Flam Railway & the Bergen line of Norway

Do you remember that geography lesson in school, when you were asked to write a short note on the (difficult to pronounce) “Fjords”. I could just manage to write a line or two describing the natural feature and add a line that they are found in Norway. As time passed and the travel bug caught up with me, I learnt that Norway was much more than fjord country. It has vast reserves of natural resources which help maintain a healthy market economy. A country which has consistently ranked high on Human Development, Public integrity &  better life index, World Happiness report and has a very efficient public healthcare & social security system.

It was a difficult task choosing which fjord area to visit in the short span of time. After going through the official website for tourism, I decided that the Bergen train line which included the scenic Flam railway is a must visit.

The Flam railway is said to be one of the most scenic and steepest train journeys through the mountains and forests. It is a single track railway line which branches out from the main Oslo to Bergen line. It starts at Myrdal & terminates at Flam and is the only rail track which joins the village to the main line. The only crossing point for the up and down train is at Berekvam. The 20 km journey on Flamsbana takes about an hour and is spectacular.imageMyrdal train station, starting point of Flamsbana

The train enters the Flamsdalen valley weaving through numerous tunnels and one can get glimpse of many waterfalls on the way. The Rjoandefossen can be seen from various angles and as the train turned around mountain bends, I saw travellers shifting seats from one side to the other to take pictures. The Kjossfossen has a viewing platform and the train stops here for a few minutes. During the peak summer months, they have a surprise performance near Kjossfossen. As soon as the travelers crowd on the “look out” platform, the music starts and girls in traditional costume perform a “hide and seek” dance. It is a treat for old and young to see the “fairy like” girls popping in and out, from behind the boulders around the waterfall in sync with the music. The roar of the water, the melodious & rhythmic music and the dancing girls create a fascinating illusion of fairytale. All along the line there are stations where hikers can get down and take the marked trails to hike in the mountains.imageKjossfossen on the way to Flam

imageWinding roads, melting glacier, waterfalls, river valley as seen from Flamsbana

The Flam village is at the edge of the longest and deepest fjord, Sognefjorden. The small harbour has a docking berth for cruise ships. The ferry to the fjords, waterfalls, Bergen and other villages also start from here. The tiny train station is right in front of the harbour. It is sleepy most of the time but comes alive in the summer months when large cruise ships dock there and throngs of tourist disembark to take boat rides to the fjords & waterfalls in the region. We were lucky to see the Caribbean Princess berthed there and a food festival offering local cuisine just outside the station. The park adjoining the station and harbour is an excellent place to relax for adults and an impromptu playground for children.imageOutside Flam Train station

imageFlam food festival

imageCaribbean Princess, the cruise ship docked in the harbour, Flam

The surrounding mountain sides are dotted with picturesque villages and many are connected by regular ferry service from Flam & Bergen. These boat journeys are no less fantastic. They pass through the narrow passages between massive and steep cliffs. The clear waters reflect the mighty snow peaks (even in the month of June) and the shrill cries of the sea gulls break the calm atmosphere.

The peak tourist season together with the presence of the huge cruise ship, made Flam a very crowded and noisy place so we decided not to spend the night there but move to the “art village”, Balestrand.

Balestrand is almost half way between the ferry routes from Flam to Bergen. Our cottage was situated on a high vantage point from where we could see the snow clad mountain, the green forests and the blue sea below. Since the weather was glorious, we got the added bonus of witnessing stunning sunrise and sunset from the terraced balcony. Norway is also known as the Land of Midnight Sun, where the sun goes down the horizon for a very short time before rising again, during the summer solstice. So, it was a long glowing evening merging into soft early morning … a very unique and unforgettable experience!imageView from our cottage in Balestrand

Bergen is a short ride on the ferry from Balestrand. This port city of Norway has one of the most beautiful wharfs, I have seen. The old wharf is lined with colourful wooden houses on the background of lush green forest making it a very pretty postcard picture.imageBergen Wharf

imageView of the city from the Wharf

Unfortunately, the bright weather gave in to thunderstorm and rain in Bergen and I couldn’t take pictures worth posting here. Despite the bad weather, we enjoyed roaming around the old wharf and the town. The food stalls on the wharf not only emanated teasing smell for the taste buds but are also a treat for the eyes…very decorative and colourful. There are walking trails going up the hills for hiking enthusiasts like me!! ​​​

After spending two nights in this delightful city, we took the train back to Oslo. The first half of the journey passes through snow clad mountains and needless to say that the view from the train window is awesome.

As the train entered the Oslo station, I felt transported to a very modern city. Though a beautiful capital city, it has more concrete structures as attractions than natural ones.

Our trip to Norway, also, extended to some very scenic areas like Andalnses near the Geiranger fjord and Nordesetter near Lillehammer, the Winter Olympics city.

Andalnses is a very quiet village in the Geiranger Fjord area with just a few cottages. The view of the lake surrounded by snow clad mountains is spectacular. Actually, we saw snow everywhere, mountains with half melted snow, rivers still covered with floating ice……it was a beautiful mix of winter and spring colours, predominantly white and green!

imageView of the mountains and lake from the cottage in Andalnses

Nature abounds in Norway with craggy mountain faces, deep gorges, river valleys and fjords. It is an apt country for adventure sport lovers. Our trip came to an end soon! I promised myself that I’ll visit again to see the Northern lights (another spectacular sight when the sky lights up with a splash of rainbow colours due to cosmic activity of the atmospheric particles) in winter…fingers crossed!

Websites for tourism information : http://www.visitnorway.com and http://www.fjordnorway.com

Norway in a nutshell also gives good ideas on planning tours. Visitors can also take their conducted tours to avoid the hassle of booking tickets and hotels.

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