Oslo, Norway (BBN) – Coming from the Indian subcontinent, cross country train journeys among verdant countrysides, forests, mountains and cities are commonplace.
So the plan of taking a train across Norway with family, however high the Trip Advisor or Expedia rating might have been, was met with some skepticism, reports The Hindu.
Norway’s fjords or the Northern Lights would have been a more logical choice, but a train journey?
The Oslo Bergen railway is part of the Norway in a Nutshell programme that combines rail, boat and bus between the coasts showcasing the best of Norway’s landscapes.
Departing from the capital Oslo, what started of as just another rail trip, quickly changed into a dramatic experience. For the next hundred odd kilometres, we were treated to some of the highlights of eastern Norway – Norefjell mountains, the lush Hardingall valley, the expansive Kroderen lake and the Hardangers glacier.
If the scenery outside was marvellous, the quaint railway stations along the way built of brick, stone and wood in art nouveau style were no less impressive. Some of the stops such as Gol, Geilo and Dale are popular ski resorts in winter and cycling, hiking and holiday destinations in summer.
The highest point of the trip is Finse (1273M), not surprisingly surrounded by a landscape of frozen lakes, ice sheets and snow-covered meadows.
At Myrdal, we changed trains to the Flam railway. Amidst nippy winds on the 863M high plateau, even the 5 minutes waiting time seemed like eternity.
We picked the window seats on the left side to catch the valley views. After we crossed the Reinunga lake and emerged from the Bakli tunnel, the mighty Kjos waterfalls reveals itself in all its glory.
The train stops briefly for the passengers to disembark and grab a quick photo-opp. As the waterfall cascades down, there’s enough spray to drench you, so its better to carry a poncho or rain jacket. From here on, there is a steady descent towards Flam with view upon magnificent view greeting us every time the train emerged from one of the 20 odd tunnels or crossed the river.
Flam is a delightfully small outpost at the innermost edge of the Auslandersfjord and an important pit stop of the Bergen rail, cruise ships and tour buses.
We had planned to stay overnight in Flam allowing us time for a moderate 3 kilometre trek to the Bergefossen, one of many waterfalls that dot the Flam valley.
When in Fjordland, you never should miss a cruise among the Fjords. Superlatives cannot do justice to the beauty of the place that has evolved over millennia of glacial activity, but what struck us as we sailed through these mile high gorges rising sheer from the ocean surface was their breath-taking scale in contrast to our minscule presence.
From Flam, we opted for the bus for one segment through mountains and forests of the beautiful Raundalen valley. The mesmerizing vistas of waterfalls and carpeted slopes put us in a trance.
The bus arrived at Voss, a major winter sports destination and home to some of Norway’s largest alpine ski slopes. We had only a few minutes left to make the train connection, as Norway’s inter-nodal connections were working on precision timing.
The train was now filled with backpackers, cyclists and families of hikers. The Norwegians love their outdoors; who can blame them when there is so much beauty around.
Last stop – Bergen. The old town centre of Bryggen, the wharf, its fish market with delectable eateries, the museums and the music festival were all bound to make our stay in this former Hanseatic city quite eventful. We had also planned a ride on the funicular to the top of Mount Floyen from where there’s a panoramic view of entire Bergen against the backdrop of surrounding mountains.
As we disembarked, one thought simultaneously crossed our minds – should we cancel our return flight and take the train back just to experience one of the most picturesque train journeys in the world once again? We hadn’t had enough and wanted an encore!