Norway is one of the most beautiful countries that we have visited. The weather was beautiful when we were there (mid-May), and the landscapes are, quite simply, breath taking. When my sister and I had some time in Bergen, we decided to do one of the most popular tours - the Norway in a Nutshell tour. The idea is that you get to see a little bit of it all, and travel the world famous train route between Oslo and Bergen (or, round trip from either Bergen or Oslo, if you so choose). It's an all day tour and you go on a bus ride, a fjord cruise, ride the Flåm railway, and then take a train either to Oslo or Bergen. We opted for the round trip tour departing from Bergen.
If you just want to know if I think the tour is worth it, click here.
It started out as an early morning. The temperatures were a bit cooler than I was expecting, and I'm glad we decided to bring along Evelyn's super cute and cuddly bear snow suit. I swear, this thing is so darn cute on her!
But, I digress. My sister and I headed to the Bergen train station for our early morning departure just before 8:00 AM. There were, surprisingly, quite a few people. We had to wait until we could board and actually had difficulty finding a seat. Once we departed the station, our train traveled from Bergen to Voss, famous for it's glass bottled water and skiing. We traveled through little towns and along picturesque water ways. Once in Voss, we disembarked and boarded buses that were waiting for us (again, we had difficulty finding seats, and we actually got split up).
The buses were bound for Gundvagen. I wouldn't call this a town so much as a little outpost. There is a dock, where you board the ferry that takes you through the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord to Flåm, and a gift shop/restaurant. We had a bit of time before we could board, so we admired the scenery (i.e. took a selfie!) and poked around the gift shop.
On board the boat, we had difficulty finding a seat outside. It was pretty crowded and people didn't have too many qualms about using multiple seats. This actually turned out ok. It was windy and cold once the boat got moving, so we headed inside before everyone else did. We snagged a seat in the cafeteria at the very front of the boat meaning we had a great, unobstructed view. The fjords were stunning, just like on the fjord cruise Aaron and I did, and on the ferry ride out to Gulen. If I had to live in Norway (what a sacrifice that would be!), I think I'd try to find a secluded spot on the shores of one of the many many fjords that cut deep into the country.
Once we arrived in Flåm, we had a few minutes until we boarded the famous Flåm railway that would take us up the mountain to Myrdal. There are some shops (complete with the requisite trolls) and restaurants to enjoy. We had just enough time to poke around the shops and grab a quick bite to eat before we had to board the next train. In hindsight, I wish we had scheduled things a little loose so that we had more time in Flåm. By the time we boarded the Flåm railway train, nearly every seat was taken. And trying to navigate the train with a stroller was impossible. There were steps up into each car and the aisles were too narrow to push it down. So, we plunked down at the best spot we could find for the ride.
The Flåm railway takes passengers between Flåm and the mountaintop village of Myrdal, 863 meters (over 2800 feet). It has a maximum gradient of 5.5% and is the steepest, non-cogged, railway in the world. It connects the main Bergen-Oslo line (also a stunning trip!) with the Sognefjord, the deepest fjord in Norway. It was a pretty cool journey that took just under an hour. We made one stop at a waterfall where everyone got off for a quick photo op.
Once in Myrdal, we had a short wait before we boarded our final train for the day that would take us back to Bergen via Voss. There is an option, at this point, to continue on to Oslo. Had we planned better, that would have been the better option, especially since we had a train from Bergen to Oslo the very next day.
In a Nutshell...(see what I did there??)
So do I think the Norway in a Nutshell tour is worth it? In a word, yes, and no. I did it with a stroller, which was an absolutely terrible idea. Our Boba 4G baby carrier would have been a MUCH better option. It was so hard to get the stroller on and off the trains, and it was only used to push Evelyn around for a short period of time. It was definitely a bigger hassle than it was worth and I think it colored my overall perception of the tour. I also feel that the tour was rushed and over crowded. Since we were headed from Bergen to Oslo, and had already done a fjord cruise, I didn't see a whole lot of value in the tour. Sure, the Flåm railway was cool, but the train was crowded and our seats for the trip kind of sucked. However, if you are only in Bergen for the day and want to see a little bit of the Norwegian country side, and don't mind lots of tourists, then this is a great tour. You get to see the fjords, the mountains, some stunning natural landscapes. The price tag is a little steep (but everything in Norway is), but is a good value otherwise.
Take along your own food since it is an all day trip
Don't use a stroller if you have young kids. You're sitting a lot anyways.
Dress in layers since it's can be warm in the sun, but snowy in Myrdal
Make sure your camera battery is charged and your SD card is empty (I think I took a million pictures on this day tour)