Journey of A Lifetime – Doing the Norway in A Nutshell reversed (1 August 2018)

It’s Day 5 of my amazing trip in Europe and I attempted DIY reverse of “Norway in a nutshell” (NIN) from Bergen to Oslo. I took the train from Bergen to Voss, then on to the bus to Gudvangen, onboard the ferry to Flåm and finally took the scenic train journey from Flåm to Oslo via Mrydal. Sound very complicated right?

To be honest it wasn’t too difficult since with internet I was able to access the trains, bus and ferry schedules. Then it’s just a matter of planning. One can purchase the NIN tour from the tourist office/agents but I prefer to make my own arrangement which gave me the flexibility to custom made my own itinerary. For this leg of the journey I purchased the train ticket from Flåm to Oslo 60 days in advance to enjoy the minipris rates, which was a great savings. I bought the ferry ticket online and the train ticket from Bergen to Voss a day before the journey. I’m glad I did this the previous evening because the queue was super long the morning I departed from Bergen. As for the bus ticket, I bought direct from the bus driver.

I woke up at 5.30 a.m, had breakfast and packed along some sandwiches for the trip. By 7 a.m. I had checked out from the hostel and dragged my luggage to the train station. The objective was to catch the 7.58 a.m train to Voss. The queue was very long, many were on group tour and only a few were independent traveler like me. But most of them were holding NIN tour tickets bought via an agent. When the train arrived, it became chaotic as everybody rushed to get onto the train, it was free seating. I managed to squeezed into the 3rd coach and sat with a group of travelers from USA. They were doing NIN on a day trip returning to Bergen that evening. The train journey from Bergen to Voss took slightly more than an hour, passing through beautiful lakes, waterfalls and small villages.

When we arrived at Voss station everyone rushed to the busses 200 meters away waiting to take us to Gudvangen. With 2 heavy luggage, I was among the last to arrived but managed to get a seat and the only one who paid the fare on board since others had the all inclusive tour paid. We passed a few spectacular waterfall and the final descent towards Gudvangen small port was just breathtaking beautiful.

One of the main highlights of NIN is the 2 hour journey on ferry from Gudvangen to Flåm. The narrow and spectacular Nærøyfjord is surrounded by steep mountains that stretch up to 1800 meters above sea level. Water falls cascade down the mountains and picturesque villages dot the landscape. This is an area that is featured on the UNESCO world heritage list and is considered one of the world’s most beautiful fjord landscapes. It reminds me of Lauterbrunnen Valley and the Jungfraujoch train ride in Switzerland, though in a different form but there were mountains, steep rocky cliff, waterfalls, isolated farms and small villages.

Upon arrival in Flåm, I head straight to the train station and leave my bags at the left luggage. Then I took the bus to Stegastein Viewpoint for a panoramic view of Aurlandsfjord. For 30 minutes ride each way, I found the bus fare phenomenally expensive at NOK300, about RM160 return. However, it is an unmissable sightseeing trip for any visitor to Flåm. The Stegastein viewpoint structure was in itself an extraordinary and spectacular engineering feat. It juts 30 metres (about 100 ft long) out from the mountainside as the land drops away steeply beneath. The end is glass, so you can literally look about 2000 ft straight down. It offers an unparalleled panorama of the fjord, mountains and surrounding landscape, a sight that for a while took my breath away.

I returned on the 5 pm bus and have about an hour to explore Flåm before taking the 18:45 p.m. train to Mrydal where I have to wait 5 1/2 hrs for the connecting train to Oslo. You may ask why choose such connection? Flam – Oslo train journey cost up to NOK1,141 and there were only 2 cheaper options which was the 17:30 p.m. or 18:45 p.m. train from Flåm which cost 42% cheaper at NOK659. The later connection allows me to catch some sleep on the train, thus save me another NOK400 on hostel bed.

The train journey from Flåm – Mrydal is another highlight of NIN. The Flåm Railway is one of the steepest standard-gauge railway lines in the world, with 80% of the journey at a gradient of 5.5%. The train runs through spectacular scenery, alongside the Rallar Road, vertiginous mountainsides, foaming waterfalls, through 20 tunnels and offers so many viewpoints. National Geographic Traveler Magazine calls the Flåm Railway one of the top 10 train journeys in Europe while in 2014 Lonely Planet Traveller went even further, and named it the best train journeys in the world.

When I arrived at Myrdal train station, it started to drizzle and temperature drop. The only cafe at the station was closed. I paid NOK20 for a hot coffee from the vending machine. It’s gonna be a long night. I found a warm cosy corner to sit, and by 8.30 p.m. there were only 5 people left waiting for the 01:06 train to Oslo.

The train to Oslo had arrived bang on time but someone was sleeping on my reserved window seat. Not wanting to make a deal out of it, I sat at another available seat. It’s been a long day and all I want was to catch some sleep.