During the initial planning for Scandinavia visits, we started with Copenhagen in Denmark, Norway, Stockholm and Helsinki. As the costs started escalating slowly, slowly we started dropping off places. Helsinki went first, then Denmark. One of things that made us sure that Norway wont be the one that will not go off the list was the ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ trip. The description, pictures and videos had us totally floored.
This trip is like one of those hop on, hop off tourist buses…expect its not just a bus. But various modes of transport – train, boat and bus rides are used as one moves from Oslo in the South East to Bergen in the South West. The trip traverses through beautiful and ever changing landscape and one gets to see some of the most spectacular fjords, breathtaking waterfalls and also get a taste of human achievement when the bus takes the Stalheimskleiva road
The journey is about 5 hrs over Europe’s largest mountain plateau and quite a bit runs through harsh mountain terrain….but one doesn’t tire staring out of the window to catch the panorama of spectacular scenery with the waterfalls and greenery! No wonder that this ride has been voted one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys. 2nd week of August is nearly the end of the tourist season so we were lucky, the train wasn’t very crowded. And so like a little kid I would hop from one side to the other, from back of the coach to the front, to shoot picturesque memories. I just couldn't get enough - I have 172 snaps from only this one day!
All the pamphlets said…glorious views of the snow-capped fjords and glaciers. But by beginning of August most of the snow has melted, leaving my friend a bit disappointed as she kept waiting for the snow capped mountains to appear!!!
As we got off the train in Myrdal, there was a distinct chill in the air. Since there was lots of changes in transport and we didn't want to be lugging around a lot of luggage, we had decided to leave a major part of our luggage in Oslo. But I don't know why, I had carried a sweater, shawl, cap and a thin jacket. So on came the sweater, shawl, cap…while my friend had a double layer of jackets on as we waited at the Railway Station for the next leg of the journey – from Myrdal to Flåm on the famous local Flåm Railway, a beautiful 1 hour journey.
Considered a masterpiece of engineering, the Flåm Train glides through tunnels and open stretches on its way down to wild Flam valley. The mountains were mighty impressive…really huge and with these hundreds of waterfalls, many of which were not very voluminous but their depth was amazing. A long, long trickle, that falls over these gigantic mountains.
Though there was this one thundering waterfall where the train stops to let you enjoy the waterfall. As we were just soaking in the beauty, we heard surreal music. I was looking around to see if some person had some kind of a music system, when suddenly everyone was pointing at the rocks just next to the waterfall. A lady in red was dancing on the rocks. Suddenly she disappeared and reappeared at another higher place!!!Actually that was another one. They did this beautiful duet between them, when one would go down another would come up and take over from where she left. It was so smooth, and gave the intended effect, of a fairy flying about!!!
I was just so impressed with this idea. Why couldn't we in India do something like this. Imagine…Jog Falls and a lady doing some Bharat Natyam close by. It would be awesome!!! But if wishes were horses….
A short stop at Flåm and off we were on a 2 hr Fjord cruise to Gudvangen. There were these plastic chairs that you take and put them on the deck where you want to sit. We did get 2 chairs and placed them right in front of the cruise boat, but didn't sit for even a second. There is just no way to describe this journey. A fjord is described as narrow deep inlets of the sea set between high rocky cliffs…high rocky cliffs doesn't even sound half as impressive as they are. They were massive and the water just kept changing colors.
The place that we had made for a wonderful place to pose and get pictures. We were constantly being requested to take photos for people and soon we were joking around and demanding 10 bucks!!! Our joviality, though had a side effect when one Russian fellow got after my friend and kept on chewing her brains. He insisted that she try a sip of his Russian Vodka…that also neat, that he had been sipping constantly from a coke bottle. Normal circumstances I would have walked away from him. But our spot was perfect…gave us spellbinding views of the fjords as the boat cruised along, so much so that I decide to just tolerate him!
The boat goes from Sognefjord into the Naeroyfjord, which is one of the narrowest fjords in Europe, surrounded by mighty mountains of up to 1800 meters. Often the boat would move closer to the shore and slow down to give us closer views of the waterfalls or scenery. We even managed to see some seals! And some solitary homes at the top of the mountains!!!
At Gudvangen we disembarked to continue our journey by bus through a mountainous valley to Voss. Here we noticed in the Norwegian landscape, houses with grass on the roofs. It seems, this not only keeps the houses warm, but is a good alternative to the tiles. The last bit of the bus ride is on the Stalheimskleiva road, where the driver zoomed down the twists and turns to cover 13 hairpin bends! It was quite steep and a bit scary…actually quite a bit of an adventure. It wouldn't do justice to our reputation if we Indians got scared on a bus… after all we have experience with the Calcutta Taxi and Kerala Red Bus Drivers!
It is absolutely essential to experience the amazing Norway in a Nutshell as it leaves you completely dazzled. And my friend wasn't exaggerating when she said that Norway is a beautiful picture perfect country.