Norway in a Nutshell is what the tour is called and is comprised of 3 train rides, 1 boat cruise and 1 bus ride from Oslo in the east to Bergen on the west coast. You can do it in one day or plan additional activities with a sleep over. This is a high recommend!
Oslo to Myrdal
A beautiful, relaxing way to see the Norwegian landscape. We caught the 8:25 am Bergen Railway train Oslo>Myrdal. It moves quite quickly and climbs the hilly terrain. On this train there is a cafe car with free refills if you return the cup.
The train is speeding along and fog is gently hovering over the hilltops and occasionally bony fingers of fog grapple at the calm black waters below. The waters of lakes and streams look black as they reflect the grey clouds and dark evergreens. The sun is just below the horizon. The area has received a dumping of 15-30cm of snow a couple of nights ago and looks like a Christmas card in places where the snow bends the evergreen boughs. As far as the eye can see its a winter wonderland. I’ve never seen such absence of colour though. The skies are dark, low light and grey mountains, deep lakes and dark evergreens give you the impression you are looking at a black and white photograph. I laid back and relaxed in my seat. Every time I see a frozen lake, I think of brother Kevin strapping on his blades and skating along the virgin ice with a satisfied smile.
As the train weaves its way up to Myrdal, the terrain begins to change dramatically. The rocky hills turn into mountains, craggy and severe. Ski hills appear and avalanche screens built into the sides of the mountains protect the villages below and I expect, the railway tracks also. Arriving in Myrdal, we carefully hop off the train onto sheer ice on the platform. My boots have not performed well on ice. We didn’t think we needed our ice cleats for this phase but we were wrong. Thankfully, the train attendant is there to help us with our luggage. Each of us has a full suitcase and carry-on for our trip and we have to transfer them on each leg of the journey.
Myrdal to Flåm
Across the platform to the only other track we board the Flåm Rail with 38 others. The joy of travelling off season are the low numbers of tourists. The descent from Myrdal to Flåm (866 metres to 2 metres above sea level) takes approximately 50 minutes with a photo stop in front of the frozen Kjosfossen waterfall which I’m sure is spectacular in warmer weather. All we saw was frozen ice, still people hopped onto the platform posing in front of the frozen waterfall.
Arriving in Flåm, we walk across a treacherous, icy parking lot dragging our suitcases. I felt Bambi on ice legs about to splay. There was enough time to enjoy a hearty lunch before embarking on a magical boat journey through the Nærøyfjord (UNESCO World Heritage List).
Flåm to Gudvagen
Yordie and I commented how the landscape reminded us of the Western Brook tour in Newfoundland. Yes, there were similarities but not so much wind and rain as I experienced in Newfoundland.
Above is a map of the fjord and travellers as recent as the day previous were unable to sail past the halfway point due to the ice. We, on the other hand were able to make it to Gudvagen but not without the excitement of breaking through some ice. As darkness took over, the sound of the ice cracking was eerie and the reflection of light and mountains was spooky. Watch the video of the ice breaking here:
Gudvagen to Voss
We arrived in Gudvagen, a Viking village in darkness and would have loved to explore the refurbished homes but it was not to be. The days are shorter here at this time of year. It was time to hop on a coach bus to get us back to the Bergen Railway. As we were departing the parking lot, a young girl asked if this was the bus to Flåm. The driver strongly answered, “No!!” and proceeded to tell her it was the bus in front of us. We could see the red tail lights ahead in the distance. Our driver closed the door, and accelerated down the icy road while flashing his high beams and honking his horn repeatedly. Eventually the driver up ahead stopped and the girl and her friend left the bus as the drivers had a hilarious exchange. We didn’t understand a word they were saying but some passemgers did and were laughing and we joined in.
I’m sure it would be a beautiful bus ride to Voss but all we could see were the high beams and reflections on the highway. Arriving safely in Voss, we waited for a 19:51 train to Bergen. Voss is a ski town and the cold, barren concrete waiting area in the train station void of benches. I’m sure during busier times it is crowded with skiers, holding their equipment as they wait for their train to Bergen.
Everyone else in our group had tickets for the 19:13 train. Yordie was proud of me for breaking a rule as we hopped on the earlier train with a different ticket time. I held my breath while our tickets were checked. All was good and we giggled that we would get to Bergen earlier than planned.
Voss to Bergen
It was a good thing too because our GPS did not work for the Norwegian streets again. We walked and walked and walked in circles from the train station until another kind local knew the hotel and pointed us in the right direction. We arrived at the Clarion Bergen around 9:45 pm tired and starving. We dumped our luggage and went in search of food.
After two tries we found Olivia, an Italian food chain where we enjoyed a beer, calamari and some pizza. OMG it was exactly what we needed. We closed the place, walked back to our spacious hotel room and fell into bed. A long day but totally worth every moment.
Tomorrow we board the ship. I can’t wait!!