So, Norway in a Nutshell is the name of the tour I took today. Until the evening when it finally redeemed itself a bit, I was prepared to say "Norway in a Nutshell means Rain, Fog & Mist Forever!" I completely understand why so many Scandinavians settled in the Pacific Northwest, since the scenery is similar, weather is similar, and there was even work they already knew, like fishing, logging, etc. How so many ended up in the landlocked Midwest where it gets SO cold I'm still confused though...? You Minnesotans and Iowans explain that to me please... ;)
Norway in a Nutshell = fickle weather!
I dragged myself out of bed by 7am in Bergen, repacked, checked out, called a cab, & grabbed a boiled egg, some brunost & flatbread, so I was at the train station with time to spare thankfully. The raindrops splattered on the train windows made it very difficult not only to see the scenery but even more difficult to take photos. I was trying my best, and the view kept shifting from one side of the train to the other, so since our car was fairly empty, I kept running across the train to the better view. So did this other guy by himself, so we kept taking photos of the same things. He asked me if my photos were working at all, so I found out that Salvatore, a mechanical engineering student from near Naples, Italy, was on the same Norway in a Nutshell trip as me (it can go different directions at Flåm), so we stuck together all day. That was so much better to be disappointed together...Italians and Californians aren't used to such dismal weather in August! ;)
Our trip was Bergen to Voss by train, take your luggage to one of the three Norway in a Nutshell buses in 5 minutes, continue by bus to Gudhaven, stopping along the way at Stalheim at the resort to see the grand waterfall...which we couldn't since the fog was stuck below us in the crevice where the waterfall was. *sigh* Back on the bus, down the steep hill with all the switchback curves, stopping every so often to allow upward traffic to pass, finally catching a glimpse of the waterfall, trying to take photos through the raindrops on the bus windows, then take your luggage onto the ferry at Gudhaven. This is when I was getting frustrated. It was already noon, so we knew the fog was not going to burn away at this rate, and we had a 2 hours ferry ride trying our best to see the fjord "shores" when we were close enough, but the mist was so thick, we could barely see the shores, let alone see the tops of the cliffs. *another sigh* Yes, we know good weather is not guaranteed, but it's still disappointing! Since there were lots of little waterfalls, cute little towns, and even goats, and I kept hoping with all my might I could get a good photo eventually, we were up on the top deck out in the open, hence the drowned rat look. I wiped my camera lens from the 45 degree drizzle so many times I was running out of accessible dry patches of clothing to use! Chilled to the bone because we were so wet, we started to get bored of the scenery we couldn't quite see, so finally went below deck for the rest of the ride to get warm. The worst was being able to tell the potential for beauty if it was a nice day, and just knowing we were missing out.
We made it to Flåm and had 3 hours to spend before the Flåm Railway to Myrdal. Usually this is a good thing to wander about, but as it was still raining, people just sat mostly inside, where at least we warmed up and dried off a bit. I did buy a shot glass equivalent for myself, but found no silly/cool t-shirt yet. We checked out the Flåm Railway Museum, where some American tourists who had just come from Myrdal told us to sit on the right-side of the train for the best views along the way, took a silly photo by the unused train car, and even found some trolls I posed with.
Finally our train was there, and we got a window on the right side, and even better, the window could open on top, all the better to stick our cameras through! Not only that, but I said to Salvatore, "I think those clouds might be trying to part over there," but he shushed me, not wanting to jinx anything! No, really, bits of blue sky started appearing through the clouds. I swear the entire train, who had suffered the dismal day with us, had never been so excited to see blue sky before! Many many waterfalls with leftover snow were photographed, then we had to stop while the other train passed us, and we discovered the Danish mother & teenage daughter across from us had the perfect photo op view out their window, so everyone took turns posing there. Finally on our way again we made it to THE waterfall where they allowed us out for 5 minutes...overspray as wet as the rain earlier, but we got good photos, even of the "mountain siren" dancing to the amplified new-age music & singing...haha...
The rest of the way to Myrdal was nice, then another 45 minutes before the train to Oslo came. I had eaten a sandwich I had brought on the ferry earlier, but knowing we had a 6 hour train ride I wanted to investigate the food. Salvatore was getting the scoop from an Italian family about where he should go next, since he's taking a long trip, going way up to Nordknapp next by the Arctic Circle, not getting to Sweden probably until after I leave, and seeing Finland & Denmark as well. I went in, saw a sandwich for food value but then saw "rømmegrøt" advertised so I splurged and got some. I had only been served small cups from friends before, but this came in a CEREAL bowl! Rømmegrøt is sour cream pudding, really, really rich, so I tried to have Salvatore have some but he declined. Another tourist waiting said she just had to ask what it was, and I offered her some. It was tasty but there was no way I could finish the whole thing. It definitely lasted me the entire trip, since I'm still not hungry now, 6 hours later!
For the Myrdal to Oslo train, supposedly some of the "most scenic railway in Europe," I had a reserved seat but Salvatore had booked too late for a reservation, so I was sitting next to Bereit from Bergen, an older woman traveling to meet a German woman she had met on the Hurtigruten cruise the previous year when they were both traveling alone. They were meeting in Geilo, then driving in the German's car back to Bergen to stay with Bereit. We talked about cameras, I tried to help with hers, about my Scandinavian heritage, and she pronounced Britta the way my mom has always not been able to repeat, but said that's only with one t. ;) After the tickets were checked, there was a free seat in front of me, so Salvatore took that one. The weather was finally beautiful, but there were SO many tunnels it still made for difficult photos through the train windows...plus the other side of the train had the better views than my seat. Ah well. I was still loving there was finally BLUE SKY!
Bereit left the train at Geilo, we wished each other good journey, then Salvatore took her seat next to me for the rest of the trip. When we had to sit for awhile while another train passed, he started getting nervous, since our train was scheduled to arrive in Oslo at 22:32, and his overnight train up to Trondheim for 23:05. He went and asked and our train was indeed running 30 minutes behind - oh no! They said they'd try to make up the time, since they knew many others were trying to catch connecting trains. Toward the end, as it was getting darker around 9pm since we were farther south of course, so less scenery, we were starting to get more nervous...would he make his train? 4 more stops, we're already late. 3 more stops, 15 minutes left! 2 more stops...we made it to Oslo at 22:55 by my watch, and just before we stopped, the conductor announced the Trondheim train was at Track 1, so since Salvatore was already collecting his luggage after we had said our goodbye, I made sure he heard it! Another guy heard who was also going to Trondheim, so the last I saw were the two of them going as fast as they could from our Track 12 or so over to 1...I hope they made it! That was when I was moving slowly, gingerly dragging my suitcase, changing hands every 25 ft or so, until the escalator downstairs, where my leader handle fell off in my hand *SIGH* AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH! 100 NOK minimum fare to my really close hotel, but at least I saw a cab right as I got down the stairs, and you probably already read the rest about that. Could be worse...could be raining! (name that quote)
Britta sailing the Sognefjord (or Naerøfjord?)
Britta on the Flåm Railway
Photos will begin at page 26.
I'm going to use my whole 2 hours of wifi tonight, going to bed when I feel finally calm enough - typing all this has definitely helped! - then getting up in time for breakfast, shopping for a new suitcase, then checking out & taking the train to Stockholm. Since I won't have much to catch you up on by then, I won't pay for wifi on the train...but isn't that cool they have it? I might be tempted...we'll see how much my new suitcase costs! :-o
Until next time, which will be in another country...Sweden!