Line up for the Flam Railway
ONE of the world's most scenic train journeys takes only a leisurely 60 minutes but is worth travelling to the other side of the globe for.
Norway's Flam Railway can be experienced in a day trip from Bergen - the cruising capital on the west coast.
When we were unable to fit the much-talked-about Nordic wonder into our itinerary on a recent Holland America Line Scandinavian cruise, we made the effort to fly back to Bergen from our Amsterdam base for a few days and completed the rail journey as a last hurrah.
To maximise our day, we rolled slowly out of Bergen train station on a rainy Saturday (the city takes the title of rainiest in Europe, being situated between seven mountains) at 6.50am - the first train headed for Myrdal, 106km away, to make the connection with the Flam Railway.
Bergen is known as "the gateway to the Norwegian fjords", located in the middle of the Sognefjord in the north and the Hardangerfjord in the south.
So the Bergen Railway is its own surprise packet of panoramas. Even on this eerily misty morning, the mirror-image reflections of mountains, trees, collections of homes and boathouses on the fjord are impressive.
After many more passengers get on at Voss, we finally arrive at Myrdal: the upper terminal of the Flam Line.
It may be July and well into summer in Norway but the passengers are rugged up and snow is still found in crevices and dips in the mountains touching the sky above the station, which lies at 866.8m above sea level.
The cloud cover creeps lower here, almost embracing us as we wait.
The 20.2km journey, with 80 per cent running on a gradient of 5.5 per cent, takes an hour one way at a top speed of 45km/h.
The Flam Rail line hugs the typical Norwegian scenes, bringing the outdoors inside. We feel like we can almost touch flowing streams.
But the exclamation point is the first glimpse of Flamsdalen Valley and Flam village, with a population of about 400 people in Aurland municipality.
Along the way, we have the opportunity to take photos of the Flamsbana trains as they head back to Myrdal and the quaint homes of Lunden, and stop for a snack by the turquoise waters of Flamselvi.
The Flam River brought the first tourists to Flam - mostly English lords and their families who came 150 years ago for salmon fishing.
The stretch of the river is now part of the Fretheim Farm, which holds fishing rights. The original bridges, giving fishermen easy access to the river, were built in 1910-20 but were restored in 2017 after a flood destroyed the originals.
We've taken many long and short rail trips over the years but as a window to Norwegian life and its majestic scenery in one day, Flam Railway deserves all its accolades.
The Flam Railway
The Flam Railway opened for freight and goods transport on August 1, 1940, and to passengers in 1941. It became an important transport artery for the Sogn district, linking villages along the Sognefjord to Bergen and Oslo via the connecting Bergen Railway. Until the Flam Railway was completed, access to villages in the area could only be via the fjord or on foot and horseback over the mountains. Try to get a seat on the left when heading from Myrdal to Flam, and from Flam to Myrdal if doing the full trip. Head to www. vy.no/en for rail tickets. Various tour companies such as Norway in a Nutshell include the Flam Railway as part of their package deal.
Go to www.visitflam.com for more information.
Where to stay
Thon Hotel Orion, Bradbenken 3, Bergenhus, Bergen. Go to www.thonhotels.com/our-hotels/norway/bergen/thon-hotel-orion.