Posted: 8/6/2006


  Its one of the top 10 most exciting railway journeys in the world, and includes a ship and a bus as well.The Bergen railway is an engineering masterpiece, and after 6 hours from Oslo Sentral you travel up to Northern Europe's highest mountain plateau, and stop along the way at remote stations where hikers, cyclists, Nordic walkers and roller bladers get off for some fun. One 20 minute stop is at HOTEL 1222 at Finse, 4,000 feet up and with a splendid view of the blue ice Herdangerjokal glacier. The train stops at Myrdal where lots of tourists get off to change to the private Flaam Bana(railroad) Here the train descends about 3,000 feet to sea level in less than an hour with spectacular mountains and waterfalls on the way. At one stop 2 maidens in flowing robes appear high above us in the spray from the waterfall, that rushes down under the rail line, and sing a Norwegian dirg. Really impressive, but corney. Finally to Flaam, a busy tourist destination where you catch the ferry for a 2 hour journey on the Aurlandsfjord past little villages, such as Aurland and Undedal, with Scandinavia's smallest stave(wooden) church. The boat turns into the narrowest fjord in Europe, Naeroyfjord, and finally docks at Guidvanger with its 3 decks packed with sun worshippers from around the world, disembarks at the terminal, where goats graze and seals catch the rays.  A fleet of buses pick everyone up and take you for a one hour ride through mountain passes of the Naerejdahl valley. We take the spectacular Stalheimskleva road with 13 hairpin bends past Sivelefosse and Stalheimsfossen waterfalls and past Oppheimsvatner Lake  and a short  break on the summit at the luxurious Stahleim Hotel.  Finally 70 minutes more on the Oslo-Bergen express which we catch at Voss. and arrive on the West Coast.
  Bergen is a Hanseatic City that was and is the center of the dried cod industry.  My friend Oysten told me to take his umbrella because it always rains in Bergen, and of course he was right, but only for about 10 minutes. Bergen is crowded around the Fish Market where we hungrily ate local fish and chips, and in the bright sunshine in the evening the outdoor cafes were thronged with locals and tourists, and the soccer crowd was at the Bosman Bar on Bryygen, a row of 3-4 storied wooden old buildings and a warren of narrow wood alleyways. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  Bergen is the home of composer Edward Grieg and there was a festival celebrating his works. Ferries go north, south and into the fjordland and the daily Hurtigruten ferry takes 11 days and stops at 35 small ports all the way north of the Arctic Circle past North Cape and to Kirkenes and back, on the doorstep of Russia. The funicular up to the top of Mount Flayen gives a spectacular view of the city and its seven hills, and snuggled under one mountain is Brann Stadion, where Brann Bergen won 2-0 and kept their place at the top of the Tippeliga.
  Bergen is a perfectly sized city, so neat and clean and fresh after a short rain shower, and European City of Culture. Well worth a visit after train, ferry and bus.
So, now you know the reason for 1530 (number of teams in Norway Cup) and 1222 the hotel at 1222 meters.  No 7 refers to my jersey number 7 when I electrified the crowds as the Wizard of Dribble on the soccer fields of the North of England, and 69-well its a very sexy number.
Till next time,