Ustaoset – 990 m.o.h – which we suspect means meters above sea level.
I am currently recovering from the disappointment of losing a draft post that followed and described our journey starting in Oslo this morning at 7:30am. That was 5hours ago and I had brought you along on our journey through the outskirts of Oslo into the mountains, along rivers and fjords, past villages and farms. I’ll share some of the pictures, but unfortunatly I’ve lost the words that brought the scenes to life. I will try and recap later, but at the moment as I check and double-check my auto save feature, I’ll describe where we are now.
We have quite suddenly found ourselves surrounded by snow. The lake to our left is a bright green colour. The main lake has small white peaks on it, but when we see still water, it is starting to freeze over. The homes here are more like cabins and Ustaoset itself seems to be a skiing village. The snow is getting thicker with less rocks and shrubs poking through.
We have lost the forests of golden silver birch and fir trees that flanked the track and mountain side earlier. There are now some bare trees, that may be birch but I’m not really sure. They are not silver like the ones further down, and have long since lost all their leaves.
We can see areas of the lake where the ice is creeping in from the edge and moving into the main body. I wonder whether eventually it will completely freeze over or remain partially open?
To the left the mountains are getting higher. Our destination Voss is only 54m above sea level. There are less and less trees and the fluffy clouds are hanging around the top of the peaks. From here it’s hard to tell whether the mist is cloud or snow begin blow off the peaks. It’s a magic view and no matter how many pictures we take we know we wont do it justice. We’ll do our best though!
Even though we are in a warm train, it’s feeling colder.
Tunnels. I had written earlier about the long tunnels through the moutains and how upon entering it could be a minute or more before emerging into a new landscape. One long tunnel took us from open farming fields to an area with cliff face on our right and green valley with fjord below on our right. The mountains to the right of the fjord were reaching higher and still had the late autumn gold birch trees and fir trees. There were cabins and homes on the lake. Rather than winding around or over the hills and mountains the Norwegians have mastered the tunnelling.
We are approaching the station Finse. The train is passing through cloud as a plane would. It is quite surreal to see the ground and the cloud at the same time! We’ve stopped here for a few moments. From the eaves of the chalet we can now see long icicles. Finse is the highest train platform on this rail line being a bit over 1200. The temperature gauge on the info board says 2 deg C. We don’t trust that.
The train is going through covered buildings of some kind. Like the covered bridges of North America. It’s like a timber house built over the tracks. In some sections its a metal and concrete construction – the new sections perhaps. On some of these buildings the one side is open to afford us the view. I’ll have to google later to see what it looks like from the outside. Quite some feat of construction and engieering though, to maintain many kilometres of these ‘sheds’.
Other than that there hasn’t been much change to the surrounding terrain, so I will attempt to recap some of the early trip. Further back down the mountain, before the snow I had started to notice heavy iron girders forming an open shelf attached to the side of the rocky cliff face. Clearly there to prevent heavy drifts and avalanche activity falling to the tracks. As we are getting higher these are more prominent. There are also other structures in use including some chain mail nets layered with another set of rings.
We are pulling into Myrdal. We will be exploring here tomorrow on the Flam Railway as part of our Nutshell tour. Snow is currently falling and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Looking out the window I’m getting really quite excited!!
The train itself is comfortable. We are in a NSB Komfort carriage. Thanks again Ange for looking after the details that we wouldn’t have thought about (gratuitous link to promote Ange’s great agent skills – Travel Associates). Large windows – which we are loving right now, plenty of leg room and luggage space. Complimentary tea/coffee station in the carriage and a cafeteria car serving snacks, lunch, drinks even beer/wine if needed!
While I’m giving Ange a plug, we met a lady back at Oslo station who is on the same tour and cruise as us. She had yet to learn about important changes to her itinerary and was grateful for a chat with Andy to prompt her to contact her agent. We had heard yesterday of the changes to our itinerary which includes an additional night in Bergen and an upgraded cabin on our new ship called the MS Nordlys.
It seems we are descending slightly or we are on a more sheltered part of the journey. The fir trees have reappeared and the snow is thinner on the ground. We have emerged from a tunnel into what I can only describe as a ‘green bowl’. The edges of the bowl rise up to white covered peaks, while we are surrounded by green ground cover, young fir trees, bright green lichen covered rocks. I was too slow to capture a picture of a weathered timber home and barn nestled firmly on the side of the mountain.
We are definitely descending into a valley. There are hills of green again and the colourful timber houses are becoming more common. There are farms and a village that we are winding through with industrial activity evident down below.
Voss announced as next stop due in 5-6minutes. We packed up and disembarked the train to find the hotel conveniently located 5 metres from the train platform. The Fleischer hotel – established in 1864 – is a charming older style building. Inside the furnishings are ‘oldy worldy’, quirky and hark back to bygone times. Our room is carpeted with dark red carpet with gold fleur de lis detail, the heavy red curtains frame a window that looks out to the lake, and the heavy timber bed and furniture with gold trimming are replicas in keeping with the style and era of the Hotel.
Elizabeth, (the lady Andy met back at Oslo Station), Andy and I wandered into the centre of Voss to have a look around. The first building we noticed was the old stone church with wooden spire dating back to around 1200AD. We had a brief peruse of the shops, before settling into a cafe for late lunch followed by a steep walk up to the Folk Museum on the hills above the town. Andy and I braved the sleet, narrow streets and slippery path to reach the top. The views across the town to the lake and mountains beyond were worth the effort. The Museum itself was closed, although we may have time to come back on Saturday morning before we catch our train out to Bergen.
We close today off with dinner at the hotel restaurant as an inclusion of our tour and look forward to our Bus, Ferry, Train trip tomorrow to explore the mountains and fjords of this picturesque area. Apparently it is supposed to snow for a few hours overnight – would be nice to wake up to a white landscape!