My Norwegian adventures came to an end, and I had to return to Brexit Island. The journey to the airport and the flight home was uneventful, and a few hours later I was touching down in Manchester Airport, where I was greeted with the usual welcome: a long, slowly-moving passport queue. Great first impression of the UK for visitors, WELL DONE.
Despite the problems I had along the way, it was overall an amazing trip. Norway is a beautiful part of the world, and I was glad to spend a week there sampling some of what it had to offer. Bodø in particular was a lovely surprise – a charming town with plenty to do and see.
I have to give Railbookers their due – they gave a refund for the non-running sleeper train and the cancelled Northern Lights tour without any quibble. I’m not sure, given the number of emails and phone calls I had to make to book the trip in the first place, whether a specialist tour operator required less effort than just booking the different parts of the trip separately online. On the other hand, you do have that all important ATOL protection, which may be an important consideration for some.
I’m hoping to travel extensively in 2023. Will I be going back to Norway again? Maybe not next year, but I think I will be heading to Scandinavia again sooner rather than later. Wherever I go, it will be blogged in excruciating detail – watch this space!
As fun as the sleeper train was, the lack of shower facilities and a proper breakfast meant that I was not really set up for the day. I felt hungry, a bit grungy and – to be honest – I could have used an extra hour of sleep. I had one more day in Oslo, but I was not relishing exploring the city in this state.
I trudged to my hotel, the same one I had stayed in a few days earlier, to ask if they would store my luggage until my room was ready in the afternoon.
“We actually have a room available now, sir. Would you like to check in early?”
WOULD I?! Dare I ask if breakfast is still being served?
“You would have to pay extra for it, but yes it is available.”
BEST. NEWS. EVER.
It was a bog-standard hotel breakfast buffet, but it might have been the best meal I ever had.
I then retreated to my room for a lovely nap, followed by a luxurious hot shower. I was in heaven.
I sat in the waiting room at Bodø station alongside a few other souls who had turned up way too early for their train. A charming little display of historical railway memorabilia harked back to an earlier era. The present-day station is a modern affair, with two tracks for passenger trains either side of an island platform, and a small freight yard.
I was leaving Bodø behind to return to Oslo, a journey which would see me on the rails for 18 hours or thereabouts. The first leg of the journey would last just under 10 hours and take me to Trondheim for an onward connection to Oslo.
My journey would take in the full length of the Nordlandsbanen, the 450-mile route that winds its way through northern Norway to Trondheim. I was pleased to be on a train this time, unlike my rail replacement bus experience a few days earlier.
Next morning I was at Oslo Sentral bright and early – well, early, anyway – for the next phase of my trip. Exploring Oslo was all well and good, but the purpose of this trip was TRAINS! So I was happy to be back on the rails again.
Oslo Sentral is a typical European railway terminus. In other words, it’s a giant shopping mall with the trains almost an afterthought amidst the branches of Starbucks.
I found my platform for the 08:02 to Trondheim, which was operated by an offshoot of the Swedish state-owned railway operator, SJ.
In the afternoon I set out to visit a couple of Oslo’s museums.
First, the Nobel Peace Centre. Oslo is the home of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, awarded every year at the City Hall. This museum, located near the harbour, commemorates Alfred Nobel, the prize and its previous winners.
It was interesting to read about Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, who allegedly was inspired to create the Nobel Prize because he did not want his legacy to be the death and destruction wrought by explosives.
I had a full day in Oslo to explore, but I was far too lazy to do my own research on what to see, so instead I joined a Free Walking Tour of Oslo. I duly arrived at “The Tiger Statue” in Jernbanetorget, outside the main railway station, on Thursday morning.
Our tour guide, Daniel, introduced himself. There was a large group of people from many different countries, but thankfully, no “get to know each other” bit at the beginning, which always feels supremely awkward for me on these tours.
Twenty years is a long time to work in the same place. Two decades of showing up to work on time each and every day, diligently working hard with my esteemed colleagues to add value to the business. Since the day I was on-boarded, I have relentlessly pursued corporate synergies and leveraged the opportunities and challenges that have arisen in my workflows.
(Did the above sound good? Please take my word for it, and definitely don’t go through my Twitter archive)
My lack of ambition was finally rewarded on my 20 year anniversary, when my employer offered to purchase a gift to celebrate my inability to get sacked. The only rule was that it had to be a single, tangible gift (no asking for a cash alternative).
I briefly toyed with the idea of buying Hornby’s new model of the Advanced Passenger Train, together with the additional coaches to make it up to a full length prototypical train, but I quickly realised that I would never be able to actually run it anywhere, due to lack of space.
Thoughts then turned to the possibility of a holiday and — because I have a brand to maintain — I started looking at train trips.