Norwegian Journey

From Bergen to Oslo via Flåm

4 to 5 August 2014

Having spent a week sailing on schooner Trinovante, we finished up in Bergen on Sunday evening, with our flight to London leaving from Oslo on Tuesday evening, with the gap to be filled by a series of railway journeys. The railway from Bergen to Oslo runs for 493 km with 182 tunnels which total 73 km, reaching 1237 metres above sea level, making it the highest mainline railway in northern Europe. We split that journey in two, with a diversion to Flåm allowing us to take both the Bergen Line and the famous Flåm Railway.


After a journey part way across Norway, we have reached Myrdal station, a remote hamlet whose only importance is as the railway junction for the branch to Flåm. The express train is on the right, and we are now waiting for the train from Flåm to come in on the left, from out of that mist.


Myrdal isn't the highest station on the Bergen line (that accolade belongs to Finse at 1222 metres), but it is the point from where the Flåm line descends rapidly.


The Flåm line descends 863 metres over its 20 km length, on a purely adhesion railway (i.e. no cogs or cables) with gradients up to 5.5% (1 in 18).


The train from Flåm arrives. The line is the third most-visited tourist attraction in Norway and today, despite having a booked place on the train, we were denied a place as the entire train had been reserved by tour parties. It later transpired that an earlier train had been cancelled, which clearly creates problems, but removing any places for "normal" customers on what is a standard service train, albeit frequented entirely by tourists, doesn't seem fair to me. So we waited at Myrdal for another 70 minutes for the next train, which was also heaving with people and was standing-room-only for quite a few, but fortunately Lucy and I managed to get seats, though not together.


One of the early stops on the line is Kjosfossen, a station built entirely so that passengers can get out and look at the eponymous waterfall.


The waterfall is an impressive sight and sound. The total fall of Kjosfossen is 225 metres, part of which is under the railway

 


An actress (actually it must be at least two because of the way in which she disappears and then reappears elsewhere) dressed as a legendary Huldra (a seductive forest creature in Scandinavian folklore) dances and sings in front of the waterfall as the trains enter the station for the amusement of the tourists. The Huldra actresses are all students from the Norwegian ballet school.


As the line continues to descend, there is a view back up to the line at a higher level at the very top of the photo, and an intermediate level on the left hand side. The zig-zagging road was built to help in providing access for constructing the railway, and is now a popular cycle path.


At the bottom, we disembarked and found our way from the bustle of the overcrowded train and station platform to the peace of our hotel room, from where there is a view down Sognefjord and of the cruise ship Rotterdam. The ship sailed a little later, leaving the quay area at Flåm delightfully quiet.


Looking along the fjord from water level.


We went for a pre-dinner stroll. Our hotel is towards the right of the photo, and we have walked round on the fjord-side path and track. We walked back and had a meal which, for a tourist hotspot in Norway, was both good and very reasonably priced.


Next morning it is a glorious day. We had a decent breakfast and then caught the train back up Flåmsdalen


Another stop at Kjosfossen, this time much quieter, and without the Huldra.


A view down Flåmsdalen from inside one of the open tunnels.


Lucy waits at Myrdal for our express to Oslo. The situation had some echoes of the wait for a train at Köln in 2012, but with the temperature about 10° rather than 35°, and with the rucksack rather lighter, Lucy is looking more cheerful today.

The Bergen Line is famous for its scenery. Yesterday had been very attractive, if not perhaps outstanding, but the next hour or two from Myrdal was stunning, helped by the glorious weather. What follows are a few pictures which I took with my tablet rather than my proper camera (I can't now remember why) through the window of a train moving at up to 170 km/h, dipping in and out of tunnels. That they are still lovely shows how good the scenery was.


Finse station at 1222 metres, is the highest on the line and almost at the summit (which occurs in the nearby tunnel).

As the line then descended from the high Hardangervidda plateau, the scenery became merely very attractive rather than stunningly beautiful.


We eventually reached Oslo and had a little wander around the Opera House before getting the final train to the airport and the flight home after a lovely journey to end a lovely holiday.
 

 

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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson