an article by a woman who did the Norway in a Nutshell tour in January and lived to tell how spectacular it was. Now I’m plotting a return, maybe to the opposite shore of the Nærøyfjord. I’d like to see Balestrand, and I think it sounds livelier than Aurland. In winter, I think there would be more going on and it would be equally beautiful.
I’m envisioning recitals and Christmas services in little churches, like this one in Flam.
But I don’t envision driving on icy mountain hairpin curves. They were challenging enough with dry roads in June. That’s a typical one above, just below and to the left of the waterfall.
After the rest of the family left, my husband and I took the scenic 8-hour train ride from Bergen to Oslo. (He was glad to be done white-knuckle driving that van). In June, there was still plenty of snow in the wild country high above the fjords.
I would like to see Bergen and the fjords in winter. Maybe there will be a tempting airfare and I’ll do it.
I wonder if I can get the grandchildren out of school. Surely this would be an educational trip?
Meanwhile, it’s a nice winter dream. And it’s on my travel wish list.