Climbing up to 4,009 ft (1,222m) the world seemed to lose all color. Blanketed in a a thick layer of snow as far as the eye could see, the town of Finse, Norway felt like arriving on a distant planet. The tiny town was dotted with smoke filled chimneys and electric generators; not a road in sight. A small railway station welcomed passengers, which also functioned as a hospital, hotel, and museum.
I felt on top of the world as I stepped off the train into the snow. Fresh, crisp Norwegian snow covering my canvas boots. The conductor blew his whistle, I stepped back inside my carriage. Locals gave me disapproving looks as I brushed off the snow on the train floor, but I was far too happy to care.
The Bergen Line (Bergensbanen) is the train ride from Oslo to Bergen, covering 231 miles (372 km) over a seven hour trip. The route is the highest in Norway, and frequently hailed as one of the most beautiful train journeys in the entire world. Although I have yet to experience the other trips in the running, I have never seen a more majestic landscape than that of Norway.
Seven hours may seem like a long trip, but by the end I was wishing it wasn’t over already. Never had I taken a train journey so entrancing; incredible landscapes changing every moment from glacier ridden mountaintops to the indescribable magnificence of the fjords.
There are two classes on-board the Bergen Line, Komfort and Standard. Komfort is only an additional NOK 90 ( £9, $15) and comes with free coffee, tea, and power outlets. Well worth it my opinion, if only to keep your camera (phone) charged in-between pictures. Seats were comfortable and there is on-board wi-fi, although it gets shaky as you climb to the higher altitudes.
There is a buffet car serving typical Norwegian fare, namely hot dogs and reindeer steak. You can also purchase drinks of both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic nature. Expect to pay even higher premiums than found in expensive Oslo, I witnessed three American girls each pitch in towards a $6 muffin that they were going to split three ways… I opted for the $10 hot dog, it was delicious.
I really enjoyed jumping off at every stop along the way, quickly taking in the local people, town, and rail station furor. The Bergen Railway passes through everything from Oslo suburbs to sleepy mountain towns, giving you as good of a view over Norway as you could expect in seven hours time.
The Komfort car has a small standing area where you can help yourself to coffee or tea, but also features larger windows for viewing the scenery. I seemed to be the only one on the train interested, so I stood a large portion of the journey with my nose to the glass.
My trip on the Oslo to Bergen train was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It may seem weird that a train journey could be that remarkable, but to be able to see such amazing landscapes in a short period of time was like sensory overload. My fellow passengers were probably happy to get rid of the girl who couldn’t stop gasping, oohing and ahhing, and fogging up the windows with her breath.
You can book your tickets for the Bergen Railway on the NSB website. During peak tourist seasons (mid-winter and summer) trains book up quickly, so be sure to purchase your tickets well in advance. Also, keep in mind that days are short in Norway. Book your route with daylight in mind so you aren’t stuck with a scenery of darkness. Tickets for the Bergen Line are surprisingly affordable, starting at 399 NOK (£40, $65).
“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
― Pat Conroy