Norway, to the world, is the “land of the midnight sun”. But it has another magnificent attraction for tourists from all over the globe — its captivating fjords in the western part of the country. So fjord cruise was set as a “must do” activity during our tour in Norway.
Our first stop in Norway was Narvik, located in the Arctic Circle. Narvik is considered the best place in Norway to see the midnight sun as well as to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis during winter when the sky is dark and cloudless. Narvik harbour is the ice-free port for shipment of iron ore mined from Kiruna in neighboiring Sweden. The expansive Narvik port lay below the University of Narvik, which lies in the lap of the little hill that ran all the way alongside the main road.
We took an uphill winding road from the main city centre to reach the University. The University, known as Norges Arktiske Universitet, is the northern most in the world. From the University entrance we had a good view of the port below dotted with dozens of ships anchored. In the entrance area we came across two young boys walking towards the gate. We overheard them speaking in Hindi and I grew curious. One of them was a Pakistani from Lahore and the other an Indian student from Amritsar. They shared a common room and live happily in Narvik while pursuing PhD at the University. “How do you survive here?” I asked the Indian student, “This is August and you see I am in a thick jacket and the woolen muffler”. He just grinned and replied, “We have adjusted and it’s not a problem to us”.
We walked together for a while and had an intimate chat on the affairs of their University and their experience of living in Narvik. Both of them voiced their happiness in living there as foreign students. They praised their professors, classmates and the environment in the campus. Cold weather was nothing compared to what they got at the university.
After a brief interaction with them at the entrance we took their leave and walked up to a point, which local people referred to as watch point a little high on the hill. From the point we had a clear view of the city of Narvik below. It was evening but Narvik was brightly lit by afternoon sun over our heads.
Walking down the road lined by beautiful Nordik houses on both sides, we reached the Narvik information office not far from Scandic Hotel where we were put up.
The large window of our room on the fourteenth floor of Hotel Scandic opens to the fjord in the western side that presents before our eyes a panoramic view of the wonder of nature in the arctic region created millions of years ago during the end of the Ice Age.
Our next destination in Norway was Oslo, the city of the Nobel Peace Centre. We visited the Nobel Peace hall, Oslo Harbour, Parliament, Royal Palace, Vigeland Sculpture Park, Norwegian National Opera and the Tusen Fryd Amusement Park. Next day we reached Myrdal by train. Myrdal station is located between two tunnels on the Bergen line — Gravahals Tunnels to the west and Vatnabalsen Tunnel to the east. From Myrdal we took the train for Flam. The Flam railway is the part of the Bergen Railway connecting Oslo to Bergen that runs about 20 kilometres through the mountainous Flamsdalen valley.
This exhilarating train journey offered us beautiful sights of trickling waterfalls, little wooden farmhouses and rugged peaks. It took around two hours to descend 866 metres from Myrdal to the charming resort town of Flam.
One of the best photo opportunity of this exciting train journey is a stop at the Kjosfossen Waterfall. The train stops for some 20 minutes there for passengers, allowing them to disembark, for viewing a mysterious woman with long hair and a red dress who emerges from the forest dancing to a Norwegian folk song. Actually she is the Huldra, an elusive forest spirit from Norwegian mythology. According to local folklore, the dancing girl lures men to the woods to seduce them. Later I came to know that Huldra is actually an act by the students from the Norwegian Ballet School.
On reaching Flam we took a ferry to go to Gudvangen. It was a two hour ferry cruise through the Naeroyfjord, the narrowest fjord in Europe and one of Norway’s Unesco World heritage sites. From Gudvangen we headed for Voss. A thrilling bus ride around thirteen hairpin bends of the Stalheimskleiva Mountain took us to Voss.
From Voss we took a train for Bergen. The great city of Bergen on the west coast of Norway offered us panoramic view of Bryggen, which is a world heritage site and Floyen, the mountain top in Bergen. All the spots of tourist attractions in Norway are unique in their own way but our cruise trip from Flam to Gudvangen was most exciting.