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A trip to Norway would be incomplete without a ride on the spectacular Flam Railway. This journey, involving two trains and a ferry, unveils the best of Norway’s natural beauty and creative engineering: majestic mountains, lush forests and sparkling fjords all visible from the perch of a twisting and twirling rail line. It was an experience that left me speechless, a condition I rarely suffer from!
I began my trip at the Oslo train station, boarding the popular Bergen Line. This train, running from Oslo to Bergen, is Northern Europe’s highest railway system, a journey often referred to as a ride across Norway’s roof. I planned to ride across this landscape before breaking my journey at the mountain station of Myrdal, from here, after a switch of trains, I’d head down along the Flam valley on the famous Flamsbana.
As the train silently shot across the countryside, Norway entertained us with a range of colourful backdrops, from green meadows to icy mountains; the train darted past gushing streams, giant trees, summer homes (complete with fallen bicycles and swing sets) and swirling country roads; occasionally white dots of sheep and chestnut horses made guest appearances, as did bikers and hikers.
Inside the train, I nuzzled against the window, basking in the warm scent of muffins and coffee wafting in from the train’s well equipped cafe; the journey progressed with one bite here and a click of the camera there. Before I knew it, the train was leaving the green behind and making for the snowy mountains. It was June but the ice was in no mood to quit these caps. Through beams of sunlight and startling white, the train glided in and out of tunnels on its way to Myrdal.
When the train pulled to a halt, I got off most grudgingly; after all I was leaving the warm comforts of the train for an ice cold mountain station in the middle of nowhere. Myrdal was two sets of railway tracks, a couple of B&Bs in the distance and snow capped mountains. I stepped on to the platform, along with what seemed like a thousand tourists, a little bit apprehensive. I grabbed at my sweater sleeves and waited for the second part of the journey to start.
Soon enough a shiny green train pulled up. Where the Bergen Line was a snazzy new age train, the Flamsbana was of an old-school orientation: a traditional green carriage train, with golden letters embossed on it. As soon as I got in the multi-lingual audio guide kicked on; we were going down the steep Flam Valley to the village of Flam, situated 865 meters below on a corner along the Aurlandfjord , part of the Sognefjord , the world’s largest fjord. This promised to be fun!
The Flam Railway is an engineering marvel. Constructed over a period of twenty years, this 20km long route, said to be the steepest rail route on normal gauge, runs along the edge of the valley, past ravines and waterfalls and through twenty manually excavated tunnels. What more can you ask for from a train ride!
As the train slowly made its way down, I was entertained by passing snow tipped peaks, mountain farms, cascading falls, ravines, meadows, hikers and camps. I could smell the wild, fresh green of the valley. The air was untainted and the breeze delicious; it took us right up to a thundering mass of water. The polite voice on the audio guide informed us that we were at the Kjoss waterfall, the only break in our ride to Flam.
I stepped off the train and into an icy spray. Almost simultaneously, a beautiful, haunting melody filled the valley. Somewhere past the mist, above the rocks, was a peasant girl singing her heart out. Later the audio guide would inform us that she was singing a piece from Norse mythology. This sort of drama felt very at home in the valley; it fit right into the proceedings.
Back on the train, we gently climbed down the valley. Ravines gave way to meadows and puffing hikers made way for gentle grazing sheep. In the distance I could see church spires. Flam was close by; the train journey was coming to an end.
I planned to stop for a nice warm lunch in Flam before my ferry to Bergen . As I got off the train, I couldn’t help but wonder if the rest of my trip would live up to my day on Norway’s Flamsbana Railway.