John's Interrail Adventure August/September 2023

Lesley decided she had travelled enough and was happy to live with her memories.  However I still had itchy feet.  The scenery of  Scandinavia had always appealed but we had never managed to get there.  I had always loved railways, not so much the "trainspotting" as the travel, the architecture and the engineering.  So when Interrail came up with a sale, the answer was obvious.

The Plan

The most practical ticket was for 15 days first class travel in two months for £490.  Given that the 'walk-on' first class  single ticket from Guiseley to Kings Cross is £270, the interrail ticket is quite a bargain.  Yes, by advance booking much cheaper fares are available, but advance booking has no flexibility along the way.  If there is a delay, or a missed connection the advance ticket is lost and a walk on fare is needed.  With the interrail all that I lose is the (usually) nominal seat reservation fee and I have the flexibility to take a different train to a different destination if needs be.  That might be needed, for example last week heavy storms in Norway and Sweden left avalanche damage on the Oslo to Bergen line and a serious crash north of Stockholm.  Both of these disruptions are scheduled to be repaired by the time I get there, but who knows what the future holds.

The cheapest way to travel would be to sleep on the trains in standard coaches, or to stay in hostels en route, the choice of young interrailers.  At 75 I feel my old bones need a proper bed, and shared accommodation isn't realistic for a bladder that old either.  So I have hotels booked for my scheduled overnight stops.  For all but three nights I have been able to book these without an upfront payment and on a 24 hour notice cancellation (through, which retains my flexibility.

Click on the destination to see that day's blog

Day One:           Home to Cologne

Day Two:           Cologne to Copenhagen

Day Three:       Copenhagen

Day Four:          Copenhagen to Stockholm

Day Five:           Stockholm

Day  Six:             Stockholm to Ostersund

Day Seven:       Ostersund to Gallivare ( The Inlandsbanan)

Day Eight:         Gallivare to Narvik

Day  Nine :        Narvik to Svolvaer by bus

Day Ten:             Svolvaer

Day Eleven:               Svolvaer to Bodo to Trondheim

Day Twelve:              Trondheim to Oslo

Day Thirteen:           Oslo to Bergen

Day Fourteen:          Bergen to Flam

Day Fifteen:              Flam

Day Sixteen:             Flam to Bergen

Day Seventeen:      Bergen to Hirtshals

Day Eighteen:          Hirtshals to Aarhus

Day Nineteen:         Aarhus to Esbjerg to Odense

Day Twenty:             Odense to Hamburg

Day Twenty One:  Hamburg to Home

Day One. 19 August 2023

An early start, with a walk down to the station.  Lesley came with me to see me off.  I suspect she believes she wont see me again.  A train arrived very soon, earlier than the one I was aiming for, so it was a quick goodbye and into an almost empty carriage.

The earlier train meant there was time to kill in Leeds so I headed for the LNER First Class Lounge, only to find that "due to unforseen staff shortages" it would not open until 9, too late for me.  So I had to be satisfied with a Cafe Nero on the crowded concourse.

The 9:15 Azuma to London starts in Bradford, so there wasn't a rake of empty coaches waiting to fill, just a crowd on the platform not knowing which end of the train they should be on.  It arrived 5 minutes late, but other than that the journey was comfortable and uneventful.  We were served with a Bacon Butty, no doubt designed by a top chef, and coffee.  Long gone are the days of the silver service full english.  Then mid morning we had more coffee and the world's smallest piece of flapjack.

The walk from Kings Cross to St Pancras International is straightforward and straight into the queue for Eurostar check in.  A long snake to check in, then a queue to go through airport style security, the only relief being there was no need for belts and shoe removal.  Then Passport control, being shepherded into the right EU/nonEU queue and waiting for th automated reader.  Scan the passport than step forward into a secure area, place feet on the marked spot, remove hat and glasses and stare at a screen until the computer decides you are acceptable.  Then another queue to get passport stamped.  At last, the waiting area.  Look carefully and clamber over piles of luggage and bodies and eventually find a square foot in which to place body and bags for an hour.  I don't like flying because of the messing around and time wasting in the airport.  Is this any better?

The 12:31 to Paris was called which resulted in a scrum of people clambering over each other.  Then My 13:01 to Brussels, another scrummage.  At last onto the train and the peace and quiet of the Standard Premier carriage.  A very pleasant lunch was served while the train raced across the boring landscape of Northern France and Belgium.

We reached Brussels just a few minutes late and the platform for the next train was clearly announced.  It was an easy change onto the DB  ICE (German Railways Inter City Express) and soon we were speeding along similar countryside towards Germany.

 Cologne Hauptbahnhof was being remodelled and was not taking mainline trains so we had to change at Ehrenfeld. A two platform station so no real issue, apart from knowing the correct train as all were labelled with a suburb the other side of Cologne .

The walk from the station to the hotel was not too bad, but my shoulder bag was too fully packed and after a short while it was a struggle to carry.  I was hot and bothered, to put it mildly.  The hotel was very nice, as good as one could expect for the price, clean, comfortable bed , plenty of towels but sadly no air conditioning.  The bedroom temperature was 26, hotter than outside! 

My first two jobs were to find somewhere to eat and possibly find something to alleviate the shoulder bag problem.  The first was soon solved when I spotted a chinese souvenir shop full of all sorts, including suitcases.  I explained the situation and the owner came up with a little collapsible trolley.  Just the job.  I walked on to inspect the cathedral which as it happens is on the same square as the station entrance.  The square was full of young people, a considerable number of stag and hen parties and scarcely a soul walking along without a bottle in their hands. Then on the way back to the hotel I called at a cheap Indian restaurant which I had spotted and sat outside with a very pleasant curry and much needed beer.

Opposite my window was a small sandy park, acting as a playground for the littleones until 9 and a gathgering place for the yeef after that until the early hours.  As well as their noise, some of them had souped up cars which raced round the block, revving and screeching.  Then to top it all next day was Sunday and within a 200 yard radius were several very noisy sets of Church bells.  Needless to say, in spite of the very comfortable bed, not much sleep was had.

Let's finish with a picture of the wonderful Cathedral steps and saythat although there were some trouble spots during the day, most of the journey was relaxing and enjoyable.  Roll on tomorrow.

Day Two. 20 August 2023

Day two took me from Cologne to Hamburg to Copenhagen. Two nice journeys with serious issues at start and middle.

Because of the work at Cologne Hbf the ICE goes from Cologne Messe-Deutz. The local train from hbf to there was not very clearly sign posted, it's only one station. Then at Deutz make sure you use the platform stairs at the rear of the train. If  like me, you take the long walk to the front there are stairs to descend, a tunnel, stairs to ascend, then back along the full length of the next platform before descending twice and ascending again to find ICE train already there. First class at the front so the dilemma of racing along the platform or battling down the aisle with backpack and bag. However seat found, very comfortable and at seat coffee service (not free though).

It was a pleasant ride to Hamburg through typical north German/Lowlands agricutural land and we arrived at Hamburg on time. Then the fun began.  Hamburg Hbf was dreadful.  It is one of the busiest stations in Europe, with 460,000 passengers a day, but has not expanded much over the years.  To help smooth operation train platforms are generally fixed. So when an ICE spent too long at the platform our train had to wait down the line. Eventually it arrived. My seat was in coach 12. I followed the coach numbers up the platform as far as 10, then there was the loco. Where is 12? It's at the back. All the way back down the platform to find 12, climbed on board and found my seat. Very hot and bothered by then.  Seating here was in a small old fashioned compartment, and as I was trying to put my luggage into the rack, surrounded by my fussing compartment companions (three Chinese ladies) staff come round to evacuate the coach and the next coach. They are not allowed to use coaches if aircon not working.

So two coaches of people crammed into an already fully booked train. I was considering aborting the journey.  Someone suggested we might be standing all the way to Copenhagen.  I responded in jest that I had a heart condition (true) and if I had to stand for the next 5 hours it would kill me (doubtful).  Staff and the Chinese ladies jumped at this and a seat was found for me.  Relief.  The rest of the journey was very pleasant.  I chatted (with some language difficulties) to the other three round my table.  A lady from Munster on her way to central Denmark on business. She knew of the York twinning with Munster, and followed the annual rowing competition between the two cities.  The other couple were from Freiburg in the Black Forest, on their way to Copenhagen for a holiday.

There were a few interesting landmarks en route, not least of which was the Keil Canal bridge, where the train crosses than has to take a huge loop round to pass under itself before heading on northwards. 

The border Crossing into Denmark was interesting.  In spite of both countries being in the Schengen area, passports had to be shown.  First the train ticket inspector came round to check that we all had passports or ID, then the Danish border patrol passed down the train inspecting again.  What a waste of time.

We arrived in Copenhagen not too late and I managed to decipher the needs of the Underground ticketing system to take me the three stops to the station nearest the hotel.  Emerging into Kongens Nytorv (King's New Square) I lost all sense of direction and walked round the square for a time while my Google Map function could tell me which way to head.  Meanwhile there was a pro Palestian protest rally taking place.  Eventually the right road was found and the hotel reached.

 Now a couple of relaxing days in Copenhagen

Day Three. 21 August 2023

Today would be about exploring Copenhagen, but first I must commend the Hotel on its breakfast.  All served on one plate, true, but yoghurt, muesli, roll with jam and fingers of Gouda, boiled egg, grapes and a croissant.  Wow.

I decided that the best way to get a feel for the city would be to take one of the canal tours, which is where I headed to start with.  They leave from Nyhavn, just a short walk from the hotel, the port side being the subject of many jigsaw puzzles Lesley and I have done.

It looked like it would be a very empty boat until the last minute, when a tour of about 50 Chinese  joined us.  They added greatly to the fun of the tour by clapping and waving to anyone seen on a bridge or passing boat.  The start was interesting,  down the Nyhavn past all the moored yachts to the bridge at the end.  The bridge is so low that we all had to crouch in our seats to avoid scalpings. Then out into the open harbour.  I will let the pictures tell their tale.

Frederiks Kirke and Amalienborg

The Royal Library "Diamond" building

Quay at end of Hotel street

The Opera House

Mermaid entertaining the crowd

The Danish Architecture Centre

Design based on Lego bricks


The Royal Yacht

Freisers Kirke with corkscrew tower

Next would would be the walking tour.  The boat docked at the edge of Kongens Nytorv, and seeing it in a more relaxed mode I got my bearings easily.  First stop would be a coffee in the square, then a slow walk up to the Mermaid, calling at the Frederiks Kirke (the dome seen from the boat) and the Castellet on the way.  I had seen the mermaid from the back, now I needed the full frontal, if I could get through the crowds.  By the time I reached her I was quite weary, being unused to 2 mile hikes in town, so an ice cream and bottle of water was called for before I confronted her.

Kongens Nytorv and coffee bar

View from Kastellet

Frederiks Kirke

Gateway to Kastellet

The same boat trip as I had taken earlier

The slow walk back was via The English Church, suitably dressed in flint and the Churchill Gardens (why?) to the Kongens Have, the gardens in front of the former royal palace, Rosenborg Slot. Here I sat nursing a beer and a glass of peanuts for a while

The English Church

Rosenborg Slot

Water feature in front of church

Palace Rose Garden

Side of Palace from Army Barracks

As I sat there I decided I would have to do something about that bluddy trolley.  The trolley I had purchased in Cologne, which seemed so good at the time, was not suited to carrying a soft or flexible package.  Not only had my bag kept falling off yesterday, when it was not falling off it was dragging on the ground and I had noticed a hole worn in the corner.  I would have to get something more substantial, but where would I find one?  The obvious starting point would be the station, so having bought a 24 hour ticket yesterday I hopped onto the underground and headed for the main station.  Miles of corridors later I found that the metro I was heading for was shut following an incident, but I remembered my ticket also covered local trains so I got to the station in the end.  Well there is every possible type of fast food servery known to mankind, but luggage?  No.  So I left the station and spotted at the far side of a square full of parked bikes an actual luggage shop.  Well, the names advertised should have been a tip, but the door was a locked entry and the lad at the counter was very snooty when he advised me that they would not dream of stocking such an item.  He did however direct me to a hardware shop a few blocks away where I hit the jackpot.  It might be a bit heavy duty, it might be more suited to carrying a few crates of beer, it might look incredibly daft when everyone else has a huge rucksack, but hey, I like it!

Radhus, or City Hall

After returning to the hotel to drop off my purchase it was time to explore for my evening meal.  Last night I had found a burger on the NyHavn which was very good.  There were so many restaurants along the portside I thought I would wander along and see where I might find something Danish that would not break the bank.  So much choice and so busy!  Eventually I found one selling a wooden board with a selection that looked very tempting., so I settled for that.  I have to say that the NyHavn dock side is one of the most varied and interesting places to eat.  I sat there for some time, people watching,  with my meal, a glass of wine, several gallons of water and I regret to say a Belgian Waffle and ice cream.

Nyhavn by day

When the lights go on

Day Four. 22 August 2023

I knew today would have an awkward start when I had received a text message from SJ (Swedish Rail) advising that the Copenhagen to Stockholm train would be starting in Malmo.  There were other options to get from Copenhagen to Malmo.  To make sure I made the connections I set off far earlier than necessary and successfully navigated the walk to Kongens Nyortov with my new trolley.  I had asked at the hotel reception how to buy a single ticket on the Metro.  The machines at the stations only wanted to sell a 24 hour card, but I knew there was a cheaper single fare.  Between us we had eventually downloaded the right app onto my phone, registered and paid for a ticket.  However when it came to it, just like all my previous journeys yesterday there were no barriers, no checks, so I might as well not have bothered.  The log in and out light did not register my phone either.

At Copenhagen station I had to find the right platform.  The mainline trains to Stockholm usually go from a separate platform some 15 minutes walk from the main concourse, but there was nothing indicated for that platform.  Eventually, by looking through all destinations of all trains, I found one that was passing through Malmo.  I was not alone, there were several others doing just the same thing.  There was also a warning that travel documents, ID, or passports must be shown, although in reality there was never a check.

The trip to Malmo included the trip over The Bridge, which I had been looking forward to having enjoyed the police series with Saga and Martin .  Actually the reality of the bridge was a little disappointing, the rail travelling beneath the road in a double decker system so views were a little restricted.

Malmo station was well signposted at ground level, but below ground, where my train arrived, there was very poor signage.  Just like in Cologne, I found that I had taken the wrong direction and walked the length of the platform only to find myself walking back the length of the next platform before finding the escalator up to the main concourse.  Our platform was waiting for us and there were two intercity trains side by side, one for Stockholm and one for Gothenberg. They were not unlocked until 10 minutes before departure, but we were eventually sorted and seat was again very comfortable.  I had pre-booked lunch, which was pulled pork with pasta salad, pickled carrot and a brownie, washed down with a non alcoholic beer.  There was free self serve coffee at the end of the coach.

There is not much to say about the journey, through countryside much the same as Germany & Denmark, although the style of housing in the villages we passed was subtly different.

Stockholm was reached on time and I found the way to the Metro without too much difficulty.  There was an actual ticket office who sold me a ticket to Gamla Stan (The Old Town) which was the closest to my hotel.  The main exit from Gamla Stan took me to the old town, but to access the bridge across to my hotel I should have left the station at the other side.  Back down the stairs and up the other side and I could see my hotel across the fjord.  Sadly the footbridge now involved several flights of stairs and dragging the trolley up these and down the other side was a chore.  Nevertheless we did it and traipsed along the quayside to the boat that was to be my home for the next couple of days.

The room (or should I say cabin) was very small, the bed almost filling it.  The mattress was very soft, so it was impossible to sit on the edge of the bed without sliding off.  Once on and lying down it was extremely comfortable.

So a shower and bed and contemplate a visit to Stockholm's sights tomorrow.

The Bridge


Malmo Underground platforms


Malmo Overground


Day Five. 23 August 2023

Today was to be about seeing Stockholm.  My feet were killing me after all that walking in Copenhagen, so I decided to do the tourist thing and use the Hop On Hop Off Big Red Bus.  However to get to this I had to walk the quayside, climb the steps, cross the bridge, descend the steps, go through the Metro Station, climb the steps and walk through the  old town.  The latter part was of course quite enjoyable , as old towns are.  There were surprisingly few people around so there are pictures of empty streets.  The Royal Palace had a sentry outside to protect the King from the three tourists who were passing.  I found the tour booth and purchased a combined bus and boat ticket.  The guy directed me to the bus stop, where after a 10 minute wait a bus arrived.  I leapt aboard, showed my ticket, and was told to wait for the next bus, this was a different company.  Same happened to the other man who was waiting with me.  Joint muttering was had.  Finally our bus arrived and the tour started with a tour down to the Cruise Ship terminal, through a considerable amount of roadworks and traffic and through the upper part of the city, which is full of shops and pizza places just like any other part of the world.  At the cruise ship terminal we picked up a few more passengers and after travelling for the best part of half an hour we were back at the bus stop we started at, albeit facing in the opposite direction, having seen nothing of interest at all.  The only purpose for that part of the tour is to pick up the extra revenue from cruise passengers.


Celebrating 50 years as King Carl XVI Gustaf

The next part was more interesting, as we passed the Opera House, The King's Theatre and the King's Gardens. I decided to stay on the bus as far as the Vasa museum, where Sweden's equivalent of the Mary Rose is kept.

The Vasa Museum was fascinating.  The Vasa was to be Sweden's biggest ever battleship, the scourge of the Baltic, the King's pride and joy.  It was launched  in a huge ceremony in 1628, opened up its sails, fired all its cannons, keeled over and sank.  It is believed that it had so much ornamentation aboard and so many cannons that it was top heavy.  It remained underwater until salvage started in 1961.  The museum contains the restored ship, models of what it would have looked like and detauls of how it was raised and restored.  The masts are actually so tall that in order to reflect their true height facsimile mastheads are place on the roof of the museum at the level they would have been.

Vasa Museum

The Nordiska Museet next door

From the Vasa Museum I walked down through the park to the Fjord to "hop on" the tour boat.  One turned up nearly 40 minutes later, having already been refused by two from the other company.  If ever there was a case of calling heads or tails wrong this was it.  However the boat ride was good.  Believe it or not we went all the way down the the Cruise Terminal before heading back towards the city.  Sightly more interesting as we had to make a wide detour to avoid an arriving cruise ship.  We passed several interesting features and buildings and I left the boat by the Royal Theatre, bursting for the loo.  I also had to find somewhere quiet to sit to phone our conservatory company, which is another story

Vasa museum and Nordiska Museet


Hotels on Strandvagen

Grona Lund  Theme Park

Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern

I found a cafe at the edge of the King's Gardens which had a toilet sign outside so I wandered in . The charge was 10kroner. This I did not have, only large notes. There was a sign on the turnstile apologising that the machine was too old to take a card. So I went to the counter and bought a sandwich and a glass of beer and 10 kroner worth of toilet, all on my card, and asked her to hold the sandwich and beer while I spent the 10 kroner. Finally sat outside, under an umbrella for shade, I was able to eat my lunch and phone Coral.

Yesterday I had spent some time writing the blog, but although the bluetooth keyboard worked well, the touchpad was no good at all for my aged fingers.  I produced textboxes and typed without a problem, but when it came to moving text boxes and pictures around I just could not place them accurately  and kept losing them completely.  So it was time to find a computer type shop and find a bluetooth mouse, not even knowing if there was such a thing.  The tablet does not have a standard USB socket, and all the mice I have known either have a wire with a USB or a little USB plug in.  I started up google maps and found a couple of possible shops not too far away.  As I got up to start walking the phone went black.  No battery left.  So I had to navigate by memory.  Thankfully my internal compass sent me in the right direction and a shop was found.  A very helpful LG lady explained it all to me and pointed me to the cheapest blue tooth worth buying.

So then it was back to the hotel, unable to take photos as I went.  I did repeat some of the route the following morning and took some photos, which follow.  Using the map from the hop on hop off tour I found my way to bus stop number one and after not too long a bus came which took me to the stop I had first started from this morning..  Walking back through the old town I passed the Nobel Prize centre, crowded with people taking photos.  Being a bit parched I bought a bottle of water and an ice cream from a van, paying in cash, the first time cash had left my wallet in Sweden.

Back at the hotel I was able to sit up on the top deck with a coke, set up my tablet and do some serious blog work for an hour or so.  Then it was dinner time, getting a bit chilly, so I went downstairs and ordered a meal from the Thai restaurant which occupied reception level.  Very tasty.

So here are some of tomorrow morning's photos to complete the stockholm day

Rikstaghuset (Parliament)

Sergels Torg

The tower glows in changing colours at night

Gateway to Parliament entrances

Ahlens Department store

Opera House

The old main Post Office


Day 6 : 24 August 2023

Last night was not too good,  A horrible dry tickly cough which kept me awake a lot of the time.  I cold not face dragging my bags along the quayside, up the stairs, across the bridge, down the stairs, into the metro, more stairs and on and on.  So I lashed out on a taxi.  My train was not until 13:11  so I had plenty of time.  At the station I descended to the left luggage and negotiated the complicity of the electronics to stow my bags for the morning.  Back in the main concourse I found a pharmacy who sold me a bottle of opiates for the cough then a  shop which had a huge range of different flavoured Fishermen's Friends. Then upstairs to the SJ lounge for a coffee and the worlds smallest marzipan roll, identical in appearance to those tasty IKEA ones, but small enough to rival LNER's flapjack.  Then a walk round the station end of town, which I had seen yesterday after my phone had run out.  I bought postczrds and stamps for my two granddaughters, wrote them in a Cafe Nero with an iced latte and posted them back at the station.

I returned to the SJ lounge to kill the last half hour with a cup of tea and another miniature marzipan, then retreived my luggage and went for the train.  There had been all sorts of diversions on this line in the past couple of weeks following the landslips and train crash, so I was not sure if it would run to schedule, but it did.  The usual comfortable first class seats, although in this case my recliner was broken so would not adjust without falling completely backwards. Fortunately its only safe position was comfortable enough.  Not so the fold down table, which was at a slant so anything you put on it slid off into your lap.  This included a full cup of coffee, which was rescued just in time.

I don't remember much of the journey, which was spent coughing, sweating and blowing my nose,  but there were lakes and the scenery was a bit more interesting than before.  I have put some pictures down the side, but could not begin to tell you where they are.  We got to Ostersund on time and the hotel was just a couple of minutes walk from the station.  My text to Lesley says I arrived safe but would have a nap.  I stripped off, lay on the bed and awoke shivering at 10.  Too late to go looking for food, even if I felt like it, so pjs on, back into bed and back to sleep, ready for an early start in the morning.

Day 7: 25 August 2023

This was planned to be one of the highlights of my trip.  In fact I had to plan the trip round this day as tomorrow is the last day this train runs its daily summer schedule.  The  Inlandsbanan is a single line track that runs for 321 KM from Mora to Ostersund, then 746 KM from Ostersund to Gallivare.  I was to take the second run, deparing Ostersund at 07:40 and arriving Gallivare at 22:18.

The hotel beakfast started at 06:30 and I was there on the dot, although not feeling yet 100%. The variety was limited.  I could not face coffee, so opted for a Lipton's tea bag. English Breakfast it wasn't, in fact tea might have been a misnomer.  Very strange flowery taste.  There were some bran flakes and a cool cupboard loaded with all sorts of milk, none of which I could recognise or understand.  I tried one and it came out thick, so stopped at once and tried another.  The thick one  had a similar taste to a fermented milk Lesley and I had bought in error in Poland.  Then the selection of bread seemed to be crispbreads of varying thicknesses and colours and black bread.  Nothing I fancied.  So I paid for the hotel and went to the little shop on the station and bought a sugar free lemonade and a muffin.  Felt a lot better after that.

The Route

The interior was far more comfortable than the outside would lead you to believe, which I suppose is rather important for a 15 hour journey! There was a self service coffee machine with snacks at the centre of the coach, a decent toilet and access to the driver's cab at either end, great for views and pictures.  Because of the length of the journey the health and safety of the passengers as well as the drivers and host are important and there are several places along line where the train stops for a break. There was an "unscheduled" station stop mid morning for a five minute leg stretch, a 60 minute break for lunch,  a late afternoon stop with a sandwich, a 40 minute break to look at the museum, a ten minute stop to look at the interesting bridge we had just crossed, and of course a photoshoot when we crossed the arctic circle.  Lunch and "dinner" were pre-ordered from the train, ready for us when we arrived at the stop.  Lunch was a fine affair in a popular restaurant, while Dinner was sold by a man on a bike, pre wrapped in foil.  Lunch was delicious, as pictured below.  Dinner was a wrap.  Not a thin delicate tortilla style one, but a thick and hearty wheaten one, stuffed with salad and reindeer meat.  Well, I had to try it, didn't I?

Other stops seemed completely at random.  Most of the stations on the line are request stops, with advance notice to be given. In this case the hostess would announce that we were stopping at x to pick someone up or to set someone down.  There was one occasion though where communication had broken down.  We trundled through a station with a man standing on the platform.  As we passed without slowing he starte waving frantically.  Our hostess had a quick word with the driver, who slammed on his brakes, put the train into reverse and backed up the 50 yards to the station.  I suppose the knowledge that there is only one other train on this 700km of track and that is in front of you, makes that an easy decision to make.  On another occasion a couple of passengers were set down by a house in the middle of nowhere.  There was a small welcome party waiting outside the house, including an old granny and there was much rejoicing and hugging.  Then our driver got out and joined in, getting huge hugs and kisses from the granny as if he was her long lost son.  Then the hostess gets out to take photos of them all.  Eventually he came back and off we went again.  The bridge was one which was a combined rail and road bridge, which the driver thought was quite unique.  At the far side of the bridge he stopped, went to check the road traffic lights were still red and then beckoned us off the train to inspect this wonder of engineering.  While we did this the driver stood chatting with the local pick up truck which was waiting patiently.

Wild Lingonberries

Random train stop

Road and Rail bridge

Of course, as well as the excitement of the stops, there was the scenery as we travelled.  Whilst not yet mountainous it was very different from the agricultural fields and lakes of earlier journeys.  Here there is very little by way of cultivation.  There are  miles of forests, pine and birch and areas of swampy marshland.  Most interesting were the long stretches of boulders, a few large ones not unlike Erratic stones left by a glacier, many smaller ones very like a dried up riverbed, which is exactly what our guide suggested they were.  The rivers in question must have been miles wide, as a result of a huge glacial melt, or there must have been a huge upheaval of the earth's surface to lift these stretches high and dry.  Many of the stretches were open and laid bare, many covered in moss and reeds, many overgrown with birches.  But there were miles and miles of them.  Then there were the rivers themselves, wide, fast flowing with many hydroelectric dams.  It was certainly an unusual and puzzling landscape.

As well as the landscape there was the wildlife.  The driver would often slow if he saw something ahead, reindeers on the line, a moose, capercaillies.  Unfortunately they all disappeared far too quickly to catch on camera.  I got a glimpse of a moose's bottom, not a hint of the capercaillies, but I was pleased to see a couple of groups (not enough to call a herd) of reindeer.

It was a long day, but it did not drag at all.  Nevertheless I was quite weary when we arrived at Gallivare and my phone was nearly flat.  Sat nav was struggling to load, how on earth would I find my hotel?  I looked up and there it was, right opposite the station.

Day 8: 26 August 2023

Given last night's late arrival I planned for a later start this morning, taking the midday train to Narvik.  So this morning I had a wander round Gallivare.  Three minutes later I was wondering what to do next!  It is quite a large town with an equal proprtion of empty buildings to occupied ones, far more closed shops than open, the only active restaurants were pizza shops.  As for people, well I saw a couple of dozen, but some of them were, like me, killing time waiting for the train.  Don't get me wrong, it was not unattractive, just like a ghost town.  When I queried this in one of the shops I was told to come back in the winter, when it is a top winter sports centre.  That explained it!

I did find a couple of open shops, including a coop supermarket, where I bought a sandwich and a drink for lunch.  Then it was back to the hotel to pick up my luggage from their left luggage room, grab a free cup of coffee and sit and chat to a Swedish couple who I had met on the Inlandsbahnen yesterday.  They were heading for Kiruna, the first stop on my train, to do some trail walking.  Over to the station to board the train, which arrived on time in spite of already having travelled 14 hours from Stockholm.  Reserved seats were compulsory and the train was pretty full, mainly of hardy people with rucksacks twice the size of a small child. 

Many left at Kiruna, but just as many got on.  The stop in Kiruna was for 50 minutes, so the platform was full of people taking a break from the train, people who had climbed on board, stowed their luggage and come back out to the fresh air, and people who were reluctant to board until nearer the time.  Kiruna's claim to fame is that it is one of Sweden's largest cities by area, but with a very small population.  The old city was placed over the Iron Ore mines and started to collapse into the mine.  It was moved out of the way and I suspect the large lake close to the station is where the city used to be.  Iron Ore and other minerals are the main business here, and the railway line from here to Narvik, the nearest port, was built specifically for the ore trains and they still have priority over passenger traffic.  It was of vital import to the Germans in the second world war and the battles to maintain the line and the port of Narvik were very important. Not a part of the war we hear much about, unless you are a war historian.

View from hotel window                     Gallivare main square

Kiruna station and ski slope beyond

From Kiruna onwards the scenery changes quite dramatically.  The line climbs slowly at first and reaches the shores of the Tornetraske, a long lake which reaches almost to the Norwegian border.  There are a number of stations along the lakeshore, all tourist destinations, most notable of which is Abisko, the launch point for many long distance mountain trails.  Here many of the huge rucksacks departed, carried by eager young trekkers, and an equal number boarded, carried by weary trekkers.  

A final climb to the border with Norway, through unused border points and customs sheds and then the long descent along the fjords to the Norwegian coast, an absolutely wonderful journey with views on both sides to die for.  I will let the pictures speak for themselves. 

When we finally reached Narvik I checked the directions to the hotel.  It didnt look far on the map and I was puzzled by the time it was forecast to take.  Then I looked up and saw how steep a hill it would involve.  Not easy at the best of times, but with all this baggage?  Normally at a station like this, anywhere else in the world, there would be a line of taxis touting for business.  Not here.  Most of the passengers headed for pre-arranged coach tours, leaving a few wandering around aimlessly.  I found a taxi advert and phoned the freephone number, to find that freephone numbers do not work on UK simcards abroad.  So I had to download the App and book from there.  A taxi came reasonably quickly and the driver loaded my luggage and took me up the hill.  Outside the hotel he presented me with a card machine, 179 Kroner (£13 for three minutes).  I had not yet pulled my Norwegian cash out, so sadly there was no tip.  No tip means get your luggage out of my boot yourself.  I checked in and was given a pleasant room which was the furthest possible from reception.  The views over the Fjord might have been visible on a stepladder on the roof, but from my room? The end of a ski slope.

I couldn't face the walk down to eat, or the walk back up again afterwards and the website promised a nice restaurant in the hotel so I went there and sat down.  The waiter came along and asked if I would like bacon, cheese, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, onion...Hold on, I would like a menu please.  Sorry, that is the menu.  The menu today is a burger with fries and a choice of fillings.  Disappointed, Moi?  Actually the burger was very nice and it might well have been what I would have had anyway.  And so to bed.

Day 9: 27 August 2023

This morning was one I was not sure about.  Nearly 4 hours on a bus.  Still it was supposed to be a memorable journey, and to get from Narvik to the Norwegian rail network involved a bus transfer anyway.  It was a fine morning and the walk down the hill and through the town was easy enough.  Following my satnav towards the bus station I came to a closed shopping centre (it was Sunday, after all) and a flight of about three thousand stairs down the outside to the bus station at the foot.  No way with my trolley.  So I backed off and plotted the route the bus would take.  A bit of a detour, but easier.  The bus station was deserted, but I was 40 minutes early and mine was the only bus due to leave this morning,  Eventually some other rucksacks appeared.  They were chatting in English so I joined them.  A bus appeared, but it had a wrong heading on it so we ignored it.  Then a second bus appeared, labelled Svolvaer so over we went.  Our luggage was loaded into the hold and we climbed aboard.  Very comfy seats with plenty of room.  A few more joined us and we set off five minutes early.  What about that couple walking towards the bus?  We ignored them, but I soon realised why.  The second bus was also going to Svolvaer, and because nearly all passengers needed luggage stowing in the hold the buses leapfrogged at each stop to save time.

The Lefoten Peninsular is a chain of islands like no other I have seen.  Deep fjords and high mountains, but not so much a mountain range but a series of separate peaks.  The journey was fascinating.  At one point we stopped at a ferry terminal, timed for the arrival of one of the island ferries, and there was an exchange of passengers and rucksacks.  Eventually we reached Svolvaer, with the bus terminating just 50 yards from my hotel.

The hotel let me check in early, so I could lose my baggage and walk out to find some lunch.  In the square opposite the hotel were a number of boat trip booking cabins and a Thai food outlet with an offer on spring rolls.  That's just what I fancied, appease the hunger without being a full meal.  Then the job that needed doing, a bit of clothes washing.  I had read that the tourist information office (which was next door to the hotel) sold tokens for the launderette.  Token in hand, with directions, I went to investigate.  Yes, just the job.  Clothes loaded in I set my phone alarm and wandered off to explore Svolvaer.  Not that there was much to explore.  It is a centre for hikers and ramblers, for boat tours and anglers, but not for old pedestrians without a car or bike.  The town was thoroughly explored in the time the washing machine took.  Then I realised I had chosen a programme with a slow spin speed, which meant a couple of hours with the tumble drier, which fortunately was free.  While that was running I booked a boat trip for the following day.  All the trips were actually the same, through the islands, up the fjords to Troll Fjord, passing the white tailed sea eagles on the way.  The only choice was either a high speed RIB or a leasurely electric boat.  I chose the latter.  Then it was back to the hotel to do some ironing (!) and blog writing.

Views across the bay plus a mountain at every street end.

That night I had to try the local speciality, stockfish.  Like Bacalau it is preserved cod, but unlike Bacalau there is no salt involved.  The fish are hung out to dry in the spring, and the arctic air plus a bacteria related to the one that makes cheese dries and preserves the fish.  The drying is done on wooden frames and you will see examples of these in tomorrow's boat trip pictures.  The result is a hideous looking object which looks hard and could possibly be used as a baseball bat.  To cook the traditional way the fish is boiled in water then roasted for 15 minutes.  I will be honest, it did not appeal at all, but I had to try it and actually it was not bad.  A little chewy, but reasonably tasty.

Day 10: 28 August 2023

Today was the day of the boat trip, but not until 13:00.  Having explored Svolvaer yesterday  I spent much of the morning working on the blog, which is falling behind.  Then a sandwich from the local deli, sitting in the square.  The boat was sitting at the dock and I joined the boarding queue.  A well kitted out boat, with seating inside and out, a bar with drinks and light refreshments and a well-informed Scottish lass doing a commentary in English, covering the history of this part of the Lofoten, the fjords, the fishing industry and the wildlfe.  We should be able to see white tailed sea eagles on the trip.  I imagined possibly the odd one soaring high in the sky.  Most of all I was looking forward to the scenery, particularly the target for the cruise, Trollfjorden.  This is a short narrow fjord, its entrance only 100 yards wide, high cliffs either side, and said to be the home of the Trolls.  It seems there are several thousand trolls still living on the Lofoten, although they have never been seen.  There are certainly 100,000 or more in the gift shops!

The boat was noisy when manouvering in port, but otherwise, on electric power, it was completely silent and fume free.  It was not long before the first eagles were spotted, first one, then a pair, perching on a rocky island.  Suddenly there were more, quite a colony in fact.  We passed the same group of rocky islets on the way back, steering slowly between them, and saw even more.  A few flew off majestically, most just sat there staring at the intrusion.

The trip along the Trollfjord was done in silence, with no commentary.  Even the RIBs, which had passed us at high speed, slowed right down to a putter putter.  Apart from it's narrowness and the silence, it was not unlike any other fjord.  I did not spot and Trolls, either.  On the way back we stopped by a deep clear rocky pool and the crew released an underwater drone so we could see the underwater flora and fauna on the large TV screens in the bar.  We visited the eagles again and as we entered the harbour we got a close up of the  stockfish drying frames and also the statue of the Fisherman's wife, looking out to see for her husband.

Day 11: 29 August 2023

Next morning was an early start, check in at 5:45 for the 6:00 fast ferry to Bodo.  Breakfast was included in the hotel price, but service didn't start until 6:30, so a breakfast box was provided.  It was a long walk from the hotel door to the boat, all of six long strides!  The boat set off on time, of course, then one of the crew came round collecting fares.  There was an ptside seating area but it was a damp drizzly morning so I sat inside, close to the coffee counter and ate my breakfast.  The weather was a disappointment as there were supposed to be good views of the mainland mountains.  I followed the map on my phone as we called in at several island ports on the way.  We finally arrived at Bodo spot on time, at 9:15.

Bodo will be one of the European Capitals of Culture in 2024, but now is not a good time to visit as all the roads are being dug up and quite a few buildings are being renovated.  Nevertheless there are a number of interesting modern buildings and a few older ones.  Places worth visiting are out of town and there was not really time to make the trip to see one of the worlds largest whirlpools, which was a pity.  I had hoped to stop longer to make these trips, but train difficulties on the following weekend meant I had to move on earlier.

My first task was to walk across town to the station to leave my bags at the left luggage lockers.  Most larger Scandinavian stations have a similar system.  Log into a computer screen, pick the size of locker you want, put your credit card in to pay for an hour up front, a locker door springs open and the machine prints out a receipt with a code number on it; you stow your stuff and push the door closed, whereupon it locks.  When you return, you key in the code number, it tells you how much more you need to pay and once the card is flashed the door springs open.  It is a system I had used without problems several times already.  So log on, flash the card, pay and hour, put stuff in locker, but the locker won't lock and there is no receipt for what I have paid.  I phoned the helpline, which unlike many UK helplines was actually helpful.  The remote office took control of the system and allocated me a different locker.  I could see him using the screen with his mouse racing all over and he read out a code number.  That should open the locker for you when you return.

Luggage stowed, I wandered back through the town, this time along the other street.  I was looking for a coffee bar with wifi so I could have a snack while blogging.  I found one and had a nice coffee and the ubiquitous skillingsboller (cinnamon pastry), but the wifi was terrible!  Further through the town I came to nice marina and a huge new library and concert hall complex.  The library had an excellent cafe and plenty of room to sit down with the blog.  Yes, I am spending a lot of time on the blog, but doing it on the tablet is slow and often frustrating work!

I would be getting the night sleeper to Trondheim and would need a meal before boarding.  I also wanted to get my baggage out of the locker before the help team went home, just in case there was an issue.  So I trundled back to the station.  I had noticed a reasonable diner above the station so I checked their hours when I arrived.  Closes midnight.  That's good, must stay open for people catching the sleeper.  I went downsatirs and retrieved my luggage without problem and sat in the waiting room along with a number of others.  I decided I would eat at about 8, so when the time arrived I trudged upstairs to the cafe to find it had closed at 6.  Closer inspection disclosed that the midnight closing time referred to the door to the station, not to the cafe.  So dinner would be trail mix and water.  Oh well.

Time came to board and I was issued with a smart card to open the door to my compartment.  A pleasant little space in which to spend the night.

Day 12 : 30 August 2023

My original plan was to spend a full day in Trondheim, one time capital of Norway, and take the night sleeper to Oslo.  Unfortunately the terrible storm a week or so earlier had caused flooding and washed away part of the line between Trondheim and Lillehammer so the night trains were cancelled and the first five hours of the trip would be by replacement bus, leaving at lunchtime.  A refund for the sleeper charge was almost instantaneous and I booked a hotel for the night in Oslo.

We arrived in Trondheim at 07:15 and my first task was to leave luggage in the station and seek some breakfast. I walked up through the town, coffee shops were either not yet open or full of early commuters.  I spotted the cathedral ahead, and continued towards that, but still no luck.  The Cathedral itself was closed, but the views of it were splendid.  The cathedral is built over the tomb of Olav II, who became patron saint of Norway, and is the traditional place for Norwegian monarchs to be consecrated. Built between 1070 and 1300 , it is the most northerly medieval church in the world.  It is certainly impressive.  Close by is the Bishop's Palace, a large and rather ugly stone building now holding a museum.

Skirting around the cathedral I came to a nice park and the banks of the Nidelva River.  Heading back along here I came to the Gamle Bybro, the old bridge across the river, built in the 1600s.  It forms a major pedestrian and cycle route from the residential areas to the city.  From it you get the much photographed views of the houses and warehouses on the riverbank.  I crossed the bridge into a much older area and found a coffee shop for a welcome cuppa and cinnamon bun.

I walked back through the town, which was coming to life.  There were a number of interesting buildings, old and new.  I came across the Sjofartsmuseum (Maritime Museum) which I wandered around for a while.  There was an interesting film of an interview with a retired seaman and the training he underwent on sailing ships as late as the twenties.  Outside there was a monument for sailors lost at sea.

Then it was back to the station to retrieve luggage and find a sandwich to eat on the bus for lunch, then find the bus.

The five hour rail replacement bus trip to Lillehammer was not nearly as bad as expected.  Most importantly the transport provided by SJ Intercity was not your average UK rail replacement.  It was a spacious and very comfortable coach.  The journey was broken at Dombas, giving passengers a chance for a loo, coffee and watever they fancied to eat back on board.  The scenery was wonderful.  Then arriving at Lillehammer  our train awaited us in the station.  It was just another hour and a bit to Oslo. Once there, I found the hotel, unpacked  and went for a pizza.

Left:  Church at Dombas, by our "pit stop"

Right: the Olympic ski jump at Lillehammer

Day 13: 31 August 2023

The day started with a shock.  During breakfast I received a text message from Vy rail advising that due to adverse weather conditions overnight my midday train to Bergen was cancelled and no alternative could be offered.  It was my original plan to have a full day in Oslo and travel tomorrow, but all tomorrow's trains had been fully booked, which is why I was travelling today.  I had a hotel booked in Bergen for tonight, and a hotel in Flam booked and paid for for the following two nights.  I was a bit anxious.  Back in my room I logged on to the Vy online help desk.  They had always been helpful in the past and they came up trumps again this time.  She managed to squeeze me a reservation on the 16:25.  That was due in to Bergen at 23:18 and no doubt there would be delays going past the damaged track.  I contacted the hotel and advised of a possible late check in (check in was due to close at midnight) and they confirmed that they had an all night desk and the night porter would be aware of the situation.  The minus would be that the last part of the Bergensbanen would be in the dark, the plus would be that I had longer to spend exploring Oslo.  The minus wasn't really a minus, because I would be travelling that stretch tomorrow on the way to Flam.

So after that my day continued in the usual pattern.  Trundle back to the station and the left luggage lockers then set off through the town.  I devised a rough route through the pedestrianised town centre towards the Royal Palace, then down towards the harbour and round the promenade to the Opera House, and Munch gallery.  The first sight was a statue of a giant tiger on the station forecourt.  The main street, Karl Johans Gate ascended slowly past shops and the cathedral until the palace came into view.  This is closed to the public so there was no point in walking right up to it.  Close by was the National Theatre, a splendid building set in a nice park and currently showing Jane Eyre.

I now turned towards the harbour.  The first building I saw there was the Nobel Peace Centre.  Even though this is set at one end, it still seems to dominate the harbourside and the large plaza between the sea and Radhuset (Town Hall).  I sat for a while watching the ferries come and go and the tours queuing for the tour boats.  Then along the promenade and up the hill at the end to the Akershus, the Royal Fort on a promontory looking out over the fjord.  The Akershus has a great claim to fame.  In 2,000 years it has never been captured by an enemy force.  It is a venerated place for the Norwegians and the crypt now contains the bodies of Norway's recent monarchs.  It is also used for state and parliamentary functions.  Obviously it merited a visit.

Some of the buildings on the hill were an Army Barracks and training school and it felt strange walking through this area to reach the bay on the other side.  Having stopped for an ice cream I wandered along the shore, with views of the opera house and the Munch museum, two wonderful pieces of modern architecture so typical of Scandinavia.  I was surprised to see along the shores various bathing stations and even a small sandy beach with kids playing and paddling.

After filling my brain with Munch it was time for lunch, but first I sat on a bench to phone British gas and scream.  That's a long story which I won't go into here,  Then to the station, buy a sandwich for the journey, retrieve luggage and catch the train to Bergen.  Some lovely views of the lakes on the way up and the snow on the top, but none of the descent because by then it was dark.  Surprisingly the train arrived in Bergen almost on time, but by then it was a short walk to the hotel and bed.

Day 14:  1 September 2023

Today I was off to Flam, one of the highlights of my trip, to travel what is claimed to be the world's most scenic railway, to stay two nights in a smart hotel with posh meals, and to take a cruise round a Unesco World Heritage fjord.  But first I had to sort tickets for the Flamsbana, which could not be done on line with an Interrail discount.  So off to the station with baggage, negotiate the locker system then to the ticket office.  This was manned by Entur, part of the Norwegian Rail system that deals with travel of all sorts, another agency which had been very helpful to me in the planning stage.  The train I was intending to catch to Myrdal, where I would change for the Flamsbana, was the Oslo train, so a seat reservation was required.  Then there was the ticket to Flam for today and the return on Sunday, and confirmation that I did not need a reservation for the return from Myrdal to Bergen.  All was produced on one two foot long talley roll!

I was left with the morning to explore Bergen.  Having seen the mist on the hill as I walked round the central lake I decided not to take the cable car to the top of the hill to see the famous view, but there was ample time to wander the streets, see the old port and browse the many tourist shops.  Bergen was once a Hanseatic League member, an important trading port, always an important fishing port,  and now an important cruise ship stop off.  The harbour side, Bryggen,  was thronging with tour groups of all race and nationality.  The tourist shops were full of Americans and Chinese as well as shelves of expensive tack.  Many shops were stuffed to the gunwhales with trolls.  One shop was given over entirely to Moomins, which I thought were Finnish.  Very cleverly the  Radisson had built a big modern hotel behind the Bryggen using the shop fronts as they were and some of the rear shops as hotel premises.

On the way back to the station I passed the fish market, past its peak at 11am but still well stocked with all sorts of fish and with the fish cafes beginning to open up.

Back at the station I retrieved my luggage and bought a sandwich for lunch then boarded the train.  The trip up to Myrdal was as picturesque as I had expected.

Then we arrived at Myrdal and shortly after that the Flamsbanan arrived up its branch line.  The descent from here to Flam is 867 metres (2800 feet) in 20km.  80% of the journey is at a gradient of 5.5%,  one of the steepest standard gauge lines in the world.  So steep that it has powerful electric locomotives at each end.  20 tunnels, one of which does a 180 degree turn.  The scenery at every moment is jawdropping and cannot be adequately expressed in a few photographs.  Half way down the train takes a photostop at the Kjosfossen waterfall and the guard tells the tale of the water maiden to the background of a mysterious singing lady.

Down in Flam I checked in to the hotel then went for a wander round the small town.  It is a cruise ship stop off so it has many gift shops and a number of "Factory Outlet" shops selling Norwegian sweaters and outdoor wear.  In spite of this it was all very tastefully laid out and the views across and down the Fjord were wonderful.  Fortunately there was no cruise ship visiting at present.  Then it was time to retreat to my room, unpack, and prepare myself for the hotel dinner.  The meal was well praised i reviews and personally I think it warranted a star or two from the Michelin Man.  It was certainly priced as if it was!  what was it? 

Sriracha and lime cured salmon served on a potato salad with cream cheese and herbs; pork cheeks marinated in Aegir beer served with fresh cabbage salad, pickled lingonberries, beetroot coulis, creamy mashed potatoes and jus with Aegir beer;  brown cheesed panacotta served with rasberry sorbet and chocolate soil.  705NOK  (£53 plus beer) Each course had its recommended beer.

Day 15:  2 September 2023

Today was the electric boat cruise along the Aurlandsfjord and up the Naeroyfjord to Gudvangen.  The ship was to leave at 11:30 and arrive at Gudvagen at 1:30.  There was a shuttle bus to take people back to Flam and I booked the 4:30, to give me time for lunch and to explore the Viking Museum.   First though I took a look at the Flamsbana museum, with some old vehicles and a history of the monumental task of building the railway.    I partook of a coffee and bun outside the Flam Bakeri, entertaining the sparrows as I did, as I waited for departure.  There seemed to be far too many in the queue to embark, but there was plenty of room inside and out.  Once we got out into the proper there was a stiff breeze, quite chilly out of the sun, but the breeze kept the clouds away and there were great views.

At Gudvangen I had a sandwich for lunch then explored the little port, crossed the bridge and went in search of the Viking Museum, which was not at all well signposted.  It was, though, very interesting, giving quite a good insight into the daily lives of Viking villagers.  There were guides dressed as Vikings giving talks on Viking needlework and the Viking gods and displays of archery and axethrowing in which the audience could participate.  I went back to the harbour cafe for a coffee, then caught the shuttle bus back to Flam.

Back at theFlam I wandered the shops for a while then went to prepare myself for that evening's meal.  This time, instead of eating in the hotel restaurant I was going to eat in the hotel brewery bar, which was offering a taster menu with a taster of beer to go with each course.  How could I resist.  I had booked a table, which was just as well as the place was heaving.  Downstairs was a bar / pub and the upstairs balcony was set out for dining. The tall Viking like guy at the door was dealing with two young ladies who hadn't booked, then turned to me and said "Ah, you must be John, sorry to keep you waiting".  Service indeed.  He took me upstairs to my table and introduced me to my waiter.  Shortly afterwards what I can only describe as a 'plank' of beer arrived, five tumblers of varying colours.  The waiter advised I was free to drink in any order I wanted, but the recommended order, to match the food, was centre first, then left to right.  When the food came I saw the reason for the centre first, that was the soup course.  And at the far right, with a rich porter, was a chocolate brownie.   At the end I felt I had to round off the meal with a glass of their home produced aquavit.

From left to right: Salmon tartare served with pickled fennel, green peas,  herb mayo and Asian style dressing; slow cooked lamb with red onion compote and blueberry cream; creamy tomato and coconut soup with seasonal fish and mussels; spiced young goat with creamy mashed potatoes and roasted apple puree; dark chocolate cake with porter ganache.  675NOK (£50).

Day 16: 3 September 2023

During the night a cruise ship had arrived and the passengers were thronging around the shops, the bakery and the railway station.  It was also damp and misty.  I had been so fortunate with the weather so far, my luck had to change.  The train back to Myrdal was pretty full, although cleverly the railway company had used two platform entrances, one for the tours and one for the "private" bookings, directing the tours to the front and the regulars to the rear,  so my end of the train was not too full.  Sadly, because of the weather, the views were not as brilliant, although I did get one shot of the line up the hill in the distance.  Then the train from Myrdal to Bergen was a washout.  Bergen was wet and miserable.  I bought a sandwich to eat in the station (which the pigeons did their best to grab) before walking through the rain to my hotel.  There would be no sightseeing today.  I did a bit of catching up on the blog, which was still way behind as there had been very shaky internet at Flam.  Later I scurried over the road to a Thai takeaway which had seats and ate a delicious and cheap sweet and sour chicken and rice.

Day 17: 4 September 2023

The day dawned wet and miserable, with mist on the hills.  No way was it worthwhile taking the cable car today, it would have to wait for a future visit, maybe.  It was not even worthwhile having a walk round town.   Check in for the boat was 12:00 and I was not sure where exactly the check in was.  I packed and checked out, but stayed in the hotel lounge with a coffee and my blog for a while, before  venturing out into the drizzle for the 15 minute walk to the port.  There was an enormous cruise ship docked here, Aida Nova, housing 5 to 6,000 passengers.  Good Grief, it was if someone had built a block of flats overnight.

All was well signposted for traffic, but nothing for pedestrians.  Several others were in the same predicament and we headed for a likely building which looked right.  Inside was a desk selling tickets and people milling around.  I had a ticket so headed upstairs to the departure arena, but there was a ticket gate to pass where boarding cards had to be shown.  I went back downstairs and saw a small notice by the ticket desk instructing passengers with prepaid tickets to check in here.  I did so and was issued with a boarding card cum cabin keycard and told to go upstairs to the waiting room.  I was in plenty of time and there was a large cafe up there so I stopped off for a sandwich and a drink.  I passed through the ticket barrier and waited in the lounge until the sailing was called.  The  boarding was not unlike boarding a plane, with endless walkways and sky ways until eventually I was  on the good  ship  Bergensfjord wondering where on earth my cabin was.  Then it dawned on me, the first digit on my cabin number was the deck number and once there the corridors were quite clearly marked.  The cabin was nice, with a settee that folded down to a bed and a bed concealed in the wall which folded down.  There was also a ladder, which puzzled me, until I noticed catches in the ceiling.  There were two more bunk beds stowed up there.

We set sail not long after and headed down the Fjords towards Stavanger.  The views were good as the sun gradually came out, but there was a stiff wind out on deck which at some times was so strong it was difficult to stand.

We docked in Stavanger, although it was a Ryan Air version of Stavanger, Tjora, several miles away.  While docked the the ship filled up with LPG, which involved fencing off one half of the outer decks for safety reasons.  The 7:30 pm sitting for dinner called.  I had booked 7:30, but it appeared that 7:30 was the only sitting.  There was an enormous queue and as it was a self service buffet I groaned at the thought.  However it was much more civilised than I expected.  When I reached the door, being a single diner, I was ushered past the crowds to a seat at the far side of the room.  Right, said the hostess, I suggest you start at this side of the buffet as it is less crowded.  You have this table until 9pm.  You can eat and drink as much as you want until then.  The buffet contained salads of every description, several types of curry, roast beef, pork, chicken, turkey and lamb, multitudes of vegetable, various forms of cooked potatoes and all sorts of raw, pickled and cooked fish and seafood. Then to drink, the usual range of fizzy soft drinks, orange or apple juice and beer and wine on tap.  If that wasn't enough there were four or five different cold puddings and coffee.

After that lot I staggered upstairs to see what was happening on deck.  We were still in dock!  I went downstairs again to explore the duty free shop, but like most duty free shops prices seemed slighty higher than Morrisons.  I was ready for bed, so I returned to my cabin, pulled the bed from the wall and slept like a log.

Day 18: 5 September 2023

I woke early after a completely undisturbed night.  None of the expected rocking and rolling, in fact I wondered if we were still docked at Stavanger.  Breakfast was at 6:30 and worked on the same basis as last night.  A long queue, get a table, and then as much as you wanted to eat and drink between 6:30 and 8:00. It was the usual selection of yoghurts, grains, breads, cold meats and cheese followed by croissants or sweet buns.

The ship docked spot on time at 8:00 .  Like many modern ports the increased amount of roll-on-roll-off freight has meant that the ship no longer docks in the town but in a new terminal several miles away.  There was a bus (extra cost) which went to Aarlborg and a minibus which took a few of us to Hirtshals station.  A train awaited at the station, which in turn was a little way from the town, so I climbed aboard deciding to give Hirtshals a miss.  This meant I had more time to kill in Aarlborg waiting for my connection, so I googled the city to see what there was to see.  I spotted a large Viking burial ground and museum reachable by a short bus ride from the station before Aarlborg so decided to visit.  Lindholme Hoje is a huge area of stones placed in rectangles or boat shapes, the site of Viking cremations.  In the middle ages the whle area had been covered by shifting sand and forgotton about. The museum next door contained items dug up from the graves and pictures of how the cremation was done. 

The bus took me back to the main station in Aarlborg, a very majestic building.  I grabbed a coffee and a sandwich for the journey and boarded the train to Aarhus.

I had visited Aarhus as a young Boy Scout in the mid 60's and was curious to know if I remembered any of it.  As expected, the answer was no.  However it proved to be a very interesting city, well worth the visit.  I had booked a hotel close to the old part of the city, but of course that meant it was quite a hike from the station.  Nevertheless it was an interesting walk along the pedestrianised main shopping street, packed with shops of all sorts, some with familiar names, many I had never heard of.  Many were pretty posh.  At the far end the street crossed a canal which was lined with restaurants then dropped down to the cathedral square.  At the edge of the square was a very grand theatre, and opposite that was my hotel.

Having checked in and dropped off my bags I went for a wander.  The cathedral was like so many in Scandinavia, amazing decorated brickwork outside and very plain white inside.  Opposite the cathedral a pedestrian square led to another shopping street,  lined with buildings of all ages and design.  That street led on to an older street then a small park by the canal.  Turning back I came across a lovely old street lined with colourful cottages, quite a surprise in the middle of an otherwise busy modern city.  Then I returned to the canal bank and walked along inspecting the restaurants and their menus until I reached the far end and turned back towards the hotel.

It was an exceptionally hot afternoon and the sun was very bright so I was glad to get back to the hotel for a shower and a brief nap.  Then I ventured back to the canal bank and had a very nice plate of linguini with pork and a lingonberry sauce, together with a very welcome beer.

Day 19: 6 September 2023

Today I had a choice between a relatively short trip direct to Odense or a longer one across the country and back via Esbjerg.  I chose the latter, partly to squeeze every bit of value out of the interrail pass, but mainly because all those years ago I had hiked much of the journey from Esbjerg to Aarhus and I was curious to see, as yesterday, whether I recognised any of it.  Although the countryside was a blur, I did recognise some of the names of little villages we passed, but especially the Himmelbjerget, which at 147m (480ft) is one of the highest hills in Denmark, and the town of Silkeborg a pretty town with a brewery we had visited.  Sadly a low lying mist on the lakes concealed many of the views.

I wasn't expecting much from Esbjerg, being mainly a busy industrial port, but there were some interesting buildings and shops.  As usual I left my baggage in the left luggage lockers and walked out along the road directly opposite the station.  Although intesting from the point of view of the buildings, it was devoid of activity.  I headed for the park at the far end, where there was an interesting water feature, then cut across one block to a typical brick built church and the start of what was more like a city, with grand buildings and busy shops and restaurants.  There was definitely a port atmosphere here; although in my limited time I did not get near the port, I did find a street with 6 kebab shops all next door to each other.

The journey from Esbjerg to Odense was quick and comfortable and the Odense hotel was very close to the station.  I checked in, unpacked and had a shower, before venturing out.  Just across the road was a park and at the opposite end of the park was Odense Slot, once a palace, then a seat of government, now mainly offices.  Then there is a grand theatre and from there leads a series of pedestrianised streets and squares.  In the early evening the squares were filled with lit up restaurants and bars, all busy.  The atmosphere was really good.

On the other side of the eating areas came the Town Hall and the Cathedral, two amazing brick built edifices, and further along the road was another lovely brick built church, St Albans.  There is a bit of history here which links to our own.  King Knud den Helug was assassinated in an earlier church opposite St Albans in 1086.  He was later canonised.  His bones are on display in the crypt of the Cathedral.  The connection?  He was the nephew of our own King Canute (Cnut = Knud)

One of the people Odense is famous for is Hans Christian Anderson, the fairy tale author.  Perhaps a little out of fashion these days, apart from the film versions of The Little Mermaid, he was certainly a central figure in my childhood reading.  Beyond the cathedral is a little house which was his childhood home.  Across the other side of the old town is the house he lived and wrote in, turned into a museum, in a delightful area of old houses and a park dedicated to him.  At the end of the park is a modern structure covering the back of his home.

Day 20: 7 September 2023

Once again my day started with a text message about my train.  The train I was booked on from Odense to Hamburg would now terminate at Kolding.  I had already been a little worried about my booked train as my seat was reserved in coach 12, the coach that had failed on my trip from Hamburg to Copenhagen.  I left my baggage in my room and walked round to the station ticket office to see if it was possible to reserve a seat on a train from Kolding to Hamburg.  Aftyer much bashing of the keyboard the clerk announced that she could not do this as the  both trains were on the German and Swedish systems, (the original train was the Stockholm to Berlin train) and she could not access them.  The First Class lounge was off the ticket office so I took advantage of their free internet and  coffee to log onto DeutchBahn and Danish Rail and I managed to book on a train from Odense to Kolding (the Esbjerg train in reverse of yesterday) and from Kolding to Hamburg.  The plus was I had another couple of hours in Odense.  Back to my hotel room and packed, then left my luggage in the hotel's storeroom and had a wander round the old town again.  Beyond the Cathedral was a park leading down to the river which was very nice, very popular with parties of schoolkids.  Then, as the cathedral was now open, I popped in for a view, which is where I discovered Knudd's bones.  Very confusing for me, as I worked for a while with a lad called Ken Nudd.  I wondered if they were related.

The journey to Koding went without a hitch.  Although it was only a short transfer time at Kolding it was on the same platform, in fact virtually the same position on the platform.  I was looking forward to views of the Rendsburger Hochbrucke over the Kiel Canal which I had seen unexpectedly on my way north, but sadly the sun was so bright the blinds were down on all the windows.

We arrived in Hamburg on time and after a short period of disorientation I managed to locate the hotel.

Day 21: 8 September 2023

The last day went almost entirely without hitch.  Hamburg to Cologne, a brief break to eat a sandwich on the cathedral steps, Cologne to Brussels, Brussels via Eurostar to St Pancras, then Kings Cross to Leeds and Guiseley.  The only hitch was in Kings Cross, where a minor fire in the basement under the tracks and platforms caused a great deal of confusion and a delayed start.  I finally arrived home at about 11pm, pleased to see wife and cat once more.

All in all, a wonderful trip.  With hindsight I would have taken it more slowly, the same route but over four or even five weeks instead of three, but that really was a non starter.  I was so fortunate too with the weather, with only Bergen providing a disappointment in that respect.  But of course Bergen is one of the wettest cities in Europe.

How far did I go?

By Rail               7,740 km    4,800 miles

By Bus                    589km         366 miles

By Ferry                625km          388 miles