Exploring Undredal

Exploring Undredal

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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Flam A Picturesque Hamlet

Flam is a picturesque hamlet at the end of the Aurlandsfjord.  Surrounded by mountains and the beautiful fjord, you couldn’t imagine a more beautiful, serene or more Norwegian place.  On the surroundings hills and mountains, the farmers let their sheep and goats roam freely to find the best grass.  It was even more beautiful that I had imagined.

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Our first night in Flam, we met our family at Flamstova for dinner.   Our dinner was incredible, but the kids had grown weary from sitting at the table.  My cousin Jessica and her husband Jeff volunteered to take them out to see the sheep in the pasture.  With the kids gone, we could enjoy the remainder of our dinner in relative silence.

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Meanwhile the kids were in seventh heaven as they fed the sheep that ventured near the fence.  Colin had his first run in with the prickle of a stinging nettle he had picked to feed the sheep.  He learned his lesson and was more careful when he picked the grass.  The kids loved the animals we would see grazing freely throughout our Norwegian travels, but the opportunity to be up close and feed them was even better.

We made several more visits to the sheep before leaving Flam including a walk behind the fence to find some good fishing spots.  The boys, particularly the younger two, had to visit their sheep named Jeffry.  All of the kids enjoyed feeding and interacting with the sheep.   They loved to watch their silly antics as they ran down the mountain or assaulted their mother for milk.  It certainly isn’t something our kids are accustom to seeing.

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It was awesome to see the how freely the sheep and goats were to gallivant about the mountains finding the best grass.  Each morning the farmers would let their herds out and then each night the farmers would bring them back home.   How they got them to come down the mountain, I don’t know, but each and every night they’d return home from their pastures.

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Fishing on the Fjord at Night

Last night we enjoyed some burgers and hot dogs on the grill at Justin and Monisha’s cabin, which was a nice change of pace from eating in restaurants.   It was the perfect meal before they headed out fishing.  One food that sticks out in Norway is the hot dog.  Unlike their American counterparts, they’re not laden with nitrates or added chemicals.   I’m not a huge fan of hot dogs, but they are amazing.

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Post dinner, the boys went back on the boat to cruise and fish the Aurlandsfjord.  Their happy place is definitely on the water with a fishing pole in hand.   They cruised around the fjord seeing the goats that had previously been on a rocky beach climbing high up the rocky cliffs lining the fjord.   The boys found some luck near where the waterfalls ones pouring under E16, the bike path and into the fjord.  Colin caught two more trout although neither were big enough to catch.

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This boat trip had much calmer seas and better weather.  There was barely a cloud in the sky and even when they came back after 22:00, the sun was still shining brightly.

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Queen Mary 2 Leaving Flam

As we drove back into Flam, the Queen Mary 2 was getting ready to leave port.  The ship against the backdrop of the tiny town of Flam looked super imposing.  We got up to our room in the Flamsbrygga hotel as they started untethering the ropes.  The boys wanted a better view of the ship leaving port, so we quickly ran downstairs to watch it backout.  When the ship was getting ready to pull forward into the Aurlandsfjord, it played it’s horn, which then echoed off all the walls of the fjord.

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Flamsbana

Last night we took the Flamsbana (Flam Railway) up to Myrdal and back down.   Myrdal is only accessible by train either the Flamsbana or the Bergen Line.  The quaint mountain station is 867 meters above sea level.  The round trip from Flam to Myrdal takes a little over two hours.  The views from the railway are second to none.

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We loved the view of the mountains, waterfalls, the Flam River and the Flam Valley from the tracks.  The highlight of the train ride is the stop at the Kjosfossen Waterfall at almost 2,200 feet above sea level.   This waterfall is fed by Reinunga Lake and is truly spectacular waterfall with a total fall of over 738 feet.  The only part viewable from the train and the nearby platform is the upper falls.  The falls continue under the platform and rail bridge plunging into the gorge.  Additionally, there is also a power plant on the Kjosfossen waterfall that powers the Flam Railway.

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As part of the trip on the Flamsbana, there is a 5 minute stop ascending the tracks to Myrdal and a 5 minute stop on the descent to Flam.  Importantly, there is significant spray on the platform, so it isn’t a bad idea to have your camera and phone in a protective bag.    Additionally, during this stop there are three actresses, who appears as Huldra.   In Scandinavian folklore, Huldra is a seductive forest creature that lures men and takes them into the mountain to marry her.   The dance is performed to traditional music and adds to the ambiance.

This train trip has multiple departures daily and costs about $58 per adult ticket and $29 for a kid’s ticket.  It is absolutely worth the price and is a must do if you ever travel to Flam.

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