The Bergen line to Oslo across Norway is considered one of the great rail journeys of the world. It is about a 7.5 hour journey for travel from Bergen to Oslo, 500 km by train, and for my journey to Voss by bus. The ticket is as low as 249 NOK (about $40 USD) if you book a minipris ticket early on NSB.no. The link here is to the English language version. The ticket price goes up by 50 NOK as tickets sell with assigned seating.
You need to book this train ticket early for a low price since it is probably the most popular route in Norway. My travel plans changed due to the ticket price doubling for the date I wanted to travel to Bergen and I ended up flying on Norwegian Airlines for $50 with one checked bag, less than the price of the train. While I am all-in for traveling around the world, NSB will remind you many times that train travel is more environmentally friendly than plane travel.
The unrestricted train ticket price goes up to 829 NOK (about $135 USD). The big advantage of an unrestricted ticket is the option to get off the train somewhere and explore some interior country of Norway as long as you travel on the same date. Comfort seating is an extra 90 NOK which gives seats with electrical outlets and access to a coffee machine for free coffee, cappuccino and latte, hot chocolate and tea.
I paid for comfort class and downed about six cappuccinos and lattes during the 6 hour train portion of my trip. The other advantage of comfort class is I moved away from my seat mate and spent almost all the train ride in a carriage with only one other person. I could jump from one side of the car to the other to snap photos. The train conductor said I was okay sitting in my unassigned seat as long as nobody boarded the train to claim it. He said he did not think anyone would be taking the seat, but I would have to move if that happened. It seems like most people in Norway who deal with tourists speak flawless English, with better English grammar than many Americans.
Caveat to this post is I snapped almost all these photos through the train windows and there is some glare in some of the pictures. Still, many came out quite well and I have picked out a selection of pictures that best illustrate the changing topography from the mountainous fjords of western Norway to the glaciers of the high country and the forest and farms in the east.
This is part one of the Bergen to Oslo train trip from the fjords of Bergen to the high glacier country of Norway. Part two will show the train descent from the high country to the forests and farm country of eastern Norway on the approach to Oslo.
I bought a train ticket, so why am I riding a bus?
When I arrived at Bergen train station I learned the first 100 km from Bergen to Voss was on a bus due to rail maintenance in September. On my first train journey in Norway two weeks ago from Oslo to Larvik, I boarded a train, exited to a bus and then reboarded a train on that 130 km trip. I tweeted on that trip that Norway is extremely hilly, yet the roads and rail tracks are fairly level. In Norway they tunnel through the hills and mountains.
There are probably 50 km of tunnels in the first 150 km of the trip traveling out of Bergen. I’d see a great view, frame a picture and into a tunnel the bus or train went. There is the full length HD video of the 7.5 hour train journey online made by NSB Norwegian State Rail chunked up to 10 minute bits.
Good thing I arrived early to the train station since I was shocked to see the bus departing 12 minutes before scheduled departure time.
The bus headed out of Bergen in and out of tunnels. Soon we were driving along next to a fjord.
I was conflicted about taking a fjord cruise during my five full days in Bergen since the one day trips were about $200 USD and half the day was spent on a bus and train. I chose to hike the mountains around Bergen instead of a fjord cruise. Maybe next time.
Much of fjord country is unpopulated with steep cliffs. This is a view from the bus along the E16 route. There is much more waterfall activity in the spring with snow melt. This summer has been one of the warmest and driest summers in Norway for many years (global warming?) creating even less waterfall activity than in a normal year for late summer. There was no rain the entire week I was in Bergen.
Fjords are the long sea channels cut out by retreating glaciers. Norway is probably most famous as a travel destination for its extensive network of accessible fjords. Hardangerfjord at 179 km is the most popular fjord cruise out of Bergen with many cruise ship tours to see its waterfalls. Sognefjord, north of Bergen is the longest fjord in Norway at 205 km. The E16 route of the bus from Bergen to Voss passes between the two main fjords.
The landscape changed to forests about 70 km into the bus portion of the trip to Voss.
The day before this train trip I trekked to the top of Ulriken, Bergen’s highest mountain at 2,110 feet or 643 meters. I noticed piles of black pellet animal feces and wondered what animals come here at night?
I saw my first animal life in Norway from the bus. Well, not exactly wild animals, but living animals in Norway besides birds, cats and dogs.
As the bus approached Voss, the first snow sightings occurred. Looked like we had reached glacier country in a manicured resort environment. This place reminded me of Colorado and that impression is fitting since Voss holds the annual extreme sports competition of Norway each June.
Voss was the end of the bus portion of the trip. Time to transfer to the train for the real Bergen Line rail journey.
I checked with a train station attendant who directed me to the last car on the train. My seat No. 38 was an aisle seat and there was a passenger in the window seat. After we started rolling, I went to the next carriage that was totally empty. The train conductor stated I could stay there unless someone with the assigned seat came and then I would have to return to my assigned seat. Only one other person sat in the carriage the entire trip to Oslo, so I bounced around seats snapping photos from whatever vantage point had the least glass glare. The sunny day made for good views, but lots of glare in the windows. I wore sunglasses most of the trip.
The coffee machine provided several types of coffee selections. A dining car another three carriages away offered meals. Pizza slice and soda for 95 NOK takeaway (about $16) or 102 NOK for dining car seat. Pasta salad 79 NOK or 87 NOK. Tradisjonell norsk lapskaus for 125 NOK. No idea what kind of dish that meant, although google translate tells me it is a spiced meat stew. The picture looked like potatoes and ham. Hot dog for 39 NOK ($6.50) or 59 NOK with soda ($10). Muffin, cookie or brownie at 26 to 29 NOK ($4.25 to $4.80).
I had brought an apple, oranges and I had some fiber/protein bars. One of the items I took a liking for while in Norway are cans of tuna fish spiced with thai chile. New food item to me and only 11 or 12 NOK at grocery stores.
Myrdal is a place where it looked like true adventurers were heading out into the high country of interior Norway.
The town of Myrdal is 866 meters in elevation so we were nearly 3,000 feet in elevation at the train station with higher mountains all around.
Between Myrdal and Hallingskeid the elevation rises to over 1,100 meters on the train track with higher mountains all around and numerous lakes. Glaciers were visible, but primarily viewed through the sun glare hitting the southern facing windows around 4pm. Sunset was around 7:45 at this time of year.
Hallingskeid to Finse is the area where the train comes closest to glaciers. The elevation of the train tracks tops 4,009 feet at 1,222 meters. The area has a rocky polar look like you are near the top of the world. According to Wikipedia, the Bergen Line “It is the highest mainline railway line in Northern Europe, crossing the Hardangervidda plateau at 1,237 metres (4,058 ft) above sea level.”
Finse is the high country of central Norway. From here the train track drops in elevation and the topography changes from glacier caps to forest and rivers.
When I hiked the hills around Bergen there were mostly groups of women hiking together. In Finse, there were groups of guys outfitted in adventure trekking gear heading out on the trails.
A boulder strewn landscape with milky colored glacier melt in a desolate wilderness. Some trekkers thrive on this kind of remoteness. I preferred my view from the comfort of the train, although I think I would enjoy a day of hiking this landscape in Norway’s interior. I did not have the option to get off the train for a few hours on a minipris ticket. I paid 349 NOK for my Bergen-Oslo ticket + 90 NOK for free coffee drinks. ($73 USD) compared to the 829 NOK for an unrestricted ticket to hop off the train for a few hours.
From Finse, the rail elevation drops and the topography changes from the harsh looking arctic alpine wilderness with glacier fields and barren rocks to a landscape of deciduous trees and conifer forests. The towns are larger in the east and the environment more hospitable as the train rolls through Norway’s timber country.
Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.
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