12 July 2011

From Oslo to Bergen

The train journey to Oslo and then the day spent sightseeing there were all a prelude to the formal part of the holiday that I had booked as a package.

An advert in the Saturday Guardian for a tour described as Norwegian Fjords and Mountain Highlights seemed just the trick, so I went for it.

This is a round trip starting and finishing at Oslo so I had to organise the London/Oslo bit but the rest was sorted.

There is a fast train from Oslo to Bergen but I was going the pretty way.

Actually this mean starting with a bus due to the extensive works around Oslo closing most of the rail lines.

The bus (or rather buses, there were a lot of us taking this leg of the journey) went as far as Honefoss and then there was a proper train to Myrdal where an old, and very packed (I stood), train took us down the picturesque Flam Railway.

Along the way we stopped by this thundering waterfall where a wide wooden platform let us get up close and wet. That was very welcome on a hot day. As was the opportunity to stretch legs a little.

The rest of the valley was pretty, if not sensational, and the slow journey down hill to Flam passed easily enough, despite the standing.

Waiting for us there was our boat to take us to Bergen.

Sadly it was not the grand cruiser in the background but, instead, it was the smaller more functional boat.

It was also a fast boat which meant that the journey was a mere five hours. There was not much to do on the boat for that time but luckily there was plenty to look at from the boat and the sunny weather encouraged you outside to appreciate it better.

We had trees all the way, whatever the shape of the valley, but when it was shallow we had farms and summer houses and when it was steep we had mostly just rocks.

We stopped at a couple of places along the way but their names meant nothing to me and were quickly forgotten. None of them was particularly large but I was surprised at how much settlement there was along the fjord and even the most desolate regions could boast a hut or two.

The snow was a surprise to me.

I did not think that the Norwegian mountains were not that tall (and I'm still not convinced that they are) but it is a long way North; Oslo and Bergen are on similar latitudes and are both above mainland Scotland.

That combination was enough to keep some snow on the mountain tops on a hot day in July.

I presume that the still melting snow was one of the causes of the many waterfalls I saw along the way.

They almost stopped being interesting, but not quite.

As we got closer to Bergen the mountains slipped in to the distance and the immediate shore was (relatively) flat, rocky, uninhabitable and yet inhabited.

Some people obviously like having rocks for neighbours.

The fjord splits apart and divides the coastal region in to a series of islands (a Viking word) such that the concept of mainland almost becomes meaningless.

The more populated islands were always linked by water and now they are increasingly linked by tarmac and concrete too with sleek and slender bridges cutting through the sky.

And finally Bergen.

The journey started with a bus at 8am, had a couple of trains in the middle and ended with a boat just over twelve hours later.

That made it a fairly long day with a lot of travel but there was just so much to see every step of the way that it definitely felt more like a day of holiday than a day of travel.

In particular, the boat journey was both relaxing (inside) and refreshing (outside).

I saw little of Bergen on that evening as the hotel was on the harbour-side (though on the other side from where the boat came in) as was Pepes Pizza where I went for my evening meal before calling it a day.

The little of Bergen that I did see when walking around the harbour held out promise for the next day.

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