Scandinavia July & August 2015 – Berlin to Oslo via Stockholm & the Arctic Circle
When planning this trip in my head the only way I wanted to enter Scandinavia was by the train ferry from Berlin to Malmo yet strangely the window of opportunity is quite limited as the Snälltåget train only runs from late June until the first week in August!
Once in Sweden there wasn’t really anything on the agenda other than doing the train as far north as possible, which is obviously to Narvik in Norway and from there a bit of a cobbled together plan was put together involving Bodø, not stopping in Trondheim for more than 90 minutes, Oslo, Bergen and the Flåm Railway. Even now I look back at the plan and see that I could have done things a whole lot better and more efficiently; which could have included trips out to the islands in northern Norway but it didn’t yet I was still very happy with how things went and the places we visited.
WF857 0910 Narvik Framnes – Bodø
DY2805 1300 Oslo – Gatwick
Booked through Wideroe & Norwegian direct
Berlin – Motel One Berlin Leipziger Platz, Leipziger Platz 12, Mitte, 10117 Berlin, Germany – a five minute walk up the road from Potsdamer Platz. The room was spotless and pretty much what you’d expect at the likes of a Hilton, albeit a little on the small side. WiFi was free and very strong but breakfast wasn’t included in the rate so we paid €9.50 each for breakfast. The staff spoke fluent English and confirmed we could leave our bags with them the following day, once we’d checked out.
Stockholm – Hotel Terminus, Vasagatan 20, 101 25 Stockholm, Sweden – straight out of Stockholm Central station’s main entrance and over the road. The girls on the front desk were very polite, spoke fluent English and had us checked in quickly. Our room was only on the 1st floor but in a quiet location, away from the main road between the hotel and station. WiFi was free and of a decent strength and the room was clean and well presented with toiletries provided. Breakfast was included in the room rate and there was a massive selection.
Narvik – Scandic Narvik, Kongens Gate 33, 8501 Narvik, Norway – a 10 minute walk from Narvik railway station; the hotel sits very prominently at the bottom end of town. Our 11th floor room overlooked basically the whole of the iron ore docks and had great views out over the water too. The Scandic Narvik stands towering above everything around it with its glass exterior making it stand out even more. Its interior is as modern as its exterior with very nice rooms, which randomly lack air conditioning but have heating for the bathrooms. I guess during the Winter it can be a bit fresh on the feet in a cold bathroom! Our problem was that it was a glorious afternoon and the sun was beaming through the room windows, turning it into a greenhouse; it was quite literally sweltering and we were glad to be heading back out soon after we arrived, to enjoy the afternoon while the weather was nice. WiFi was free throughout the hotel and breakfast was included and served as a buffet; that had to be constantly replenished with the amount of people setting off on early morning trips.
Bodø – Radisson Blu Bodø, Storgata 2, 8006 Bodø, Norway – we arrived just after 10am and were so relieved when there was a room free for us to check straight in to. The hotel is about 10 minutes from Bodø railway station, 20 minutes from the airport and ideally situated for access to everything in Bodø. The room was spotless, spacious and the free WiFi worked well. Toiletries were provided as were tea/coffee making facilities; which were just what we needed after our not so pleasant walk to the hotel. Breakfast was included in the room rate but didn’t seem to be as well looked after as other places we’d visited on the trip as I had to tell the staff that most of the hot food out was actually stone cold!
Oslo – Clarion Hotel Royal Christiania, Biskop Gunnerusgt. 3, 0106 Oslo, Norway – I was almost shocked when the Clarion Hotel Royal Christiania showed us to our room at just after 7am; having already showed a family in front of us to their room! The hotel is centered around and open middle area which overlooks the breakfast area below; which you can look down on while going up in the lifts. Another spotless room which was on the upper floors, with good WiFi and all the facilities you’d expect. Breakfast had a lot of choice, but not a lot of choice if that makes sense, and was also in desperate need of more staff to keep things replenished early in the morning; such is the theme with tour groups heading out early!
Bergen – Scandic Ørnen, Lars Hillesgate 18, 5008 Bergen, Norway – a 10 minute walk from Bergen station and about the same again to the harbour in the opposite direction. It was a very plush looking place and our room was quite spacious with good WiFi, decent toiletries and tea/coffee making facilities. Breakfast was included in the room rate, with a decent selection to choose from but only when the hoards hadn’t hovered it all away in the morning rush!
Interrail Global Pass 15 Days – £322
Booked in the UK through Inter Rail online
EN300 1927 Berlin – Malmo – SEK1917 for berth reservations only (all 6 berths in a couchette)
Booked direct through Snälltåget’s website with ticket printed off immediately after booking
NT94 1755 Stockholm – Narvik berths booked online at SJ’s website; of note is that there are no 2 berth second class sleeper berths but you can book all three in a three berth by paying for the extra reservation.
All reservations in Norway done over the phone through NSB’s call centre, including sleeper berths & Flåm Railway tickets. There is no way of booking reservations only online at NSB’s website. Contact number is +4761051910 then option 9 for English.
Saturday 25th July 2015 (The DB resolution)
Having arrived into Germany from Bratislava overnight I spent the morning in Dresden before heading over to Berlin to meet my wife at the airport. The journey to Berlin was pretty harmless but EC378 was hammered a bit on the way and was 15 late by Berlin Sudkreuz where I made the 1538 “Airport Express” EMU to Schönefeld Flughafen. I then made the mistake of heading to Terminal D, which was where the return Norwegian Air flight to Gatwick was departing from, only to then find that arriving passengers would do so through Terminal A. By the time I got there my wife’s plane was just landing!
Getting from Berlin Schönefeld Flughafen to Potsdamer Platz, where our hotel was, is quite easy and there’s two routes to take, either via Sudkreuz or Ostbahnhof we went for the latter with a change of trains at Berlin Hbf.
The Hotel Motel One was a five minute walk up the road from Potsdamer Platz. The room was spotless and pretty much what you’d expect at the likes of a Hilton, albeit a little on the small side. WiFi was free and very strong but breakfast wasn’t included in the rate so we paid €9.50 each for breakfast. The staff spoke fluent English and confirmed we could leave our bags with them the following day, once we’d checked out.
Food that evening was going to be Mexican but the place we’d found on the Triposo App was nowhere to be found and we ended up at an Indian restaurant, in the vicinity of where the Mexican should have been, called Amrit. It’s only a short walk from the entrance to Potsdamer Platz station and the food was tasty, piping hot, served quickly and the service was excellent all round with all the staff speaking fluent English as well.
Sunday 26th July 2015 (Berlin sightseeing)
Breakfast was decent at the Motel One and afterwards, as we had all day to kill before our overnight towards Sweden the hotel kindly kept our bags in their locked baggage room and gave us a ticket to collect them later in the day. As the Brandenburg Gate was only about a mile from the hotel we opted to head that way first and passed by the very strange Memorial to the Murdered Jews, which you have to see to understand when I say it’s a bit like a maze but with the walls varying in height as you walk between the concrete blocks that make up the memorial, which spread a good 100m from end to end and side to side. The only difference from a maze is the fact that you can see straight down each and every passageway right to the opposite side of the memorial; so there really isn’t any getting lost as you walk through it.
The Brandenburg Gate is visible as you walk through the Memorial to the Murdered Jews and as luck had it the sun was beaming down nicely as we approached it and positioned ourselves to wait for a tour group to clear out of the way before we got our shots without them in it. Before we’d managed to finish doing what we wanted to do some dickhead with a bright yellow pedal tourist taxi decided he wanted to back it into the space we were occupying and wasn’t content with asking us politely to move so just continued to back his crap towards us until Danielle completely lost it and gave him more than a piece of her mind and at the top of her voice too; which basically resulted in the whole square around the gate having a look at what was going on. And the ignorant bastard just didn’t get it and even had the cheek to put his finger to his lips to gesture to us to be quiet. Of course I then had my say but didn’t rise to the idiot and kept my cool while telling him what an ignorant wanker he was. Unfortunately wankers like that have a habit of spoiling people’s visits to places and he’d done just that as all we’d remember about the Brandenburg Gate would be his selfish antics and incidents like that are what people often judge others from the same country by; he obviously didn’t seem to get that when I told him.
After our unfortunate incident it clouded over as we walked the short distance down the road to the Reichstag, which can be visited inside but we opted to just get our photographs and go and headed back to same way we’d come to Potsdamer Platz station; the plan being to use the train to get round to Alexanderplatz and then head towards Berlin Cathedral.
It turned out to be a nice afternoon in the end and we sat in the square, by the fountain, outside Alexanderplatz station by the very prominent Fernsehturm; which towered above the square and made everything around it look minute. The crumbs from our sandwiches attracted initially the odd visitor to mop them up however when I scattered the remains of my bread around it was as though the local Sparrow population could smell it and a good twenty or so soon gathered expecting more. It was a bit of a spectacle watching them chase the same piece of bread and even more of one watching them actually take the bread from Danielle’s fingers; even when held out a foot off the floor they would fly up and take it from her hand. Either very tame or very hungry they kept us occupied until we ran out of bread; then it was back to the sightseeing.
Berlin Cathedral is only a short walk from the main square outside Alexanderplatz and was surrounded by people sunbathing on the grass outside unfortunately a large part of the side that was basking in sunshine was covered in scaffolding and under some sort of renovation; which didn’t make it very photogenic at all. That was really our sightseeing over as we had a train to catch at 1927 and needed to get something to eat beforehand so we headed back to Potsdamer Platz by train. Once there we were then off on a bit of a wild goose chance for food!
We’d decided that Italian food took our fancy and as we had to pick our bags up from the hotel anyway the one just a little way past it seemed to be a sensible choice; found on Triposo again the Centolire café e panini looked nice and cozy from the outside, unfortunately it looked nice and closed as well and for the second evening running we’d been Triposo’d! We ended up walking back to the Sony Centre, by Potsdamer Platz station and finished up settling for an Italian that we’d walked past once, called Vapiano; unfortunately we ended up walking out on this one due to the fact you had to queue up at the kitchen and watch your food being cooked, to then have a card swiped to add the food you’ve bought which you then take back to a till to pay for afterwards! I got bored in the queue when it took 5 minutes for the person three in front of me to have her food prepared! As we’d not been disappointed the previous night we ended up back at the Amrit Indian Restaurant, which was just over the road from the Vapiano, 25 minutes after walking virtually past its doors earlier! The service wasn’t as good as the previous night but the food was.
Having collected our bags from the Hotel Motel One we were basically Sweden bound and having reached Berlin Hbf, again, and queuing for an age to get some snacks from a rather wedged supermarket we returned to the platform to find the set for our Snälltåget train in platform 5, with 5 coaches but no engine in sight.
Snälltåget’s Malmo C – Berlin Hbf – Malmo C train only runs from late June until early August and even then is only a three day a week operation in either direction. It’s a very handy way to get from Germany to Sweden and vice versa and is easily bookable through the Snälltåget website. What’s more if you don’t want to share your six berth couchette with anyone else you can book the whole six berth compartment to yourself, or for as many people as you like, up to six of course; which is exactly what I did for Danielle & I and in the end I was glad I did as most people travelling were Interrailers and of course reveling in the fact they were doing so, so the noise levels in some compartments weren’t low and neither was the baggage factor!
Our solitary six berth compartment had plenty of room and also had six cartons of water laid out on the table. Bedding was provided and all laid out on the top berth and other than the noise and general ambiance of the train it was clean enough but for the fact the toilet in our coach was out of order! Snälltåget’s #109 soon appeared and was dropped onto the north end of the train to make a prompt departure northwards at 1927. I have to say I was a little skeptical when the guard came round to check tickets as all I had was the printout of the booking confirmation from when I’d booked the tickets; all he did was grip it when he came round and left us to it.
Leaflets are provided in the racks at the end of each coach with the gen for the train, including timings. Basically the trains are non-stop Berlin – Malmo and vice versa but the times the trains depart their respective ports on board the FS Sassnitz are provided as people are allowed off the train when it’s on the ferry. The FS Sassnitz is a Stena Line ferry which plies the route between Sassnitz & Trelleborg and is fitted with on board tracks to accommodate the train; which fit perfectly when the boat is docked, to the tracks outside the ferry. Going north to Malmo the ferry departs at 2300 and arrives Trelleborg at 0315 but the train stays on board until 0630. Heading south the ferry departs Trelleborg at 1800 and arrives into Sassnitz at 2215 but then waits in Sassnitz until approx. 0230 before heading to Berlin Hbf.
Our journey north from Berlin was harmless and straightforward and the moment we dropped into Sassnitz dead end station a shunt loco was already dropping down, which turned out to be Baltic Port Railway’s V6002, which then dragged us out of the platform and propelled us onto the ferry; which had already been loaded. Basically the train is last on at Sassnitz. Most people got off once the train was berthed and tied down but the sensible folk went to be; like us. Despite it being the middle of the night people were still up drinking in the corridor of the next coach to us at about 0200; I’m so glad I hadn’t been in that coach!
The Photos Brandenburg Gate & Reichtag
The Photos Berlin Alexanderplatz
Monday 27th July 2015 (The Scandinavian connection)
There was an announcement on board the ferry at 0300 telling everyone that the ferry was approaching Trelleborg and that they should return to their vehicles. I didn’t hear this at all but did hear my alarm at 0315; which went off just as vehicles were starting their engines to leave the ferry. I found the guard as I walked towards the end of the train to investigate what would shunt us off, it was then that he told me the train would sit on the ferry until 0630; so it was back to bed with the alarm set for 0600 instead.
When I wondered back down at about 0615 there was nobody in sight and the ferry’s rear entrance was cordoned off so nobody could either exit or enter. It wasn’t until about 0625 that a headlight appeared in the distance and shortly afterwards Green Cargo’s shunting device #375 came to a stand just at the other side of the barriers. The guard had clearly radio’d the ferry’s staff to tell them it had arrived as a few minutes later three guys turned up and started to remove the metal fencing; the first one that arrived had taken the radio off the guard. Just after 0630 a loco was attached and the restraints holding the train in place were removed, the train doors were closed and locked and #375 dragged us off the ferry, through the yard where at least two other Green Cargo shunters were present, one of which was shunting wagons onto another ferry, and then reversed to propel us into Trelleborg station; where Hector Rail’s loco named “Mr Potato Head” was waiting to drop onto the other end and work the final leg of the journey into Malmo Central; which only took 35 minutes!
It was a cold and miserable morning as Snälltåget’s train EN300 rolled into the dead end that is Malmo Central; a stark contrast to how it had been in Berlin and a good 10 degrees cooler! In the adjacent platform was a set of Snälltåget stock labelled up for Stockholm, which Hector Rail’s “Mr Potato Head” was soon bolted on to, having shunted the Berlin stock out, ran round it, propelled it back in and then shunted onto the Stockholm set.
With 1h50m to kill before train 3940 set off for Stockholm we initially had a quick scan outside the station to see if there was anywhere to get breakfast but soon ended up back in Starbucks; pretty much like quite a few others that had arrived on the same train as we had. Burger King sufficed for breakfast in the absence of anything more suitable and we were on board coach #9 a good 30 minutes before departure. Most of the train, with the exception of the buffet and one coach, was formed of ex SJ overnight stock and our particular one was of six berth couchettes; which had a massive amount of room in them. Unfortunately we did have to share it with others en-route to Stockholm but despite it being full at one point there was still plenty of room for all and the 5h11m journey seemed to fly by.
We were glad to get off, despite the decent journey, and walk straight out of the station and over the road to the Hotel Terminus. The girls on the front desk were very polite, spoke fluent English and had us checked in quickly. Our room was only on the 1st floor but in a quiet location, away from the main road between the hotel and station. WiFi was free and of a decent strength and the room was clean and well presented with toiletries provided.
The weather in Stockholm was better than in Malmo and the sun was even shining. Having travelled for quite a long time though we couldn’t be arsed to get our bearings and start exploring the city, as everyone else was giving up for the day, so an afternoon of riding about on trains it was. At the end of which, looking forward to some decent food we found ourselves well and truly Triposo’d again as we went in search of the Macho Mexican Restaurant, which was only a short distance from the hotel but nowhere to be found when we reached where it should have been! So that was Triposo 3, us nil! I was beginning to wonder if Triposo was ever updated and monitored by the app’s creators after this third time unlucky? Still, we fell lucky again as the Restaurang Tang, Chinese restaurant, was only round the corner where both the service and food were excellent and the price reasonable too. There were however two women who clearly needed throwing out of the place as they treat the waiters like shit, demanding things and being abrupt with them; at one point insisting the waiter take her water away as she wanted it in a bottle and not the glass she’d been served it in; I’d have spat in it, or done something worse, if she’d spoken to me like that, or even gestured the way she had by flicking her hand and turning her head away! Thankfully the obnoxious pair didn’t spoil our Restaurang Tang experience and I’d recommend it to anyone when in Stockholm.
Having slept the previous night on a train, badly, it was no surprise that we were quite tired and ready for bed early and with no real agenda for the following morning we didn’t set an alarm for the following morning either.
Tuesday 28th July 2015 (Stockholm, a little bit boring really….)
Not surprisingly we didn’t get up early and were still in the breakfast area when everything was starting to be cleared away. The selection was quite vast really with the emphasis on cold rather than hot food but there were a few hot bits to choose from though. Unfortunately the weather forecast had got it wrong and the rain had started a good 8 hours before it was predicted to; making for a bit of a miserable morning really. Luckily for us it was nearly afternoon by the time we got ourselves out of the hotel; having left our bags in the hotel’s baggage room with stickers on that had our room number on them.
By the early afternoon the weather had improved a little and the sun had even managed to start to come through the cloud so our wonder round the old town that afternoon was a little more pleasant than it would have been had we done it that morning; it was a little windy by the water’s edge though and a lot warmer out of the wind in the centre of the old town.
Stockholm’s old town is pretty similar to somewhere like Bratislava with its narrow streets that lead off in all directions and with something in its heart; that being the Royal Palace. The main difference to every other city’s old town is the fact that it’s surrounded by water but there are plenty of access roads and bridges spanning the gaps. Unfortunately, as it appears the rest of Stockholm, the Royal Palace is having some restoration works done which doesn’t make it photogenic in places; the full extent of Stockholm’s regeneration works can actually be seen from the front of the Royal Palace, looking back across the water towards the city, with no less than six full sized cranes towering above the city! It was quite possibly the worst city skyline I’d ever seen on my travels.
Having done our afternoon walking we walked back over the main road/rail bridge towards town, using the bank opposite the City Hall as a vantage point to get some decent afternoon shots of the City Hall itself. As we were travelling on to Narvik in Norway at 1755 an early evening / late afternoon meal was had at an Italian restaurant called Dolce Vita, which is situated on the same side of the water as the City Hall so we walked right by it on our way. We’d discovered the place on the map the Hotel Terminus had provided us and used ME Maps to guide us there. The place was all but deserted when we arrived, lunch clearly being over and dinner not quite being the order of the day yet; given away by the fact that a table had to be set for us to sit at and while we ate the restaurant owner laid out all the other tables for the evening service and then got changed to his evening best as opposed to his afternoon lounge clothes! Our pizzas were good, a decent size and at a reasonable price; we left not needed any more and I was actually beaten by the fact I’d had a starter and couldn’t actually finish mine!
After collecting our bags from the Hotel Terminus we had little option but to hang around at the station for our train. Supplies were gathered from the Co-op on the station concourse and we waited on the platform to await the stock arriving for what would be our 20h23m journey throughout to Narvik. By 1740 there was no sign of the stock to form our 1755 departure to Narvik and what’s more was the fact that our coach number wasn’t displayed on the screen when the train formation was eventually advertised. At 1745 though our stock rolled in and we found our coach #12 despite it not being advertised on the platform departure boards. While everyone boarded the train the loco ran round, we’d booked a three berth sleeper compartment to ourselves, which involves paying for the additional bed but having looked at how cramped he others were with three people in I was glad we had anyway. There actually looked to be more room in the six berth compartments, which were the same sort we’d had on our Snälltåget train from Malmo to Stockholm the previous day. While the compartments were snug, they were pretty modern and fresh water was provided along with soap and there was a show at the end of each coach, which the door key provided in the compartment opened.
NT94 1755 Stockholm Central – Narvik/Lulea departed about 10 minutes late as a result of the late arrival of the stock. Tickets were check the moment we departed, in the sleeper coaches anyway, and while I say were checked I mean it in the loosest sense as all we were asked is “you are two yes?” and that was that, no tickets, no other questions; just that! And that was the only ticket checking that took place in our compartment for the next 1600km. We were left to our own devices from that point on and had quite a relaxing evening as #1336 glided through the suburbs of Stockholm, through Uppsala and Gavle and then further out into the sticks as the evening progressed.
The Photos Stockholm
Wednesday 29th July 2015 (Fjord country beckoned)
I was awake at about 0630 but just couldn’t be bothered to get down from the top berth until an hour later. Having wondered down to the buffet for a morning cup of tea I found a different one on the train to the one I’d visited the previous evening. I can only assume that when the train had split at Boden Central the buffet that comes from Stockholm went with the Lulea portion and we inherited one that came in from Lulea on RE3694, then attached to our set to go forward with NT94 to Narvik? At Kiruna the train emptied out little, with everyone that got off joining the waiting bus at the platform’s edge. The loco ran round at Kiruna which allowed for a leg stretch outside the train; by which point we’d been on board for over 1000km and 17 hours!
From Kiruna the scenery started to improve, as we headed into Norway, now well inside the Arctic Circle. Our journey halted for a short while at Abisko Östra as we had to wait for 10095 1040 Narvik – Lulea to arrive, which was on time I might add, before we headed off into the wilderness and what seemed to be high ground. Black cloud loomed over the hills and sun beamed through the clouds every now and again while rain could be seen tipping from the skies towards the horizon; wind rain or shine the weather made the journey very atmospheric and all the way to Narvik hikers got off at wayward stations to begin their adventures, the weather being quite different for each group at their different locations.
After waiting at Bjornfjell for NT93 1240 Narvik – Stockholm we had a clear run to Narvik were the best bit of scenery along the whole route awaits those that make the journey all the way to Narvik; as the train starts to descend down to sea level fantastic views over the fjord that comes inland from Narvik greet the train, which runs alongside it as it steadily heads down to Narvik. My camera was on overdrive and there were plenty others pointing out of the window on the right hand side of the train at the time as well; even though it was relatively empty by the time it reached Norway.
Our arrival into the single platform station that is Narvik, which is not connected to anywhere else in Norway and only passenger trains operated by Swedish Railways use, was bang on time at 1418, a little over 20 hours after we’d left Stockholm. There couldn’t have been more than 30 people got off the train and by the time I’d got a quick photo of 1326 the loco was detached and ran round; ultimately it the propelled its stock into the sidings, to await departure back to Stockholm at 1240 the following day.
From Narvik station it was about a 10 minute walk to our hotel, the Scandic Narvik; which sat very prominently at the bottom end of town. Our 11th floor room overlooked basically the whole of the iron ore docks and had great views out over the water too. The trains that run from the mines at Kiruna, to deposit their loads at Narvik, could be seen running in and right up to the headshunt, before backing into some sort of tunnel, which was presumably the unloading road. Immediately below our window was the line that ran through from Narvik station to the container port on the edge of town; needless to say nothing came along here until it was almost too dull to take a photo unfortunately.
The Scandic Narvik stands towering above everything around it with its glass exterior making it stand out even more. Its interior is as modern as its exterior with very nice rooms, which randomly lack air conditioning but have heating for the bathrooms. I guess during the winter it can be a bit fresh on the feet in a cold bathroom! Our problem was that it was a glorious afternoon and the sun was beaming through the room windows, turning it into a greenhouse; it was quite literally sweltering and we were glad to be heading back out soon after we arrived, to enjoy the afternoon while the weather was nice.
The most sensible option to keep us occupied that afternoon looked to be the cable car that ran from near the Best Western in Narvik up to the summit some 656 meters above sea level. The walk from the Scandic Narvik took about 20 minutes at a steady pace in the afternoon sunshine. The cable car was far from busy and there were only 8 people, including us, waiting when the first cable car set turned up. Tickets cost CR300 return and the cable cars run round in sets of three, wit there being 4 sets in operation all the time. The journey up only takes 7 minutes and that’s with a brief stop half way up to allow the cars at the top and bottom to offload and reload before getting on the move again; this stop is advertised inside the cable cars to prevent people from panicking but I’m not so sure everyone read the notice having looked at some of the faces in adjoining cars.
There’s a restaurant where the cable car drops off, which was closed for refurbishment during our visit, which allows for the best views from its outside area at its rear. As there weren’t many folk about it was quite peaceful up top and there wasn’t any jostling for space anywhere; there were plenty of selfies being taken from the vantage points though but hardly any “real” photographs which actually recorded the fantastic views in almost every direction. Looking out over the fjord clouds were starting to form and linger above the water as the drifted across. The sun had turned a little hazy as high cloud formed and behind the viewpoint, on the higher ground, the aftermath of winter still covered the hill-tops, seeming a little reluctant to melt and allow spring to rule the roost.
We only stayed up top for about half an hour and enjoyed a relaxing journey back down in our own car, having enjoyed our afternoon jaunt out. On the way back to the hotel we came across an Italian restaurant called Bella Napoli, which was only a couple of minutes from the Scandic Narvik anyway and served us a decent pizza at a reasonable price, for Norway; this was my first taste of Norwegian prices, which of course are a lot more that we’d pay at home but of course we weren’t at home and the price was what it was, end of; deal with it!
In the evening we actually set off at one point to nip out and view the releasing of the water at the Narvik hydroelectric plant, which sends a jet of water 75m into the air twice a day, but the heavier than it needed to be rain put pay to that idea when we were only 5m outside the door! Of course it was when the weather was at its dullest that two container trains used the line directly below our window; the first headed out of the port and the second headed into the port a short while later. Basically we were confined to barracks for the whole evening thanks to the rain.
The Photos En-route to Narvik
The Photos at Narvik
Thursday 30th July 2015 (The weather doesn’t play fair in the Arctic Circle)
We were up early for breakfast and so were the rest of the hotel’s occupants by the look of it; the breakfast room was wedged by 0700. We didn’t send too long there as we had to get to Narvik Framnes airport, which we’d initially intended to walk to as it’s only about 2km from the hotel but as it was a miserable morning and drizzling we booked a taxi at the front desk of the hotel. Despite the short distance the taxi cost about £10 on the meter and only took about 5 minutes to get us to the airport; which was completely devoid of people when we got there!
Our 0910 flight with Wideroe from Framnes to Bodø was showing on time and the small plane to form our flight arrived from Bodø about 30 minutes before our booked departure time. Staff at the predominantly cargo airport turned up at around 0800 and started to check people in; ultimately there were only 10 people on the flight and seating was a free for all when we boarded anyway. Unfortunately the low cloud and crappy weather prevented us from having a nice scenic flight down the coast to Bodø and instead the 39 minute flight enabled us to see nothing other than clouds; it was positively miserable!
The flight bas brief and simple and was definitely the shortest flight I’d ever done. Bodø was wet and cold and the 20 minute walk from the airport to the Radisson Blu Bodø set the scene for the day really; it was raining, not very warm and about as miserable a day as we could have wished for! As we were at the Radisson Blu by just after 10am we were so relieved when there was a room free for us to check straight in to. The hotel is about 10 minutes from Bodø railway station, 20 minutes from the airport and ideally situated for access to everything in Bodø. The room was spotless, spacious and the free WiFi worked well. Toiletries were provided as were tea/coffee making facilities; which were just what we needed after our not so pleasant walk to the hotel.
Stupidly I braved the cold rain shortly after we arrived on my own to walk to the station and sort out our NSB tickets that had been pre-booked over the phone from the UK. The walk to the station took 10 minutes, getting the tickets from the ticket machine, with the booking reference numbers, took about 10 seconds! After the walk back to the hotel it wasn’t long before we headed back to the station again for a trip out to Fauske; which would probably have gone a lot better had the rain actually stopped!
The second walk to the station of the morning was harder going in the driving rain but thankfully some respite was found in a shopping centre on the way. NSB Di4 654 was found at the head of the 1227 Bodø – Trondheim, a train we’d be doing throughout the following day. There was no problem doing the train a short distance without a reservation but I wouldn’t risk it on a long journey. The trains are only load 5 with a comfort class at the front, a children’s coach behind that then the buffet and two normal coaches; not much accommodation really but most people boarding at Bodø seemed to head straight to the front for the comfort class coach. This only costs Kr90 per person extra and offers free coffee en-route as well more space and more legroom.
Needless to say the rain hadn’t stopped by the time we alighted at Fauske but did briefly by the time we’d walked down to the waterfront. Honestly though it was one of those days where the weather just made you want to retire to the hotel room and forget the day ever started, so rather than have a nice day out at Fauske walking along the waterfront we found the supermarket that sold the cheapest coke zero and ended up with 5 x 1.5 liter bottles of the stuff to take back to Bodø with us on the 1424 DMU.
By 1424 I was becoming a little concerned about where the train was as it hadn’t arrived from Bodø yet. A quick scan at the timetable on the wall confirmed they were on it; but then something hit me, I’d assumed that the dated trains on the timetable ran between the dates shown; reality soon set in 10 minutes later when nothing had shown up. The dated trains on the timetable were cancelled between the dates shown and didn’t run at all; that’ll teach me to assume when I don’t understand the language the gen is written it won’t it? We were now stranded at Fauske with no train back to Bodø for over 2 hours and with 5 bottles of coke to carry between us, it was cold, raining and there wasn’t really a great deal to do in Fauske at the end of the day…..
Thankfully the buffet/restaurant on the station at Fauske saved us from a very boring afternoon in the station waiting room and we made our cups of tea last a good hour but ended up having to move into the waiting room when space became limited for newcomers; the place was very well frequented and the food looked to be good too.
NSB Di4 653 turned up a few minutes late, with the 0738 Trondheim – Bodø, to rescue us from boredom at Fauske and was relatively well frequented in every coach but the children’s one; where we sat chatting to a Swiss woman. She was travelling as part of a tour group and had sought some peace and quiet in the children’s coach as the comfort class was too noisy with her tour group in it. Two things that came up in our conversation interested me; one was the fact that she found Norway quite costly, which for someone living in Switzerland to say that then it must be costly! The second thing was that she found the organized tour she was on to be quite tiring as the days were long and the early starts, virtually every morning, were taking their toll; so there you have it folks Norway is officially ching and organized tours are officially tiring! That’s why we had 5 bottles of coke with us and weren’t getting up until the 1227 train the following day, after having been to a supermarket for some cheap bits and bobs for the train.
It was a pleasure to drop the coke off back at the hotel and actually get warm before heading out for food. As always the useful Triposo App provided us with what we needed and Thai was the order of the evening at the Chonticha Thai Restaurant, which was half way between the Radisson Blu and the station on the main road. As we already know things aren’t that cheap in Norway for most other occupants of the known world it was no surprise when our bill came to Kr510 but do you know what, the food was cracking, the service excellent and the place just all round nice so who cares; we were on holiday, the price was the price and that was that.
After a quite frankly very strange day, where our biggest achievement was getting 5 bottles of coke zero for Kr89, we relaxed in the hotel for the rest of the evening shutting the crap weather outside and trying not to think about the fact that the whole day had been a bit of a washout; literally.
Friday 31st July 2015 (Exiting the arctic circle so soon after entering it)
While it wasn’t raining in Bodø on the morning of our departure it wasn’t warm either and it was a little breezy outside. After breakfast we took a short stroll outside, thankfully there was a co-op nearby which supplied some goodies for our 9h38m train journey to Trondheim and I was quite frankly shocked to find a very large bag of co-op’s own cheesey poofs for a little under a quid; they were quite probably the best buy I found in the whole country and lasted the next 4 days!
Fully prepared for our lengthy journey we rocked up at the station with plenty of food, plenty of time to spare and plenty of enthusiasm for our upcoming journey. NSB Di4 655 was sat in with the stock for the 1227 to Trondheim yet we weren’t allowed to board until 15 minutes before departure; once the train crew had unlocked the doors to the stock. While the train wasn’t wedged on departure from Bodø it did fill up en-route to Trondheim.
The scenery along the route wasn’t as spectacular as I’d expected it to be but it did give you the feel that you were in the back end of nowhere with how arid it was and how there was no civilisation to be seen; even where there were stations. Two large metal globes mark the spot where the Arctic Circle begins and they’re easily photographable from the train, especially when the spectacle is announced by the on-board crew beforehand.
By the time we arrived into Trondheim, at 2205, we were more than ready for something to eat as the bits in the train buffet hadn’t really appealed much. NSB Di4 653 was just running through the station when we arrived so I assumed it was likely to work the overnight back to Bodø at 2350 and sure enough it was at the head of the train when we got back from town later. Burger King had never been so enticing, more due to the fact we needed some food quickly and didn’t want to rush a decent meal in a restaurant; our two medium meals came to Kr194, about £17.
The stock for our overnight 2315 Trondheim – Oslo was sat in when we got back to the station and NSB EL18 2254 was heading it. Keys for the sleeper compartments have to be collected from the guard in the buffet car, which is basically their way of checking your tickets before everyone gets into their compartments; which definitely saves any further disturbance. The berths are a little cramped, probably no more so than the berths on the UK overnight trains, and have sinks with running water; bottled water and earplugs are also provided. There was no messing about when it came to getting ourselves sorted and we were tucked up in bed before the train departed.
Saturday 1st August 2015 (At last some decent weather; thank you Oslo!)
I woke as our train departed Lillestrøm, having had a very good sleep indeed, and we were bang on time into Oslo Sentral at 0704. Our hotel of choice was only a 2 minute walk from the station front, which was less than the walk from the platform to station front itself! Having checked into the Radisson in Bodø at 10am, which is early enough on a day of arrival, I was almost shocked when the Clarion Hotel Royal Christiania showed us to our room at just after 7am; having already showed a family in front of us to their room! The hotel is centred around and open middle area which overlooks the breakfast area below; which you can look down on while going up in the lifts. Another spotless room which was on the upper floors, with good WiFi and all the facilities you’d expect. We definitely weren’t complaining about our good fortune and our quick bag drop allowed me to nip straight back out and do a morning move on one of the few hauled trains out of Oslo of a morning.
Armed with a map we headed out later in the morning to take in almost everything that Oslo had to offer, starting with the very bizarre Oslo Opera House; which is a designer’s dream with its angular finish and a roof that people can walk round with various levels of steepness and it’s all very, very white and dazzling in bright sunshine! While the views from the top of the Opera House should be great they’re pretty mediocre really with nothing of any relevance actually being visible from it; the walk round the Opera House is really what the appeal of the place is and nothing more. As we were quite early on our trip out there were hardly any people about as we walked round the Opera House; thankfully this continued as we made our way over to the Akershus Fortress.
The Fortress grounds were open when we arrived but the attractions inside didn’t actually open until about 30 minutes later so again there were hardly any people around as we made our way through the grounds to the castle and then out of one of the entrances by the harbour. The grounds are very relaxing to walk round and there are old cannons scattered around everywhere. The main castle building itself is well preserved but isn’t easily photographed from inside the grounds due to the lack of space and amount of trees obscuring its view; but it’s still quite picturesque either way.
It’s only a short walk from the Fortress to the Royal Palace, which takes you by the harbour and City Hall on the way; leading you up to the Royal Palace from the town. The weather stayed bright and sunny for our walk round the Royal Palace grounds and we picked the best time of the day to visit; while the sun is fully on the front of the building. There were quite a lot of people about in front of the palace, all trying selfie’s of one description or another; sadly ours would never be seen as Danielle’s phone died completely during our walk round the palace perimeter! A group of Italian girls won the award for innovative group selfie; of them all jumping in the air at the same time, which is never easy when relying on a camera self-timer! I definitely got a better photo of them than they did but did eventually put them out of their misery after several attempts and offered to take the photo for them; bizarrely 4 days later in Bergen we came across the same group of girls trying to take selfie’s overlooking the town from the top of Floibahnen!
As it started clouding over a little we headed directly down Karl Johan’s Gate, passed the uninspiring Parliament buildings and through the main shopping area of Oslo. At the bottom end of Karl Johan’s Gate is Oslo Cathedral, virtually outside Oslo Sentral station and very close to our hotel; space is a bit limited around it for photos but as the sun was still shining it would have been rude not to have a look.
After a very good morning’s walk round Oslo food was sought at TGI Friday’s by the hotel, which wasn’t a cheap affair but was very nice. During the afternoon we didn’t really know what to do with ourselves and ended up taking a more leisurely stroll by the Opera House and round to the Fortress again, this time walking round the outside of the Fortress to get some better pictures from down on the roadside. The sun was very kind to us as well and once it appeared from behind a large cloud we headed back into the Fortress for a stroll around; the highlight of the walk actually being a duck and ducklings taking a breather by the pond in the fortress grounds. It amazes me just how stupid some people can be when basically sticking their phone cameras in the duck’s faces; with no care or respect for the poor things personal space at all. Watching the ducklings for 10 minutes was quite comical though and you’d think that if one fell off a ledge once it would learn and not do it again, especially as it struggled to get back up the ledge; but no that’s not what happened! Over and over again the same couple kept falling off and got no sympathy at all from either their siblings or mother!
Having scanned Triposo for places to eat during the evening we settled on a Thai place called Far East, which was about a 10 minute walk from the hotel, up a side street. It was nothing to look at inside and quite basic but the owner was very accommodating and very sociable; which was also reflected in the excellent food he served, which was at a reasonable price as well.
The Photos Oslo
The Photos Oslo Fortress
The Photos Oslo Royal Palace
Sunday 2nd August 2015 (When is a train ticket not a train ticket?)
Breakfast at the Royal Christiania was interesting; not only was it very busy, I found myself questioning the logic of stone cold scrambled eggs, which I had the pleasure of discovering when shoveling a fork full into my mouth! When I told the staff that they were cold I was directed to the hot scrambled eggs that were on a plate opposite the cold ones; seriously! Despite the free-for-all that was going on throughout the breakfast room we still managed to get some bits for our train journey towards Bergen and were glad to get out of the place and head over to the station.
Sure enough there was no 0825 Oslo – Bergen on the screen but there was an 0805 Oslo – Bergen which was all a little strange when I glared at our tickets again, which clearly said 0825! We were soon to find out why our tickets had an 0825 departure on them, but the hard way! We found our seats easily but unfortunately had seats by a window that didn’t have much of a view as they were the nearest ones to the vestibule door! I eventually figured out that the 0805 departure vice 0825 was due to the line being closed between Oslo & Lysaker which resulted in the Bergen trains running via Roa to Hønefoss, which is single line in sections.
When I got back to our seats Danielle told me some guy had been and told her that he had one of the seats reserved. He was stood in the vestibule waiting for the guard when I went out to talk to him; he showed me his tickets and I showed him mine; both definitely had the same seat numbers allocated and in the same coach; the difference was his ticket had an 0805 departure! When I got back to our seats the penny dropped! For some random reason our tickets were dated 02/06/15 and not 02/08/15; which explains both the 0825 departure time shown on them and the fact that when I booked them back in May that the guy on the phone told me there were only 6 seats left on the train at that point; which I found a bit strange for a train nearly three months out! So that was us effectively without a ticket and at best on a train without a seat; now to find the guard!
I didn’t quite know what to expect when I found the guard but I certainly wasn’t expecting him to be so accommodating. He basically moved us to another coach, which had some un-reserved seats, which I think are for those boarding at unmanned stations along the route. I think the fact that all of our tickets for the day were issued for 02/06 and not 02/08 ensured that the guard believed my story as to why they showed the wrong date, and of course the fact that our Interrail passes were valid. Bizarrely we ended up with better seats, with a clear window, in a quieter coach which had no children in it; our only problem now was that our return tickets from Myrdal to Flåm and Myrdal to Bergen were also issued for the wrong date. The guard on our train told us he could do nothing about it and said that we should just speak to the crew’s on the other trains and explain the situation, just as we had done to him. While I wasn’t too happy about this situation, especially with doing the Flåm line with potentially fully trains and no room to accommodate us, it was what it was and we sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the very picturesque journey that was the Oslo – Bergen line; after a 30 minute stop at Hønefoss which was probably due to the early departure from Oslo to path us over the single line sections and of course to await bus connections from the stations not served by the train on that day.
After leaving Hønefoss the run to Nesbyen runs by a lake and the views across it are fantastic, especially when the day was as good as we had weather wise with the low cloud making it very atmospheric. To be honest the cloud in the sky made the photographs all the way along the line a lot better than they could have been had the skies been crystal clear and the arid but hilly landscape around Geilo was turned into more a scene than just some hills along the route. The section of line between Ustaoset and Finse has it all, hills, arid landscape, a shallow river flowing through the valley and snow capped hillsides with the crème del a crème of the journey being at Finse itself where at 1222m a partially frozen lake stands right by the station surrounded by snow covered hills with their peaks hidden in the low lying cloud as the sun shines on; and the bonus of it was we had a 7 minute break there as the train was early so almost everyone was out on the platform snapping away, in awe of the scenery.
Upon arrival at Myrdal the moment of truth would come while we figured out what the hell to do about the fact that we technically didn’t have any tickets for the 1327 train down to Flåm. What we quickly discovered though was the fact that there was absolutely no crowd control at Myrdal for people boarding Flåm trains and having spoken to one of the Flamsbana employees on the platform they just told me to wait on the platform and that we could board any of the coaches between 3 & 6, which are clearly marked on the platform; the other coaches are reserved for tour groups.
Soon enough NSB EL18’s 2255/2259 T&T arrived to form 1857 1327 Myrdal – Flåm. Not everyone alighted from the train but we were first to board through the door we’d stood by and got ourselves window seats on the right hand side in direction of travel. It was a free for all when boarding but there were still a few empty seats when we departed for Flåm. There were two grippers on the train as we headed down the valley, working from either end of the set. I was umming & arring when they approached us, running over the story I had in my head to explain away our 2 month out of date tickets; in the end my cheekiness got the better of me and I just handed the tickets over when asked. They were handed straight back after being stamped; without a single qualm at all. After all it was so easy to read 02/06 as 02/08 if only glancing at the tickets; it had taken me over two months to notice the fact at the end of the day! Ticket issues over we could relax and enjoy the journey; to Flåm at least!
The first point of note is Kjosfossen Falls, where trains stop for 5 minutes to allow everyone out onto the viewing area to get photos and be seduced by some woman in a red dress prancing around on the hills side to some pathetic music; cheesiness aside the falls are quite spectacular, unfortunately it was hammering it down with rain as well which made photographs quite hard to take as the lens was filled with water drops the moment it was exposed in any direction.
As we headed away from Kjosfossen the weather brightened up as we approached Berekvam, where the northbound and southbound trains cross, only actually stopping in the southbound direction as there’s only a loop in the northbound direction and no platform. The northbound train was sat waiting for us to arrive before continuing towards Myrdal.
The line from Myrdal to Flåm basically follows the valley all the way down to Fjord level at Flåm en-route there are more waterfalls than you can throw a stick at of varying shapes and sizes, on both sides of the line. The section of line between Berekvam & Dalbotn is probably the most scenic with sweeping views down the valley with the river flowing in the bottom and roads winding down just below the railway. By the time we arrived at Flåm, truthfully, I personally preferred the line from Hønefoss to Myrdal over the Flåm line; the scenery is way better and varies a lot more. That’s not to say the Flåm line isn’t scenic, it is, but not as much as the Bergen line is! Both lines obviously have a bit of a tourist conveyor belt going with the Bergen line trains being a bit more relaxed compared to the Flamsbana trains where everyone seems to be herded on and off and moved quickly on from one train to the next; evident at Myrdal where everyone seems to be following the person in front, all equally confused as to where their train back to Bergen is situated!
Crowd control at Flåm was actually existent but only really there to allow people off the arriving trains first before the hoards descended and the scrum began for seats on the next train out! Our return journey back to Myrdal was in slightly better weather, with the rain having gone away for the afternoon by the look of things. People boarded the train at various stations along the route and were sold tickets by the on-board crew so there must be room available on every train, which technically means you can board at either end without a ticket and buy one on board as an independent traveler; certainly at Myrdal as there isn’t even a ticket office there! Having got away without explaining our ticket related issues on the way down I handed the tickets over for the return journey when asked and again they were stamped and handed straight back; which was a bit of a relief really and left only one train to blag our way onto.
Kjosfossen falls on the return journey was a lot better stop than it had been on the outward, the sun was out and the rain had stopped and there were rainbows in the mist at the base of the falls; an excellent 5 minutes worth of photo-stop it was and we headed back into Myrdal having had a good day out but were definitely ready for a good meal having exhausted everything we’d taken from the hotel hours previously and surprisingly so had everyone else on the train! There’d been more snippets of food produced, wrapped in napkins from breakfast tables, than I’d ever seen; so it wasn’t just me that took stuff for the day from hotel breakfast rooms, it seemed that everyone else did as well!
R601 1203 Oslo – Bergen was a little late and not too full when it arrived, allowing us to find a seat for the run into Bergen. I didn’t want to risk the ticketing scenario on this train so went to find the guard immediately after departure, who couldn’t have carded any less at all that we didn’t have valid tickets after I explained the situation to him and showed him our valid Interrail tickets; after all the tickets on the Bergen line trains were actually only reservations and our Interrail ticket was our valid ticket. Arrival into Bergen was almost to time.
Our final hotel of the trip, for the next two nights, was the Scandic Ørnen which was about a 10 minute walk from the station and about the same again to the harbour in the opposite direction. It was a very plush looking place and our room was quite spacious with good WiFi, decent toiletries and tea/coffee making facilities. We didn’t waste any time that evening in seeking out something decent to eat and settled for a place close to the hotel called Ma Ma Thai, which was surprisingly found on the Triposo App. It was only a small place and not very busy, the food was good though, and very much needed!
The Photos on the Oslo – Bergen Railway
The Photos on Flamsbana
Monday 3rd August 2015 (A short boat trip to Fjaerland……)
Our “fast ferry” from Bergen departed at 0800 so we were up in plenty of time to do breakfast before walking down to the quay to find where our fast ferry departed from. I’d booked a day trip from Bergen to Fjaerland Glacier through Norled online from the UK, which basically involved a 4 hour journey to Balestrand on a fast ferry for a 90 minute journey from Balestrand to Fjaerland on a sightseeing ferry and then bus transfer from there to the Glacier Museum at Fjaerland before a 25 minute stop at Fjaerland Glacier before doing the same again in reverse; so just to be clear that was 5h30m of boat travel in either direction for 25 minutes at a glacier……..
It was a cold and overcast morning and we were glad to have boarded Norled’s MS Vingtor within 10 minutes of arriving at the quay. It’s blatantly obvious where the boat was going from and there were even two fast ferries parked up, both departing at the same time for different destinations. Both had LED displays on them showing clearly where they were going and were parked right outside the Norled office by the quay.
The MS Vingtor did exactly what was expected off it and that was hammer through the water at a fast pace; and quite quietly at that. There was rafts of room on board and a well stock, and rather reasonably priced, café on the lower deck. Upstairs there was a viewing deck at the rear of the ferry which offered some great views out over the water, which at times were very atmospheric and at others a bit dull; it all depended on the weather at the time. Either way it wasn’t the warmest of places to be while the ferry made its way to Balestrand but nonetheless it was well worth nipping out with the camera now and again.
The change of ferries at Balestrand was simple and straightforward; there was only one other ferry there apart from the one we arrived on, which turned out to be a small passenger ferry, built in 1973, called the Fjord Lord; which by the end of the afternoon was definitely something it wasn’t! As MS Vingtor sped off into the distance, towards Flåm, the Fjord Lord began to potter its way into the Fjord and headed upstream towards Fjaerland. There was definitely a change in the scenery as we headed towards Fjaerland with the Fjord sides becoming steeper and waterfalls were a plenty rushing down their sides into the deep waters below. The surrounding mountains also became more snow-capped as we got closer to Fjaerland and in the distance as we approach our destination glacier edges could be seen; perched as though they were going to fall off the edge of the mountains they carved their way through.
At Fjaerland, after 5 and a half hours of constant travelling, we were greeted by a waiting tour guide and shuffled straight onto a waiting coach; driven by a treat of a driver who insisted on seatbelts being fastened at all times while the bus was in motion! It was only a short 15 minute drive to the Glacier Museum at Fjaerland and on the way the guide gave us the lowdown of the area, its glaciers and pretty much everything else regarding the history of the area, before depositing us at the Museum; where we were allowed an hour to look round the place. While it was actually more interesting than I thought I was itching to get to the glacier and see what the fuss was all about but instead I had to look round a place that was very entertaining for children, had some interesting facts about glaciers and their history scattered around; but was not a bloody glacier! I have to say though that the 10 minute film shown in the auditorium shows some fantastic shots of the areas glaciers and how those in the film negotiated them; I was definitely in awe of them and would have loved to have had the opportunity to fly over during the making of the film, as a passenger in the helicopter! Unfortunately that film, as spectacular as it was, kind of took the edge off the Boyabreen Glacier when we got there.
Having not actually seen any pictures of the Boyabreen Glacier before we arrived I was impressed but think I’d expected a big imposing glacier tongue handing over the rock face that it perched on but it wasn’t to be. The rather scruffy looking Boyabreen Glacier tongue clung to the rock in an unimposing way. There was evidence that there’d been ice-fall recently at the bottom of the cliff where the water’s edge met it. The thing that stood out the most for me was the vivid blue colour that came from the ice where the crevasses occurred, along with just how jagged it all was; obviously evidence of the fact the ice moved. I’d been looking forward to a decent amount of time at the glacier but to be honest the 25 minutes we had was more than enough as there’s no walking anywhere other than down to the water’s edge and that’s it.
Pleased with our day out we all boarded the bus to take us back to Fjaerland quay to meet up with the Fjord Lord to retrace our steps back to Bergen; which at that point was only the 6 hours away! That’s the only downfall to the whole day, knowing how far you have to travel to get back and our return journey began to go downhill the moment we stepped off the bus and attempted to board the Fjord Lord.
Everyone for Bergen was asked to wait on land, by the coach, and only people for Balestrand only were allowed to board the ferry. It turned out that the Fjord Lord was suffering from engine problems and would be running on reduced power for the return journey to Balestrand. This resulted in everyone for Bergen being rushed back onto the bus and being taken by road to Leikanger; a journey that didn’t actually used to be possible until the tunnel under the mountains had been finished. The journey took just under an hour and as we stepped off the bus at the Leikanger quay the steps of the MS Vingtor were just being lowered for people to board; our driver couldn’t have timed it any better!
As the MS Vingtor headed away from Balestrand, after picking up waiting passengers, there was no sign at all of the Fjord Lord! The return journey to Bergen was one of those journeys where you just want to be transported to your destination at the end of a long day; as opposed to being on a ferry for another 4 hours! Still I’m glad I wasn’t asleep like many were as the cloud and low sun made for some cracking views on the way back to Bergen and I was in my element stood out on the viewing deck upstairs. By the time we eventually reached Bergen, which did seem like an eternity after leaving Balestrand, the late evening turned into a crystal clear one and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen across the skies as MS Vingtor slowed to run into Bergen Harbour.
Having not really eaten sensibly all day we were eager to get some substance inside and decided that we’d try one of the many Peppe’s Pizza joints that were scattered across Norway. What a farce that turned out to be and we ended up walking out and going somewhere else! The menu was a nightmare with everything being fixed toppings on fixed bases; there was no give and take or scope to basically ask for pizza topping you wanted on the base you wanted and neither of us were in the mood for fuss and messing about, so that was that and Peppe’s was dissed! A good meal was had at China Palace instead, which is upstairs above shops in the pedestrian area near the quay. The food was quick, plentiful and tasty; which enticed us back the following day as well.
It was great to get back to the hotel that night, it had been a very long day, and one where we were constantly on the go, but it had been a good day nonetheless; there would be more of the same the following afternoon.
The Photos Bergen to Balestrand
The Photos Balestrand to Fjaerland
The Photos at Fjaerland
The Photos Balestrand to Bergen
Tuesday 4th August 2015 (You know its time to go home when the rains start!)
Having had a long day the previous day we didn’t feel the need to be up too early for breakfast; which turned into even more of a free for all than it had been on the previous day. As we were heading back to Oslo by train that night we had to check out of the hotel when we went out for the day but the hotel looked after our bags until we needed them that evening.
The weather in Bergen was typically miserable and while not raining heavily it was drizzling on and off which was never going to be good for a day of sightseeing; and it ultimately stopped play completely by the end of the day! Still we were determined not to let it beat us and the first port of call was the Fløibahnen Fenicular which runs up the mountain of Fløyen in Bergen and is only about a 15 minute walk from the hotel.
Return tickets on the Fløibahnen Fenicular cost NOK85 per person and the run up to 320m above sea level only takes 3 minutes, non-stop. There are two cars operating on the railway and they pass in the middle as they run up and down constantly. The views from Fløyen, across the whole of Bergen and the surrounding area, are fantastic; even when it is raining. We only hung around long enough to get the photos we wanted and were heading back down to Bergen, on the opposite car to that which we’d come up the mountain on, within 20 minutes.
We had grand plans travel up Mount Ulriken on the Ulriken643 cable car at some point during the day but the weather put us off a little during the late morning so we decided to leave that for the late afternoon; and after we’d returned from our afternoon Fjord cruise. With a while to kill before our 1430 ferry departure from the quay we snook back into the hotel foyer at the Scandic Ørnen to keep dry for a bit and charge our phones; before heading down to the quay to get a bite to eat before heading out on Rødne’s Fjord cruise to Mostraumen; which actually ran twice a day but in the afternoon the cruise returned via a different route and stopped at Heskjedalsfossen (waterfall) on the way. The cruise cost NOK500 each and I’d actually booked it online two days previous and had the hotel print out our tickets.
We were among the first to board the MS Rygercruise, which departs adjacent to Rødne’s ticket hut in the centre of the quay as you stand with your back to town. The ferry was very similar to the Norled we’d been on the previous day and opted to sit on the lower deck by the window. I spent much of the time on the viewing deck upstairs and even some time stood by the captain’s window towards the bow of the ferry; getting rather cold in the breeze I might add!
En-route to Mostraumen and even on the way back to Heskjedalsfossen the weather held out but the heavens opened as we sped back to Bergen; which ended any hanging around on the viewing deck. Unlike the previous day’s cruise, which had been essentially a direct passenger ferry journey, our Rødne ferry slowed at points of interest and announcements were made in a few languages giving a brief on where we were. The trip took us through narrow Fjord entrances, by small villages perched at the water’s edge, and we even stopped at a small waterfall to collect a bucket of fresh water from it; which was then handed out in cups to the ferry’s passengers! At some points it was like we were gliding over ice as the sky reflected in the jet black water we were gracefully plowing our way through. The highlight in reaching Mostraumen are the narrow Fjords and the highlight on the return journey was the double waterfall that is Heskjedalsfossen; but for me the highlight was the general scenery, emphasized by the crappy weather and complemented by the cloud and even the odd bit of sun that managed to break through the cloud.
By the time we were heading back into the harbor mouth at Bergen the weather was shocking, it was pounding it down with rain and the low cloud was obscuring both Fløyen and Ulriken so any idea we had of going up Ulriken on the cable car went right out of the window and the weather was that bad that we ended up going straight to the China Palace for food; and to basically keep dry and warm!
We prolonged our experience at the China Palace with a desert, we had plenty of time before our 2259 departure for Oslo! If we’d thought it had been raining heavy before we went in for food, we’d been wrong; it was bounding it down when we came out! So much so that we wondered aimlessly around a few shops to keep dry and hung around under cover until it slowed enough to make a bid for it back towards the hotel to collect our bags; entertainment was provided while we waited by a young Chinese girl chasing pigeons around the square trying to catch one, which obviously didn’t happen.
After an hour keeping dry in the Scandic Ørnen’s foyer we collected our bags and made our way to Bergen station; we were now officially on our way home with all our sightseeing done for the trip. Boarding of R605 2259 Bergen – Oslo started at about 2220 and I managed to make it into the restaurant car first to collect our berth key from the conductor. We retired for the night before the train had even departed and with all our clothes hung to dry and shoes turned upside down on the air conditioning vents in a bid to dry them as well!
The Photos at Bergen
The Photos Bergen to Mostraumen Cruise
Wednesday 5th August 2015
After a cracking night’s sleep I woke while the train was stationary; it turned out we were at Lillestrøm, so it was time to get up anyway! Upon arrival at Oslo we were probably last to alight from out berths and were in no rush at all to get off. Breakfast was sought from one of the many places open on the station concourse and we just did an EMU directly to the airport afterwards.
Oslo airport seems a little enclosed and with not much room to maneuver within. We’d already checked in online and had printed our boarding cards at the hotel so getting through security was straightforward. We had a lot of time to wait around though and once our flight had been given a gate we just sat at it waiting our time; while at least two other flights departed from it in the meantime.
The flight home with Norwegian airlines was spot on time and I was glad of the fact that I’d bought our tickets from Gatwick Airport back to London in advance as the queues were massive in the ticket office; as they generally always are! The journey home to Doncaster was easy and ok except for the HST that formed 1S25 1630 Kings cross – Edinburgh. I was going to attempt to get on the 1635 Leeds instead but when the guard told someone in front of us that there was another ticket examiner on the train with him I decided against it and just did the power cars home in disgust!
It was good to be home when we got there; but I was missing Norway already and thinking about when we could go back, next time during winter to see the Northern Lights. For now though it was back to the grind…….