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By far one of my favorite excursions in Norway was the day we spent exploring Undredal. Undredal is a famous city on the Aurlandsfjord. It is famous for having more goat inhabitants than human inhabitants. It is also famous for having the world’s smallest wooden stave church.
Our adventure to Undredal started with a bus ride from Flam to Gudvangen. At Gudvangen we got on the ferry to cruise the world famous, and UNESCO protected Naeroyfjord. The Naeroyfjord is the narrowest arm of the Sognefjord. It is rated as the number one natural heritage site in the world by National Geographic Magazine. The cruise on this narrow fjord did not disappoint.
The water of the Naeroyfjord is a beautiful and pristine blue green color. Dramatic mountains rise out the fjord matched only by equally waterfalls. The sides of the mountains are covered by grass and trees, which are perfect for the goats and sheeps that inhabit them. Unquestionably, there isn’t an adequate superlative to describe the beauty of the Naeroyfjord. Consider the fact that this Florida girl and her son Jake spent the entirety of the Naeroyfjord cruise on the top of the ferry, so we wouldn’t miss a minute of the scenery. We were utterly transfixed even as we were pelted in the face by ice pellets and the blistering cold wind.
We soon turned into the Aurlandsfjord and headed towards our destination of Undredal. The town looked absolutely magical as we made our approach to the small dock. Undredal has the appearance of a quintessential Norwegian Fjord town. The buildings of Undredal are colorful, well kept and inviting.
When we disembarked, we met our guide who would lead us on our walking tour of the tiny town. As we gathered with the rest of our group near the pier. A short teenage boy/girl approached as we waited. It took a moment, but we realized that Mark was a guy and our guide. He had to be younger than Jake most likely a high school student in town. Mark was absolutely wonderful. As a tour guide he was perfect, he was knowledge, engaging, funny and entertaining.
There is not a ton to see in tiny Undredal, but it is absolutely worth the visit! Our guide took us to the raging river showed us the old school, and where we’d go for our cheese tasty. The piece de resistance for our tour, however, was the smallest stave church in the world. At its inception 1147, it was even smaller than its current iteration. In the 18th century, they added own to the church. Even in its larger iteration, it is only 39 ft x 13 ft with 40 seats.
Most noteworthy in spite of its small size, the church’s interior packs quite the punch. The sides of the church and ceiling are home to very interesting religious murals and paintings. Norwegian churches, unlike most European churches from the Middle Ages, incorporate both Christian and pagan themes. In addition, this is the only church where you will find a painting of Satan on the ceiling. According to local legends, the townspeople of Undredal felt by putting Satan in their church they could keep a better eye on him. I guess its that whole “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” thing.
If you sit in the benches, you can see where a board parishioner had carved a drawing into the wall. The artists painted the ceilings with stars, biblical figures, angels and as noted above satan. Lighting in the church is provided by candles and a very unique deer antler chandelier that was a gift from the Germans. In contrast, the alter area is simple and beautiful. I can’t imagine going to church or holding a wedding in such a small church.
Despite its size, the Undredal and its small wooden stave church pack quite the punch and are well worth the journey. If you are jumping off from Flam, it is pretty easy to get to Undredal and you have several options. Moreover, I highly recommend taking the Naeroyfjord cruise option as cruising the Naeroyfjord is truly spectacular. The particular excursion we chose included a bus to Gudvangen, the ferry to Undredal and a van back Flam. In addition, it included a walking tour and a goat cheese tasting in Undredal, both of which were amazing. This was the perfect excursion for families. We were travelling with family members from 7 to 87 and each and everyone of us enjoyed the day trip.
You can find all of the photos from this trip here: Photo Album