I’m filled with an abundance of excitement this morning as I pack up my belongings and head on over to the Bergen train station. Lasting about seven hours, the journey to Oslo is said to be one of the most scenic train rides in all of Europe. This initial excitement of mine, however, has taken a bit of a hit due to the renovations going on at the station. I have nothing against renovations per se, but the place is a mess with construction equipment, building materials, and a lifetime supply of dust littered all over the place. Not wanting to hang around this less than cheerful environment, I instead walk across the street to a convenience store and purchase an energy bar and bottled water. Having not had a chance to grab lunch, this light snack should hopefully tide me over till dinnertime. As my train is finally announced, I walk in a brisk manner to the front of this elegant locomotive in the hopes that it will be far less crowded than the rear. As I set my backpack down and start to make myself comfortable, I notice that several of my fellow travellers are intensely studying their tickets. These same passengers also appear to be reviewing the numbers on their seats. It suddenly dawns on me that the seats on this train are assigned and that I am undoubtedly sitting in the wrong one. Not wanting to have to explain to some seven foot tall Viking why I’m in their spot, I immediately grab my belongings and head out in search for my seat.
As we depart Bergen Station, it soon becomes clear why this train ride is so popular. The views outside our windows, which I had read so much about, are indeed as impressive as advertised. The majestic mountains, serene lakes, and quaint cottages dotted along the coastline reminds me of some of the paintings found at Oslo’s most prestigious museums. Clearly Norway’s nineteenth century masters were just as mesmerized by this country’s natural beauty as I am right now. My enthusiasm for this spectacle seems to be shared by a young couple from Spain seated across from me. In fact, all three of us are now furiously snapping photos of the fleeting images outside.
As we climb higher in elevation and approach the center of the country, the landscape suddenly transforms into snow covered mountains. This again results in several photo sessions being directed by myself and my paparazzi friends. Yet despite the excitement I’ve felt over the past 120 minutes, my enthusiasm begins to die down a bit with the realization that we still have five hours to go till Oslo. Luckily for me, I’m living in the second decade of the twenty-first century where an infinite amount of digital distractions can be accessed on phones and tablets. I plug in a pair of headphones into my tablet and search for some tunes in my music library. After hitting the shuffle button a few times, I come across an old James Bond soundtrack that I haven’t listened to for years. The bombastic tunes transport me to a world of international intrigue where I am no longer just some tourist sightseeing around Norway. Rather, I am on a secret mission with national security at stake and the only thing in my way are dangerous villains and even more dangerous women. Now that I think about it, however, I can’t remember a single James Bond film ever taking place in Scandinavia. Perhaps Ian Fleming viewed this corner of Europe as far too civilized and peaceful to ever be the setting where a madman would try to take over the world.
As my daydreams of international espionage come to a close, I check my watch and see that there are now four hours to go till we reach Oslo. It is at this moment that I realize I need to stop looking for distractions and instead just relax and let this train ride wash over me. Upon taking this Zen influenced mindset, a sense of calm comes over me and I am no longer filled with anxiety and angst. Sure, it would be great if this train travelled twice as fast as it currently does. But since it doesn’t and there is nothing I can do to change this fact, I might as well enjoy the current moment I am living in. As we pull into Oslo’s Central Station around dinner time, I am filled with the mixed emotions of fulfillment and relief. Fulfillment in that I got to experience a classic European train trip, and relief in that seven hours is the maximum amount of time I can spend on a train without going crazy. Although I won’t be taking this train ride again anytime soon, I do recommend it for others for the views alone. My other reason for this recommendation is that it makes you fully appreciate just how lucky we all are to live in an era of air travel.