In the very early morning hours, the usual suspects showed up in the Crows Nest to witness our arrival in Bergen, Norway. Barbara and I had dreamed about this day and anticipated the adventure we would embark on this day as “Norway in a Nutshell”, loomed on the horizon.
Our sail-in was not as spectacular as some as the early morning skies were partly overcast. But as our table-mates, Tor and Judy, Paul and I sat in the comfort of our Crow’s Nest chairs and sipped our fresh coffee, munched on snacks from the Lido and talked about what we would be doing this day, the skies lightened a bit and we were able to view the large oil refinery on our starboard side, another passenger arrived, he had joined us on other arrivals, and shared with us that this was a very special day for him as well – he would be spending the day with his son, who just happened to work at the refinery we were sailing past. Our table-mate, Tor’s, father was born in Norway and Tor and Judy will be meeting a cousin when we arrive in Oslo.
One of the interesting aspects to port arrivals is watching the port pilot boat arrive and dispatch the pilot. The scene below would be typical for our three next Norwegian ports; a high speed approach, expert boat handling at arrival to the “break doors” and pilot leaping in through the doors to our ship, followed by the speedy retreat to the shore-side pilot station:
The “return” to fresh coffee to await the next ship arrival!
Such a small percent of the passengers are awake to witness this very important evolution and it only takes minutes, so one has to be quick with a camera. I have photographed pilot boat arrivals from ports all over the world and I never tire of witnessing the skills of the boatmen who make it happen. As Paul Hunter (our very vocal table-mate) would say, with gusto – BRAVO, BRAVO and I would echo as a retired sailor – Bravo Zulu (Which means – Well Done).
Our only excursion on our first day in Bergen, would be with Alan and we were to be treated an excursion that Rick Steves has made famous the world over: “Norway in a Nutshell”. This was scheduled to be a ten hour excursion so we would need to be fortified with a big breakfast for the rigors to come. Barbara joind me and our new friends, Linda, Larry and Anita in the Lido for a hearty breakfast and we were soon off the ship with Alan and our our very large group heading to the covered Bergen train station.
After what seemed like an eternity, watching all the other passengers board the train, we were led, herded, and raced to our reserved cars. Barbara and I were fortunate in getting to set opposite Gwen and Lee Porterfield for the first leg of our journey. What great traveling companions they are, as well as great friends.
As our comfortable coach sped toward our first stop at the mountain station of Myrdal, and our connection to the Flam railroad, half of our journey seemed to be through tunnels. The Norwegians are masters at building tunnels, as were to witness so often during the next 11 hours. By the time we arrived at the station, the overcast had cleared and we were awed by the beautiful almost Alpine views. We had about a one hour wait for the train to Flam and our connection to the ferry boat and our tour of the beautiful fjord. We were feeling pretty smug about being able to stay with our friends Gwen And Lee, until another train arrived and disgorged hundrfeds of passengers that were also going to Flam – shucks – in all the mayhem of getting to our reserved cars, we lost track of our friends. Shortly after boarding the train, we stopped at the Kjosfossen waterfall viewpoint, however our coaches were still in a tunnel, but we were told that we would have 15 minutes to view this beautiful waterfall, so we hurried off and gathered, along with several hundred other passengers, on an especially built viewing platform . It was fantastic, but one of the more interesting aspects of the stop was the “siren call” of the beautiful Norwegian Huldra and her “waterfall” performance. Later Larry, Anita and Linda, would dispute the fact that there ever was a “maiden”. Guess what folks, I did not Photoshop this picture.
After an amazing ride down the mountain to the port town of Flam we had time for some more sightseeing and shopping be fore boarding the ferry Fjord1 for our “fjord adventure” to the small village of Gudvangen.
If you read “all sbout our excursions” on the opening page of this blog, you probably noticed some changes to the description of this excursion. The ever resourceful Alan, had to make some adjustments. Number one was the reversal of our journey and once we boarded to Fjord1, we were severed a buffet lunch/dinner, instead of dining at the Fretheim Hotel in Flam as promised. There was some grumbling by the troops, but the beautiful weather and scenery made the point moot.
There is simply no way to adequately describe the beauty of the Norwegian Fjords, one has to experience it in person to take in all the grandeur. As our ferry was not necessarily a tourist boat, but a working vessel that served communities along the fjord, we were treated to an interesting scenario as we disembarked a couple at their home along the fjord. It seems that they had gone shopping and the gentleman needed a motorized wheelchair/Golf cart to get around. As we approached their private dock, it became apparent that the tide was too high to allow a correct match from the vessel to the shore, so a little Norwegian injunity was needed, with the mussel from some enthustiac passengers as displayed in the picture below: As one crewman on shore steadies a large piece of plywood, another crewman and passengers shove the machine up the ramp onto the plywood and onto the dock, to the round of applause of the watching passengers, and a wave of thanks by the gentleman and his lady.
By the time we boarded our buses at Gudvangen for our journey back to Bergen, we were all feeling a little bit “scened out”. Our wonderful dinning room staff did however keep the dining room open until we returned and we enjoyed a wonderful evening meal. Although tired, both Barbara and I seemed to get our second wind and decided to take a short walk into the city. We knew we would probably never see Bergen and night and we didn’t want to miss that. We were so very glad we did. As we strolled back to the ship we met some of the crew out to see the sights and some were practicing their bike riding in the dock area. It was a perfect way to end a wonderful first day.
Next: Bergen, day two