Landing in Bergen, I got the tram from the airport to the city centre and was immediately thrown into a feeling of angst. The automatic ticket machine kept insisting that the cost for this 20 km, 40 minute journey was 38 NOK (just under £4). There was no way that was right but, in the absence of a manned ticket booth, I just had to take it and pray that I wouldn't have to pull a "stupid foreigner who doesn't know how to use the machine" routine to the ticket inspector.
Of course, when I got to the hotel I checked to see what the price should have been. 38 NOK. Why I didn't check on my phone whilst on the tram and save myself an uncomfortable forty minutes I can only attribute to my psyche having secret masochistic tendencies. Still, it was nice to have experienced a rare piece of Norwegian generosity, even if my stress levels didn't let me enjoy it at the time.
The next morning, I headed down to the train station to catch the train to Myrdal from where I would change to get the Flåmsbana down to the fjords. I did feel guilty for kicking the German tourists out of my reserved seat when I realised we were just about the only three passengers on the train.
The start of the journey is ruined a little by having to go through many tunnels, with just enough glimpses of the Veafjorden to be a tease. The tunnels never really go away but the gaps between them do get a bit longer. And with a scenery that is quite reminiscent of Scotland. But a Scotland that is on steriods.
There was a brief stop in Voss to stretch legs while the train changed drivers. From this point on the scenery became more barren as the train started to climb toward the snow line.
Myrdal is a train station that only exists to transfer to the branch line down to Flåm. Which sounds the worst place on earth to be told that your next train is delayed by forty minutes. Instead, wilfully ignoring the sign that said "Do Not Cross the Tracks", I, er, crossed the tracks and used my unexpected delay to take photos of the most photogenic railway station that I've ever seen.
By my evening meal in a lovely brewpub, I had adopted a formal policy of not asking for the price of anything and just handing my card over. I found that blissful ignorance was a better guarantee of enjoyment than knowing how much every mouthful or every minute was costing me.
After dinner, there was thankfully no sign of the cruise ship and so I was able to enjoy a peaceful walk along the banks of the fjord to enjoy the sunset.
The next morning, I had my first warning that I'd been in Norway too long when my response to a 30-minute minibus journey to Stegastein and back costing £35 was "what the hell". Was the fact that I was the only passenger on the minibus because of the price or the lack of cruise ships in the harbour?
Stegastein is a 30 metre long platform, 600 metres up the side of the fjord offering great views. Even from the toilet. It was certainly the first time that I'd been in a queue of photographers wanting to take a photo of the conveniences. But, from that lofty position, I could see the dreaded cruise ship steaming up Aurlandsfjord. Time to leave, Flåm, methinks.
Fortunately, the Flåmsbana left before the maritime hordes invaded the town. I even had six seats to myself, allowing me to move around and get photos as the train climbed 863 metres over 20 kilometres.
The quieter train also meant that the stop at the waterfall wasn't anywhere near as crowded as it had been on the way down. As a result, I was able to get a better look at what was going on. Yes, that is definitely two women in red, dancing to some kind of Scandinavian Enya. No, not sure why.
Then came the five hour train journey back to Oslo. In truth, it would have been better had the journey been in reverse as, predictably, the journey gets less interesting the closer you get to the capital city. But, the views across the Hardangervidda plateau, at 1237 metres the highest mainline railway in Europe, were spectacular.