When people talk about the great rail journeys of the world often the train itself has as much to do with the accolade as the view outside, especially when you have chance to be rocked to sleep in style as you clack along the tracks.
The Bergen Railway is a different kettle of fish. Don’t get me wrong, the train itself is neat and clean and comfortable, but it’s more of a commuter train and not the sort of thing you’d usually go out of your way for.
But on this route, it’s something else. On this route it’s a contender for the best rail experience in the world.
Linking Norway’s two main cities, Oslo and Bergen, the train makes its way through spectacular Scandinavian scenery. When I hopped on board I’d just spent eleven days making my way up and down Norway’s coastline amongst the fjords on Hurtigruten, and yet I was still blown away by the size and beauty of the mountains, by the beautiful blue water of the lakes and creeks, the white water from the waterfalls, and the pops of colour from the homes dotted along the way.
No other train between two cities in Europe takes you higher. It may start and end at sea level in each city but the Bergen Line makes its way up the mountainous plateau, the Hardangervidda, reaching 1,222 metres above sea level.
As well as going up the mountains, on this train journey there’s also quite a lot of going through them.
The railway was started back in 1875 and it took a workforce of around 15,000 men 34 years to complete. And when you realize each of the 182 tunnels you go through were carved by hand, you may wonder why it didn’t take longer.
Some of the inside the mountain stretches were longer than I expected, but just as I was wishing I wasn’t in the dark we would re-emerge into the daylight and there was an entirely new vista to blow me away.
It takes about seven hours to get between the two cities and at no time was I tempted to open a book or magazine. All I did was look at that view, and wish everyone I loved could see it too.
As the Oslo to Bergen train is popular with commuters as well as tourists, there are those with their heads in books or laptops but I managed to resist asking how many times they did that journey before they stopped looking out the window.
I think it would take at least twenty for me. Maybe, if I live long enough and make it back to Norway as often as I’d like to, I’ll find out.
Amanda Woods travelled the Bergen Railway as a guest of Rail Europe, however all thoughts and opinions remain her own.
Love a good train trip? How about doing London to Berlin on the Venice Simplon Orient Express? Or Machu Picchu in style on Belmond’s Hiram Bingham? Australia has some great train journeys too, including the Sunlander in Queensland, and her replacement, The Spirit of Queensland. Or if you’re in Sydney you may want to pay a visit to the Trainworks museum. And if you’re heading for California don’t miss out on the Pacific Surfliner train from Los Angeles to San Diego.