Day 7 (3 January): Planes, Trains... and a Taxi: HEL-OSL-Bergen

Apologies for posts being out of order. This activity occurred before the Hurtigruten cruise.

HEL - OSL

Airline: Finnair

The Plane: A319

Loyalty: Qantas Club and Frequent Flyer Bronze. This is a continuation of NRT-HEL flight on the 140,000 point ticket. As the stopover in HEL was less than 24 hours this is regarded as a single leg from NRT-OSL, even after changing airlines. Our bags were checked all the way through to OSL from NRT so this made the overnight stopover a breeze. 

Flight time: 1 hour 10 minutes. We depart and arrive on time.

The seats: 7A, 7B in economy. Seat configuration is 3-3 so seats are narrow but legroom is adequate for the Navigator's 181cms.

Entertainment: No personal screens. Small fixed screens hang below the overhead storage. Charlie Chaplin's "The Tramp" is played during the flight.

The Flight: Boarding is problematic because the boarding pass scanners are not working properly, so the staff are already on the back foot. As this is a small plane there is a robust discussion about our carry-on bags needing to go into the hold, which we vehemently resist. The overheads bins are only big enough for a backpack and handbag, so everything else goes underneath the seat in front and accordingly space is a little cramped.

We notice the difference between the large windows on the 787 and these older planes. You really do have to dip your head to see the horizon, whereas on the 787 the view is expansive.

Service is brisk and a little brusque as the staff haven't recovered from the boarding pass dramas. Food is available for purchase on short haul (less than 3 hours) Finnair flights although  tea, coffee and water are complimentary. Marrimekko style almost makes up for the poor service.

We have flown Finnair many times before and were delighted. This time less so, presumably because of the problems at boarding, as well as an early morning start... in a snow-shower... at -8 degrees. To compound things, arrival at Oslo is at an open gate (no jet bridge) and the weather has not improved. This is not Finnair's fault but trudging through the snow to the terminal bus certainly sharpens the senses.  

OSL - Bergen (on NSB train).

We pre-purchased tickets all the way from Oslo Lufthavn to Bergen via Oslo Sentral. The train from Lillehammer runs directly underneath the station and whisks us into Oslo in about 20 minutes. The second airport at Sydney needs to learn the lesson of these remote airports. Hopefully travellers won't have to endure a local, multi-stop train like we currently have to Kingsford Smith. At Oslo, there is also an express train but this operated by a separate company and couldn't be booked via NSB.no. Seats are unreserved but those with pre-purchased tickets ride in separate cars.

At Oslo Sentral we have a two hour layover for the train to Bergen. There are plenty of shops, fast food takeouts and a couple of mini supermarkets but this being a Sunday many were closed. There's no proper waiting room which meant sitting on uncomfortable metal seats in a draughty station while outside it's -8 degrees and snowing.

The train itself is comfortable, with seats in a 2-2 configuration. There is a fixed table in front of each row, so there is more than enough legroom and no danger of being squeezed if the person in front puts the seat back. The left side of the train faces forward and the right faces the rear. No matter, as the scenery is spectacular and we spent much of the journey rushing from side to side to take pictures.

Our car is about half full as we leave Oslo. The internet is free and reasonably fast given so everyone settles in with their technology for the 6 hour 40 minute journey over the mountains to Bergen. We are all greatly amused by the thermometer reading.

It's still snowing as we leave and the train kicks up flurries of snowflakes in the slipstream. The industrial outskirts of Oslo soon fade away to snow covered forests of Norwegian Spruce, wide rivers that alternately gush with water or are frozen thick. Mountains climb up to either side of the track which is mostly a single line. We occasionally have to stop on a siding and wait for an opposing train to pass.

Snow showers come and go as we climb higher and higher to over 1200 meters. At the ski resorts of Geilo and Ustaoset, the train suddenly fills up up with families coming home to Bergen in time for school to start again the next day. In the car behind is a child's play area which is fully occupied. 

Over the top and at Finse it's possible to change for the Flam railway. We press on down the hill to Bergen, with the gradient more noticeable and many long tunnels through the hills. By now the sun is gone and the only things visible are the occasional small town or isolated house. Once we get to Dale (pronounced 'Darl') we are back down at the waterline and the housing starts to build up. Still with an hour to go, we travel alongside one of the many fjords reaching back inland.

The train is certainly comfortable and is cost comparable to flying when travelling from one side of Norway to the other. We sense this is a better journey in the summer when there is more light to see things, although the snow covered landscape is beautiful.

In Bergen it's a 10 minute, 135 Krone (about $22) cab ride from the station to the Hurtigruten terminal. We are on board with plenty of time before sailing, so our day of multiple connections from Helsinki all the way to Bergen has gone largely to plan.