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Cruise Diary: Flam

Wendy R. London, HAL Mariner and corporate affairs manager/founder of CruiseBubble.com, is aboard Prinsendam and is letting us join in on her vacation.

Flam reminds me of twee tourist towns or swish ski resorts — lovely to look out, shops geared to tourists and one main attraction. It’s a pretty little settlement to see, and if you ventured onto the railway, by all accounts you had an incredible time experiencing this world famous engineering feat. But for me, it was enough to spend a couple of hours walking around on perhaps the sunniest, warmest day ever in Flam, just admiring its pride of place on the foreshore of the Sognefjord.

Moored at Flam – one could be forgiven for thinking you were approaching Te Anau (Milford Sound), but Flam is much more developed.

Moored at Flam – one could be forgiven for thinking you were approaching Te Anau (Milford Sound), but Flam is much more developed.

Just in case you’re cold on this sparkling, warm summer’s day.

Just in case you’re cold on this sparkling, warm summer’s day.

Flam could be characterised as a much more fully developed Te Anau (in New Zealand), and perhaps that’s my problem (and a very nice problem to have, I might add). I live about 1000 km from another magnificent fjord in the world, Milford Sound, but a fjord which is so less developed. (If you are wondering about the anomaly of the word “sound” in Milford, it was erroneously denominated as a sound by James Cook during his exploration of New Zealand – it is indeed a fjord.) Perhaps I’m just not into the commercial urbanisation of fjords. In Flam itself are several very large souvenir shops as well as one or two lovely hotels, a smattering of cafes and a small, but well-stocked Coop grocery store, but the main attraction is the railroad. Its 20km length with its 20 tunnels and extremely steep grade will keep any train aficionado happy during its approximately 45 minute journey up and up and up – spanning a 55% gradient.

Plenty of opportunities to shop.

Plenty of opportunities to shop.

Every native (stuffed) animal you could want!

Every native (stuffed) animal you could want!

The Coop Supermarket.

The Coop Supermarket.

Thinking about it, it might just be all of Flam’s engineering feats which fascinate its visitors. In addition to the railway’s 20 tunnels, there is a road tunnel which defies all comprehension, built by Norway’s unequalled and world-renowned bridge, road and tunnel experts. The Lærdalstunnelen is a 15.2 mile marvel which took 5 years to build, and saves a winding climb along a road which is closed for 9 months of the year, thanks to snow. And, it is at the end of the tunnel that another engineering, or at least architectural, wonder can be found – one of Norway’s best-preserved stav churches, built around 1150AD. Along the train route is the Flam Stav Church, built in 1667. As we sailed away from town along the fjord, we were left to marvel at an old farm house, clinging precariously to the cliff-face rising from the water. Now, how DO people get to that house??

A Flamsbana rail car.

A Flamsbana rail car.

Downtown Flam from the tender dock

Downtown Flam from the tender dock

1 Comment
  • Pat Woods

    Thoroughly enjoyed this post–thanks for sharing.

    I’ve done Norway Coastal Voyage on Hurtigruten but not the rail trip-which everyone says is spectacular.

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