Take in the beauty of Norway, the quick way

View of picturesque Flam from the Flamsbana, Norway
View of picturesque Flam from the Flamsbana, NorwayPHOTOS: TAN HOCK CHUAN

(THE STAR/ASIA NEWS  NETWORK) - This was a self-guided tour to see the Norwegian fjords, mountains, waterfalls and to experience the world’s best train journey (cited by Lonely Planet in 2014 for the Flam to Myrdal stretch) in a very short period of time. The tour, which goes in a circuit, can be done as a day trip or over several days with overnight stays en route. Travellers who use Bergen as a base, have a choice of starting the tour from Voss or Myrdal.

After alighting from the airport bus at Torget (Market Square) in Bergen, we walked to the nearby Tourist Information Centre located above the Fish Market. We checked the weather forecast for the next two days and then proceeded to buy our tickets at the counter. Buying the tickets online (in advance) is slightly cheaper, but taking the tour on a rainy day is not our idea of a holiday (Bergen has more than 200 rainy days in a year), but once the tickets have been issued, no changes can be made.

We bought the Norway In A Nutshell tour for NOK 1,145 (S$190) and opted to start from Voss, because we preferred to be on the ferry to Flam in the morning when the sun was not so intense. What we paid for was a set of tickets (free seating) for the Bergen Line and Flam Line trains, the bus and the ferry and a booklet with information on the places along the route.



A souvenir shop near the Gudvangen pier.
 

Our train rolled out of Bergen Railway station at 8.45am and 80 minutes later, we were in Voss, a popular sky-diving, hiking, mountain biking and skiing destination. We were directed to a bus with the words “Norway In A Nutshell” stuck on the windscreen, waiting outside the train station. The bus took less than an hour to get to the pier at Gudvangen. Unfortunately, the bus did not take the heart-stopping Stalheimskleiva, a very steep mountain road with 13 sharp hairpin bends down the Naeroydalen valley because certain stretches of the road was still covered in snow even in late April. By 11am we were at the pier waiting to board the ferry to Flam.

The ferry cruise was the highlight of the tour. The air was crisp and the weather was perfect.

Throughout the two-hour leisurely cruise, we stayed on the open deck, to enjoy the views of the fjords of Naeroyfjord, a Unesco World Heritage Site, and Aurlandsfjord, with steep mountainsides, hanging valleys, snow-capped mountains, farms and hamlets. The Naeroyfjord is a branch of the 204km long Sognefjord. At the narrowest part, the fjord is only 500m wide. Before we knew it, the ferry had pulled up at Flam.


The Naeroyfjord is a branch of the larger Sognefjord.

 


A hamlet on the banks of Aurlandsfjord.

In Flam, we had one hour to eat the lunch we had packed from our hotel in Bergen (food and beverages are very expensive in Flam) and explore the picturesque village and shop for souvenirs. We then boarded the Flamsbana train to Myrdal. The village, which has a church, a few hotels and restaurants, is a popular place to go hiking and cycling. A few of the fellow ferry passengers stayed overnight at Flam, something we wished we could have done.

The Flam Railway station is just a few steps to the ferry pier and has toilet facilities. There is also a Flam Railway Museum where entrance is free. When the Flamsbana train rolled into the station, we quickly boarded the train to book our preferred seats – window seats with windows that could be rolled down (only the first and last rows). There were not many passengers as April is low tourist season for this tour.


The ferry plying between Gudvangen and Flam preparing to berth at Gudvangen.

The old train has a nostalgic feel with its wooden interior and large windows. The 40-minute journey from Flam to Myrdal was very scenic. At the Kjosfossen Station, the train stopped for about five minutes to allow passengers to get down to view the 230m high majestic Kjosfossen Waterfall right beside the platform. The waterfall has a small power station to generate electricity to power the Flam Line. We were the first to be on the viewing platform because the doors of coaches 5 and 6 are the nearest to the platform. In summer, a girl dressed as a Huldra (seductive forest spirit) will be dancing and lip-synching in front of the waterfall to music blaring from hidden speakers.

As the train neared Myrdal, 86m above sea-level, the ground became covered in thick snow. Myrdal station is a small mountain station with no toilet facilities, just a platform. At Myrdal, we hopped onto the waiting Bergen train, for a two-hour ride to Bergen, arriving at 6pm. There was nothing much to see during the journey. Time to take a nap after a long day and dream of all the great moments earlier.