The Crown Princess cruise ship had docked at Flåm, Norway, where we had an excursion booked that would take us to see a stave church in Borgund. Stave churches are wooden buildings, common in medieval times, and named for their load-bearing columns called stav. Only a few stave churches exist outside Norway. The Borgund stave church is Norway’s best preserved church.
To get to the church from where we were there were two options: either go over the mountains or go through the mountains. But with Princess Cruises we didn’t have to choose; there was no splitting of passengers into the group that wanted to go underground and the group that wanted to go over the top and the group that didn’t really care so long as a decision was made and they were back on the cruise ship in time for pre-dinner snacking at the buffet; no fights to the death or passionate arguments about the virtues of one route over another. We could do both. Our excursion would take us over the mountains on the way back but our journey to Borgund would go through them and that involved a trip through the Lærdal Tunnel, the longest road tunnel in the world. When we’re travelling we always like to try to do something that is the longest or highest or oldest or largest, etc. and this was it for us on this holiday. The tunnel was 24.51 kilometres long with occasional breaks in the monotony of the road for more open, blue-lit, cave sections. We were told that these were to simulate daylight and provide something to keep drivers alert. I took some video so you can see for yourself just how alert it makes you feel too.
Borgund Stave Church
We arrived at Borgund under deep, grey skies and torrential rain. That’s Norwegian weather for you. It didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for the structure and it lent the area around the church an air of menace as befits most religious buildings. That is their primary purpose and don’t argue with me otherwise. The drenched, black wood of the church’s exterior, however, caused a few problems with getting decent photographs against the sky but even in silhouette form the stave church looked fantastic.
We’d been told in the coach on the trip through the tunnel that we couldn’t use flash photography inside the stave church and again, as the coach arrived at Borgund and a dedicated church guide welcomed us, we were reminded that the use of flash photography was not permitted. She then took us around the building before letting us inside where, again, we were reminded that photography of the inside of the church was fine – she would illuminate areas of the pitch black interior with her torch – so long as we didn’t use flash photography. I think you probably know where I’m going with this but I’ll say it anyway. Despite three very clear instructions in English to our English-speaking group of British and American people some self-entitled arses (older American people, naturally) started taking flash photos inside the church. The guide was too polite to say anything and I wish that I had at the time but my wife and I satisfied ourselves somewhat by standing in front of those who had taken flash photos when they went to take others. All accidentally, like. The photographs of Borgund stave church that I took, naturally, didn’t use flash because when you’re told not to then that’s what you do. It’s called respect.
We finished off our visit to Borgund stave church with a walk around its graveyard and a quick look at the nearby museum which was small but with some interesting historical objects inside. Our next stop would be Lærdal village.