For this year’s Easter holiday, I and my girlfriend Renate visited Flåm, Norway.
Flåm is a small town located in a fjord in Hordaland county, just a few hours from our home city Bergen.
Renate had her 35th birthday during Easter, so we wanted to do something to celebrate.
And since it had been quite some time since the last time we had gone somewhere on vacation, we decided to go on a little excursion.
So we started looking for destinations we could reach with the Norwegian railway network, as that is much more comfortable than messing about with air travel.
Traveling via Flåmsbana
Soon we were heading off to Myrdal Station, where we were changing trains to start chugging along down the old Flåmsbana railway track.
This old-fashioned train journey really evoked the spirit of Norway’s earlier eras as a tourist destination for English lords and German kaisers.
Alongside the track, we could often spot Rallarvegen, the old road that the “rallar” workers (navvies) used during the construction of the train tracks between 1923 and 1947.
Flåmsbana opened for steam locomotives early in 1940, due to pressure from the occupying forces of Nazi Germany. But workers continued making improvements on the railway for seven more years, including electrifying the railway in 1944.
Rallarvegen is now a very popular bicycle route between Haugastøl, through Finse, to Flåm.
Arriving in Flåm
After the short scenic train journey, we had finally arrived in the beautiful little town of Flåm.
We were a bit early to check in to our hotel, so we found ourselves a table at a cozy little bakery by the dock. There we soaked in the sun, drinking coffee and eating sweet baked goods while we waited.
Our hotel, Flåmsbrygga, was an impressive large wooden structure, not far from the dock and Flåm Station.
In fact, Flåm is such a small town that almost everything there is rather close to the dock and train station.
Eating at Ægir
Located next to our hotel was the Ægir Bryggeri Pub & Restaurant.
This is a relatively new restaurant, built in a style inspired by Norse mythology and old Norwegian stave churches. It even has an old viking-style hearth you could sit around in the middle of the pub, so that you can enjoy the heat from the fire warming you while you enjoy your beer.
That is to say, the atmosphere there was amazing!
We ate at Ægir BrewPub for both of our dinners during our stay at Flåm, despite having plans to test out other restaurants. We enjoyed ourselves that much!
But we had severely underestimated how crowded the restaurant was going to get during Easter. We thought Flåm would be relatively empty that long before the summer tourist wave, so we had not booked a table for our first visit there. That resulted in us having to wait two hours before we got a table, despite arriving as soon as they opened.
Having learned from our mistake, we immediately booked a table for the next evening upon completion of our meal.
Ægir Bryggeri is a craft beer brewery that ships all over Norway, so the food at their restaurant featured a lot of dishes that incorporated beer in some way. Like beer-bread or beer-sauce.
Since I have gout, I did not get to sample too much of their beer.
But I loved the food!
We had burgers both days. The first burger had a deer meat patty, served on beer-bread, with blueberry cream. The second burger was a more traditional one made with beef, served with beer-bread, cheese and onion compote.
Both were amazing!
Outside of Ægir stands a carved representation of the Norse figure that inspired the name, possibly carved by the same artist who chainsaw-carved the decorations inside the pub.
Ægir was the giant who ruled over the seas, father of the nine waves, and grandfather of the god Heimdall.
Awakened by Cruise Ship
After our first night in Flåm, we were woken up by the constant loud droning sounds made by a large cruise liner that had arrived during the night. It had docked almost directly in front of our hotel room window.
There are a lot of people living in the areas around the fjords who hate these cruise ships for disturbing their daily peace.
There is not even that much money to be made from that type of tourism. The travelers can get everything they need on the boat, so they don’t spend that much when they head ashore.
Despite the size of the ship, there were not that many people on it.
Late April is still early in the tourist season, so we were not totally overrun by the Americans.
That meant we could still walk around this quiet small town, and have it still feel like a small town.
The Fjord Safari
The most exiting thing we did on our second day was going on a fjord safari.
This entailed strapping on a full flotation body suit and a life jacket, before traveling up and down the Aurlandsfjord and the World Heritage Nærøyfjord area in a sightseeing speedboat.
It was the two of us, ten other tourists, and a guide who also steered the boat.
Before we headed out on Ægir’s wavy daughters, the guide asked everyone if we had any questions.
One American started asking what sort of animals we were going to see. “Some seagulls, a few jellyfish, maybe a seal if we are lucky.” she answered. He then asked if there would not be any whales, to which she answered that “That would be extremely unlikely.”
He seemed a bit disappointed by this, and I can understand why.
To most people, a safari is an expedition to observe animals in their natural habitat. Not to observe the habitat itself, which is the case with the Fjord Safari.
We had luckily not joined the trip under this misunderstanding, so we enjoyed ourselves immensely.
It was refreshing to feel the fresh air hit our faces as the speedboat zipped between each point of interest.
At each point, the guide would stop the boat so that she could tell us something interesting about the area.
Norwegians are not always Norwegians
At times, the fjord safari guide would tell us something about Norwegian culture. About what she and her friends would get up to in Flåm. We found that a bit amusing, since we are Norwegian, and we had heard her speaking Swedish to another guide. But we played along.
In fact, most of the people we saw working in service professions in Flåm were not from Norway. This is normal everywhere where there is a steady stream of tourists. Businesses save money by not paying foreign labor as much as they would have to pay the local population. And there are a lot of people who are willing to be lodged for free in a beautiful vacation spot, in exchange for a bit of cheap labor.
The time had finally come to head home to our apartment in Bergen.
So we packed our bags, and hopped on the Flåmsbana back to Myrdal.
We had a bit more layover time at Myrdal Station this time, so we got some food at the café there.
The café had the air of a traditional Norwegian log cabin. A feeling that was helped by the altitude and snowy landscape outside.
But soon we were back on the train, passing the time by reading and solving crosswords, until finally arriving back home. Rejuvenated.
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