A different, but hugely enjoyable, travel experience for us recently….a short suck-it-and-see trip to Norway with Great Rail Journeys.
Flåm Railway from Myrdal to Flåm(photo courtesy of GRJ website)
Gill and I are independent souls and would usually recoil in horror at the thought of following an umbrella-hoisting tour leader on and off a coach, barking orders to the camera-toting flock….right, it’s now 4:30, you’ve got 20 minutes to explore the ancient ruins, have a comfort break, exchange your currency and buy some souvenirs. From that place over there, where I get the best kick-back. Meet here at 4:50, otherwise make your own way to the hotel for the gala buffet dinner (wine not included, the salmon’s rubbish), in the Peer Gynt Suite at 7:35.
But we were travelling with good friends Sam & Annie Key, from the Dordogne via Yorkshire, and they had valued highly the GRJ guided experience on a recent trip of their own to India.
Our concerns were quickly allayed. Tour leader John – a diplomat and businessman in previous lives – was an urbane, informative host who imparted useful information with good humour. And without an umbrella in sight.
The itinerary was essentially to spend 2 nights in Bergen on the west coast, 2 nights in Flåm in the Western fjords and 2 nights in Oslo, with thrilling rail journeys connecting the destinations.
- The fish market
- Bryggen waterfront, a UNESCO World Heritage site, including a museum portraying the powerful Hanseatic trading organisation’s key site for 400 years from the late 14th century
- The walking tour with a local guide, giving real insight into the history and hidden parts of the delightful city
- A trip on the Fløibanen funicular railway to the top of Fløyen Mountain…and the walk back down into Bergen
- The serenity of this small community at the edge of the Aurlandsfjord…when a huge cruise ship wasn’t in dock
- The wooden church in old Flåm, built in 1670
- Hospitality, food and service at the Fretheim Hotel…and the dream-like fjordic views from every window
- The spectacularly contemporary design of the Opera House, allowing you to ascend to the roof, almost by stealth
- Culture, especially museums. We barely scratched the surface, but enjoyed the Henrik Ibsen museum and Norway’s Resistance museum….both very different but equally insightful
- The Aker Brygge area, originally home to Oslo’s shipyard industry but now imaginatively converted to a vibrant car-free area of shops, restaurants, bars and free entertainment
- A guided coach & walking tour, especially through the thought-provoking Vigeland Sculpture Park, containing more than 200 bronze and granite creations from this controversial artist