The Flåm, snow tunnels and postcard wooden houses are just some of the delights Norway boasts. We took a trip to Bergen and Oslo to experience what the country has to offer… and it’s a lot more than just the majestic fjords
Part 1 – Bergen
Arriving into Bergen we were very excited. The weather was dark and moody and broke into rain while we were in the beautiful cathedral. The city is surrounded by seven fjords and seven hills. During the Middle Ages, it was an important port as well as being the capital of Norway.
The legacy of the city is laid bare in the amazingly preserved wooden buildings of Bryggen, lining the harbour in all their colours. This old centre is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site family.
Picturesque clapperboard houses line the hillsides, ferries come in and out of the fjords and a selection of excellent museums provide a great city weekender. The weather along this coast is notoriously fickle like other places in Norway (Stavanger).
The cable car was a real highlight for us, with great views over the city. Our hotel, Best Western Hordaheimen, was a real good refuge from the sporadic rain.
The next day we headed out of town to visit Fantoft Stave Church. The church was originally built around the year 1150 at Fortun in Sogn. Fantoft Stave Church was threatened with demolition, as were hundreds of other stave churches in Norway. Fantoft Stave Church was bought by consul Fredrik Georg Gade and saved by moving it in pieces to Fana near Bergen in 1883. On the way back into town we stopped off at Bergenhus Fortress for a last minute medievil fix.
Catherine and I were sad to say goodbye to Bergen as it was a real treat for us, but the train to Flåm was waiting.
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Part 2 – Flåm
The train set off at 8am and with a few corners out of Bergen, the train swept alongside fjords and climbed up mountains. About 3 hours in, we reached Myrdal where we got off to catch the Flåm railway, one of the steepest in the world. This was another train journey we really wanted to experience.
Opening of the line started in 1941, allowing the district of Sogn access to Bergen and Oslo via the Bergen Line. It runs through the valley of Flåmsdalen and connects the mainline with Sognefjord. The line’s elevation difference is 863 meters (2,831 ft); it has ten stations, twenty tunnels and one bridge. The maximum gradient is 5.5% (1:18). At the end of the journey via a stop off at the Kjosfossen waterfall the lovely harbour town of Flåm rests. We had a packed lunch sitting at the waterside and thought how beautiful Norway was.
The Flåm train museum is a must if you have time and the cruise ships that rock up here show the stark contrast between tech and nature. After a few hours, we boarded the train again to ride back up the tracks to Myrdal for the connecting train to Oslo.
The second half of the Bergen to Oslo line was spectacular. At its highest, all we could see out the windows was a wall of snow. It was like going through a white, fluffy tunnel with snow being sprayed either side of the carriage. Passengers were getting on and off, with skies, and as the train puffed along we saw houses buried deep in snow. The scenery was like nothing I had ever seen on a train before. After 4.30 hours the train parked up in Oslo and we are looking forward to getting to our hotel.
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Part 3 – Oslo
Our mid-range hotel in Oslo was the Comfort Hotel Xpress near the Central Station. After a fabulous breakfast Catherine and I took a walk into the centre. Oslo isn’t like Bergen, but is still a very interesting city, great for a city weekender.
We started off visiting Kon-Tiki Museum, then we moved on to the amazing Viking Ship Museum that was a real highlight of the trip, and still is one of the best museums I have been to. During our school years we had been taught about this pioneering people and now we were stood next to their amazing boats. Walking to the bus stop we passed Stave Church from Gol which is a stave church originally from Gol, Hallingdal and relocated in Oslo in 1880.
Catching the bus back into town we made a beeline to the National Museum, passing the Noble Peace Centre on the way. The National Museum contains impressive art works on the walls, none more so than The Scream by Edvard Munch.
After learning that the 1996 horror film was based on this painting, Catherine and I had always wanted to see it and as we were in Oslo, why not! The museums admission fee is NOK 50 but as it was a Thursday, it was free.
After seeing the painting, we wondered out on to the Studenterlunde (students grove) and had a cup of hot chocolate in the snow. February in Norway, although overcast and snowing, is quite special. The cold really heightens the need for warmth and the golden glow of the street lights and shops is really inviting. We jumped onto tram 1 towards Oslo’s famous Ski jump at Holmenkollbakken.
Unfortunately, the weather had come in and made any views over the city impossible, but it added to the ‘Silent Hill-ness’ of the whole experience. I can’t imagine going down this incredible slope. Emanuel Vigelands musem was on the way back to the hotel and well worth the walk at Slemdal.
After a great sleep at the Comfort Hotel we ventured out. The weather was much better in the morning but still the wind ripped through us. Our last day was filled with the famous Opera House on the harbour front. This is a beautiful building inside and out. Once climbed, it will offer you great views over the city. Moving around the water front, we stumbled upon a well-preserved fort –Akershus Fortress.
This is a medieval castle that was built to protect and provide a royal residence for Oslo. The castle has also been used as a military base, and is today a museum, open for public.
You are never too far from the centre, and with our stomachs grumbling, we walked to our favourite Scandanavian steakhouse, Jensens Bøfhus. After a great steak, we passed by the government’s offices still marked by the events of 2011 and ended up at the historic street of Damstredet. These well-preserved and inhabited wooden houses from the late 1700s and 1800s give a good impression of how Oslo looked by in the day.
A 20min walk later and we were at the Slottsplassen, where the Royal Palace sits. This Buckingham Palace-esque building was built for the French-born King Charles III of Norway, who reigned as king of Norway and Sweden at the time.
Walking through the gardens to Uranienborg kirke was a nice way to end the day. Making our way back through the centre and to our hotel, the city started to light up.
With the snow falling and the light dying out, we picked up our bags and headed to the Central Station to catch the R10 train to Oslo International Airport. It was time to go home.
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Checking out J & C