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. 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 farm houses flying their Norsk flags dotting the countryside – it could be Oregon. Instead of Douglas Fir trees, Norwegian Spruce cover the hillsides. Wait – what? HILLSIDES?!? Ahhhh…. topography. Feels like home. It’s what I’m used to. It is beautiful. Snow still tops some of those distant green hills. Not so in Oregon this year. My mother visiting from my from worries for her yard and town and state with the lack of snowcap and exceptionally warm weather for this time of year.
Not a problem in Norway. (Not really in Denmark either.) In stark comparison, a wetter than normal winter and spring have proffered a beautiful, verdant and lush landscape ripe with wildflowers and light green leafy growth. The overcast skies we woke to on our third morning in Oslo didn’t make it past Hønefoss as we travel north and westerly towards Norway’s famous FJORD country. 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 from Oslo’s Central Station.
Lupine standing royal 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 verduous 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 hunt 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 top of the world. It is 12:45pm 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.
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 the steepest descent in Europe.
It is only a short 20km down to Flåm, but it takes about an hour with a stop at the incredible Kjosfossen Waterfull. We rush off the train to garner our pic right from the train platform. A wee bit frenetic and still misty from the spray, music begins and red dressed women dance in and out above the falls representing the the mysterious Norwegian Huldra, forest creatures from Scandinavian folklore. It is giggle inducing and cliché, but charming enough and at the dance’s completion, we are 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 awhile the landscape repeats its theme and loses wee ones attentions. When will we get there?
Soon enough we land in little Flåm with our masses and are greeted by more, off busses and boats and other groups. Flåm is a main connection to the water bound Fjord tours into the Aurlandsfjord and the beautiful Nærøyfjord and not to be missed. But I am glad that we choose to stay overnight here and break up our family’s tour. 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 warm. (Ish.) Dinner outside on the water with this view may have been slow, but local and delicious. We wrapped up in their fleeces 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 will continue in another post…
Enjoy and cheers from Denmark! – Erin