Steve Aldridge explores The Spirit and the Troll Wall
Click here to read part 1 of Steve’s journey
Boarding Viking Jupiter was like coming home, having a similar layout and familiar feel to it as the other Viking Ocean ships we have been on. It’s the same blend of Scandinavian chic and excellent customer service. Our well appointed and spacious stateroom, as with the rest of the ship, had clean lines of light wood and chrome which are tastefully broken up with quality fabric and leather combinations. A comfy king sized bed, a decent sized shower (with an impressive strong flow of water) and a welcome bottle of champagne, reminded us how comfortable we feel in these surroundings.
Exploring Norway, it’s easy to run out of superlatives to describe the magnificent scenery all around you. The mountainside and fjords are carpeted with lush trees, plants and moss of all shades of green, whilst large patches of brilliant white snow and ice still top the mountains and loiter on the slopes. Cascading down between the vegetation and the harsh granite surfaces are a multitude of waterfalls. Ribbons of white water lace the greenery, resembling veins carrying the lifeblood of all living things. This bounty of rain and meltwater swell the rivers into a rapid white capped flow, none more so than at Gudbrand Gorge. Here, the foaming water which churns and smashes itself on the rocks below, creates a thunderous sound all of its own.
Perhaps the most interesting way to witness these sights was the Flam railway. The 12 mile journey is arguably the most beautiful of all Europe’s scenic rail journeys but undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest masterpieces of engineering. The comfortable train climbs around 3,000 feet, passing through 20 tunnels and over numerous bridges at a comfortable pace that allows you to absorb and photograph this breathtaking landscape. A brief stop (both on the way out and back) at Kjosfossen waterfall got us close up to feel the power of this force of nature. In the clouds of mist surrounding the falls we enjoyed a short performance representing the legendary dancing skogsrå, a forest spirit said to seduce men (no such luck). Our journey included a stop in Vatnahalsen, where we walked to the local hotel for waffles with cream and jam (I wonder if they agonise about which to put on first like we do with scones). Outside there is a zip line and whilst there wasn’t time before the return journey to have a go, we watched a few others plunge down into the valley.
Coach excursions provided the other means to take in the majestic (I really am running out of superlatives) surroundings. Our first started from the art nouveau splendour of Ålesund, following the Norddalsfjord to the valley of Valldal, known for its strawberry production. Stops at various scenic overlooks, for that Instagram worthy photo, included Trollstigheimen before descending into the valley via the famous Trollstigen Road. The road contains 11 hairpin turns as it drops more than 2,800 feet and tests the coach driver to the max as he navigates the tight bends with other coaches and more camper vans than you can shake a stick at (not all of them very sure about the width of their vehicle). This journey included a visit to the Troll Wall, the tallest vertical overhanging wall in Europe at 3,280 feet and only bested in its challenge to climbers by the infamous El Capitan in Yosemite.
We had to marvel during our travels at the excellence of Norwegian engineering and determination to make this rugged but beautiful landscape navigable. Not content with holding the record for the world’s longest road tunnel, they even hide their hydro power stations inside mountains. Fun fact: Laerdal tunnel at 24.5km is the longest in the world, traversing several mountainous formations between Laerdal and Aurland, in western Norway. As it takes 20 minutes to traverse, the lighting was designed to offset any stress among drivers. The resulting illumination gives the impression of daylight, and is so spectacular that some people hold their wedding inside it.
Saving the best until last, we sailed into Geirangerfjord for our final stop in Norway. Simply put, it’s one of the world’s greatest natural features (UNESCO thinks so too) and if you’re only going to visit one place in Norway, this should be it! Many fellow passengers on board were delightfully ticking this significant item off their bucket list. From Eagle’s Bend (some 2,000 feet above the village) we gave our cameras a good workout, photographing the fjord and village from this great viewpoint. The clouds have a habit of floating low in the fjord, so low that you feel you could reach out and touch them.
Cameras out again at Djudvasshytta where at 1030 meters we found a partially frozen lake, with water so still it offered the perfect reflection photo (and I do love a good reflection photograph). Black rocks and lingering snow gave a great black and white scene to admire…who needs colour anyway.
A scenic sail out was the perfect end to this day and the sunny and mild conditions meant I could watch from my favourite part of the ship, the pool area behind the World Cafe. More scenic splendour as the Seven Sisters waterfalls plunges 1,000 ft into the fjord, with the Suitor waterfall and many others close by.
Cute little villages nestle against the shore along the way, completing this picture postcard journey.
There was a sea day to enjoy before we made it to the Faroe Islands and an opportunity to really explore the ship’s many facilities. A spell in the well equipped gym (earned my lunch), relaxing in the Spa, a spot of reading in one of the many comfy and quiet places, attend a lecture in the Star Theatre, listen to the piano player in the beautiful atrium, watch a film, lunch beside the pool… there were simply not enough hours in the day!
To find out more, visit Viking or call 020 8780 7900 to speak to a Viking advisor.