I have to admit, of all my Norweigan escapades it was the hamlet of Gudvangen that thrilled me most. This small village is quite a big deal in Norway and, in Norse, it invariably translates to “Where the gods live.” Also, a favourite tourist hotspot as it’s from here, you embark the “Norway in a Nutshell” cruise to voyage the world’s longest, narrowest and beautifullest Fjords. On a chilly summer day in August, I boarded the 8.20 AM bus from Bergen, to visit the land of Norse Gods. After procuring a ticket for EUR 32, I grabbed the window seat and savoured every bit of the spectacular landscapes I beheld for the next three hours. The 100 km trip sprang with the bus trailing the boughs of North Sea across Arna, Trengereid, Vaksdal and Stanghelle. With a bright sun on the Linden and pine trees and gushing streams in the backdrop, the tranquillity of nature had me gripped throughout.
In the latter half, we drove by Vossevngen, Oppheim and Stalheim, the isolated settlements that mirror authentic Norweigan countryside over a series of scattered tiny homes, heaps of rolled haystack and sporadic cattle or humans. Despite being snuggled in lush forests, Vestland’s Aurland Municipality holds the record of being Norway’s 60th most populous territory. The splendid bus ride concluded at 11.15 AM as we crossed the Viking Valley on E16 Gudvangatunnelen highway route. The level of my anticipation doubled as I got off at Fv241. The Fergereise på Nærøyfjorden point is a short walk from here. The Fergereise på Nærøyfjorden point is a short walk from here. So is the Flam ticket counter. To secure physical tickets of your cruise voyage, first, address the ticket counter and then luxuriate in sightseeing. For, the scenery is so wondrous and surreal that it’s only fair to lose track, of the time.
To call this town small is an oversimplification. For Gudvangen comprises of a few colourful homes, an information centre, a ship dock, a restaurant/motel and a souvenir store. The reserved ticket and information counter was marked, by multiple flags of Norway. Beyond the counter, is a centuries-old Tiki statue that alike of a standing wood carving of a Viking warrior. A few short steps into the narrow lane alongside this statue and I found myself standing at the site where Nærøydalselvi river empties into the Nærøyfjord fjord.
I was excited to visit ‘Njardarheimr,’ an impression of an ancestral Viking village overlooking the fjord. My cruise scheduled to depart at 1, allowed me enough time to appreciate the extraordinary excellence of this region. In a triumphantly joyful manner, I bounced into the village that transliterates to “Where Gods Live.” Here, I met village workers dressed in the traditional clothing of the memorable civilisation they support. My stereotypical long-bearded Viking guide showed me ancient Viking boat and Viking weapons that all men were required to wear for a battle. He told me that most Vikings would bring bows and arrows, poleaxes, spears or daggers with a shield, only the affluent shouldered a sword. Those not participating in the act of war were naive farmers and anglers just going about their routine boring lives.
Following viewing the replicas of grass-roofed Chief’s hut, his throne-like chair and hearing old Norse God based tales, I continued past some old school handicrafts, crafted from peculiar knotting. The arrangement exhibits a female blacksmith hammering and a piece of old woodturning equipment comprising a stately rope gear attached to a wooden foot lever. These dying arts engaged copious man-hours to be perfected, in the bygone era. My tour concluded at the ancient sacrificial area, where presumably people and animals were sacrificed to Gods, in anticipation of stable yield, protection and influence.
Around the sacrificial area, you will see the wooden totems of the Norse gods, Odin, Njord, Freya, Thor and Frey, the God of fertility with a large penis. From UNESCO’s World Heritage site of Nærøyfjord to the imitation of Viking village, Gudvangen carries substance and multifarious adventures waiting to be uncorked. I traversed the hamlet at my own pace, stopping to source lunch at Gudvangen Fjordtell. Even with the limited menu, I was spoilt for the glorious valley and fjord views. Gudvangen Fjordtell restaurant is essentially designed in glass, making it conceivable to savour all seasons.
Though on this day, I sat on a goat-hide topped bench like a local and dug into the Viking reindeer burger while gnawing the long crispy fries. The only thing missing was home-brewed mead, a few bearded men and busting a gut over forgotten Norse war stories. The best time of the year to visit this 120-inhabitant village is the month of July when they hold the annual Viking Fest.
By participating in this fest, you get to shop authentic Viking crafts, by-stand sword fights, theatricals, archery strife, wrestling and take your taste buds on an adventure by savouring a pure Viking feast. With a quick stop at the gift shop, I bought an amulet of protection from the mythical trolls of the forests to remind me of my most joyful visit to this tiny modest town. Finally, it was time to board the fjord cruise to Flåm.
Sailing across Bakka village, Kjelfossen waterfall and comparable prehistoric landscapes, I sat in awe for the entire length of the 3-hour trip. I felt diminutive and trifling as we crossed the titanic ice-age mountains, as though they kindled a more significant part of my solitary self. Gudvangen, the field of the Gods was now far from my sight. However, whether you choose to drool over the sublime beauty of the glaciated mountains, walk across blooming orchards, tour the traditionally carved wooden houses or partake in local activities, this Norweigan Viking village is bound to leave you surprised.