Start Your Norway in a Nutshell Tour by Train from Oslo
Summer break is almost here and maybe Norway is on your list. If you haven’t taken the overnight ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo – that is an experience in and of itself. Spend time in the elegant and accessible city, but don’t limit your Norwegian trip to Oslo. Norway really shines outside the capital. Ride along as I revisit our train trip from Oslo to fjord country… this is Norway by rail.
ALL ABOARD | STUNNING NORWEGIAN SCENERY FROM THE TRACKS
Wending along in the eighth of ten cars, feeling the pull and sway along the tracks. Remarkably insulated from the bracing sound of metal wheels upon steel rails. Suprisingly infrequent is the clickety-clacking one most associates with this mode of travel. I love riding the train.
Save for the engineer’s voice announcing the next stop in Norwegian or the shape and color of the farmhouses flying their Norsk flags dotting the countryside – this could almost be Oregon, where I’m from. But instead of towering Douglas Fir trees, here Norwegian Spruce cover the hillsides. Wait – what? HILLSIDES?!? Ahhhh…. topography. Living in Denmark, we don’t get much topography, especially in the capital area of Copenhagen. Good for biking, not as good for awe-inducing landscapes.
But here, in Norway, there are hills. Big ones. And it is beautiful. Snow still tops some of those distant green hills, even in late June. Signs of a late spring have proffered a beautiful, verdant and lush landscape ripe with wildflowers and light green leafy growth. The overcast skies we woke to this morning in Oslo didn’t make it past Hønefoss as we travel north and westerly towards Norway’s famous fjord country.
RELATED: NORWAY BY BOAT | EXPLORE THE FJORDS
Today’s eventual destination is the little town of Flåm at the base of the Aurlandsfjord. All aboard the first leg or our Norway in a Nutshell tour. We are underway on a gorgeous rail ride through the Norwegian countryside beginning at Oslo’s Central Station. See below for our full route with stops in Oslo, Flåm, Gudvangen, Voss and ending in beautiful Bergen.
FROM BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS TO SNOWY SCENERY
Lupine stands royally in brilliant shades of purple and rose. Tiny white daisies wave cheerfully peeking around lacy Queen Anne’s blooms and tiny yellow buttercups. Aspen leaves shimmer verdurous between white trunked birch trees. Bright red triangle peaked farms zoom in and out of view as we continue down the line, weaving through the landscape. I like being in the back afforded vistas that include our red train as it curves into the next tunnel through the rising walls of rock and trees.
Soon, we are beyond the tree line. Too high for growth. The landscape turns surreal and snow lingers beyond the midsummer calendar date. Volcanic looking, black land peeks through the holes in the late melting ice. Slightly eery and bleak, I wonder who would choose to live in the tiny homes that seem more frequent in the lack of evergreen and deciduous trees. No wildflowers here. But, life remains where the trees aren’t wont to root.
We witness cranes hunting in the icy waters, elegant against the stark backdrop. At the top near Finse, Norway, we are only 1,222 meters above sea level. It feels strange – like we are on the top of the world. It is 12:45 pm and only 9 degrees Celsius. Yesterday’s warm 25 degrees and BRIGHT sun atop the Operæn in Oslo left behind. Gushing grey water melting in rushes along the tracks as we continue on.
TAKE THE FLÅMSBANA FROM MYRDAHL
Dropping down from Finse, we land in tiny Myrdahl, Norway at 866.8 meters above sea level. A blip of a town, it is our cue to exit the Oslo-Bergen train and continue with our next leg of today’s Norway in Nutshell tour. Hustled and jostled into position with the tourist masses on our route today, within 15 minutes, we are on board the charming and old school Flåmsbana. A historic train known for traveling the steepest descent in Europe.
KJOSFOSSEN WATERFALL AND NORWEGIAN HULDRA
It is only a short 20km from Myrdahl down to Flåm, but it takes about an hour with a stop at the incredible Kjosfossen Waterfall. We hustle off the train with everyone else to garner our pic right from the train platform. A wee frenetic and still misty from the spray, music begins and red dressed women dance in and out above the falls representing the mysterious Norwegian Huldra, forest creatures from Scandinavian folklore. It is giggle-inducing and a little kitsch, but charming enough. At the dance’s completion, we are quickly ushered back aboard.
Through tunnels and waterfalled landscapes – too many to count – we continue down along the river’s edge. I will admit my jealousy watching mountain bikers and hikers who chose the slower route down. For all of the beauty and inspired awe, the trip so far today has been mostly passive. We are merely watchers from the train. After a while the landscape repeats its theme and loses wee ones attention. When will we get there?
FINALLY TO FLÅM | GATEWAY TO THE AURLANDSFJORD
Soon enough we land in little Flåm with our masses and are greeted by more, off buses and boats and other tours. Flåm is a main connection to the water bound Fjord tours into the Aurlandsfjord and the beautiful Nærøyfjord and not to be missed. Most of the masses keep moving and continue their journeys. But I am glad that we choose to stay overnight here and break up our family’s trip.
The ease of creating your own Nutshell path allows for a million different combinations, customizing exactly how you want to see Norway. Tonight we stayed overnight at the historic Fretheim Hotel with views of the Aurlandsfjord. A family room that fits our five, with bunks AND a queen sized bed was a welcome break.
It was excellent to experience gorgeous (literally) Flåm after the last train and ferry and bus and ship full of folks had departed. Walking to the water to throw stones and dig in the sand and dip our feet to test the waters. Yes, they were icy. Suddenly the Baltic back home near Copenhagen seems so warm! Dinner outside on the water with this view may have been slow, but local and delicious. We wrapped up in their fleece blankets and enjoyed the rain as it started on the canopy above us. The children explored while we finished our wine. Visions of fjords danced in our heads and we woke with anticipation for the watery section of our Nutshell departing Flåm and on to Gudvangen aboard the Fjord 1. Norway by boat to be continued…
Enjoy and cheers from Denmark! – Erin
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