The Bergen train that runs from Oslo to Bergen does not live up to its claim of being one of the most beautiful train routes in Europe. Nor, for that matter, does the Fram Railway, billed as one of the greatest train rides in the world. While the Fram is certainly a technological feat, maneuvering through twenty miles of rugged mountain terrain while descending from 200 meters to sea level, it ultimately feels like a tourist attraction akin to a Disney ride in the Norwegian Fjords, complete with souvenir shops, tour busses and the crowds that come with them.
Thus, thoroughly underwhelmed and still having hours to go, I settled into an attitude of acquiescence. Instead of moving from side to side on the train in search of that elusive photo, I simply allowed the gentle rumble of the tracks to lull me to sleep. Now and again, I would wake, look around, begin to read my book and then fall back asleep.
Eventually it occurred to me that this repetition is the true magic of train rides. Marketing whiz kids may have done their job selling tickets to the Fram Railway, but it is my belief they have missed the mark.
Social media will eventually spread word that the views are not so much better than what you can find in national parks in the U.S., or many other destinations around the world. Travelers do not need to build in extra days to take in the scenery of these routes. Instead, advertisers and marketers would be well served to point out the real virtues of taking the train…
The value is the ride itself. To sit back and watch the land roll past is one of life’s true simple pleasures, and everyone owes it to themself to try it at least once. That is not to say that Norway doesn’t have the advantage of picturesque scenery that goes on and on without end. It does. Beyond every turn, as the train emerges from yet another tunnel, a new view emerges. Another mountain or Fjord with small houses dotting the verdant green grass of the valley. Sheep congregate and the calm river reflects the entire scene. But if you can’t get to Norway or somewhere exotic, fret not. Find a ride, any ride. The cheapest ride possible. Then, sit back, relax and let the world pass you by and feel once again that time is on your side.