Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Experience: No(r)way!? Part 2 - How I lost my jawbone

This is the 2nd part of a trip report. First part can be found here.

I left the last part off at walking through Oslo with Sverre after the Color Fantasy cruise, having no clue where he was taking me. All sorts of scenarios were going through my head and I had settled on the guess that we were going to a hotel, though we could've just as well be simply taking a train back to Fredrikstad, or onward to somewhere else. For entertainment, I shared my wildest thought of "We could also be heading to the airport to fly somewhere?" with Sverre, who remained quiet...
...and took me to the airport express ticket vending machine. My suspense slowly gave way to "SERIOUSLY?!" as we got on the train that took us to the airport. Yet, he still remained quiet about the destination as we went through security and I, being unprepared for a flight, had a bottle of deodorant confiscated. While I was throwing a minor hissy fit over that (as it was a brand new bottle of admittedly cheap and common, but nonetheless really nice smelling deodorant! How dare he take me on a surprise flight!!!), we moved to a gate that showed a SAS flight to Bergen. I was in for some really beautiful sights, hence the title of the post.

Real mountains!
The flight was somewhat turbulent and so was the  bus ride from the airport to the center, but soon we checked in to beautiful Det Hanseatiske Hotel, and then went to explore.

First of all, we took the funicular Fløibanen up to the viewpoint on Fløyen, where we spent a while taking pictures and admiring the breathtaking view. It was also then that I noticed that Sverre's workplace at the time, Hurtigruten's M/S Trollfjord, was present.

The red car arriving to the lowest station
On our way up
Mandatory tourist photo
View from near the top station
Another Bergen view
The blue car on its way down
I'm sure it would've been great to walk down, but since our time in Bergen was extremely limited, we really had to use every second as wisely as possible. I should also mention that we were extremely lucky with the weather, as you may see the one evening we spent in Bergen it was very lovely, clear and sunny. Afterall, there are high mountains right inland from Bergen, which forces the moist air coming in from the North Atlantic to drop that moisture down, making  Bergen the rainiest city in Europe with an average of 231 rainy days every year. So, I would call that a bit more than your average good weather luck.

Fløibanen railway and top station
Bergen is the home of many offshore ships, among others.

Approaching Trollfjord
After the trip up to Fløyen and a nice walk around the city, we boarded the Trollfjord for a look around and to join the Captain's dinner.

Deck plans
Trollfjord on the Trollfjord. And quite often this duo sails past and even inside the real Trollfjord.
Azimuth thruster controls, among many other buttons and controls.
Sometimes it's nice to sit on the bridge and pretend to be a big shot like Sverre.

Composed in December 2003 on board the Trollfjord

Cabin corridor
Fancy a dip?
Mandatory Funnel
The cardeck door. Hurtigruten ships only have those on the port side, which means that they always come in port side alongside, in every port along their route. Perhaps I should mention that I have a somewhat impressive collection of aft from port side bridge wing view photos from Hurtigruten ports, almost all of them, as Sverre has sent me some over time.
Engine room aesthetics; auxiliary engine.
Engine room control panel

After the visit to Trollfjord it was good time to get some rest at the hotel, because the following morning we had to get up at silly o'clock to catch the first train of our day, which took us to Myrdal, with a 20-minute stop in Voss on the way. Already then, despite being quite sleepy, I was mostly looking out because whenever we weren't in a tunnel, the view was quite something to see.

Voss train station

Voss, 57 meters above sea level; 385,5 km from Oslo; 106,7 km from Bergen.
After the stop in Voss, we started ascending...
...and the views from the train window got snowier...
... and snowier...

... until we finally reached Myrdal, 867 meters above sea level.
In Myrdal we got off that train as it wasn't going to take us any further anyway. And our next train to Flåm just happened to depart from there, too.
The railway from Myrdal to Flåm, having long ago ceased to serve any other purpose than tourism, is nowadays advertised as the world's most beautiful train journey. And I can tell you that it's not really too much of an exaggeration. Also, we were very fortunate to be there before the high season of herds of tourists and quite luxuriously had an entire carriage for ourselves, with the freedom to run from one side to the other depending on where the epic view was.

The carriages, converted for the purpose, had quite a lovely interior.
The journey to Flåm along the Flåm valley is about 20km long and takes roughly an hour, descending down to only a few meters above sea level, with the steepest slope of 5,5 percent. Along the line there are 20 tunnels, one bridge and 8 stops, one of which is a stop of 5 minutes at a platform built near Kjosfossen waterfall, with the mere purpose of allowing tourists to have a look at it.

I think this image does a much better job in making it all clear than any description that I might whip up myself.
At the very beginning, the views were quite similar.
Until we got to the valley. For quite understandable reasons, some of the beautiful views had to be observed through support beams.
Even though the train was slow and slowed down even more in spots with nice views, taking pictures could still be somewhat challenging from between support structures - I believe this lucky shot would've turned out perfect if my camera had managed to focus.

Railways and roads
Kjosfossen station
Kjosfossen waterfall, still frozen at that time. When not frozen, the highest freefall is 93 meters and the total fall around 225 meters.
Tourist selfie of the day

Meeting the other train at the passing lane

No mountain is beautiful enough to distract Sverre when he's busy being himself.
This proud shot of the Flåm village has been a worthy background image on my phone ever since.
Among many other buildings, the Flåm Church, built in 1670, should be quite easy to find.
Flåm station. A stone throw away from the station there is a museum dedicated to the Flåm railway.
Flåm is a village of around 400 people, but it receives more than a thousand times as many visitors every year, which explains the need for a hotel and a cruise terminal, and several souvenir stores.
And in one of those stores I found this beautiful granite spice grinder that was almost calling me by name until I gave in and bought it. And I'm so glad I did!
Flåm is located at the inner end of the Aurlandsfjord, which is a branch of the Sognefjord, the world's longest open and ice free fjord.
 After a few hours in Flåm, which included admiring the breathtaking scenery, shopping and the most scenic lunch I've ever had, it was time to take the same train back up to Myrdal and get on a train that was moving onward to Oslo. For the first couple of hours of the five hour journey the lovely views continued as we ascended more, but later on, after we had come down to near sea level again, we finally got to nap away the hours we lost to the early wakeup. After arrival to Oslo we had a dinner in Hard Rock Cafe and then took the train back home to Fredrikstad.

As we ascended, the layer of snow on the ground got thicker and thicker
Not too long afterwards, we reached Finse, the highest station on the Bergen line at 1222 meters above sea level. The highest point on the line, 1237 meters, is inside the Finse tunnel. Admittedly my ears got a bit blocked at that altitude.
Along the route we saw quite many skiers.
Over time, there have been quite many occasions where heavy snowfall, avalanches or landslides have blocked the railway. To combat the issue, quite a lot of snowsheds and tunnels have been built. In total, on the 496-kilometer line (counting the long loop the passenger trains make via Drammen), there are 182 tunnels with a total length of around 73 kilometers, and 39 stations.

Admittedly most of the pictures of that day were taken through a train window and thus lacked a bit in quality. But considering that, just imagine how indescribably amazing it was really being there. Well, I can tell you, you can't. You'd have to go there and see it. In fact, I've already sworn to repeat that journey some day, partially with the purpose of going to look for that jawbone I lost in Flåm.

No comments:

Post a Comment