Widely regarded as one of the greatest railway experiences in the world, this high-altitude journey through southern Norway takes in some beautiful remote scenery before descending to Oslo.
Of all the European railway journeys, none is as beautiful as the Bergen Railway. Stretching just over 300 miles in length, and connecting the Norwegian cities of Oslo and Bergen, it passes through some stunning countryside along the way. The route is just over one hundred years old, and was completed in 1909. It was a major feat of engineering at the time, and one wonders if today it would be possible at all as the cost would likely be too prohibitive, especially as there are 182 tunnels!
The Bergen Railway is not the longest railway journey, and takes just over seven hours to complete. Unlike other scenic rail trips, there are no luxury trains here, as this is in fact a commuter route, although of course it is popular with tourists as well. It is estimated that over 500,000 people travel along the Bergen Railway every year, and it is open all the year through. Travel in the winter is just as beautiful as during the summer, with the snow glistening off the mountains. Anyone considering travelling along the route in the winter, should keep in mind that the daylight hours are greatly reduced at that time of year.
If beginning the journey in Oslo, the train passes first through the commuter belt and to Drammen, where it stops. From there, it heads out into the open, pristine countryside for which Norway is so famous. Shadowing valleys and rivers, mountains start to appear on both sides. One helpful hint ¨C If the train isn’t too full, swap from side to side on the train so as to make the best of the views on both sides.
As the Bergen Railway heads ever higher and higher, it is quite possible that the weather may go through several changes. During the winter, there will certainly be snow on the ground, and even in the late spring, it may snow from time to time. There are several small stops along the way, and smokers may be able to light a cigarette quickly out on the platform if they are quick enough.
Continuing upwards, the highest station on the Bergen Railway is at Finse which is situated at 1222 metres, and a little further along, reaches its highest point at 1237 metres. This makes it the highest railway line between two cities in Europe. Depending on the weather, the views from up high can be spectacular, and in the winter, the snows stretch out for miles around.
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Once the peak has been reached, the descent then begins. At Myrdal, there is the possibility to take a side trip (if pre-arranged) to Flam, which is highly recommended. If continuing on the Bergen Railway, it is possible to see the fjords, waterfalls and forests in the distance. Approximately seven hours after the journey began in Oslo, the train arrives in Bergen, where there are a selection of good quality hotels, and more importantly bars to choose from!
The Bergen Railway is the best way to travel between the two cities of Oslo and Bergen, as it provides a great opportunity to see some of the dazzling natural beauty of Norway from a unique perspective. It may also come as a pleasant surprise that by Norwegian standards, the journey is relatively cheap, and it may very well be the best seven hour rail trip in the world.