Nor­we­gian quickie

Here’s a primer from our reader on how you can take in this beau­ti­ful Scan­di­na­vian coun­try, if time might be a con­straint.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Travel - By TAN HOCK CHUAN star2­travel@thes­tar.com.my

THIS was a self-guided tour to see the Nor­we­gian fjords, moun­tains, wa­ter­falls and to ex­pe­ri­ence the world’s best train jour­ney (cited by Lonely Planet in 2014 for the Flam to Myrdal stretch) in a very short pe­riod of time. The tour, which goes in a cir­cuit, can be done as a day trip or over sev­eral days with overnight stays en route. Trav­ellers who use Ber­gen as a base, have a choice of start­ing the tour from Voss or Myrdal.

Af­ter alight­ing from the air­port bus at Tor­get (Mar­ket Square) in Ber­gen, we walked to the nearby Tourist In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre lo­cated above the Fish Mar­ket. We checked the weather fore­cast for the next two days and then pro­ceeded to buy our tick­ets at the counter. Buy­ing the tick­ets on­line (in ad­vance) is slightly cheaper, but tak­ing the tour on a rainy day is not our idea of a hol­i­day (Ber­gen has more than 200 rainy days in a year), but once the tick­ets have been is­sued, no changes can be made.

We bought the Nor­way In A Nut­shell tour for NOK 1,145 (RM584) and opted to start from Voss, be­cause we pre­ferred to be on the ferry to Flam in the morn­ing when the sun was not so in­tense. What we paid for was a set of tick­ets (free seat­ing) for the Ber­gen Line and Flam Line trains, the bus and the ferry and a book­let with in­for­ma­tion on the places along the route.

Our train rolled out of Ber­gen Rail­way sta­tion at 8.45am and 80 min­utes later, we ar­rived at Voss, a pop­u­lar sky-div­ing, hik­ing, moun­tain bik­ing and ski­ing des­ti­na­tion. We were di­rected to a bus with the words “Nor­way In A Nut­shell” stuck on the wind­screen, wait­ing out­side the train sta­tion. The bus took less than an hour to get to the pier at Gud­van­gen. Un­for­tu­nately, the bus did not take the heart-stop­ping Stal­heim­skleiva, a very steep moun­tain road with 13 sharp hair­pin bends down the Naeroy­dalen val­ley be­cause cer­tain stretches of the road was still cov­ered in snow even in late April. By 11am we were at the pier wait­ing to board the ferry to Flam.

The ferry cruise was the high­light of the tour. The air was crisp and the weather was per­fect.

Through­out the two-hour leisurely cruise, we stayed on the open deck, to en­joy the views of the fjords of Naeroyfjord, a Unesco World Her­itage Site and Aur­lands­fjord, with steep moun­tain­sides, hang­ing val­leys, snow­capped moun­tains, farms and ham­lets. The Naeroyfjord is a branch of the 204km long Sogne­fjord. At the nar­row­est part, the fjord is only 500m wide. Be­fore we knew it, the ferry had pulled up at Flam.

In Flam, we had one hour to eat the lunch we had packed from our ho­tel in Ber­gen (food and bev­er­ages are very ex­pen­sive in Flam) and ex­plore the pic­turesque vil­lage and shop for sou­venirs. We then boarded the Flams­bana train to Myrdal. The vil­lage, which has a church, a few hotels and restau­rants, is a pop­u­lar place to go hik­ing and cycling. A few of the fel­low ferry pas­sen­gers stayed overnight at Flam, some­thing we wished we could have done.

The Flam Rail­way sta­tion is just a few steps to the ferry pier and has toi­let fa­cil­i­ties. There is also a Flam Rail­way Mu­seum where en­trance is free. When the Flams­bana train rolled into the sta­tion, we quickly boarded the train to book our pre­ferred seats – win­dow seats with win­dows that could be rolled down (only the first and last rows). There were not many pas­sen­gers as April is low tourist sea­son for this tour.

The old train has a nos­tal­gic feel with its wooden in­te­rior and large win­dows. The 40-minute jour­ney from Flam to Myrdal was very scenic. At the Kjos­fos­sen Sta­tion, the train stopped for about five min­utes to al­low pas­sen­gers to get down to view the 230m high ma­jes­tic Kjos­fos­sen Wa­ter­fall right be­side the plat­form. The wa­ter­fall has a small power sta­tion to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity to power the Flam Line. We were the first to be on the view­ing plat­form be­cause the doors of coach 5 and 6 are the near­est to the plat­form. In sum­mer, a girl dressed as a Hul­dra (se­duc­tive for­est spirit) will be danc­ing and lip-synch­ing in front of the wa­ter­fall to mu­sic blar­ing from hid­den speakers.

As the train neared Myrdal, 86m above sea-level, the ground be­came cov­ered in thick snow. Myrdal sta­tion is a small moun­tain sta­tion with no toi­let fa­cil­ity, just a plat­form. At Myrdal, we hopped onto the wait­ing Ber­gen train, for a twohour ride to Ber­gen, ar­riv­ing at 6pm. There was noth­ing much to see dur­ing the jour­ney. Time to take a nap af­ter a long day and dream of all the great mo­ments ear­lier. The views ex­pressed are en­tirely the reader’s own.

En­joyed your hol­i­day and ea­ger to share your story? We’d love to hear what made your trip so special. You can also share in­sights gleaned and use­ful tips. Your story (word or text for­mat only) should be about 600-800 words long, with at least seven photos (1MB) at­tached sep­a­rately. There is no pay­ment for sub­mis­sions. We re­serve the right to edit all sub­mis­sions. Send your story to: star2­travel@thes­tar.com.my.

View of pic­turesque Flam from the Flams­bana. — Photos: TAN HOCK CHUAN

A ham­let on the banks of Aur­lands­fjord.

The Naeroyfjord is a branch of the larger Sogne­fjord.

The ferry ply­ing be­tween Gud­van­gen and Flam pre­par­ing to berth at Gud­van­gen.

A sou­venir shop near the Gud­van­gen pier.

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