How to Have an Elsa Moment in Norway
I will never forget the chilly, December afternoon I first saw Frozen. Because of the thick blanket of white covering the streets, my husband and I decided to postpone Christmas shopping and instead take the short trek to the Chelsea Bowtie Cinema near our apartment to catch a matinee. Both Disney fanatics, we were smiling along through first twenty minutes, exchanging charmed glances at the clever plot, cute jokes and toe-taping first few songs. Then “Let It Go” happened.
My smile slowly transitioned into a jaw-dropped stun as Elsa belted out her frustration, built her ice castle, and transformed her plain dress into that glimmering, blue gown. And though I was 25, for that 3:22 I was under a spell: I was six years old again, staring at the screen with huge, sparkling eyes and thinking, I want to be her.
I wasn’t shocked by the phenomenon that ensued. In fact I had the Frozen Fever myself, having a Frozen-themed birthday party (costumes required), seeing the movie another four times in theaters, and learning every word to every song on the soundtrack within the week. It also moved Norway a notch or two higher on my travel bucket list.
When we finally planned a small Scandinavian tour earlier this year, I got out my sparkly cape and snowflake hair barrettes.
Before we arrived in Norway, I didn’t understand how vast an area the fjords is. I imagined the fjords were not only visible, but accessible from every major city. That's not the case. A bit of research told me that for the fjord experience of my Elsa-loving dreams, I needed to go to Flam.
A note on Flam: This is a popular stop on the “Norway in a Nutshell” route, so if you’re planning to do that you’ll already be passing through. There are certain fjords that are known to be among the most stunning, and the top-rated in Norway is the Nærøyfjord. By whom, I'm not certain, but my next career will be in fjord-rating.
The big attraction in Flam is the Flamsbana, a scenic train ride through the mountains. The train ride is certainly worth doing as well, but for me, it did not compare at all to the beauty of the fjord cruise. I bought an advance ticket online for a two-hour cruise of the Nærøyfjord from Flam to another charming, tiny, sea-front town called Gudvangen via ferry. You can also buy on the spot at the Flam Tourism Office.
The morning of our arrival in Flam, I woke up like Princess Anna on coronation day: drooling, disheveled, craving chocolate... and then I remembered what day it was.
My enthusiasm and excitement flew off the charts as I ripped open the curtains and began singing each word to "For the First Time in Forever," much to husband's and neighbor's dismay.
I weaved my hair into a thick, side-braid and boarded the ferry like the Norwegian Ice Princess I've so badly wanted to be for the last three years. I’ve been mistaken for Scandinavian my whole life, so I haven’t given up hope that there’s a glimmer of truth to it.
I had chills boarding the ferry - both from the icy wind and the suspense of my dreams coming true. The Nærøyfjord is one of the narrowest, so the boat passed right by the rocky cliffs, countless waterfalls, rolling hills and Crayola-colored houses that made the scene. We were so close to land I could see the freshly-shorn sheep quivering in the cold. I had to remind myself to breathe I was so happy. I kept taking photos, thinking we were surely at the best point in the cruise, only to find it trumped a moment later.
As I floated through the fjords, the loose bits of hair outside my braid got caught and carried by the wind. Despite the frigid temperatures, I shed my jacket and cashmere scarf saying, "The cold never bothered me anyway." And there, in the middle of the fjord with the cold and the wind, and the snow - I had my Elsa moment. I queued up the soundtrack, got my (mental, imaginary) glove and crown ready to dramatically toss, and since I don’t mind embarrassing myself in front of several large tour groups of Asians, just "Let it Go."
- The ferry is 250NOK and be purchased either roundtrip or one-way. The one way options ends in another, tiny, charming, sea-front town called Gudvangen. From there you can hop on a bus back to Flam, or onto Voss if you you are doing the Nutshell route.
- Take-out whoever you need to to secure the tiny spot at the top deck at the far end of the ferry just outside where the captain stands. You’ll have to stand against the railing rather than have a seat, but trust me - you won’t be able to sit once the cruise begins and this is the view you want - no one in front of or next to you, just the endless fjords ahead. Out on the far end, you’ll feel like the only one even on the boat.
- For eating in Flam and Gudvangen, the options are slim. Both towns are tiny. I only spotted a restaurant or two so finding a foodie spot is not going to happen. But make sure you try Norwegian waffles. They are about the size of a Belgian waffle, but thickness of an Eggo, and are heart shaped! They serve them warm with strawberry jam and cream. The one food shop in Gudvangen sells them fresh made with hot chocolate.