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Train trips in Norway – Bergen Line and Flam Line –

Train trips in Norway – Bergen Line and Flam Line –

Above tree line On Norway's Hardangervidda Road, we drive into a gray, wet rain cloud and emerge on the other side into sparkling sunshine. There is no tree visible. Even though it is the beginning of July, the snowfields sparkle white outside the train window. Not very strange. We are, after all, at an altitude of about 1,300 metres, the same height as Ariscutan Peak.

Earlier that morning, we walked around Oslo Central Station looking for the train to Bergen. We soon found ourselves in the right place, even though we felt like we were about to fly. Not only because we were heading to such high altitudes, but also because the terminal in the Norwegian capital is designed like an airport with gates, large glass sections and a modern design.

The Bergen Railway, completed in 1907, is considered one of the greatest engineering masterpieces of its time. Laying the railway in Kalvealen, where the snow in winter is several meters deep, was of course a challenge. In addition, there were a lot of mountains on the way. After years of hard work building bridges and a total of 182 tunnels, the work team met in Austausett just east of the trail's highest point in the Vince.

What the Norwegian train lacks in speed it makes up for in beautiful scenery. Photo: Axel Germstad/Bergenspanen
Couple sitting on a train carrying hiking clothes and pack.
On the rails towards the height. Photo: Axel Germstad/Bergenspanen

Despite snowplows and planks used to protect against blizzards, traffic often stopped in the past. King Bore was a powerful opponent on these heights. But in 1993, the new Vincent Tunnel, just over a mile long, was completed, making traffic safer. Unfortunately, I might add, because the train tourists deprived us of some of the most beautiful views. Now, for part of the journey, we have to stare at the tunnel wall instead of being dazzled by the most beautiful parts of Hardangervidda.

The undertaking to build the Bergen Railway is what author Jan Gillo depicts in the novel Bridge builders. In it, railway construction is described, in Guillot's words, as “a symbolic and practical expression of the unstoppable technical development that took off at the beginning of the twentieth century and characterized the entire century.”

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Read also: The 15 best places to stay in Norway in nature

Trains travel between the mountains and meadows of Norway.
Travel through magnificent nature, flowers and snow-capped mountains with the Bergen Railway. Photo: Øyvind Hoëge

As is the case almost every morning during the summer months, the Oslo-Bergen train is packed with tourists from all over the world. Swedes, Germans, French, Spaniards, Indians… We are an international crowd sitting with amazement in their eyes and looking out at the barren lunar landscape. An American sits in the seat behind me. He catches the conductor as he passes by to ask a question.

-I'm so worried that I'll miss the little stop where I'm supposed to get off. Its name is… (trying to pronounce the station's strange name) Möerrdaal… I think, he says anxiously.

-You can be calm. There are about 200 others on this train leaving. The train driver reassures him and adds:

– It is called Myrdal.

This is how the platform is conquered in Myrdal at an altitude of just under 900 metres. We join the stream of travelers getting off the train. The rain has returned. Clouds lick the hills. The winds are strong in the mountains. There is practically nothing here except a tourist center with catering and a souvenir shop. There's not even a road here, just footpaths and railway tracks. The question is what to do here. The answer is: change trains to travel on one of the most beautiful railway lines in the world.

By train we will take, if possible, a more exciting journey than the one we have just finished, namely down the mountain steeply to the port in the village of Flåm next to the Ørlandsfjord. In just two miles, we will descend to an altitude of 869 metres.

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Read also: Traveling by train in Norway – we guide you to the best route!

Old train with red seats and wooden walls.
Historically comfortable on the train to Flåm. Photo: Visit Bergen/Casper Steensland
A woman looks at a lush valley in Norway from a train window.
Sit by the window and watch the nature outside. Photo: Getty Images

From traveling for a few hours on a modern, unglamorous train with seats made of synthetic materials and plastic, we move to a cute vintage train with wooden panels, vintage hat racks and soft red cinema armchairs. But the best thing is outside the windows where the railways wind alongside undulating slopes and steep mountains.

Only a few minutes later, the train suddenly stopped, apparently in the middle of nowhere. Reached Flam? No, but everyone still comes down. Because right in front of us, on the other side of the fence surrounding the platform, roars Kjosfossen Waterfall, one of Norway's most spectacular waterfalls. The water comes from Lake Rinungavatnit on the high plateau and rushes in front of us in a tunnel under the tracks.

On a rocky ledge in the thundering waterfall suddenly stands… well, if it's not Huldra. She wears an ankle-length red dress and performs an enchanting dance while singing a millennium song that is amplified by speakers placed around the enclosure. It looks mysterious and beautiful. We stand dutifully and watch her show.

I later read that Huldran in a tourist brochure is one of several students from the Norwegian Ballet School who work summer jobs singing mountain nymphs.

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Train station and museum in Norway.
In Flåm, the train stops at the pier to continue traveling by boat in the fjord. Photo: Visit Bergen/Casper Steensland

After an hour-long train ride, we arrived at the fjord where the Hurtigruten tourist ferry had just docked and where our much smaller speedboat would soon be sailing. In five hours he will take us to Bergen. Train tourists take the opportunity to buy fast food from one of the food trucks parked on the platform before turning into boat tourists.

In the bright summer twilight we head into Auerlandsfjorden, then down towards Sognefjorden, then out into the Atlantic and eventually through narrow fjords between steep, rocky islands to finally reach the harbor with its historic fishing sheds in Bergen.

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If we had not switched to the Flåm line and continued using the Oslo-Bergen train, we would have arrived several hours earlier. But arriving quickly is not the point as nature offers amazing views.

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Mountains and fjords in Norway.
The trip ends at Norway's blue fjords. Image: Unsplash

Guide to Norwegian high-altitude trains

the train: The book covered Oslo-Myrdal and Myrdal-Flam respectively

Phrase: norld It is the name of the shipping company that runs ferries across the fjords between Flåm and Bergen.

Package Tour: You can also buy the entire trip by train Oslo–Myrdal–Flåm and then by boat to Bergen as a package of Norway in brief. Expect around 2,500 SEK per person for the entire trip by train plus boat. Depending on how early you book and when you travel, an all-inclusive trip can be a little cheaper than booking the train and ferry separately.

To read on the trip: Jan Gelos Bridge builders (2011), the first part of the novel collection The Magnificent Century, is about three fishermen's sons in the Norwegian Westland outside Bergen who train as engineers and undertake the major engineering project of building a railway between Oslo and Bergen.

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Text: Per G. Anderson • 12-28-2023

Norway • Reportage • Travel by train