We first heard about the ‘Norway In A Nutshell’ tour when we noted that it was highly recommended in the Lonely Planet Norway. It’s not really a tour in the usual sense of the word, but the company Fjordtours organizes tickets on several different modes of transportation so that visitors can take in some of the most beautiful scenery the country has to offer in a short period of time.
It’s possible for travellers to book all the separate tickets on-line, but each ticket has to be booked without knowing availability on the other legs of the journey. Fjordtours takes the guesswork out of the process, and books the tickets as a package once the dates and seats are confirmed. It’s possible to stay overnight along the route, or to do the whole trip in one day.
The tickets can be mailed or picked up at the Oslo train station before departure. There is no guide or commentary, so in this way, it’s not a tour at all. I guess you would call it a ‘self-guided’ tour’ in the end.
Here’s what they say about themselves in their brochure:
“The tour takes you on a journey through some of the most beautiful scenery in Fjord Norway, and includes breathtaking experiences on the Bergen Railway, The Flåm Railway, The Aurlandsfjord, the Nærøyfjord and the steep Stalheimskleiva Road. The round trip is available all year round, and if you travel in the low season, the feeling of being close to nature is even more intense. Nature is never more beautiful that when the autumn colours “set nature ablaze”, then the snow covers the landscape or the buds of spring bear witness to Nature’s slow awakening.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
It was a day early for Anil’s birthday (but part of it was the right day in India due to the time difference), but to celebrate the day we booked a trip across Norway, known as the ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ tour, combining a 5-hour train journey across the Norwegian peninsula. We climbed above the tree line and made a brief stop at Finse, altitude 1222 meters above sea level. We read that George Lucas chose Finse as the setting for the fictional ice planet ‘Hoth’ in the Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back.
Our travelling companions in the nearby seats began to put on all their layers of rugged clothing as well as their hiking boots, in preparation for leaving the train with their two dogs. I could see the shock on their faces as the clouds swept in enveloping them in a wall of rain and sleet.
It was clear that many people who come to Finse do so in order to ride mountain bikes down a paved path all the way to the sea at Flåm. For the remainder of our journey to Myrdal, we could see the path winding its way within sight of the train tracks. It was easy to spot the cyclists in their brightly coloured all-weather gear.
We left the Bergen Railway line at Myrdal and huddled with other travellers inside the small modern station. The wind was howling and now and then rain or sleet pelted the building. A half-hour later the Flåm train arrived at the station and we boarded for the one-hour journey, traveling from 1222 meters to 2 meters above sea level, down to a fjord.
As we descended the sun appeared once again, and the outside temperatures were much more comfortable. The train passed through 20 tunnels along the way with the most incredible scenery ever, and even stopped at a platform above a massive waterfall, so that travellers could stop and take photos.
Once we reached the harbour at Flåm, we transferred to a ferry for a two-hour cruise along the narrowest of Norway's fjords. We chose to sit on an outside deck, under cover, but Anil was worried about the threatening clouds that seemed to be gathering above us. I looked ahead and saw brilliant blue sky ahead, so we were hopeful that our time on the fjords would be sunny. To our surprise and delight, we were greeted with a TRIPLE rainbow as the sun came out just before departure.
The cruise was incredible, and I didn't even get seasick because the waters were completely calm. It’s impossible to describe the beauty and quiet along the route. Hardly any of the passengers spoke; they were all busy admiring the scenery and taking dozens of photos. We passed so many waterfalls that after a while I lost count. I took photos but it’s hard to capture the immensity of the water cascading down, without taking a video.
The ferry passed several small towns along the route and it was clear the residents had chosen to live a very remote life-style. We felt the two-hour journey was just the right length, and after docking we boarded a bus to take us back up into the mountains. Along the way we descended into a valley along a VERY narrow road, the steepest in Norway, the grade was -18% and we made 13 hairpin turns!
The bus took us to the train station at Voss and we boarded a commuter train for the last leg of the journey to Bergen, Norway’s first capital, situated on the west coast. It was dark by the time we arrived at the station, but we had only a short walk around a small lake to our hotel near the city’s core. We fell into bed, tired but very satisfied with the day.
We hoped for a good night’s sleep to help us finally adjust to the time difference. It had been one week since we left Calgary, and we’d always heard that it takes at least one day per time zone to get over jet lag. Considering the 9-hour time difference, we should be almost there.