#6 – Cruise the Norwegian Fjords
Ah, the Norwegian Fjords. This has been on my ‘want to visit’ list for over 10 years but I hadn’t found anyone to go with me (single supplements being ridiculous on cruise ships) until I met cruise mad Karen, who bravely agreed to share a cabin with me for the week. Having waited so long, I was very excited about going but also a bit apprehensive – in the time between writing my ‘want to visit’ list and actually setting sail I have spent a lot of time in New Zealand, visiting the Fjords there extensively. Would Norway match up or would I be disappointed?
Safe to say, I wasn’t disappointed. The weather gods smiled on us and we had perfect cruising weather, with blue skies and sunshine showing the Fjords off to their best and mercifully little wind meaning calm seas and no seasickness! To add to the experience, this was my first cruise so I had all the fun of finding out what life is like on board a cruise ship. It seems dining and drinking of cocktails is the order of the day (every day).
After a day at sea, our first stop was Stavanger, at the southern end of the Fjords, so the entrance was more past tiny islands (some inhabited, some not) rather than in fjords proper. The town itself gave us an opportunity to learn about the Norwegian oil and gas industry and see some lovely tiny wooden houses in the Old Town. Our second port was Olden, which is where the Fjords really came into their own. Here also the contrast with New Zealand became apparent.
We sailed up Nordfjord into Olden during the early morning, so I had a bright and early start to get out on deck and watch the landscape as we cruised by. First thing in the Fjords was generally misty and mysterious, with the mountain tops shrouded in clouds and shadows everywhere.
As the sun came out and the skies cleared, snow-capped mountains came into view with lush green pastures and little villages at their feet. The experience was quite different to New Zealand, as the Fjords there are completely uninhabited and the mountains tend to be steeper, making for dramatic but slightly forbidding landscapes. The more gentle slopes in Norway created an Alpine feel, bright green pastures dotted with brightly coloured houses. We docked at Olden and drove through the beautiful Olden valley to visit the Brinksdaal Glacier, which put on a show for us by losing part of its ice whilst we were there, causing a sound like thunder to echo through the mountains. Cruising back out of Olden that afternoon was a very different experience again, with a hazy quality to the air blurring the lines of the mountains and making everything seem very dreamy. I chose to catch the scenery from The Crow’s Nest bar on Deck 13 with a fantastic panoramic view. Of course, this meant enjoying several cocktails as we cruised…
The following day saw me having another early start as we cruised into Andalsnes, but I got wise this time and went for a buffet breakfast so I could eat on deck whilst admiring the view. From Andalsnes we had the opportunity to visit a very old wooden stave church (built with no nails to hold it together, a style of architecture particular to Norway), enjoy more stunning fjords views and also to gaze up at the ‘Troll Wall’, the highest vertical mountain surface in Europe. More cocktails were consumed as we cruised out of Andalsnes. I’d got the hang of this cruising lark by then.
Our final stop was the city of Bergen, where an enthusiastic and informative guide led us on a walking tour of the city, learning a little about the city’s architecture and history. We were also able to visit the UNESCO World Heritage listed Bryggen, the tiny Hanseatic merchants’ quarter, full of brightly coloured wooden warehouses and shops once occupied by ancient traders who traded preserved salt cod.
All too soon we were waving goodbye to Norway and cruising back to Southampton, the fourth of my 40 before 40 complete. The week gave me a tiny taster of what Norway has to offer and I think I’d like to see more. In particularly I’d like to return to travel further north, to sample some of the local food and drink and perhaps to do a land based itinerary to take in some more scenery. I guess I’ll have to put that on the 50 before 50 list!