NIN = Norway in a Nutshell. Not Nine Inch Nails, even though they totally ROCK, saw them in Tulsa many moons ago. Great, now I have “Head Like A Hole” in my head. You better too.
We boarded the Bergen Railway in Oslo, we sat where we liked, not realizing our ticket actually had assigned seats. Whatever, we switch, no big deal. Headed towards Bergen, we have a minimum of five hours on the train. No other train ride between two cities in Europe is at a higher altitude than the one between Oslo and Bergen. Its highest point is Finse, 1,222 metres above sea level. Beautiful scenery was abound, some areas filled with snow that almost covered the sheds, plus reindeer and the many bridges and tunnels. Next stop, Myrdal, to hop on the Flam railway, a 20-km-long train journey from the mountain station of Myrdal down to Flaam, beside the fjord. This train moves so slow I wish I could curl up and take a nap. The views are an ever-changing panorama of tall mountains and cascading waterfalls. The train stopped at a large waterfall and I about jumped out the window when a woman stepped out from behind the waterall and started singing. Cheesy, yes, scared the crap out of me, yes, wasn’t expecting some lady to come out from nowhere.
Finally arrived at the Fjord in Flaam. I was so excited to get on the boat I believe I was the first aboard. The boat sails out the Aurlandsfjord and into the Naeroyfjord, one of the narrowest fjords in Europe. Never have I seen such wonderment, surrounded by towering mountains up to 1,800 metres high, the branch of the Sognefjord is amazingly beautiful. On the journey, you have excellent views of small traditional farms. If you are lucky, you will see goats grazing right beside the fjord and seals basking on rocks. It was cold, but a refreshing cold and I needed to dig out the jacket that I thought was going to be just extra weight.
The boat moored at Gudvangen and it was time to board a bus. This was the last stretch of the NIN tour before it dropped us off in Voss. Don’t start thinking this was just a regular bus ride. My dad, who is not a lover of heights, was probably not looking forward to this portion. Stelheimskleiva is the name of the 1.5 km long strech of road that twists its way up the mountainside from the end of the Naroydalen vally to the top at Stalheim. The steepest gradient is 1 to 5, or 20 per cent, wich makes Stalheimskleiva one of the steepest streches of road in Northern Europe. And let us not forget the 13 sharp hairpin bends! I would lean my forehead against the window to see how far down it went, I thought it was fun. I think dad did too, once it was over.
From Voss it was a quick train ride to Bergen, we were exhausted and crashed at our hotel room that resembled a large attic. The sun was still shining at four a.m. and I tossed and turned all night. The next day, we rode the Bergen railway again, this time straight course for Oslo. And then it was time for family history, freshman level. Back in the rental car we drove to Kongsberg and found the farm of my ancestors. Good job mom! It was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Sloping hills were covered in wildflowers and our Norwegian family name above the driveway, next time we will ask to come in for family introductions – Ruude family around Kongsberg, you have been forewarned.
Next stop – Poland and Germany. Stay tuned.