Getting to know my country en route to Molja Lighthouse

I had been invited to visit Molja Lighthouse in Ålesund and Kjeungskjær Lighthouse outside Ørland, and chose to take the opportunity and get to know more of Norway by traveling by train, bus, and speedboat ferries. For two decades I have been traveling all over the world. One of my favorite ways of traveling is by train. I have always felt at home on a train. I get to have my own seat. It always says so on my ticket. It is like a “welcome, we have reserved a place only for you” feeling that gives me a sense of home. This space is for me. It’s my seat. My home for some hours. (Article continues after the photo gallery.)

Due to construction work at the tracks all summer, no trains had been able to leave this station and all departures had been by bus.

Today was the first day of normal train service. I entered the main hall and live music hit me. It was like the whole station was saying "sorry about the weather, but we'll do what we can to make you smile."

Free coffee was served, with free Freia melkesjokolade (Norwegian milk chocolate) and a note that said "Thank you for your patience," and "We apologize for the inconvenience."

The train journey was divided into two parts. The first took me out of Oslo, alongside Mjøsa – the biggest lake in Norway – and all the way to Dombås.

This little stretch of railroad was nothing less than stunning. High mountains, walls of solid rocks, snow on top, lush valleys, bridges over roaring waterfalls that at the end turned into slow moving emerald green rivers all the way down Romsdal valley, which features some of the most spectacular scenery in the entire country.

Trollveggen, one of the cliff formations in the valley, has a vertical drop of over 1,000 meters (3,300 ft). There was no way for me to sleep on this stretch. My eyes couldn't get enough. This is the nature that people all over the world came to see.

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Text and photos by Sigrid Thorbjørnsen.

The train takes you where you usually don’t get to go. It runs on its tracks where no car can follow. It is as if I am getting a break from the road. No traffic, no honking, and it doesn’t matter if I want to text someone. I can.

Traveling in Norway can be complicated because of mountains, fjords, and valleys, but it doesn’t have to be. Long stretches can be covered by train. This is the perfect way to travel. It gives an image of how big this country is. This trip from Oslo to Åndalsnes (first leg from Oslo to Dombås on the Dovre Railroad {Dovrebanen}, second leg from Dombås to Åndalsnes with the Rauma Line {Raumabanen}), was my first time ever to Møre og Romsdal, right in the middle of Norway’s fjord heaven.

Construction work at Oslo Central Station had been going on throughout the summer. Today was the first time to leave Oslo by train rather than by bus. We were greeted by live music, hot coffee and chocolate by the NSB (Norwegian State Railway) staff this morning. My first thought was: How can this happen on a Monday? I smiled. I drank my coffee, enjoyed my chocolate and the music before I went to find my platform. I found my frain and my seat. I just wanted to fall asleep. That’s what I usually do after entering the train. I had never taken this train ride before. I wanted to get to know my own country – so no sleep on the train this time.

The sound of the train merged with the voice on the speaker. As I looked out I saw Oslo fading away and green fields popping up everywhere. The architecture of the buildings changed. The color of the houses changed. We’d had a rainy summer and everything was intensely green. Then came the forests. Huge forests. Dark forests. I thought about Norwegian history, about the Vikings, about the struggle people had to endure just living in this country. Out in the forest without cars, stores, trains – without electricity …. How was that even possible? Throughout winter, spring, summer, and autumn. The scenery was passing me by so fast, so green, so quiet, so stunning.

The train passed Norway’s largest lake, Mjøsa, and Lillehammer and Hamar, before climbing towards Dombås in the Dovre Mountains. There I had to switch to the Rauma Railway, considered one of the most beautiful railways in the world. I would soon find out.

Did I doze off? I looked out the window again and saw steep mountains and deep valleys. The surroundings had changed. The dramatic scenery of mountains, sparkling with snow on top. Not like Oslo at all.

Trollveggen, the Troll Wall, used to be a place where people practiced BASE jumping, but today that’s forbidden. Too many people died. The wind is unpredictable and that created problems for jumpers and rescue teams alike. Nevertheless, the sight of this mountain, this massive wall is just something else. I had seen it on TV many times, but there is nothing like seeing it live. Massive. Right outside my window.

The train moved forward. Waterfalls, rivers, and streams. There is so much water in this country. Water dropping down the sides of mountains. Beautiful veils cascading over black stone. My head leaning against the window. All I can see is water. Now the falls have turned into a lazy river working it’s way through the valleys. The beauty of this trip is stunning, and leaves me speechless.

I read that November 30, 1924, King Haakon opened the Rauma Railroad and for the first time Møre og Romsdal had its own railroad. Building this railroad was not easy as it runs along steep mountain sides. Knowing how it came into use after the invasion of Norway in April 1940, we can be thankful for these tracks. Raumabanen was used to transport 3,000 gold bars out of Norway during WWII. Because of this railroad, the gold from the Norwegian Bank could be transported from Oslo to Lillehammer by trucks, Lillehammer to Åndalsnes by train and from Åndalsnes to Molde by trucks again before it was loaded on English military boats to be transported to England for safekeeping. It’s hard to imagine all this history when I look out. Everything looks so peaceful and green, dramatic and stunningly beautiful.

This perfect train ride of 114.2 kilometers from Dombås to Åndalsnes really opened my eyes to how spectacular my country is, and how I need to get to know it. Not only the roads but also the railways. Getting my own seat. Unpack. Live there for a couple of hours. Look out the window. Walk around. Enjoy the dining car. Talking to other travelers. Listen to music. Having all the time to myself, and at the same time seeing parts of Norway I never get to see.

Did I say, I love traveling by train?

After leaving the train, I jumped on a bus that took me to Ålesund, also a city I’ve never visited. I’ll share the views in my next post about Ålesund and Molja Lighthouse (click here for that) … and later the travel north.

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