At their innermost reaches, the mighty fjords of Hardangerfjord and Sognefjord are only 30km apart. It was through this relative eye of needle, between peaks, glaciers and wild mountain “vidda” (plateau) in the late 19th century that the Norwegian government finally decided to place the route for the new Oslo to Bergen railway line, thereby avoiding crossing either of Norway’s two major fjords and creating one of the engineering world’s most spectacular achievements. It was no small feat building a railway line in an environment so extreme that Fridtjof Nansens used the area to practice for his polar expeditions. The railway line passes throughthe Hallingdal valley before starting the ascent to Hardangervidda after Geilo where it then runs for 100 km above the treeline, topping out at 1237m. It’s often voted one of the most spectacular train journeys in the world and with good reason. If you ever wondered what it might be like to ski to the South Pole then a few hours gazing out of the train window as you pass dreamlike through the winter landscape of the endless Hardangervidda mountain plateau might just give you an idea.
Nowadays the railway line, still a vital communication artery in Norway, opens up a spectacular mountain landscape year round for thrill seekers, modern day adventurers or people just out for a good hearty walk in the mountain air. It’s not unusual to see people boarding the train in Oslo in winter / spring with skis, snowboards, rucksacks and kite bags, and in summer / autumn with mountain bikes ready to take on the challenge of the Rallarvegen (navvy road) that runs alongside the tracks.