The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.
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4:15pm on Tuesday, 11th July, 2017:
Today we docked at Flåm, which is written in English as Flaam and therefore pronounced Flom.
Flaam is basically Disneyland with one ride. The setting is, as one might expect, gorgeous: at the end of a fjord and at the foot of a ring of mountains. The buildings are all modern, though, unless you walk inland for a couple of kilometres. Also, although they look like separate buildings, inside you find they're all one big shop.Naturally, each such shop sells exactly the same souvenirs as every other such shop in Norway, although this time we did find some nice ornaments we hadn't seen before. My wife promptly knocked one over and broke it. I guess this is why the goods are so expensive in Norwegian shops — they lose so much stock to customers trying to get the particular statue they want from behind a line of others they didn't want.
There was some nice glassware. The red rendition of Yggdrasil, the tree of life, looked amazing except for being too reminiscent of the cross-sections of diseased lungs they show on cigarette packets.
There was a market, but it only had about eight stalls. That's still twice the size of Trondheim's market, though. One of the stalls had Norwegian sausages for sale in exotic flavours: reindeer, elk and whale. We'd seen these before (of course), but on this occasion they had free samples to taste. I've had reindeer and elk before, but not whale because no civilised country hunts them. When it comes to the fruits of the sea, though, Norway is full-on Viking, so I figured I'd take the opportunity to try some.
It was ghastly — the meatiest meat I've ever tasted. That'll be the one and only time I'm ever going to taste whale if I can help it. Thank goodness I didn't try to east a whole one.
The ride I spoke of is the Flaam Railway. It's one of the most scenic railways in the world, taking an hour to travel 20km horizontally and 680m vertically. Pro tip: before boarding, say in a loud voice that the best side to sit on is the left. That's what the man some way behind us in the queue did, and we believed him. However, it seems this was a ruse to trick us: the best side is actually the right. By making his announcement, he ensured there'd be a seat on the right for him when his turn to board came.
The views on the left were still very good, though, especially if you like waterfalls. I guess if you hate waterfalls then the views would be rubbish, but we like them so it was all very picturesque.
Come to think of it, even if you were attacked by a waterfall as a small child and as a result have a morbid fear of them, you should take the Flaam railway. It has one completely bonkers moment that makes sitting in a cramped carriage with strangers, looking through windows that need cleaning, all worthwhile. The train stops at one station that is literally just a waterfall. You get out at the platform and there's nowhere to go, you're just in front of this waterfall. It's a pretty damned good waterfall, too.
Then, the music starts. Music? At a waterfall? Well yes, because this waterfall must have a spirit or something that the music summons. Before you know it, there she is! A woman in a red dress and long, blonde wig, swaying like Kate Bush.
She ducks down, then rematerialises a short distance away. There are actually two women (or at that distance, frankly they could be men) who are dancing, pretending to be the same, teleport-capable spirit. There may even be three. These are people whose entire job is to wait until a train stops at the waterfall station, then turn on the music and dance as if they were possessed by nature.
I suggested to my wife that they may be on drugs. She said, "I hope so, because otherwise it must be me who is". It was an utterly bizarre experience and made the whole journey worth the £70 excursion ticket price.
The tour rep repeatedly and earnestly telling us to have "one ticket per person per hand" was quite amusing, too.
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