20.6.18

Bergen by train (and ferries) 2

It's always good to get some jeopardy at the start of an ambitious itinerary, stops you worrying about connections etc. The Thameslink timetable fiasco had one silver lining - tickets were valid on Gatwick Express trains, but I'd still have to get the tube from Victoria to St Pancras at rush hour. However on the morning TV news they said a train had broken down at Gatwick Airport and to expect delays... so, I set off straight away. Made it.

Bergen by rail 4

The other major worry was right at the end of the trip when the German ICE train from Cologne to Brussels arrived 45 minutes late, and on another platform! By the time we were detoured because of people on the line, we arrived 1hr 21minutes late. Of course I'd missed my Eurostar and I was imagining all kinds of scenarios - staying the night in Brussels, buying new tickets and claiming back on the holiday insurance, etc. I needn't have worried - the Eurostar check in person just booked us on to the next train. Back at St Pancras, a Thameslink train turned up and I got back to Brighton in time for the last train to London Road. Phew!

So when people say the trains always run on time in Germany? That was a long time ago. There was another delay from Cologne to Hamburg when a thunderstorm caused the train to be late by about 50 minutes, but as Hamburg was that day's destination, no connection to worry about, just a late night.

Apart from that, there was one other change to the plan. The train from Hamburg to Copenhagen was meant to drive on board a ferry (yes, the train went on the ferry, like the old Golden Arrow). Only it didn't - the train terminated at Puttgarden, we got onto buses, the buses drove onto the ferry for the 45 minute passage, then we rejoined the buses to travel all the way to Copenhagen Central station (mind those cyclists!). I had to get to Nørreport station for the shuttle bus to the ferry port, so I bought a ticket from a machine using my card, was directed to platforms 9 or 10 by a helpful member of staff, and a local train came straight away. Getting across cities from ferry port to station was a major worry - if I ruled the world, there would always be a bus linking station, town centre, ferry terminal, and major tourist sights. Like there isn't in Bergen!



Bergen of course was the highlight of the holiday. I'd originally thought of going on a cruise up the fjords, but a) thought I could do it cheaper, and b) didn't want to be cooped up with all those Daily Mail readers. Two overnight, reasonably sized ferries were enough for me! So I googled 'steam railways in Norway' and found the Old Voss railway with its 1913 4-6-0 loco. Digging deeper, I found that about six times a year it featured in a Heritage Tour, comprising a steam ship (also built in 1913) SS Stord 1, the aforementioned steam train and vintage buses. At around £40 this was the bargain of the week. The whole holiday was built around this Sunday event. I arrived far too early at the steam ship - the ticket said 10am, I arrived at 9.30am but the actual sailing wasn't until 11.15am. The Stord I was delight - we could go anywhere - on the bridge, even down some greasy metal steps to the engine room, where a Cheshire built steam engine could tear your limbs off. No stoker, it was fuelled by oil!



On the Monday I'd booked another tour - Norway in a nutshell. This involved an early start to collect the tickets for my self-guided tour from the station, and as stated earlier there didn't seem to be a bus or tram linking the area of my hotel at the harbour fish market to the central station. Found it and joined the queue. First leg was a trip up the Bergen-Oslo railway I'd travelled down on. You could take the tour in any order and I was delighted when most of the train got off at Voss. The rest of us carried on to Myrdal where we climbed aboard the Flåm Express for a scenic journey down to the fjord.

The start was in the clouds, but we stopped at a waterfall and were encouraged to get out... to our surprise, music started and a faraway Huldra in a red dress did a dance up on the rocks. At Flåm I visited the museum, gasped at the huge cruise ship in the harbour and got on our modest ferry to sail down two beautiful fjords. I was surrounded by Taiwanese girls ('Were not Chinese! We hate the Chinese'), so didn't get out on deck.

Fjords

At Gudvangen we got onto buses for a truly hair-raising descent into the Nærøydalen valley via 13 hairpin bends and two waterfalls. It is one of Northern Europe's steepest roads, and the driver took it very slowly!



Other highlights included the Oslo to Bergen train line itself - very scenic with ice and snow, but lots of tunnels - and the fabulous Fløibanen Funicular. It wasn't working the first night, but was the second night - and at 10 quid, well worth the experience. The ferry from Bergen to Hirtshals was great too, especially since I had a porthole! I'd prebooked the Commanders Buffet at 30 quid and did my best to consume as much seafood and Carlsberg the 90 minutes allowed. I watched a covers band called Waterproof until time for bed - my taster of life on a cruise ship over.

Oh, and I didn't expect it to be so hot! Packed wrong things...

Firsts
First time in Hamburg
First time in Denmark
First time in Copenhagen
First time sleeping on a boat
First time in Norway
First time in Oslo
First time in Bergen
First time on a fjord
Furthest north I've been

More photos on Flickr

Full Itinerary here >
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