Norway in a nutshell
Last update April 2019
Short weekend trip or stop on the way
Norway in a nutshell sounds like Europe in a week: Trying to see everything but not having time for anything. That is different here: it is a great tour along fjords, mountains and waterfalls - maybe the trip for first time visitors to the west coast.
Starting in the rain
We started the tour on a grey, rainy, not really very warm summer day - which is rather the norm in Bergen, clearly the wettest city in Norway. But we were dressed properly, so this did not ruin our mood.
After embarking the mid-sized ferry and getting a cup of coffee and some waffles, we enjoyed the view from the deck towards the famous Bryggen buildings that slowly disappeared into the fog and light rain.
Leaving Bergen, the ferry travels for quite some time north, between countless small islands, decorated with a surprisingly high number of houses, harbors and some small scale industry buildings. It then turns east, into the Sognefjord, Norway´s longest and deepest fjord. Close to the north sea, this one is actually so wide, you rather feel like on the open sea, not always seeing the other shore. At least, on a rainy day.
Watching the scenery slowly go by and wondering how & why people want to live out in the nowhere, gives you plenty of time to drink even more coffee, eat a shrimp sandwich or wiener sausages in a roll.
Getting further to the East, also the biggest fjord eventually narrows down and so, after a couple of hours, you can have a better look at the massive rock walls on both sides. In particular in the triangle of Sogne-, Aurlands- & Nærøyfjord, you are really in the middle of it all: steep steep mountains on both sides, huge stone walls going straight into the water, trees growing out of absurd small spots in the stone...
After meeting another ferry right in the middle of the fjord and letting some passengers change boats - in the middle of the fjord (I have never heard of that service before) we got stuck for some minutes because some drift wood had gotten into the inlet of the water jet propulsion system. But after some back and forth the crew could fix that.
The Rallarvegen is one of the most popular bicycle tour in Norway, not only among tourist. The full distance between Haugastøl in Øst and Flåm is about 80 km. But the part down from Myrdal, where the Flåm train ends, back to Flåm is just about 1/4 of that distance and more or less all downhill.
The Rallarveien was build by hand and finished in 1902, originally for transport of material during the construction of the "Bergensban", the train connection from Oslo to Bergen. It´s quite a scenic ride as you can see from various pictures. Still to be done by us.
Picture from fjordtours.com
During our trip, the fog was quite strong and did not help to see far into the distance. But on the plus side, the atmosphere was very special and had its own charme: We did not need a lot of imagination to understand why trolls (see box) and other monsters are so popular in Norwegian fairy tales.
Occasionally small rock slides painted nice scenes of trolls playing a bit football up in mountains...
Trolls do not exist - or do they?
Movie "The troll hunter"
When you ever wonder why there are huge powerlines up in the mountain, croation bears found dead in the Norwegian woods and very isolated tornados flatten lots of trees in a very small area - and you appreciate a slightly weird humor - you will enjoy the movie "Troll Hunter".
So our safety tip of the day would be then to always carry a strong UV floodlight and a couple of charged car batteries with you when you tent in the mountains of Northern Norway :-)
Arriving in Flåm, continuing by train
When getting closer to Flåm, the final destination of the ferry, the ferry used constantly its foghorn. We did not see anything until suddenly a huge cruise ship appeared like a ghost out of the fog right next to our ship. Quite a sight as we were not expecting such a big one so deep in the fjord here...
In Flåm, we had a quick break in a little cafe hidden in an old train wagon before the second part stared, up the mountain valley by train, towards Myrdal. The train is an old beauty and not fast at all. It crawls slowly up the valley, through many short tunnels, changing the sites of the vally frequently so that people with cameras desperately change places in order to take proper pictures of the scenery.
Our advice: don't even try. Unless you are really lucky or fast, you will have a lot pictures with something obstructing the main motive. Just relax and watch.
The train stops once on the trip, at a pretty big and noisy waterfall. Another good occasion for not using your camera
as there is so much water in the air that your lense will soon turn all pictures into something blue & blurry.
During the ride you can also see the Rallarvegen down in the valley, the old mail road (see box). We have not done it yet, but it is clearly on our list.
Arriving at Myrdahl, you need to change trains again, to a regular one and descending to Bergen. This is actually the Bergensbanen coming from Oslo. It arrives at around 6 pm in the evening Bergen, just early enough for a late Norwegian dinner.
Distance from Bergen
Round-trip; takes about 8 hours by boat and train
Enjoying the view on Bergen from the seaside
Gliding through countless islands along the coast
Experience the enormous size of the Sognefjord and the beauty of Aurlandsfjord
Going by historic train up the mountains
Overnight stay we can recommend
Someplace in Bergen, such as Hotel Park Pension, a bit more basic but nice hotel from the "De historiske" association
You can organise the trip also by yourself and then plan time for the Rallarvegen by bike - that you also can rent for a one-way downhill trip
Click on the map for opening the right clipping in google maps in a new window