The Oslo to Bergen railway is widely billed as one of the best train trips in the world. It climbs up from sea level, and runs along the mountain tops before dropping back down to the fjords of Bergen. It is made doubly special by the station half-way along at Myrdal, where you can hike from the top of the mountains down to sea level at Flåm, and then catch the cog train back up to rejoin the main railway.
Julia and I paid for reserved seats so that we could get an unrestricted view from an opening window, while the others opted to search for unreserved seats wherever they could find them. Having reserved seats also meant that we could nip into the toilet cubicle and wash some clothes, without losing our place.
Words fail me to describe the first part of the trip up to Myrdal. There are only so many ways of describing huge vistas of wild conifers, deep blue glacial lakes, and looming craggy mountains. The trees are immense, and I have never seen so many different shades of green in the riotous growth of uncultivated softwood forest.
Just when I thought that I’d seen everything, the train climbed above the tree-line, and the character of the land changed abruptly. It was 35 degrees in the shade, and the sun beat down on pristine white snowfields, relieved only by the smashed remains of last year’s snow-fences, and the early construction of next year’s.
Occasionally a lonely cluster of wooden shingle-rooted homes would spring into view, nestling against a river or lake.
When not trundling along knife-edge cliff edges, the train was diving in and out of tunnels carved through the rock. At each end of the tunnel, the train passed through a snow-barrier in the form of a long wooden house, to protect it from avalanches. As we climbed higher, these wooden tunnels became more prevalent, and sometimes entirely free-standing.
Eventually it had to end, and the train dropped down to the sleepy hamlet of Myrdal, protected by massive snow-fences and completely ringed by the high rock walls of the valley.
It was time to disembark, because we wanted to hike the famous Rallar Road down to Flåm, but we would return later to enjoy the final part of the trip to Bergen.