Enjoy the next installment of our Scenic Trains of Europe blog series covering some of Europe’s finest scenic trains. The CEOs of train services in these European countries will share an insider’s perspective of how their service began, and also give you birds-eye views of some of the stunning vistas you can see when you travel on their trains.
Edit: This contest has now ended. But you can still read on for more info & photos about this beautiful route! At the end of each post, we’ll ask a trivia question and you’ll have 1-week to answer on Rail Europe’s Facebook page. From all correct answers, one winner will be selected to receive a complimentary iPod Touch, an approximate retail value of $229.
The Bergen Railway With NSB’s CEO Marianne Broholm Einarsen
A journey on the scenic Bergen Railway is not only a journey through a fantastic landscape, it also exemplifies some of the drama of Norwegian history.
How did your railway get started?
When the construction of this East-West rail link was approved by the Parliament in 1894, it was intended to join together the two key trading cities of the then united Norway and Sweden, Bergen and Stockholm. However, Norway separated from Sweden in 1905, so when the Bergen Railway was officially opened in 1909 it became instead the main artery between the two main Norwegian cities, the capital Christiania (as Oslo was then called) and Bergen.
While the Bergen Railway today is very important transporting goods and passengers between Oslo and Bergen, it has become a very important tourist attraction. This rail line has been rated as one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys due to the spectacular and varied natural landscape it traverses.
Can you provide us with a description of your scenic train route?
The Bergen Railway from Oslo to Bergen takes you through a landscape that changes from farm fields and flat-lands, to mountains and high plateaus. Travel through areas with beautiful lakes and cascading rivers then watch the landscape change as the train takes you through the Hardangervidda, Norway’s largest national park and also Northern Europe’s highest mountain plateau.
More active travelers can stop along the route to tour, cycle, ski and/or hike. The highest point on the Bergen line is more than 4,200 feet above sea-level. At just over 4,000 feet is the rail station and town of Finse where you can see the eternal ice and snow of the Hardangerjøkulen glacier. Then, as the rail line descends towards Voss, the landscape opens out ending in Bergen with its fish market, seven mountains and more. In spite of the often rough weather conditions during winter time, the Bergen Railway is very hardy and open the whole year round!
Some Fun Facts: Most of you know that Norway’s mountains, fjords, architecture, and culture were key inspirations behind Disney’s animated film, Frozen. Finse is also where Amundsen and Scott trained for conquering the South Pole in the early 1900s. And – for you Star Wars fans – Norway is where The Galactic Empire won at the Battle of Hoth. Apparently while filming the Planet Hoth episode, the Star Wars cast and crew had to manage with the worst Norwegian winter storm in fifty years when temperatures dropped to -20F and 18 feet of snow fell!
Are there any special tips you can provide travelers, in order to have the best experience?
You can travel from Oslo to Bergen with a rail ticket or Eurail Pass. Reservations are highly recommended for your comfort. When traveling 1st class, NSB’s Komfort car offers complimentary tea and coffee plus more space.
There is a lovely side trip to Flåm and the famous Sognefjord that starts from Myrdal, a small village and mountain top rail junction from the train travels down through the fjord. The Flåm Railway is Norway’s third most popular tourist attraction. This 20-km line is one of the world’s steepest normal-gauge railway lines. With a Eurail Pass you get 30% discount on the Flåm Railway.
It is possible to combine the train with other means of public transportation. Round-trips with train, bus and boat on the Sognefjord – an all-in-one ticket – will take you through some of the most magnificent scenery in Norway. Look for the “Norway in a Nutshell” offered by Rail Europe. The tour can be made in one day, but why not spend a night in Flåm and do some local excursions. The Stegastein view point should not be missed!
Every year in June an “Extreme Sport Week” involving base jumping, skydiving, paragliding, rafting, kayak, climbing, and mountain biking takes place in Norway.
Where along the Bergen Railway is the Extreme Sport Week taking place?