Now I am very much the travel planner in this household so was very surprised and a little ungrateful when my husband booked us a surprise trip to Norway, as this destination had only ever appeared on my “one day, maybe, possibly” travel wish list. Finding out that we didn’t have to traipse all the way up to London to catch a flight (instead being able to drive to Southampton docks in order to take a cruise ship to Norway) began to make it all sound rather more interesting!
Our first day was at sea which gave us an excellent opportunity to explore our cruise ship which felt like an exotic village with boutiques, coffee shops, swimming pools, a gym and even a theatre.
We awoke the next morning in Bergen, a fairy tale town where the waterfront is lined with colourful, higgledy-piggledy clapperboard buildings and a market place where we sampled our first Moose burger! Exploring the maze of cobbled streets we discovered that the ground floors of many of the houses are now delightful arts and crafts studios.
Sailing north we entered fjordland, the dramatic waterways created by glaciers cutting through the landscape lined by towering cliffs. It seemed impossible that our cruise ship could sail through these narrow gorges but she did. In places, the fjords were only 500m in width with waterfalls dancing down the slopes that you can almost touch. We sailed over 100 miles inland following tributaries; mostly the route was uninhabited except for abandoned tumbledown farmsteads. I fully expected to glimpse the mythical Norwegian trolls swishing their tails and striding through the forests or peering out of the caves.
Dolphins escorted us throughout much of our journey seeming to enjoy racing our ship or leaping and playing in its wash.
We moored at tiny villages where we could get off and explore woodland paths or take a trip high up to the year-round snowy peaks and the iridescent glaciers. In the village of Skjolden, at the very end of the Lustrafjord, children from the school band came tumbling down the hillsides pulling on their uniforms as they ran to greet us with traditional folk songs.
The village of Flam allowed us to board a tiny train - a real masterpiece of engineering. We climbed almost 1000m through 20 tunnels, over bridges and past gushing waterfalls to experience the most spectacular mountain scenery I have ever seen.
When cruising through the fjords I often missed my dinner (a very unusual occurrence!) as I couldn’t tear my eyes away from landscape. The midnight sun meant I could still be found standing on deck at 2am gazing at the passing slopes. I was surprised at the strength of the midnight sun and had expected it to be more like twilight but it was bright enough to read a book, even in the middle of the night.
All too soon it was time to return to civilisation and after only a week away from home I felt as though I had been given a natural detox. The clarity of the air had refreshed my lungs, my skin felt softer and the breath-taking natural scenery had rejuvenated my mind.
A Norwegian cruise is now TOP of my travel wish list although, next time, I want to see it in the winter and see how the little settlements manage in the harsh snowy darkness and to see the Northern lights. I am even tempted to go further north to Spitzbergen in search of polar bears!
And yes I am now very grateful that my husband arranged the trip and am amazed at how easy it was to have such a magical adventure.
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