Huldras

Chasing ‘Huldras’ in the Norwegian woods

 

Seated in a toy-like train on a bright mid-July day, we were moving down from an elevation of about 2800 ft. However, it hardly felt like summer as we were in Norway, one of the coldest regions in the world. To support our point, a couple of hours ago, we had just crossed a vast stretch of glaciers.

The train rattled past the verdant mountains of Aurland, a municipality in the Southern side of the country. Everything outside was either frozen or had thawed into gushing rivers and waterfalls, thanks to the bright summer sun. Occasionally, we passed dark tunnels and the train once again threw itself into a world of fog, cloud and a hint of snow.

At times, when the gusty wind swept away the haze, we could see a green valley underneath. The sight was dreamy; even surreal and, it seemed, we were under a spell.

After we boarded the train, a deep voice booming in the train speakers welcomed us to this magical land which, as he stated, was linked to many Scandinavian folk beliefs celebrating or shunning different tales of a number of mythological creatures. We listened to him in half attention as the scenery outside didn’t let anyone concentrate.

Our spell broke when the train stopped in front of a magnificent waterfall.

A ten-minute break and we got down to capture its enormity in our cameras. (The name of the waterfall is Kjosfossen and, till date, we have no clue on how to pronounce it). As we adjusted our cameras a sweet music started floating out of the misty fall.

But our eyes were still locked in our camera screens in a desperate attempt to freeze its beauty!

A few moments later, what we witnessed was probably the most spectacular thing we could ever expect to witness in this life- a woman in a red robe dancing atop the waterfall. As we tilted our eyes out of the camera screens, she called on to us with wide open arms as if inviting us to enter her world.

Clueless and enchanted, I almost felt like jumping into the waterfall to be her captive forever. The music was magical and so was this breathtaking dance. The woman kept disappeared from one spot and appearing at another. We were drowned in ecstasy and not to mention, bone-chilling terror.

The train driver honked, signally us to return to the train. Gradually, the veil of amazement lifted and, we realised, whatever we had seen was not magic but a spectacular performance. The woman dancing atop the waterfall was none but two male artists hiding in different spots and making it look like one person. What an amazing way to make a journey far more special!

Seated beside me was my friend Richa who then indicated that the creature we witnessed there was called ‘Huldra’, a seductress that roams in the forests and lures any lonely passersby into captivity. Speechless and curious, I typed ‘Scandinavian folktales’ on my phone and Mr Google immediately took me to a different world.

I got hooked. After capturing people, a Huldra takes them to hidden caves in the forest where she kills them in order to protect her secret. According to the local legends, a ‘Huldra’ appears suddenly out of misty forests, rivers or waterfalls and a man is as helpless as a lamb in front of her magical powers. And what we saw at the waterfall is, undoubtedly, the closest representation of this enchanting folktale.

It is believed that once a woman with many children had once irked God by hiding her dirty children inside a closet when he came visit her. But nothing is hidden from Him. Disappointed, he cursed her that the children she had hidden from him would be forever hidden from humanity. No hard guessing, these children  came to be known as ‘Huldras’.

All of this gave me the magic I had been looking for all my life and, I am sure, I am going to remember this even when I am old and senile. I kept reading as I came across many other folktales. One of such creatures is  the’Trolls’, a race of big half human half bear-like creatures with ugly faces and lots of hair.

The ‘Trolls’ are believed to be stupid and lazy. For the same reason, any smart and courageous human being can outwit a troll in case he encounters one.

Coming back to the journey part, the meandering railroads we were slowly descending down is one of the highest railroads in the world which starts from Myrdal, a quaint train station and ends at  Flåm, another sleepy town guarding the mighty Sognefjord. This fjord we are talking about is no ordinary one, a fjord can never be.

But, this one is different, being the longest as well as the deepest fjord in the world. For those curious, a fjord is a narrow water body created by glacial erosion and they are always surrounded by steep hills resulted from the massive forces of glacier meltdown.

When the train halted at its final stop Flåm, we were welcomed by a little but not-so-sleepy village with extra cute red cottages. What, otherwise, could have been an unknown village tucked inside the mountainous forests is, in reality, a buzzing tourist spot as the ferry rides through the fjord begins and ends here.

As we awaited our turn to board the ferry to Bergen, the second largest city in Norway, we lunched on fresh fish and chips mulling over those hair-raising folktales and the most innovative surprise that Norway had in store for us. Now, I fully comprehend, what do the ugly stooping dolls at the souvenir shops signify and how mythological characters have become a part of popular culture.

I too couldn’t control myself from bringing home a road sign depicting a ‘Huldra waiting ahead’. Imagine seeing a real sign like that while driving in Norway!

A couple of hours later, when the boat started moving through the fjord, a horde of thick clouds followed by thundering rain descended on us. Standing at the viewing dock, I looked back to see if there was really a ‘Huldra’ standing at the pier and calling me back. But the view gradually faded away.

I looked forward, anticipating another magical creature trying to stop us from entering the fjord. But the only thing we saw was the ferry piercing through the silence of the dark and deep. I came down to the sitting area, somewhat disappointed. Another exciting phase of the journey was yet to unfold. But my heart and soul were stuck in the green valley we had just behind.

Someday, if this life permits, I would go back and relive those magical moments. And you never know, while roaming in that wonderland, I might as well bump into one of those creatures. Because you have to first believe in magic to be able to see it. Till then, a ‘spelled’ woman can only dream and wait.

Here’s a picture from encounter with a Huldra. Please pardon the bad quality.

Huldras

Kjosfossen Falls located somewhere between Flam and Myrdal

Fact File:

Best time to Visit: Summer months (May-September)

How to reach:

Most of the travellers land in Oslo first and extend their travel to other places of interest. However, Norway has more than 80 airports in different important locations. Most of these airports are well connected to one another or other major cities in the world.

The best way to explore the wild side of Norway is to take the train. Trains run regularly from Oslo to other major towns. We booked tickets with the Bergen railway on the NSB (Norwegian state railway) website. The train we took connects Oslo and Bergen and takes about 7 hours to reach Bergen.

However, we got down a Myrdal to take a detour of the world famous Flåm Railways. One can also directly fly or take a train to Bergen and then take a ferry to  Flåm and ride up to Myrdal. in both the cases, the journey will be equally rewarding. The prices for train tickets are relatively steep as Norway happens to be one of the most expensive countries in the world.

If you ask me, the whole experience of this journey is worth its price.

There are several express boat, ferry and cruise services connecting  Flåm and Bergen.  We booked our ferry tickets with Norled. For winter time travel, check with the boat companies before booking as most of the services are closed during winter season.

Here’s where to book the tickets:

For Oslo-Bergen rail route

https://www.nsb.no/en/frontpage

For Myrdal- Flåm rail route

http://www. Flåmbooking.com/booking.aspx

For ferry ride through Sognefjord

https://www.norled.no/en/fjordcruise/sognefjorden-bergen-to-flaam/

For extra information:

https://www.norled.no/en/fjordcruise/sognefjorden-bergen-to-flaam/

Where to stay:

One can stay at  Flåm or take a ferry to other nearby towns and villages. there is no dearth of hotels, homestays, cottages, cabins, boarding houses and even apartments for both reasonable and high prices.

Here’s where one can book accommodations which offer a unique ‘living in a fjord’ experience.

http://www.sognefjord.no/en/where-to-stay/

Bergen also has numerous decent to luxury accommodation options. Another good option is to book a bed & breakfast through Airbnb for those travelling on a budget or with kids and family. We stayed in an Airbnb apartment in Bergen and loved it for its cosy home like atmosphere.

To find accommodation in Bergen:

http://en.visitbergen.com/accommodation

9 Comments

  • Health Share PORT June 16, 2017 at 6:28 am

    Beautiful ..post..Your writing skill is well keep writing and sharing…

    Reply
  • restlessjo January 30, 2016 at 8:35 am

    Spectacular scenery! I was always saving the ‘Norwegian cruise’ for my old age. I guess there’s another way and I’d better get a move on! Many thanks for the follow 🙂

    Reply
    • Storyteller January 31, 2016 at 9:31 am

      Thanks a lot for reading. Yeah, this is definitely a great thing to experience in the summers. So why not go ahead with it? Would love to read your story on this too.

      Reply
      • restlessjo January 31, 2016 at 9:33 am

        Money and commitments is the answer 🙂 Maybe one day…

        Reply
        • Storyteller January 31, 2016 at 9:36 am

          I am sure you will. You have got a great blog. keep writing. 🙂

          Reply
          • restlessjo January 31, 2016 at 9:38 am

            Thanks a lot 🙂

  • travellinn January 28, 2016 at 9:36 am

    Nice post! I have also seen the Huldra by Kjosfossen, and it is a special experience. I went on the tour called Norway in a Nutshell. It is the same route, but everything is included in one ticket, instead of buying each leg separately. So for readers being inspired by your post that might be a good option 🙂 http://www.norwaynutshell.com/en/explore-the-fjords/norway-in-a-nutshell/

    Reply
    • Storyteller January 28, 2016 at 9:55 am

      Thanks for reading and sharing your input. Yes, the same can be done in one single package which is more convenient. But just in case anyone wants to break the journey and enjoy Norway in his/her own pace 🙂

      Reply
      • travellinn January 28, 2016 at 10:11 am

        The great thing about Norway in a Nutshell is that you can break it up along the was as well. And even book the accommodation in the same booking if you want 🙂 I only did it as a day trip though, but would love to spend longer along the way! 🙂

        Reply

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