Today, we arrived in Flåm. That’s Flam with a little circle sat at the top of the apex on a capital ‘A’, which I’m almost certain tells the reader how it should be pronounced. As far as I know, it’s ‘a’ as in pan, or can.
Once again, we found ourselves anchored at the head of a steeply-sided fjord, looking out over a small town/village of buildings all built in the traditional wooden style. What Flam has that Eidfjord doesn’t, is a railway station. Again, we’d managed to avoid being given any tour escorting duties; the primary excursion being a ride on the famous Flam Railway (maybe another time…). Instead, we had the luxury of a whole day ahead of us, to fill as we wished.
After spending some time in the Visitor Information Centre, and grabbing a local map showing available walking options, we decided that a small walk close to the town would take us nicely up to lunchtime, after which, we could take a longer walk to see a waterfall in the afternoon.
What took us rather by surprise was just how quickly we exhausted the first part of our planned walking possibilities. The pathways we followed were all on the side of a small hill overlooking the port, in what was described as a culture park. Essentially, this seemed to refer to all the various sculptures and art pieces placed periodically alongside the path. The route we had hoped to take got curtailed when we encountered fencing preventing us from going any further, so we retraced our steps, back down towards the town, and decided to check out the start of our intended longer walk.
What we soon discovered was that the scale of the map we were using was much larger than we’d originally thought. It still being some while short of lunchtime, we kept going…
Before we knew it, we’d left Flam and arrived at the foot of a mountain, with a track pointing uphill, towards where we knew the waterfall to be. Since going back to the ship at this point was simply not an option, we started climbing.
I have to say that, what with the sale of the map and the slightly uninspiring culture park walks, we had, up until this point, become a little underwhelmed by our walking possibilities. As we climbed the hill, however, this changed considerably.
The walk was easy to follow, with red ‘T’s painted on occasional tree trunks to help guide our way. In summer, it would be very different, with trees in full foliage making for a more closed-in experience. Since all the trees were winter-bare, however, not only could see where we were heading, but we were also treated to constant views behind us, and out over the valley towards the town.
The track became steeper, and the going a little harder; one final push brought us to a clearing from where we could view the waterfall in all its glory (I think it’s called Brekkerfosse… but I may be wrong…). Dropping from quite a height, over smooth rocks, it was a spectacular sight, and more than worth the energy required to get there.
We met a couple going the other way who recommended plodding on a little further, for another 20-30 minutes, for even better views across the valley, so we did. The going became a bit harder as the gradient became steeper, but sure enough, having climbed even higher than the waterfall, we came to a vantage point where the whole of the valley opened out below us. We could see the ship, and Flam, and when the train came along, it was like looking down upon a model railway.
Finally, we headed back down the hill, slightly footsore, but very satisfied with our climb. Naturally, we’d missed the start of lunch, but as it only took us about twenty minutes to get back to the ship once we were back on the road at the foot of the hill, we did make it back before the end of lunchtime, with about 15 minutes to spare.
After lunch, we took a gentle meander around the town, looking in the souvenir shops and buying an ice cream in one of the cafes there. There was free wi-fi on tap, too, so we were able to spend some time catching up on emails and online updates, before finally heading back to the ship.
Our impression of Flam changed over the course of the day. It’s clearly a very popular visitor destination; as with Eidfjord, there was a large motorhome park there, cars emerged from a tunnel in the base of the mountain, and there were many visitors who had arrived by train. I must say that I’d gone from being slightly lukewarm to really liking the place. Further study of the map revealed many more walking possibilities, giving us lots of ideas for the next time we visit (should there be a next time).
We just have one last stop on our mini-cruise; tomorrow, we’ll be in Bergen. Despite the fact that we’ve only been on the ship since Tuesday, and and we only have a three more days before we’ll be back in Tilbury, it actually feels like we’ve been away for weeks.