We left Bergen on the 8am ferry heading east into the Sognefjord, the largest fjord in Norway. We enjoyed a 4-hour ride through increasingly high and craggy mountains with charming homes and villages dotting the shores. Photos do not do the landscape justice, and Tim kept saying, “There isn’t a bad view in Norway!” I found much of Norway to be eerily familiar and like Minnesota, though the sheer scope and majesty of the fjord was unlike anything I had ever seen.
We got off the ferry in Balestrand, a small village of around 2,000 people deep in the Sognefjord. It’s far enough off the beaten path (or “Norway in a Nutshell” route that many tourists take) that it’s quiet and friendly, with locals who are used to tourists but aren’t overwhelmed by them. We stayed at the lovely Balestrand Hotel, run by a couple for 20 years who split their time between Balestrand and California, and our room had a balcony with a fjord view:
A middle of the night wake-up surprised me with this beautiful scene. View from our balcony at 3:30am–the sun never fully set.
I loved the slow pace and beauty of Balestrand. The scenery never failed to amaze me. Tim and I took two day trips: one to the nearby village of Vik to visit the Hopperstad Stave Church, one of the oldest stave churches still standing (estimated building date is around 1000-1100 AD) and another to visit a glacier near the village of Fjaerland. One evening we walked down the road to the historic Kviknes Hotel in Balestrand and enjoyed their famous fish buffet dinner with spectacular views of the fjord.
The stave church.
We saved room for dessert.
I loved Balestrand (and I can’t lift my arms without it looking like I’m presiding over communion).
We left Balestrand on June 18 and took yet another scenic ferry to Flam, with tourists scrambling to the front (including me) to try to capture the magical views.
In Flam we caught the well-known train to Myrdal, Norway that took us uphill past stunning vistas, waterfalls and through many tunnels (Tim says this may have been his favorite part of the trip). In Myrdal we met another couple also waiting to catch the train to Oslo, and discovered he is a professor at MN State University in Moorhead and she teaches in the Fargo school district. Minnesotans love to visit Norway!
Waiting for the train in Flam and a waterfall stop on the way to Myrdal.
The train brought us into Oslo late in the evening and we began to wind down our Europe adventure, knowing this was our last stop before hopping on the plane home.