It’s been less than a week and I’m already missing the beach. Something about water calms me…it’s like an instant shot of happiness 🙂 Maybe I need to get an “ocean waves” app or something…but then I’m nervous that it will make me want to pee all the time. Hmmm…I guess the next best thing to being there is staring at pictures!!! As I started looking thru my online photo albums, I realized that I’ve been BEYOND BLESSED to visit so many amazing places! And I’d like to share a few of them with you. So, get your pretend swimsuit, a very real cocktail, sunglasses and let’s go!!!
The “Norway in a Nutshell” Experience
“God dag” from Norway! A couple of months ago, I saw a picture of a Norwegian fjord on Pinterest. It was so breathtaking that I promised myself that one day I would visit. I was blessed to have a business trip here so I added a couple of days to experience as much as I could of this country. Getting to the fjords isn’t as easy you think. You need to take a series of trains, buses and ferries. After a lot of research, I found that the easiest way is to take the “Norway in a Nutshell” tour.
This tour is a series of pretty well-organized connections from Oslo to Bergen (and back) via rail, bus and ferry. Along the way, you will take a train halfway across a mountain, then ride the Flamsbana train down to the Sognefjord for a ferry ride thru 2 off-shoot fjords (Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord). There are also other city & fjord combinations (for more information, check out Fjord Tours). You can buy your ticket directly from Fjord Tours or at the train stations. One of the great things about this tour is that if one segment is delayed, your next segment will wait as they are all connected. Since we are short on time, we decided to do the roundtrip tour from Oslo to Bergen…which was 22 hours long! During the summer, you have more options for a shorter tour.
8:11 = Train leaves Oslo S train station
12:53 = Arrive in Myrdal
13:02 = Flamsbana train departs Myrdal
14:00 = Arrive in Flåm
15:10 = Boat/Ferry departs Flåm (cruise the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord)
17:00 = Arrive in Gudvangen
17:25 = Bus departs Gudvangen
18:20 = Bus arrives in Voss
19:20 = Train departs Voss
20:34 = Train arrives in Bergen
22:58 = Night Train departs Bergen
6:26 = Arrive in Oslo
How was the Sognefjord created?
“The process began during the ice age about 3 million years ago. A glacier about 6,500 feet thick slid downhill an inch an hour following a former river valley on its way to the sea. Rocks embedded in the glacier gouged out a steep, U-shaped valley, displacing enough rock material to form a mountain 13 miles high. When the climate warmed, the ice age came to an end. The melted glaciers retreated and the sea level rose nearly 300 feet flooding the valley now known as the Sognefjord. The fjord is more than a mile deep, flanked by 3,000-foot mountains (for a total relief of 9,300 feet).” [quote from Rick Steves’ Scandinavia]
Oslo – Myrdal Train
Rick Steves’ Scandinavia describes this as “the most spectacular train ride in Northern Europe.” You are climbing over Norway’s “mountainous spine” where the scenery gets more dramatic the higher you go. Honestly, I didn’t find it all that spectacular. Of course, I fell asleep about an hour into the ride so take it for what it’s worth. It may actually be spectacular in the summer when the land isn’t barren. For a beautiful train ride through a winter wonderland, you should check out Interlaken, Switzerland.
Now this train ride had beautiful scenery. Waterfalls frozen mid-stream, bubbling creeks, snow-capped mountains and rustic little towns.
This small town is really catered to tourists. During the winter, most of the restaurants are closed (we were able to find 1 that was open for lunch). The souvenir shop was open from 1-3pm.
This is the real star of the entire tour! The cruise takes you through Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord (which is the narrowest fjord). While it was very windy and cold, you easily are caught up in the beauty and serenity of the area.
Rick Steves’ says it best, “Gudvangen is little more than a boat dock with a giant kiosk.” Seriously…there is nothing more than that (other than a bridge and a bus stop).
This is a plain town that has a beautiful church and a lovely lake. There isn’t much to do other than walk around while waiting for the next train out.
I really can’t review this city. We arrived at night while it was raining and just found a restaurant for a quick bite to eat. It is a bigger city and recommended as a stop-over by Rick Steves.
The Norway in a Nutshell tour was fine. I wish there were an easier way to reach the fjords because, for me, that was truly the highlight of the trip. Other than the Flamsbana train ride and the fjord cruise, I could have been okay with not doing the rest of the tour. However, during the summer, it is probably very good as the land will be lush and the days longer.
The night train back to Oslo was great though. We upgraded to a sleeper car (totally worth the extra 850 Kronor!). I was so well-rested upon arrival that I didn’t even bother with a nap today. This tour is a bit expensive (2240 Kronor = approximately 390 USD (without the sleeper car)) but you do have a fully packed day. While this is officially a “tour”, there is no actual guide. You receive your tickets and a schedule. I highly recommend bringing along a guidebook (Rick Steves’ Scandinavia has an excellent step-by-step guide of this tour which helps you to understand what you are seeing and what to expect next).
Looking for a hotel in Oslo? Check out my review of the Thon Hotel Astoria here.