Norway in a Nutshell

by Colleen Morrow in

It didn’t pour all day!

It was only a little bit drizzly when we left the hotel for our first train. After having our bags picked up by the porter service, we had breakfast and then headed up to the train station to catch the train to Voss. This first leg was just over an hour and I hadn’t been able to figure out which was the best side of the train to sit on. I think we picked the wrong side - we saw a lot of mountains but the other side got the views of the fjords, which were lovely. And there was only a little bit of rain!

Soon we arrived in Voss, where we (and the hundreds of other people doing the tour) had a short walk over to the Voss bus station where there were literally six buses all lined up, waiting for us. Okay, so confession time - Norway in a Nutshell is a really popular tour that gets you from Bergen to Oslo or from Oslo to Bergen or round trip from either city. It’s a series of tickets for a couple of trains, a ferry & a bus. And all of these are public routes. So you can buy your Norway in a Nutshell ticket from the NIAN people or you can buy all the pieces yourself and save a couple hundred dollars. Seriously, by booking it ourselves, I think we saved over $200 - and we were able to upgrade the longest train leg to first class. The only component we couldn’t book ahead of time - so the one that made me the most nervous - was the bus to Gudvangen. But, we just migrated over to the buses with everyone else, bought tickets as we got on and had no problems.

The bus was about an hour and took us through a couple of little towns, including Voss, which is a centre of adventure sports and is the home of the world’s most important extreme sports festival. The bus driver gave us all sorts of fun facts as he was driving us, which was an unexpected delight. We also took Norway’s steepest road to get into Gudvangen, which was only a little bit terrifying. How those buses navigated the hairpin turns is beyond me. The bus ride was fairly short and it dropped us off at the ferry dock for our luxury ferry cruise into Flåm. By this time, it was pretty clear we had left the rain behind but it was a bit cloudy so we found seats inside. The fjord was really lovely so after a bit, I head outside to get some photos and it was so nice, I dragged EDP out with me. It was quite nice to be outside, enjoying the scenery, until it got a bit too windy and then it was back inside until we docked at Flåm.

Originally, we had thought we would break our travel up and stay in Flåm overnight but ended up deciding it was best to get into Oslo in one day and have one extra day there in case something happened to delay us - with early morning flights, it didn’t seem wise to risk some sort of delay. so we scrapped the idea of staying in Flåm. I was a bit disappointed, everything I read said it was a really lovely little town. But I think maybe what tourists consider a lovely little town differs from what EDP and I consider a lovely little town. Because it was nothing more than a tourist trap. It was very pretty but every shop was tourist souvenirs and there really was not much to see or do there at all. We ended up mostly people watching until it came time for our train to Myrdal on the historic Flåm railway. We had about two hours in Flåm and it wasn’t until just before we were scheduled to leave that it started to rain again - pretty much ideal timing for getting onto a train.

The leg from Flåm to Myrdal was rumoured to be one of the best parts of the trip. I had read ahead of time about which was the best side to be on so we made sure we got on the right side for the trip. The train was surprisingly empty, which may be where our DIY version of the tour came in handy. Half of the train was for people on tours and half was for people who weren’t. There were definitely more people on tours than not so our half of the train was much less populated than the other side. It worked out well. While the views on our side were lovely, there were some pretty pleasing views on the other side, as well, and we were able to see both sides quite well. At one point, the train stopped and we were able to get off at a really beautiful waterfall where there was also some sort of dance performance to watch. A bit strange but a lovely touch? Soon enough, we were at the Myrdal train station where we had about an hour before our final leg into Oslo. Unfortunately, the Myrdal train station isn’t really suitable for several hundred people to wait for an hour. I can’t imagine how crazy it would be in the summer.

The train for the final leg into Oslo was a bit late but we were on it soon enough. When getting the tickets for the final leg, I booked us into comfort class - there was more leg room and with the long ride, the complimentary tea & coffee seemed worth it for the surprisingly low additional cost. And yep, it was worth it. The comfort car was at the end of the train and had far fewer seats than standard class so was much quieter and more comfortable. And for the five long hours we were on that leg coupled with the long day of travel, we were happy we had made the choice. We were late getting into Oslo but our final hotel was very close to the station so it wasn’t long before we were there and checked in. And our bags were waiting for us, as expected!

All in all, it was a really great way to get from Bergen back to Oslo. I’m glad we went the DIY route - we still came out ahead even with the comfort class upgrade and the porter service. It would have been completely feasible to do the tour with big suitcases (lots of luggage space on the trains, there was a luggage room on the cruise, luggage storage in Flåm, etc.) but man, was it ever nice not having to deal with bags. And it was a long day but we were really happy we didn’t book an overnight stay in Flåm. There’s only so much shopping one can do at the Mall of Norway - although, their magnet selection was unparalleled.