Answering the call of Norway’s beauty

Most of us spend nearly the whole day with some sort of technology — in front of a computer, an app on our cell phones, watching the TV to unwind — and that might be why our minds and bodies crave time outdoors so badly that we find ourselves edgy, depressed, agitated. Just in general out of sorts. When you feel nature calling, answer it.

The natural beauty of Norway is stunning, with stunning views everywhere you look. Some of the most amazing sights in Norway revolve around fjords. What you might not know is how naturally beautiful Norway is. The pristine, unadorned loveliness around every turn is both stunning and even a bit startling. There are certainly not many places as pleasing to the eye as Norway.

Take the famous Flam Railway, which begins at the mountainous Myrdal station on the Bergen railway, all the way down to the Flam station. This is easy to get to from major cities such as Oslo or Bergen as the Flamsbana or Flam Railway corresponds with the trains along the Oslo-Bergen route. Along the way, you will be greeted with some of the most amazing scenery that you will ever have had the pleasure to gaze upon. The train stops along the way, letting passengers on or off at several locations — but also it stops for your viewing pleasure. There are points that the train will allow you to get off just for photo ops — which is not only fantastic for shutterbugs, but should also give you an indication of just how glorious the scenery truly is.

One such “photo-op-stop” was in Kjosfossen. This waterfall (one of the most visited attractions in Norway) is larger then most others you will pass, and it has a deck or platform for viewing and photos to be taken. It also is used to help power the Flam line, how’s that for using your natural resources? In our excitement to take the best photo, we nearly missed an amazing, quite surprising spectacle — in the middle of the waterfalls appeared a woman, dressed in red, dancing as music played — then she jumped behind the rocks — seemingly into the waterfalls. We learned later that she is an actress from the Norwegian ballet school, portraying the legendary Huldra (part-woman, part-animal seductress who lures men to certain doom in Scandinavian folklore) for the summer season. After the “show,” climb back on board the train to your destination of choice.

Should you take the train all the way to Flam, you would disembark onto a storybook setting. Flam looks to be right out of a picture book or painting — quiet, idyllic and unspoiled. Located on the most inner part of the Aurlandsfjord, you will find yourself surrounded by tall mountains and deep fjords. Outdoor enthusiasts and families will love this nature’s paradise, where you can not only get your fill of the outdoors, but steep yourself in local history, culture and traditional foods as well.

When you get to the end of the Flam line, the area is so lovely that you will find yourself wanting to stay a few days. One of the nicest hotels in the area is the historic Fretheim Hotel, which being located just steps away from the train stop makes your trip that much easier. Originally a farm and built into a guesthouse in the 1800s, it boasts locally grown food, historical guest rooms, cozy atmosphere and beautiful views, as it is located upon the Naeroyfjord UNESCO World Heritage site. Literally steps away are a local museum, restaurants, shops, tours of the area, and of course the train station and boats.

On the Flam harbor, you can take a Heritage Fjord Safari on a rigid inflatable boat which will give you not only amazing views, but the guide will provide you with information about the area history and scenery, and oftentimes riders will have the chance to see wildlife such as eagles, seals and porpoises. Come a bit early, as you will have to “suit up” in protective winter gear — even in summertime. You will wear snowsuit-like gear — a one piece suit to zip into, a hat, mittens and even goggles.

Head next to Balestrand, an easy (and beautiful) boat ride from Flam. Here you can see Sognefjord, the largest fjord in all of Norway, also the second largest in the world. Known as “The King of the Fjords,” it is the longest, deepest in Norway, where you can see the highest mountains in the country as well as the clear green waters of the fjord. This area is considered to be one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world, and has had artists flocking to visit for many years. It is one of the most photographed and painted places in Norway.

If you are looking for a place to stay in Balestrand, try the Kvikne’s Hotel. A splendid, historic hotel that has been in the same family since 1877, it combines the best of both modern amenities with the charm and old world elegance that will make one feel instantly relaxed. It offers the most alluring views of the fjord right outside, with doors and windows that are easily opened wide to let the fresh, sweet smelling air into your room. The food served in the restaurant is quite palate pleasing, with local foods and specialties served by warm and friendly staff.

The Sognefjord is another place you might want to consider taking a inflatable boat tour - so much more personal then the larger lake tours, and you will get much out of it. If you have not taken a safari yet, here is another chance. If you have, try a guided fishing trip instead. You will still get the tour and the guide, but you will also get another experience of your visit to Norway — and yes, you can keep anything you catch should you want to.The Malsnes Aktiv tour agency (located in the tourist office and very easy to find) offers several different versions and trips. You can go with a large or a quite small group, and children are welcome. On your tour, you will have time to fish in the fjord, as well as visit stunning waterfalls, see the tallest mountains in the country, and see Swiss-style villas and homes from the boat. It’s a very peaceful time, and a lovely way to see Balestrand, one you will not soon forget. In the area are also many hiking trails, bike rentals and other opportunities to get back to nature.

Norway is quite an experience. For the traveler who is seeking adventure, nature or simply beauty, there is simply nothing like it.