The landscape unfolds slowly as the train leaves Oslo, following rivers and lakeshores as it begins one of the world’s most scenic railway journeys – from the capital of Oslo to Bergen, all the way over on the Norwegian coast.
The temperature slowly drops more and more as we climb. Soon there are clumps of snow and then whole drifts under a flat, grey winter sky. But there are tiny leaves on the birth trees and the ice is receding from the lakes – Spring is coming.
Track skirts snow-topped hills and in the farmland barns painted that particular Scandinavian matte red punctuate the fields. Broad-roofed homesteads look cosy and indestructible. Long wisps of cloud nestle into the valleys.
As the train climbs the temperature falls and when we reach the ski fields of Geilo it has dropped from 12 degrees in Oslo to 4 degrees. Passengers alight from the train with their cross country skis. Children play in the snow near the ski huts.
At Ustaoset we are at 990 metres above sea level and we breach the cloud, entering a whiteout. At the highest point – Finse at 1,222m – the train windows are lashed with snow. Thick flurries add to the snow banks already piled high. It is zero degrees Celsius outside. Cross country skiers stride across the landscape.
Inside we are very comfortable thank you very much. Wandering Kiwi Jr is thrilled that the family carriage has a whole children’s play room – with soft play, climbing and a big TV showing cartoons. She doesn’t mind that they are dubbed into Norwegian.
At last the train begins to descend. A skier strides past across the snowy plateau – or it a lake frozen and covered with snow? Through the snow I can see black cliffs dripping with patches of ice. We plunge through a series of tunnels around Myrdal and then there is slowly less and less snow.
Raging water through deep gorges past soaring cliffs; clearer than clear water, fast moving over rocks. Then the streams are winding through meadows of snow-flattened grass once more. The landscape becomes greener and greener until the clouds begin to look like steam. Farmsteads appear once again – wooden houses with shingle roofs. Now the snow has become rain.
Then suddenly we are out of the mountains and on top of the town of Voss. There are green fields and new crops on the lakeshore. Before I know it the seven hours have passed and the train is pulling into Bergen’s grand central station. We were ready to board the Hurtigruten for our cruise up the Norwegian coast!
By Natasha von Geldern
The Oslo to Bergen train journey is easy to book online with NSB – book a few months ahead to get the cheaper ‘mini-prix’ tickets. Which side to sit on? Sitting on the right hand side offers the best views for the first and last few hours of the train journey but the left hand side is preferable for the whole middle section. I would plump for the left hand side if I had to choose. In any case you can wander around the train and see both. There is free wi-fi on the train but make sure you register for this ahead of boarding because you need to access a password from your email to activate it.
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