Thursday, 26 July 2018

Bergen & the fjords

On leaving Oslo we travelled to Bergen by train. We're no strangers to rail trips, having taken the Trans-SiberianTrans-Mongolian and the world's highest railway as well as travelling around Japan by train. This was a comparatively short journey of 'only' 496 kilometres, but the Bergensbanen is considered to be one of Europe's best train journeys.

view from the Oslo to Bergen train

Built between 1875 and 1909 the Bergen Line climbs to 1200m and takes six and a half hours, during which it goes through 182 tunnels!

view from the Oslo to Bergen train

The highest station, Finse, is at 1222m and the line climbs up to 1237m when it crosses the desolate Hardangervidda plateau, making it the highest mainline railway line in Northern Europe.

view from the Oslo to Bergen train

view from the Oslo to Bergen train

our Oslo to Bergen train, on arrival in Bergen station 

Located on the west coast of Norway, Bergen is the same latitude as Oslo (≈60°N) but we found it quite a bit cooler! Norway's second-largest city is well-known for its wooden gabled buildings at Bryggen   waterfront, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979 (Bryggen means 'the dock').

Bergen's centrepiece: Bryggen waterfront

Bryggen currently comprises 58 buildings which date from the early 18th century, although the building pattern is 12th century.

close-up of one of the wharf buildings

We also visited Bergenhus fortress which contains a number of buildings including Rosenkrantz Tower and Haakon's Hall - the latter is the largest secular medieval building in Norway.


street in the Stølen neighbourhood of Bergen

On our second morning we visited Old Bergen open-air museum which lets you experience the atmosphere from a time when Bergen was Europe’s biggest wooden city.

historical reenactment at Gamle Bergen museum

We then hiked up Stoltzekleiven, a steep (315 metres elevation) paved trail with 801 steps that leads up to Sandviksfjellet, one of Bergen's seven 'mountains'; the city has been compared to Rome for this reason. Coming from Reunion, I call them hills as the highest, Ulriken, is only 643 metres above sea level!

part of the Stoltzekleiven path

from the top we had great views over Bergen's fjords 


 To get back down we took the funicular from Fløyen.

Fløibanen funicular

We hired a car for the next two days (eyewateringly expensive to do in Norway!), and on the first day headed inland to the Western fjords.

We parked our car at Gudvangen, took a bus to Flåm, and from there went on a two-hour cruise through Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord. The latter is a beautiful 17km-long UNESCO World Heritage site fjord, surrounded by towering cliffs 1200m high.


in Aurlandsfjord

in Nærøyfjord


village of Bakka: four farms and ten inhabitants

When we returned to our car we drove along the road beside the fjord back to Bakka and were stopped by a (Shetland?) pony who wouldn't budge from the middle of the road!

traffic jam near Bakka!

Highland cow near Bakka

On our way back we stopped at Stalheim Hotel which is located high above the Nærøydalen valley and has fantastic views.

at Stalheim

view from Stalheim

view looking down Nærøydalen valley from Stalheim

Sivlefossen waterfall

For our final day we explored the Hardangerfjord area: classic Norwegian fjord country. At 179 km long the fjord itself is the fourth longest in the world, and stretches from the sea south of Bergen to the mountainous interior of Norway along the Hardangervidda plateau.

waterfall in the Hardangerfjord area

Steinsdalsfossen waterfall is one of the most visited tourist sites in Norway. The waterfall is only 50 or so metres high, but you can walk behind it while staying dry.

view from behind Steinsdalsfossen

view looking across Steinsdalsfossen

While driving around this area we had several views of the Folgefonna ice field - the third largest in Norway, with three glaciers covering 168 km2 and ice up to 400 m thick in places. 

a view of Folgefonna

By the way, all the bus stops we saw in the Norwegian countryside had grass-covered roofs, sometimes even bin shelters had grass roofs too!

countryside bus stop

See also:
  • Oslo
  • Tromso and the Far North

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