That was exactly what I first thought to myself when I accepted the chance to take this short cruise aboard Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ casually elegant Black Watch the other week.
Five days? Really? Sailing from Edinburgh’s port of Rosyth, the Black Watch would take us deep into Aurlandsfjord, right up to the pretty local hamlet of Flam. Leaving there, we would shape course for Olden, and a full days’ cruising and sightseeing, before turning tail and heading back to Rosyth,
So, effectively, we had a brace of days in Norway proper, bracketed by two full sea days heading out to Norway and back. Seems hectic- that was to be expected. But value? Time well spent?
Well, yes. Taken collectively, the twelve thousand miles of jagged, indented coastline called Norway is, quite simply, the most stunning natural theme park on the planet. Whether viewed through a veil of mist or the shimmering prisms of a rainbow, the views are never anything less than jaw dropping. Still…
I was amazed at just how much I managed to pack in. Open jawed, I gazed like a star struck kid at sunrise in Flam, as the silent, seemingly deserted Black Watch ghosted across a surface as still as a mirror. Gorgeous views from the hills looking down over Aurlandsfjord, and a long, leisurely walk along the rolling, green carpeted landscape of Flam itself. Meandering past ominous waterfalls and along gently rolling meadows, ablaze with late summer fauna and finery, was hugely cathartic, to put it mildly.
There was a wonderful dinner out on deck, feasting on Fillet Steak as we threaded our way between rows of rolling , slowly darkening mountain ranges, the sky above us full of cotton candy clouds as the slowly descending sun came down like a stunning theatre curtain. The silence was almost deafening.
In chocolate box pretty Olden, I hiked right up to the face of Briskdal Glacier, it’s chilly, pristine heart still defiant in the face of twenty seven degrees of Nordic sunshine. I huffed and wheezed up asphalt trails and across bridges soaked by the freezing spray of relentless, plunging waterfalls, to finally gaze in awe at the icy facade of the glacier, the face tinted forty different shades of light blue as the sun glanced across that ageless landscape. No fresh air ever tasted sweeter or finer.
Back on board, there was time to sag with pathetic gratitude into an upper deck lounger, sipping on Cape Cods as the Black Watch swung skittishly at anchor amid the fairy tale finery of the fjord itself. Water black as coal, where the outlines of buildings and waterfalls were mirrored to almost cosmetic perfection. Like being awake in a particularly vivid dream, Norway will bewitch you on even a short trip.
Heading out- and coming back- there was ample time to get re-acquainted with one of the ‘greats’ of the cruise industry. Stately and assured, the Black Watch surged back and forth across northern seas while I dived into a long overdue re-read of Wolf Hall. A task often interrupted by random chocolate tastings in the Bookmark Cafe, and the odd glass of wine in the Courtyard.
There was an actual real, honest to goodness cinema on board, where you could watch up to the date feature films, and no shortage of live music and entertainment, too. There was time to be solitary, and reflect on the wonders of Norway, and time to be sociable over some remarkable food, too. In fact, it seemed endless, almost as if we were suspended in time and space, rather than pushing purposefully on our course back to Rosyth.
Five days. Five nights. Great fun. Heart stopping sights and unforgettable, mellow sunsets. A soul stirring little sweep across the briny to a magical land of half realised myths, where trolls still lurk in the stony silence of the hills, and witches still flit by moonlight across waters darker than a pirate’s heart.
Truly, madly, deeply wonderful stuff.