Saturday morning we were up by about 4:45 am, getting ready to board our train for the first leg of the Norway in a Nutshell trip to explore scenic Norway. Mountains, fjords, lush green landscapes, plunging waterfalls, all included. Our itinerary for the day was as follows:
- The Bergen Railway, from Oslo to Myrdal traveling west
- The extremely beautiful Flam Railway, from Myrdal to Flam
- The fjord cruise across Aurlandsfjord and Naeroyfjord, disembarking at Gudvangen
- Bus trip from Gudvangen to Voss with dramatic hairpin bends and beautiful scenery
- Bergen Railway, from Voss to Bergen
This trip can be done as one ways from either Oslo or Bergen, as a roundtrip, one day or multiday tours, depending on time and resources. We chose to do a one day, one way trip from Oslo to Bergen and get a sample of the best of Norwegian nature.
The first leg departed Oslo S station shortly before 6:30 am. We stowed away our extra luggage at the hotel, grabbed coffee in the lobby and our breakfast bags and walked the ten minutes or so to our train line. We had booked the NSB Komfort section which allowed for more comfortable seating, power outlets, work tables. We had a 5 hour journey before we reached Myrdal. The first half of the trip, we mostly dozed after eating the fruit, juice and yogurt from the breakfast bag. Around 9 am, we feasted on hot waffles from the train’s service car. It wasn’t before long that we realised that the train had halted and wasn’t moving even after several minutes.
Talking to the railway staff, we discovered that there had been a fire along the Voss to Bergen line and they had to coordinate logistics because of this. A while later, the staff loaded passengers from the other sections onto buses to Myrdal for their connecting trains. We weren’t initially sure if we had to do the same but about 30 mins later, the train started moving again. Even with the delay, we had enough time to get to Myrdal and catch the train to Flam. We ate vegetarian chili on board for lunch, which didnt taste good but was adequate.
The Myrdal station is small and quaint and we waited there in a slight drizzle, anticipating our next train. The Flam Railway is considered one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. Descending a distance of about 2600 feet over the span of an hour on one of the steepest narrow gauge trains, and passing through 20 tunnels, this would be one remarkable journey.
Despite the rain, the Flam journey did not disappoint. The hour flew by as we passed mountains, lush green valleys, idyllic landscapes and gorgeous waterfalls. I have included photos from the journey but this is one to be experienced in person.
After collecting our luggage at the Flam station, we made our way to the cruise boat entrance. Flam station has a small railway museum as well as other amenities like restrooms, cafe, ATM etc. Flam is a great location to break the journey and enjoy the great outdoors.
For the next 3-4 hours, we would spend time taking in the majestic Aurlandsfjord and Naeroyfjord before getting off at Gudvangen. We sought good spots for viewing and photography on the top deck but after a while, the wind picked up and it became too cold to stay up top for too long. About an hour later, we went down and got snacks and coffee and warmed up. The rest of the trip we took turns spending time indoors and strolling onto the outer deck to appreciate the beauty of the fjords.
After disembarking at Gudvangen, we boarded the waiting buses to take us to Voss. Gudvangen has a lot to offer in terms of things to do. Perhaps, at another time, we would have chosen to spend time here or elsewhere along this journey and experience more fully all the attractions. As it stood, we joined the mad rush to get on the buses of which there were sufficient numbers to ply the passengers exiting the cruise boats. The bus ride was thrilling as the driver expertly maneuvered narrow hairpin bends and we oohed and aahed over dramatic views of distant rivers and breathtaking waterfalls.
At Voss, we obtained one-way tickets to Bergen, used the restroom facilities and enjoyed more coffee and snacks. We had an hour and a half train journey to Bergen ahead of us and would reach just after 9 pm. The first part of the journey was uneventful as we played guessing games and generally had a good time. About an hour into the trip, the train pulled into Vaksdal station and stopped. Apparently, the fire that morning meant we could proceed no further by train.
So there we sat having exited the train station, about 70-80 people of all age groups, ethnicities and nationalities, in the waning dusk, hungry, tired and perhaps a bit irritable. There were three staff members, two men and a lady, who had promised initially that we could take taxis from Vaksdal to Bergen but when we reached the streets, there were only two taxis to be found. Families with older members hired them. A few minutes later a bus arrived, but could only take about 30 members.
The staff then promised us that other arrangements were being made to transport us. As time passed and the roads remained void of any new buses or taxis, the passengers grew more restless. One of the staff members, an engineer with the railways, was near us and became the target of some angry questioning from our fellow travelers. It was puzzling to most of us why there had been no planning for this kind of logistical nightmare. The fire had transpired earlier in the day which meant there had been several hours before we reached the area.
What impressed us immensely was how well that young man handled the ire and irritability of the group. He stated that the staff was well aware of the issue but because the small city was also hosting some other major event, all transportation options were severely limited. He assured us that his superiors were on their phones trying to arrange vehicles. He calmly stated facts, never once sounding defensive, nor raising his voice. A couple of the passengers spoke up defending him but he did not take any sides. The children were watching these exchanges with much interest. I hopee they learnt an invaluable lesson that day: a calm demeanor and stating facts can go a long way in making the most of an unpleasant situation.
The children also impressed me very much as they quietly talked and played amongst themselves. It was getting cooler on the streets, the hour was growing late and they had been up since 4:45 am, and despite the small snacks earlier that evening, we were all hungry for a good dinner. Travel, for the most part, is uneventful, but there are times when unexpected circumstances arise and make travel difficult. But it these circumstances that stand out, creating indelible memories, perhaps, not always cherished, but ones always learnt from.
Nearly an hour after we stopped at Vaksdal, the bus returned, much to our great joy. We boarded the bus, feeling a bit guilty that we left behind other passengers that would have to wait for that bus to return. Luckily, the ride from Vaksdal to Bergen was only about 30 minutes and we were soon at the Bergen Railway station. We hired two separate taxis to the Comfort Hotel Holberg.
After checking in to our assigned rooms, we looked around for dinner options. By now, it was already past ten and most restaurants in the area were closed. We walked the quiet streets with closed shops and eateries, until we located a Burger King. Walking in, we ordered vegetarian burgers only to be told they had none. But the girl was helpful and asked us to head over to the nearby McDonald’s for the veggie burger.
So we gamely pushed on, the children still in a good mood, trying to locate the golden double arches. A beacon of light in a sea of hunger! At last we found it around the next corner and hurried inside. The clerk at the counter told us initially that while they did have the Veggie McSpice burger, they stopped serving it after 10 pm. We begged her to talk to her manager to see if they would make an exception for us.
A few minutes later, she told us they would make us the veggie burgers if we would wait for a while. So we ordered fries and drinks and settled down, watching the teenage and young adult crowd, all nicely dressed for a summer weekend out.
Eventually, our food was delivered and we began to eat our meal with gusto! Never in my life did I expect to eat a McDonald meal with much relish but we did so that night. While not a fan of burgers, the McSpice burger tasted quite good with adequate salt and spice, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. I read later that the Veggie McSpice is made of a red kidney bean patty with ground up vegetables. It had been released in Norway about a month prior to our trip. What perfect timing!
The 15 minute walk back to the hotel was delightful. No rains, warm weather, quiet streets, no traffic. It was the perfect end to a day of natural decadence!