Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Trans-Norwegian Railway

The ultimate train journey must be the Trans-Siberian Railway. Travelling by train for 9,259 kilometres through Russia from Moscow to Vladivistok is one of the longest railway journeys in the world. It crosses through seven time zones and takes nearly a week.

Inspired by Helmut and Oliver's rail trip from Vienna to Pyongyang, I decided to tell about my experiences from the longest railway journey in Norway. It is by no means as interesting as their journey, but it gives you some impressions of Norway. I have nicknamed my trip the Trans-Norwegian Railway, but in reality it consists of three separate train distances taking you from Bergen in the west to Bodø in the north. First off is the Bergen line (Bergensbanen) from Bergen to Oslo. Then it is the Dovre line (Dovrebanen) from Oslo to Trondheim. Last off is the Nordland line (Nordlandsbanen) from Trondheim to Bodø. The whole train journey takes 25 hours, and consists of 1,778 kilometres. Compared to the Trans-Siberian Railway, this is nearly the same length as from Moscow to Yekaterinburg/Sverdlovsk.

Bergen station.

Bergen station - from the inside.

My train journey to Bodø started at the Bergen station at 8 am. Train tickets can be cheap in Norway, and I had managed to get hold of tickets for the whole journey for 199 NOK. That is about 20 GBP, 31 USD or 22 EUR. A great price when it costs 170 NOK taking the airport express train from Oslo to Oslo's airport Gardermoen. These tickets are called Minipris and can be bought on the internet between 1 and 90 days before you travel.

Bergen station. A view to the tracks.

The Bergen line takes you through some of the most beautiful scenary of Norway. The mountains and valleys of Western Norway are spectacular views, and there are many interesting photo opportunities on the way. The highest positioned station on the line is Finse at 1,222 metres. I am lucky when I enter the train. I am seated in the right position and can enjoy my train ride faced front. I also get to sit alone in the double seat all the way to Oslo, so I have plenty of room for my books and luggage.

Voss station. By the way: Voss water is not from Voss. It is
from Iveland in the south of Norway.

Myrdal station. From here you can take the scenic Flåm line (Flåmsbanen)
to Sognefjorden - the world's largest inlet.

A view from the train between Myrdal and Finse.

Finse station.

More snow in June.

This is first of all a beer blog, so I needed to check out the restaurant car. Unfortunately there was no draught beer for sale, but they offered half litre cans of Carlsberg and Ringnes pale lager beer for 60 NOK. That is about 6 GBP, 10 USD or 6.60 EUR. As the Carlsberg beer was brewed in Norway on licence, I chose the Ringnes lager. I am no stranger to Ringnes, as this is the most common lager beer sold in Norway. In the glass it was light golden in colour, had a lot of carbonation and after a few seconds nearly no head. The Ringnes lager is light in taste with some hints of hops. It is not my favourite, as I prefer my lagers with a more hoppy twist. But it was a refreshing lager beer that day.

Ringnes lager as served on the Bergen line.

After Finse it is time for visiting the eastern part of Norway. Geilo is one of Norway's leading skiing resorts, but in June there are no spaces for downhill skiing or slalom. As the train runs through Hallingdalen valley, the scenary changes. The closer you get to Oslo, the flatter the land becomes.

Vestlia - one of the skiing slopes at Geilo.


Nesbyen station.

The train at Oslo Central Station.

At last the train arrives at the central station in Oslo. It is time to get off the train, and I have 90 minutes to spend in the capital of Norway before the next leg of my journey. I spend the time trying to find the Bar & Cigar restaurant to get some Budweiser Budvar lager beer on tap. This is supposedly the only place in Norway to sell draughted Budvar. Unfortunately the place has not opened for the day, and I have to leave without trying it. Instead I walk past the Norwegian Parliament and take a stroll through Oslo's main street Karl Johans Gate back to the central station.

Oslo Central Station.

Karl Johans Gate. At the top of the street, you can find the royal castle.

Stortinget - the Norwegian Parliament.

There it is time for a beer. I enter the Venterommet pub at Østbanehallen. They have Ringnes lager on tap together with Frydenlund bayer. I choose Frydenlund's take on the Bavarian beer style.

Venterommet pub is found to the right at Østbanehallen. The name is very
appropriate, and it translates to Waiting Room in English.

Frydenlund bayer - in a Ringnes glass.

Frydenlund's bayer is copper coloured. It is a sweet and tasty Bavarian beer, and I would really like to compare it to other Norwegian bayer beers. Unfortunately there is no time, so I have to go to catch my train. This time Trondheim is my destination, and on my way to the train I buy myself a latte to go. It is not allowed to drink alcohol in public in Norway, so I do not bring along some bottles or cans to the train ride.

Oslo central station.

The Trondheim train's locomotive.

On the train I am seated together with an engineer. We chat for a while, but after Oslo airport he takes a visit to the restaurant car. I read my book and enjoy the views now and then. The parts north of Oslo is not as exciting as the West Norwegian nature, but here and there you can find beautiful nature areas.

The train at Hamar station.

At Hamar the train stops for fifteen minutes. I get the chance to buy myself some pizza at the station before the train continues north. A group of work colleagues are on board. They sit drinking beer and wine in the car, but suddenly the train conductor is there. He tells them to stop drinking and asks them to enter the restaurant car instead.

Lillehammer station. Lillehammer was the home of the 1994 Winter Olympics.

Lake Mjøsa - the largest in Norway.

Ringebu station.

There is also a mountain to cross. This time it is Dovrefjell. Dovre is renowned for having muskox in the area, but I did not see any through the window. Instead it was my turn to visit the restaurant car.

Carlsberg in a plastic cup.

Just like on the Bergen line, beer was only available in cans. Also here it was possible to choose between Carlsberg and Ringnes. The Carlsberg lager made on licence in Norway takes away my thirst, but it is not an exciting lager beer. This is a standard, sweet lager beer, and I would prefer something else. But if you have to choose between Ringnes and Carlsberg, my advice would be that you order Ringnes.

Otta station.

Scenary from Gudbrandsdalen.

Hjerkinn station.

As we get into the evening hours, it is still light outside. In this part of Europe it gets dark very late. Instead it is cold, and at Oppdal there is sleet in the air.

Oppdal station.

Trondheim seen from the train.

As we are getting nearer to Trondheim, it is still light outside. The time is nearly 11 PM as the train reaches Trondheim railway station, and I have finished another leg on my journey. It is 40 minutes to the Bodø train leaves, so I stay at the station. There are wifi possibilities here, so I spend some time reading e-mail before I enter the next train.

The Bodø train is waiting for passengers at Trondheim station.

This is the night train to Bodø. It will take me over the Arctic Circle and into the northern parts of Norway.

The locomotive is ready to leave Trondheim station. Note that the trains
on the Nordland line are diesel trains.

The first part of the train ride goes east. We pass Hell station and Trondheim's airport Wærnes before the trip continues northwards. On the night train there are possibilities. You can buy an upgrade and have a sleeping cabin, or you can have a seat. This time I had a seat, and it was comfortable enough for me.

The seats on the night train to Bodø.

The Trondheim fjord as seen from the train.

Steinkjer station.

Steinkjer by night.

But before I went to sleep, I had to check out the restaurant car. This time around, there was no Carlsberg beer. Instead the waiter made me choose between Ringnes and Nordlandspils.

A can of Nordlandspils on the train to Bodø.

Nordlandspils is a lager beer brewed in Bodø. It is light golden in colour with some carbonation. The little head disappears quickly in the glass. Tastewise, this is the best lager beer I drank during my train journey through Norway. It has a flowery nose, and the first taste is halfbitter and refreshing. The first half litre can is finished quickly, and I take my time to taste another one.

As I travel north through the Namdalen valley, the time is nearly 0130 AM. It is really light outside, and it is nice looking out of the window enjoying a good lager beer. But suddenly it is time for sleep. I leave the restaurant car and find my seat.

The diesel locomotive at Bodø station.

Just past 9AM the train arrives at Bodø. I have had an excellent night's sleep in the train. And I am ready to take a look at a new town. And of course: To try Nordlandspils as a draught beer.

Bodø station.

Bodø harbour seen from the breakwater.

1 comment: