Priyadarshini Paitandy tells you how to get to Bergen — an enriching trip that lets you sample Norway in a nutshell
It's 10 p.m. and I am snuggled under a quilt trying to sleep. I have an early morning tomorrow. But the bright sun-lit sky outside and the music and the hooting from the night club outside makes it a little disconcerting for me to nap. It feels like five in the evening. So I freshen up, dab on some make up, drag my friends and head to the source of all the hullaballoo — The Dirty Cow.
This place is fun. The music is catchy, the concoction the bartender stirs up is delicious, and the people are laidback, warm and charming, especially Haldo. He introduces himself in an adorable Norwegian-laced English accent. “I am a part-time sculptor and a student of literature,” he says getting chatty. He tells us where to get the best deals in the city and much like a pedagogue reiterates that the ‘Norway in a Nutshell Tour' is a must-do. He only stops when we assure him that's exactly what we are doing tomorrow.
Even though the prospect of chatting up these good-looking men seems promising, the glowing details that they just gave us about the following day's sights make us tear ourselves away and head back to the hotel room and feverishly pack for the next morning.
The next morning we are queued at a station in Oslo, waiting for our train to Myrdal. The “Norway in a Nutshell” excursion entails changing two trains and then a ferry ride across fjords. Being a Sunday the queue is longer than usual. The locals often take short trips up to the numerous fjords and camp out and go biking, skating or fishing. The train makes its way past thick green foliage which intermittently gives you a glimpse of sparkling blue lakes. At one point it even resembles Forks, a city in the U.S where the pale but good looking Edward Cullen (fictional character from the Twilight series) resides. I look out hoping to see Edward leap across the trees but all I see are a few plump mountain goats. That's the deal about this place. It's so picture-perfect that it almost borders on the surreal. Makes you feel like you are part of a fantasy flick.
As we near Myrdal the sunny sky turns a shade of grey, glaciers make frequent appearances and most of the greenery is blanketed under pristine white sheets of snow. Before disembarking we wrap ourselves in coats and pullovers, with fingers safely tucked into mittens, and feet nestled in warm boots. The Myrdal station is flanked by snowy white hilly expanses and just across awaits our connecting train to Flam valley.
I am lucky to have gotten the window seat. The view, I am told by the coach captain, is quite something. “Watch out for the dancing fairies,” he winks. As the train trundles along, a warm Gujarati couple from the States is eagerly doling out theplas and MnM's to everybody in the compartment. All of a sudden the train pulls to a halt. The Gujarati uncle and aunty have by now dumped their Tupperware full of goodies on an unsuspecting and now bewildered co-passenger. The food doesn't interest anyone anymore. Outside, just across the platform, is Kjosfossen, one of the most breathtaking waterfalls on this route. It sprays water with such great intensity that droplets wet the surface of the train. Just then music starts to play and two women in flowing red gowns appear at the cliff beside the waterfall. They sway and dance to the music, often disappearing and reappearing again. It's almost mystical. These are the fairies the captain had told me about.
The Flam line is rather steep and the 20 km ride up is embellished with snow-capped mountains, sprawling meadows, ski resorts, streams, colourful houses and tunnels. The Flam Valley is a cheerful place dotted with small bright buildings enveloped within the safety of imposing green mountains. It looks almost like they have their arms stretched around the area fiercely protecting this little slice of heaven and its pristine environment from all harm that may befall them. That's probably why the concrete jungle has failed to take root here.
Our ferry is gently bobbing about, all too eager to share the beauty of the Sognefjord through which it traverses every day. Sognefjord is said to be Norway's longest and deepest fjord. The meandering fjord is full of life — there are seagulls that fearlessly flap around within touching distance, boisterous waterfalls, patriarchal mountains, small villages whose houses resemble doll houses and floating clouds that threaten to give way… just the kind of stuff that can make photographers go berserk.
Once at Gudvangen, a coach drives us to the ancient city of Bergen. Hidden under its vibrant façade are tales of woes from the distant past — frequent fires and a leprosy attack that had caused widespread pandemonium. But this isn't the time to read up depressing information given in brochures.
It's time to walk around Bergen's inclined cobble-stoned streets, sample local fish at the fish market, grab a hot drink at a café by the bay and watch the sun coat the city in its gorgeous golden hue.