I still have a huuuuge backlog of posts from Italy to get to but, fickle blogger that I am, I find myself unable to refrain from writing about the trip I just got back from. So, from the beautiful chaos of Italy, I’m switching gears to the beautiful order and efficiency of two Nordic countries, Norway and Finland.
The entire trip was spurred by my desire to see Norway’s fjords, and so fittingly I began my journey there. Over the past year or so, I had seen blog posts and articles about the fjords pop up again and again; everyone, it seemed, was raving about Norway’s natural beauty. Combine that with the promise of super affordable flights on Norwegian Air and I was sold: to the fjords I would go.
I based myself in Bergen, a town nestled among the mountains and, fittingly, known as “the gateway to the fjords.” I did what basically everybody who comes to this region of Norway does: follow the Norway in a Nutshell pathway, a route that takes you through some of Norway’s most stunning vistas by train, bus, and ferry boat. Here’s how the day unfolded.
Part One: “Pinch Me” Views on Train Rides
There are several routes that can be taken to get to Norway in a Nutshell; since I was based in Bergen, I purchased the version that consisted of a round trip from there. Phase one of my journey involved trains: a train from Bergen to Myrdal, and then a train from Myrdal to Flåm. This latter train, the Flåmsbana, is the steepest in Europe and comes with some awe-inspiring scenery.
The first train ride was beautiful, but the views became downright spectacular by the second: the tiny little houses perched up in the mountains, the tall skinny pine trees in the various gradations of green that I would come to view as typically Norwegian, the bright sunshine creating beautiful reflections in the sparkling water, and the old, hearty Norwegians with walking sticks, cheerfully hiking everywhere. Tourists riding the Flåmsbana tend to stand, peeking as far as they can out the windows, and it got to the point where we were all ping ponging back and forth: catching a glimpse of something gorgeous out the left side of the train, then scooting over to the right for the next beautiful thing that came along.
Part Two: A Relaxing Lakeside Lunch in Flåm
Unsurprisingly, the Flåm Railway ends in Flåm, a tiny town situated right on the water. The next phase of the journey – the boat ride through the fjords – was not scheduled to depart for about an hour and a half, so I had a bit of time to kill.
There wasn’t much to do in Flåm, but it certainly was pretty – the town is nestled between mountains, with waterside pathways and trees that were just beginning to bloom during my visit. I had enough time to grab lunch at the cafeteria (nothing spectacular, but the point of Norway in a Nutshell isn’t gourmet food; it’s scenery) and to take a pleasant walk along the water.
Part Three: Jaw-Dropping Beauty on a Boat Ride
If I got nothing else out of the day – if the train hadn’t run and the bus had broken down – it all would have been worth it for this boat ride. THIS is what I came to Norway for, this ferry from Flåm to Gutvangen through the Sognefjord. This was the Norway I was hoping to see. This was the Norway that straight-up blew me away.
Words don’t do it justice, and even though I love looking through my pictures (if I do say so myself), they don’t quite capture it either. Every turn the boat made brought more wow moments: snow-capped mountains with tiny little villages of brightly colored houses nestled beneath them, clear blue water sparkling in the sunshine, and clouds doing oh-so-magical things. This boat ride will go down as one of my favorite travel moments ever, of that I am certain.
Part Four: Hold-Your-Breath Hairpin Turns on a Bus
After the wonder of the fjord cruise, the final legs of my journey were bound to be somewhat anticlimactic – though that is not to say they didn’t have wonderful scenery in their own right. From Gutvangen, we hopped on a bus to Voss. The bus took us down a mountain on a series of hairpin turns that were alternately thrilling and oh-my-God-I-cannot-look-this-is-too-steep terrifying. The drive into Voss was glorious as well – we passed along a lake right at the moment when the sun was hitting it just so that it was blindingly bright.
In Voss, I grabbed the train back to Bergen, sitting in a car alongside Norwegian families, their ski gear stacked overhead, their adorably blonde children decked out in coordinating snowsuits. It felt like the perfectly Norwegian end to the perfectly Norwegian day – a day when I learned that, yes, the natural landscape of Norway really is as spectacular as everyone says it is.