According to the myth, travelling men would be lured into the mountains never to be seen again after being left spellbound by a mysterious young woman waiting for them to pass by.
The scene is recreated for today’s tourists on the spectacular Flam Railway… and the sweet music began to draw me in, too. You are captivated by the sound and also by the dancing of this lady in red, known as the Huldra, an elusive spirit.
I was moving closer and closer to the mountain, but then I quickly came to my senses and realised that in one hour’s time they were opening the buffet on our fantastic P&O cruise ship! Those stories of people eating and eating on a cruise? Well, they are no myth…
We were docked for the day in Flam, in the south-west of Norway – our second stop on a seven-night cruise around the delightful fjords.
It was my second visit to this region and 25th cruise. My partner, Ilisa, is well-travelled, but new to cruising and making her fjords debut.
Ilisa constantly told me how much she was enjoying the Azura – part of P&O’s eight-strong cruise ship fleet.
And, like me, she felt at home on the British vessel, enjoying the company of mostly UK passengers. As for her verdict on the endless stunning scenery: ‘’It reminds me of when I was in New Zealand… but a lot easier to get to.”
We had wanted a holiday that was airport-free, offered places of interest and delivered a fair share of pampering. The relatively short drive to Southampton ticked the first box and the Azura – which carries 3,100 passengers – did the rest.
If you want to splash out a little, treat yourself to one of the speciality restaurants. Sindhu’s Indian fare and The Epicurean, a gourmet twist on classic British food, are an experience to savour both in food quality and service.
A formal afternoon tea is served on certain days in The Epicurean and we both agreed the scones were the finest we had tasted.
Although difficult to avoid, it is not compulsory to put on half a stone during a week-long voyage! Ilisa likes the gym and the Azura boasts an impressive one.
More my thing was the adjacent spa, where I found the seaweed wrap to be absolute bliss. It eases your aches and pains and generally gives the body a major boost.
So, while we enjoyed everything on board, our four stops were splendid. The itinerary was focused on the south-west and west of Norway and comprised Stavanger, Flam, Olden and Bergen.
In Stavanger and Bergen, we did not participate in the many tours offered by the cruise line, instead happily strolling around and enjoying the atmosphere.
There are numerous pretty and historic buildings, including the interesting former canning factory – now a museum – in Stavanger, where you can purchase a variety of sardines.
Jewish interest is quite limited in Norway. The country is served by two synagogues, one in Oslo and the other in Trondheim. The shul in Olso has an outreach programme of events for small groups of Jews from Stavanger and Bergen.
In the heart of Bergen, and only about a 15-minute stroll from where the cruise ships dock, is the Theta Museum and it’s well worth a visit.
Here you’ll find a one-room museum in a space used by the Norwegian resistance group known as the Theta Group to send radio messages to England during Nazi occupation during the Second World War.
In Olden, we enjoyed a really cool tour – in more ways than one. We joined the ship’s excursion to the spectacular Briksdal Glacier, which is about a 30-minute scenic coach ride from the port and is a memorable sight, not forgetting the delicious tea and cakes served afterwards in their cafeteria.
Well, it would have been about two hours since our last meal!
In Flam, we booked train tickets for the amazing one-hour journey from the fjord to the top of the mountain, where you stop off to enjoy that mesmerising music and dancing. This all happens at the side of the Kjosfossen waterfall, which is worth the trip alone.
It was just as well I was not lured into the mountains. A few days later came another fantastic highlight of the trip – a flag-waving, patriotic event on deck to the sounds of our most iconic hymns and songs.
Reminiscent of the Last Night of the Proms, the evening seemed to be much loved by hundreds of guests. I guess my favourite was Rule Britannia. Although on this occasion, it was the Azura that ruled the waves.
Mark travelled on the Azura with P&O Cruises, which is offering a Norwegian fjords trip on the Iona from £779 pp for an inside cabin. Departing 20 June 2020, the price includes full board meals and entertainment on board. Departing from and returning to Southampton. Visit pocruises.com, call 03453 555 111 or visit your travel agent.
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