August 17, 2006
So Thursday was devoted to the Norway in a Nutshell tour of the Sognefjord. Due to my tight schedule, I didn’t want to spend an overnight anywhere along the way, so the entire Thursday was a roundtrip tour from Oslo. The trip broke down something like this: Starting at about 6:00am
5+ hour train ride from Oslo to Myrdal
1 hour train ride from Myrdal to Flam
2-hour fjord cruise from Flam to Gudvangen
1-hour bus ride from Gudvangen to Voss
5+ hour train ride from Voss to Oslo. Ending at about 11pm.
Roughly 16 hours of traveling in one day for those keeping track. Thankfully, there is plenty to keep you busy with all the amazing scenery along the way.
My day started out with a bit of an anxiety attack. The train to Myrdal was scheduled to leave the Oslo train station at 6:35. I needed to pick up my tickets before hand, which I didn’t expect to be a problem since my email stated the ticket office would be open at 6:00. I was at the train station at 6:15 with plenty of time to spare. Or so I thought. Turns
out the ticket counter didn’t open till 6:30. Somebody in charge of the emailing needs to update his or her information. So, for about the longest 10 minutes of my life, I sat patiently staring through the glass entry door at the clerks who were getting there things together for the workday ahead. I’m sure they were aware of my anxiousness, as by now my body had broken out in a sweat as I thought about missing my train and screwing up the entire fjord day. At 6:30 exactly the doors opened and I rushed in. Thankfully the clerk was very quick, as I had the tickets in hand within a minute. I bolted for the train platform, making it in the door with at most a minute to spare. What a rush! Needless to say, I no longer felt sleepy after that whole ordeal. Lesson learned, pickup any tickets at least the day before if it’s an early morning departure.
On the train from Oslo to Myrdal, we zipped through the Norway countryside sliding in and out of tunnels as we gradually made our way up in elevation. The sun already out, the scenery was captivating. I now
Arrived in Myrdal
see why others have claimed this train ride to be one of the most spectacular train rides in Europe. In the beginning the ride whipped through forested lake regions with sporadic, colorful cabins on a mountainous backdrop. Later, at the highest elevation point in Finse (4,000 feet), the view had now changed to numerous glaciers. With all the lakes along the way, I couldn’t help but think of the old cottage on Cotrell Lake in Pennsylvania.
Once in Myrdal, we changed trains. The Myrdal-Flam train ride had the challenging task of taking us down to Flam. That’s a winding track down the mountain going from 2,800 feet to sea level in about an hour. I can only imagine how heavy-duty the braking system on the train must be. The train actually stops for about five minutes for passengers to exit and view one of the bigger waterfalls along the way. Apparently a local legend claims a temptress lives behind the waterfall, and seduces men in with her singing. You might be asking, why is he mentioning this. Well, while we were outside enjoying the view of the waterfall, the cheesiest, amusement park-like entertainment ensued. With music blasting from speakers,
I'll double down on my pot of gold, thank you!
a blonde haired woman emerged from the falls and started doing some sort of hula dance. Did I accidentally get on the train to Disney world? I simply laughed and headed back to the train. Positioned by the window, I sat with opened mouth enjoying the picturesque views of the scenery till we eventually arrived in Flam.
I didn’t have time to explore Flam, as the cruise was already boarding. Within minutes we had pushed off on our way into the fjord. The weather for the day had been mixed between light showers and sunshine. As we departed, we were greeted with a light shower that lasted about 15 minutes. After the rain stopped, the sunshine followed with a couple rainbows included. It was a gorgeous day. They say that the cruise is enjoyable regardless of what weather you encounter, but personally I was very relieved to have a day full of sunshine. I know I’ll never be able to describe through words how visually stunning the experience was for me. With waterfalls around every turn, cute little coastal cabins and towns, forested cliff lines, and snow filled mountaintops, it lived up to its reputation. In the beginning, you
End of the cruise.
scramble around the deck taking pictures of everything. By the end of the two hours, you become a little desensitized and choose only the truly priceless moments to capture in photos. I certainly compare it to my trip floating down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, only more beautiful given the added dimension of color.
Once we reached Gudvangen, we hopped in buses to head back up to the Voss train station. For those who know anything about the bus ride after my Grand Canyon rafting trip, don’t worry, this time we didn’t end up stranded with a flat tire. The road the bus took back up wound around like a snake, climbing past more waterfalls. The driver claimed the road was the steepest in Norway. Having been to Lombard Street in San Francisco, let me say that this road was definitely comparable, only much longer.
Once in Voss, I hopped on the train back to Oslo. By now you would’ve thought that I had my fill of the Norway scenery, but as long as the sun was still out I was still gazing out the train window watching the images go flashing by. I thought it
From above, as we bus our way out.
might be worth telling those back home in the states, that my dinner I purchased on the train consisted of a bottle of water and a small can of Pringles. The total cost of my dinner was roughly $7. The wonderfully strong U.S. dollar is really helping me out over here. Thanks for all your great work back home G.W.! (sarcasm for those who aren't sure)
Looking back on the fjord tour, I am so very pleased that I decided to do it. To this point, it has been the highlight of my vacation. I know that the memories of today will carry with me for a very long time. Had I not seen the Norway countryside and left all of my impressions completely influenced by my time in Oslo, I don’t believe my opinion of Norway would have been as positive as it now stands. I only wish I had more time to explore the countryside…
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