At Myrdal Station (867m), a train waited on a branch line that is one of the steepest railway lines on Earth. From Myrdal to Flåm, down by the banks of Aurlandsfjord, an inner arm of Sognefjord, the track twists and dives down through 20 tunnels, losing 866m in altitude in just 20km, falling at a gradient of 1:18. There was, it seemed, nowhere that a Norwegian train couldn’t travel.
If the climb to Hardangervidda had seemed gradual, the descent to the town of Voss happened far too quickly. The snow thinned. The earth became green. And rivers, lakes and then fjords were clear and blue. Here was yet another Norway, one where the track hugged one fjord after another. As it had since we had left Oslo hours earlier, the track both conquered the challenging topography and surrendered to it. There was no more pleasurable hour to be had in the entire journey than this final fjord-side meander.
And then, Bergen. The train wove between the seven hills and seven fjords of this graceful city. Whitewashed wooden buildings climbed the hillsides above the city centre and autumn leaves gave the city a golden cast all the way into the stately, muralled train station. It was a fitting end to a remarkable journey, and, in the excitement of arrival, I felt as if I had just seen Norway for the very first time.
Rail Journeys is a BBC Travel series that celebrates the world’s most interesting train rides and inspires readers to travel overland.
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