Well we’ve been doing the boat bit for a week and a half now. Or rather ocean liner, as Cunard prefer to describe the Queen Victoria. We did the plane over Geirangerfjord, in the shape of a thrilling helicopter ride.
On Friday it was time to take a train, with apologies to Bacharach and David for not travelling on their favourite modes of transport in the right order.
Queen Victoria berthed in the early morning at Flam, at the end of an arm of Sognefjord, which at 128 miles from the North Sea to its furthest tip, is the longest fjord in the world.
As early as eight o’clock, passengers had begun to queue for tickets for the Flamsbana railway, an incredible feat of engineering which is the steepest adhesion-only rail line in the world. Many were disappointed, when tickets sold out. We had been tipped off that it was possible to buy tickets in Bergen, where we had been the previous day, so we had no such problems.
The station is a short stroll from the pier. There’s not much else in the village apart from souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels, most of which appear to be owned by the railway company. Work on building the line began in 1923, but it was 1940 before it was first opened for steam trains, and then converted to electricity in 1944.
At 11.00 am we boarded one of the five packed carriages to be hauled up the 12-mile track to Myrdal, where the line meets the mainline between Bergen and Oslo. It was a gentle enough start, but soon we were climbing above the crystal-clear river and the valley became a ravine as we ascended a gradient of one in 18.
Twisting and turning, through a total of 20 tunnels – many carved out of solid rock by hand at the rate of a metre a month – we paused for a while half way up to allow the descending train to pass.
A little further along we stopped again at the mighty Kjosfossen waterfall, and left the train briefly for a spray-drenched photo-opportunity and a short performance on the rocks by two long-haired maidens dancing to music from the Norwegian equivalent of Enya.
After about an hour and 20 minutes, we reached Myrdal, 866 metres above our starting point. What a breathtaking ride it had been, although nothing to compare with the efforts of our wine waiter, Raul, who we discovered later had made the same journey by bicycle, taking four-and-a-half hours to pedal up, and one hour to ride down. He deserved a drink after that.