The famous ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ tour is one that takes me by surprise. It takes you from Oslo to Bergen in 12 hours. For those who don’t particularly know where Bergen is, it’s a 2-hour journey from Oslo, under normal circumstances. We, on the other hand, take two train rides, one ferry ride, and a bus ride across Norway.
The first aspect of the trip that strikes me as odd is the ungodly hour we have to wake up at; by 5:30 a.m. we are out of the house, lugging four suitcases behind us. Anybody would have thought we were gypsies; not staying in a single hotel for more than a night. Oslo’s train station is quaint; the weather is pleasantly warm, at a good 21 degrees. Coming from Singapore, this is cold.
The tour begins with a train ride that takes you through plenty of fields and grasslands. Traveling at a slow speed for the first few minutes, it stops off at beautiful stations with enchanting views. Then, you start rising and traveling through mountain tunnels, building up the trepidation and excitement as you anticipate the culmination of your efforts. Glaciers begin to come into view and the mountains start coming closer and closer. Houses become less abundant. As the snow becomes more visible, waterfalls gradually appear. Colours change, from the splendid green of the fields, to an iridescent blue of the seas. The weather gradually becomes colder, and as the train stops at a station, I take a small step outside to feel the chills in the air for myself.
Don’t go outside, my mum says. You may miss the train getting back.
I won’t, I say confidently as I disobey her and step out onto the platform, feeling the cold gust of air push the hair out of my face.
I see her looking at me through the window pane, her eyes narrowed. To prove her wrong, I venture out further, eager to feel the atmosphere of the unique Norwegian hills. The houses on the foothills break all the rules of a traditional house. They come in different colours; blue, green, pink. The shapes of these houses are so mismatched that I have to tilt my head to see what the point to creating it in such a way was. It is odd, but it is beautiful. The unique sense of these houses brings out a sense of longing in me, something that stirs, just in the back of my conscience and mind.
A distant rumbling pulls me out of my trance, and I turn around swiftly. My mother is gesturing at me wildly, trying to tell me that the train is moving. It takes me a couple of seconds to register what she is saying to me, but I move anyway, quickly taking a last glance at the beautiful –yet nameless– station.
I don’t have to run after the train, like most of the sidekicks in Bollywood films, but I do have to ‘walk briskly’ to pull the door open and rush inside. My mother gives me a stony glare, and then glances outside the window. Pulling out my camera, I prepare to embark on the second half of the journey
We stop at Follo, a small, picturesque ski village, where the hustle and bustle of human traffic in the station intrigues me. Even as we slow down for a second, it is inevitable that we are inclined to rush. Embarking on new adventures, scaling higher peaks, we are in constant pursuit of excellence and on a continual quest for self-gratification. This particular ski village is a 12-month ski village, where the snow never melts, and the weather stays pleasantly cool.
The train begins its ascent again, heading to Voss, a small train station on a mountain. By the time we reach Voss, lunchtime draws near and, with the lack of vegetarian food in Norway, we chew on a couple of sandwiches and cakes.
Stepping onto yet another train heading to the outskirts of Bergen, we take in the beautiful scenery. Huge waterfalls loom from the distance and as the train stops at one, a woman almost drifts on a hill. Her body sways in a graceful, yet magical manner. She turns and pivots and barely anybody notices her, until music starts playing, floating into our eager ears. She appears and disappears, beside the waterfall, making us somewhat doubt her presence. Her hair is long, and her dress is drenched, but she looks happy, satisfied.
The smile turns into a frown just as easily as a person takes a flash of her, and her face suddenly contorts into an expression of surprise. A blink, and she is gone. She vanishes, into the distance, like a supernova shedding its intense fleeting brightness on the passengers.
What we saw that day, no one knows for sure, but it was out of this world.