Norway in a Nutshell

Happily fjording along

Way back at the beginning of March, I went on a work trip to a conference in Trondheim, Norway. Since ‘see some fjords’ was right up there on my bucket list, and since it would cost us an arm and a leg to schlep all four of us to Norway in the Summer, my wonderful husband forced me to do some proper sightseeing and go see some fjords on my way to the conference…

I didn’t have long to plan an itinerary, since I had to book flights for the conference asap and needed to figure out a route that would get me from Copenhagen to Trondheim via some decent fjords in the most timely and budget-friendly manner (since both accommodation cost and the burden of childcare whilst I was away weighed into the equation) and that would work with the available transport options.

In the end, after a frenzied day or two of research, I settled on a Norwegian Air flight from Copenhagen to Oslo, where I would start the popular ‘Norway in a Nutshell‘ self-directed tour (which basically ‘sells’ you an itinerary built using mainly public transport; you pay a set price and collect all your various tickets in one package from the main train station in Oslo). The tour can be taken from Oslo to Bergen, Bergen to Oslo, or as a round trip from either end. I chose to end up in Bergen, where I would stay for one night before flying on to Trondheim the following afternoon.

My morning flight to Oslo meant that once I had arrived at my very basic budget hostel and dropped off my bag, I had a full afternoon and evening to spend in Oslo. I had been there once before, but in September (when it had been surprisingly balmy), plus I had been on a fully-paid-for work trip so had barely given a second thought to the eye-watering cost of even a cup of coffee, never mind a full meal. This time around it was cold, with grey, leaden skies, and I was on a very tight budget. I had a wander around the city centre, then down to the Bjørvika neighbourhood to climb the roof of the opera house. After picking up some food I was weary and frozen, and headed to bed I needed to be up early to get to the central train station and pick up my tickets.

The sloping roof of the Oslo Opera House – perfectly acceptable to walk up and over it!

The first leg of Norway in a Nutshell takes you from Oslo central station to Myrdal, passing through some beautiful snowy scenery en route. There were several stops along the 4.5 hour journey, and at many of the stops groups of ruddy-cheeked Norwegians with cross-country skis would get on or off – some even seemed to be taking their family dogs skiing!

Snowy scenery on the 5 hour trip to Myrdal

At Myrdal there was short wait for the scenic train going down the mountain to Flåm, which took about an hour, complete with a stop for photos along the way. The old wooden-clad train carriages felt very ‘olde worlde’ and quaint after the modern train from Oslo.

Interior of the Flam railway carriages

When you descend at Flåm, there is a longer wait at the small port for the boat ride that takes you around the fjords. There are a few shops, restaurants, and cafes to help you pass the time. Stupidly, I had forgotten to pack any gloves, and so this was my chance to pick up a spare pair – something I was definitely grateful for once aboard the boat. My photos can’t really do justice to the magnificent beauty of these fjords (here are just a few).

Setting out from Flåm

Don’t be fooled by the sun and blue skies, it was freezing!

 

Up on deck, feeling very grateful for my new gloves…

 

Some more fjords

 

And some more, by this point I am ridiculously cold…

The fjord cruise takes around 2 hours, and as described on the Norway in a Nutshell website takes in “the magnificent Aurlandsfjord … and dramatic and narrow Nærøyfjord. The Aurlandsfjord is a picturesque fjord that offers stunning views, while the Nærøyfjord is a dramatic fjord surrounded by high mountains. Nærøyfjorden is one of the most narrow fjords in Europe and included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.”

Since this part was the main reason for my trip, I was determined to stay up on deck for the duration of the cruise, despite the freezing temperatures. I think I lasted about 90 minutes, by which time (despite my thermal leggings) I was chilled to the bone, and retreated to the warm indoor seating area. The boat deposits you in the small village of Gudvangen, where you wait for a bus transfer to Voss, to pick up the main line from Oslo-Bergen for the remainder of the journey.

Despite the itinerary looking pretty complicated (I’d been worried I’d somehow mess it up and get stranded half-way) it all works very smoothly, and there are always plenty of other ‘Nutshellers’ going the same way. One thing I would say is that as it is a self-directed tour, you’ll be hoiking your own luggage around from train to train to boat to bus to train again, so that’s something to bear in mind.

I arrived at Bergen station at 9pm. I had booked one night in a B&B which was a half hour walk from the station, so decided to leave my large rucksack in the luggage lockers there and decant what I needed into my smaller bag. After getting slightly lost, I found the B&B, gratefully checked in and then got some suggestions for places that would still be serving some dinner. Recklessly I decided to spend the best part of ten quid on a beer to accompany my meal. Ouch. I thought I had become used to the high cost of eating and drinking out in Copenhagen, but this was even more painful.

The next day after ploughing my way through the ridiculously huge breakfast provided at Anne Helene’s B&B I was ready to tackle Mount Fløyen. The Fløibanen funicular takes you swiftly up to the top of the mountain, where you can take in the spectacular views (there’s also a shop, cafe, restaurant – in high season – and a playground) before hiking the easy trail back down to Bergen centre. This is a fairly popular route, and I was slightly embarrassed to be overtaken on my way down by septuagenarian locals briskly marching down shod in just their everyday shoes whilst I had my snow boots on!

The view from Floyen

Bergen was absolutely lovely: the area I stayed had cobbled streets and white-painted wooden buildings, whilst the buildings along the harbour are often snapped in their picturesque multi-coloured glory.

Beautiful Bergen…

 

…charming multicoloured buildings on the waterfront

 

All too soon it was time to leave for Trondheim. One final treat was the sun setting over the snowy wilderness mid-flight. Hard to capture through the thick plane windows, but the pink-tinged undulating snowscapes and fjords were breathtaking.

The wilds of Norway from several thousand feet up

emmacthomas

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