of the rushing, tumbling river. We depart with pleasant recollections of Flam but not one troll between us.
Next to Balestrand, a couple of hours from Flam by high-speed ferry (May to September only), which lies right on the Sognefjord. Ringed by snowy peaks, this community of just 1800 permanent residents is blessed by such a relatively moderate climate and fine scenery that tourists have been coming here for two centuries. Kaiser Wilhelm II made annual visits for 25 years until World War I. He loved the region and the Norwegian people, whom he romanticised as being of pure Germanic stock.
The kaiser stayed on his yacht while other tourists generally sought out the famous waterfront Kivikness Hotel. So do we. This white, Swiss-style mansion of fretworked timber has been welcoming tourists for 140 years. It has belonged to the Kivikne family for five generations, their shared commitment to hospitality and the continuing upkeep of this sprawling hotel is a story in itself. Grand public rooms marry the style of English country house with Norwegian hunting lodge.
After eating on the run for days we are overcome by the hotel’s huge buffet, which includes local seafood. Fine wines top off what could be the best view in the world, especially as the sun sinks ever so slowly into a soft summer night.
After exploring the immediate township (allow an hour if the private art galleries are open), we wander by
Invitingly merry: Pleasure craft at rest on the mirror-glass surface of Bergen Harbour at dusk