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It was no fun getting up at six in the morning. The weather was fair but I was in a subdued mood and could only manage an egg. Was away at 6.55, my father ran me into Hitchin and I took a half-empty train into London, arriving at 8am. I'd already got the underground ticket at Hitchin so it was straight onto the Victoria line. I was at Victoria at 8.18.

The Gatwick service wasn't all it was cracked up to be. The coaches had seen better days and I'm sure the train never bettered a speed of 30mph. We got to Gatwick at 9.14.

Gatwick was impossibly busy. Looked for somewhere selling film, but nothing doing. Find check-in. Absolutely choked in there. Joined queue. By 10.10, after standing in the queue for 50 minutes, I was only halfway to the desk. The flight was due to leave at 10.30. Time for panic measures. As the tannoy announced that the flight was boarding I joined the late check-in queue, which was only four deep. The staff were aware of late arrivals for the Bergen flight and I was seen immediately. Officially checked in by 10.15. Ran.

There was a queue for the departure lounge turnstile. There was a queue for the security check, at which there was another momentary panic when my bag of unexposed film failed to appear from the x-ray machines for a minute or so. Through the departure lounge and half walked, half ran for a good half mile on 4 separate travellators to gate 27. I was on the plane at 10.25.

The plane, a DC9, was half empty. Took a seat with plenty of legroom behind a bulkhead but was asked if I'd sit elsewhere as that seat was reserved for those with carry-cots. Found another window seat. Grabbed some shots of Gatwick, the North Downs and a cloudscape or two as we travelled over Sussex and Kent. Half an hour into the flight and lunch was served (it was an hour ahead by Norwegian time). Lunch was salad and a bowl of fruit. At 12.05 (UK time) we crossed the Norwegian coast. It had been very cloudy over the North Sea but the weather was now clear. Norway looked beautiful from up here - islands, mountains, forests, lakes, fjords, snow. Ten minutes later we were told to put our cameras away, apparently because of some military installation adjacent to Bergen airport. Shame. Touched down at Bergen at 12.20. The airport was slap in the middle of a pine forest.

The luggage arrived OK at 12.30 and it was straight onto the NSB minibus outside the terminal for the transfer to Bergen railway station. I was able to take my first close-up look at this new country. There was a great feeling of space. The terrain was rocky and woody. The suburbs we passed through were uncluttered, dotted with wooden or warmly colourwashed buildings - pretty much as I'd remembered Sweden two years back. There was a cloudless sky and the colours were intense. The roads were surfaced with sand coloured tarmac and appeared barely wide enough for a single lane.

We arrived at the station, a handsome stone structure, at 1.05 (or 2,05 local time). One passenger had a few moments' panic when he couldn't find his tickets, money, passport or any other documentation, and was asking the way to the British consul - fortunately he'd just packed them too well. I suddenly remembered that I didn't know where I'd packed my own documentation and there was more than a nagging doubt before I found them all. Looked around the station, which was busy. It was refreshingly familiar - a bookstall, a ticket office, a flower stall, a left luggage office, plant and engineering junk lying around in corners. The weather was amazing. Wasn't it supposed to rain all the time?

Bergen Station

The train for Oslo boarded at 2.55. I had a seat reservation and found the seat easily. The coach was well equipped though I found the decor a bit dreary - decent legroom though, plus a footrest. Plenty of English voices. The train left bang on time.

Sörfjord, from the train

We were out in the country by 3.30 local time. the weather was still amazing and the track was running alongside a series of fjords. The coastline just north and east of Bergen was as convoluted as anywhere else in the country and we ran along the south shore of Sörfjord, with the island of Osteröya opposite. There were plenty of tunnels. The scenery was very pretty yet not dramatic. The walls of the fjord were pretty steep, however, and the tree line seemed to be far higher than in Scotland. It served to distort my sense of perspective. The geology looked wrong, too - the rock architecture favoured limestone but surely the scale was far too big?


Sorfjörd gave way to Veafjord. The line ran north to Stanghelle then turned away from the coast for Dale. We hit the south side of Bolstadfjord next and ran eastwards, through pretty pastoral country dotted with whitewashed cottages and the occasional stave church - it was pretty much like the Lake District with the vertical scale exaggerated. We hit a brief shower near Evanger then plunged through a deep valley, emerging to run along the north shore of a lake in ever grander mountain scenery. We hit the ski resort of Voss at 4.25 .


The Fleischer's Hotel was disarmingly easy to find, being slap next to the railway station, and I remarked as such to a couple who appeared to be on the same tour. The hotel was a pleasing jumble of architecture and I registered and found my first floor room without fuss. The building was all nooks, corners and extensions and I quickly got the impression that no two rooms would be alike; my room was pleasingly unconventional and had an ensuite bathroom. Both windows had a panoramic view over the lake.

Fleisher's Hotel, Voss

Took the camera and had a mooch around the town, which was not that big. Back for dinner at 6.45, and my first experience of a Scandinavian open buffet or Smorgasbord - self service, as much as you want, as often as you want, from an eclectic mix of cooked foods, salads, meats, cheeses, fish and seafood dishes, breads, fruits and desserts. There was even a choice of three different grades of milk for teas and coffees.

Voss, late evening

At 8.30 I took a long evening walk, exploring the town's suburban streets. Plenty of space again, no terraced houses or high-rise apartment blocks here! It was interesting to see how the houses, gardens and road layouts were built into the natural relief. Most houses seemed to have a stone or concrete base with a wooden superstructure, and the majority of them were built into slopes with an upper storey balcony or patio which invariably connected with the higher levels of the garden. There also seemed to be a passion for sun umbrellas and canopies. The weather was wholly appropriate, being warm and sunny. I strolled back to the hotel, through the small town centre where I happened to glance into the window of the local newspaper office - they were running a story on Roy Jenkins's recent near miss for the SDP in an inner city by-election. How refreshingly outward looking for a local paper in Norway!  Met the English couple again - in the middle of a zebra crossing, which we had to vacate - and discovered they were from Solihull and on exactly the same tour as me. Took a brief look at Norwegian TV, which seemed to be showing an episode of the American sitcom, "Soap", with subtitles. Retired to bed late, even though it was still light, very satisfied with the first day. I'd decided I was going to like Norway.

This page last updated 6th August 2001