The journey to Bergen was a 36 hour whirlwind adventure. We left Hirtshals Denmark on the “short ferry” to Kristiansand. Originally our plan was to take the overnight ferry to Bergen, and pick up there to continue traveling.
A few days early I go into the information centre and ask if the clerk can help me book some of the journey that requires booking, such as our ferry to Norway and first few trains. When I give her the dates, we find that the overnight ferry is sold out. Rather than continuing booking for another ferry (which we had our backup in mind) she throws her hands up and says that she can’t do it because it has to do with Norway and she doesn’t know their system. So mum and I book our ferry separately, giving up the discount that we should have gotten for our Eurail pass, but hey, at least we get the buffet on our crossing.
A few trains and many hours later, mum and I roll into Hirtshals, and lug our bags the 1.5 km to the ferry terminal. It was overcrowded and we thought we were waiting in line for check in, really, a family had decided to wait for the ferry right in front of the check in. A really nice kid who knew English told us that there wasn’t a line and we weaved our way around the crowds and checked in. The crowd was for another ferry and cleared out a few minutes later, leaving the terminal virtually to ourselves. When we boarded the ferry, we were seated in the buffet section and joined the people at our assigned table to start on the buffet before leaving dock. That turned out to be a really good thing, since once out of the harbour the waves had built to 4-6 m. It was enough to make the ferry roll, sway, and pitch with just enough force to get a good portion of the passengers seasick. The poor cabin crew, who were so lovely, would be constantly reminding people to get to the lower deck if they didn’t feel well. I, however, felt like suave as I pulled out my sea legs and was able to walk the 30 m to the toilets without stumbling as most everyone else was. (I even noticed a few admiring glances. Not at me, but more the fact I could walk.) The rough North Sea added an hour to our commute, but our accommodation was wonderfully close. We went straight there, as our train to Oslo, then on to Bergen was set for 4:45 am.
When it came time to wait at the train platform, however, we noticed all the boards said that the train didn’t depart until 10 am, which would make us late for our connection. Google maps had been giving us the departure time for Sunday… And Monday. (Fun fact: that additional time they list is not labeled with a date.)
Now remember, when we were in Denmark the lady wouldn’t make our bookings for us for Norway. Mum and I were planning on using our layover to book the rest of our journey in Norway. The next best thing was google maps said there was an early morning bus. It would get us into Oslo 45 mins before the train we needed to take to Bergen. The drive was great. The different shades of green that blanketed a rocky mountainside was picturesque. When we arrive at Oslo, we aim straight for the ticket counter to get our tickets for the next week. I ended up talking to two ladies, the first a bit grumpy, I asked for two tickets for the twelve oh three to Bergen, and she doesn’t miss a beat before saying “that’s impossible”. The second lady explains that the train is booked full (though the Eurail planner does not show that reservations are even an option) and that getting on now would be up to the conductor.
As the train pulls into the station, I go to the head of the train to meet with the conductor, and I notice a guy right behind me. Ryan had been told the same thing, and we went in search of the conductor. The conductor that checks tickets got off, and Ryan and I met him on the platform and explained our situation. He told us where to hang around on the train, and it would be up to the other conductor. We waited. We tried getting seats. People with reservations would show up. We would move. This happened a few times until we felt safest bet was the dining car. Ryan went out to check one last time and came back with 3 seat numbers we could occupy. We watched the clock. 12:01. People walking up the car as we hold our breath they aren’t looking for the seats were in. 12:02. See the occasional person on the platform, but no one getting on or off. 12:03. We ease out of the station and breath a sigh of relief. The seats were ours.
The train ride was breathtaking. From fjords to glaciers to waterfalls. Ryan, who sat across the isle from us, and I talked for a while till a nice Norwegian guy came to take the seat next to him. We chatted periodically through the ride, but mostly mum and I would be pressed to the window to see the scenery.
We arrived in Bergen too late to get the tickets for the week, and went looking for our hostel. As we were leaving the train station it started to rain, then we got turned around in our directions. We decided for the 500 m to our hostel we would get a taxi and not walk in the rain with all our gear. The taxi we got was a bit too eager, which was the first red flag, then he pointed down the road and said ‘oh yeah, it’s just over there.’ And proceeded to drive THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION. The driver, who was from Somalia, pulled in front of the building, and helped us with our bag while trying to distract us with pleasantries about how much he likes America, and his fellow Somalian taxi driver had pulled up behind him. As were walking into the hostel, I hear him yelling at our taxi driver. While I could t understand the language, the meaning was universal. He was calling him out about driving us the long way, when we were only one block away from the train station.
At this point we’ve been up since 4, traveling all day, and we’re hungry. We just call it a day, grab a pizza from a local take-away, and go back to the hostel.
Now for our next trick… Getting from Bergen to Flåm on the morning train without previously booking.