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Lights of Scandinavia

Staff member: Clem // Trip date: Dec 2014


London

I arrived in London Heathrow after a nice flight. After picking up my suitcase, I took the Heathrow Express, the best way to reach the centre of London from Heathrow Airport.

The Heathrow Express was very convenient and comfortable in Standard Class and it took only 20 minutes to get to Paddington Station. I purchased my Heathrow Express ticket from Rail Plus. Once I arrived at Paddington, I used my Oyster card pre-purchased from Rail Plus in order to travel on the London Tube to Kings Cross, close by my hotel.

The next day I departed for Amsterdam. The best way to go to Amsterdam from London via train is via Brussels on the Eurostar.


Eurostar

In order to board the Eurostar, I had to go to St Pancras International Station (adjacent to Kings Cross). When I have arrived, I proceeded to security and border control (because the UK is not within the Schengen area), so it is advised to allow 30 - 50 minutes check in time for the Eurostar.

I boarded Standard Class on the Eurostar. Standard Class was simple, but there was enough leg room and plenty of space for my luggage. The journey was pleasant and very quick across English and French countryside. In only two hours, we arrived in Brussels.

Once in Brussels, I needed my Eurail Pass to be stamped in order to be valid for my subsequent journeys. I went to the ticket window to get the pass stamped and I filled in the Eurail Pass with my passport number and journeys.


Thalys

To reach the Netherlands, I boarded the Thalys in First Class. The Thalys is a very elegant and comfortable train. The seats are very spacious, with power outlets and plenty of room to put your suitcase above you. The staff are friendly and offered us drinks and snacks. Free Wi-Fi was also offered on board, which would be very useful for work, as well as getting information on the destination.

When I arrived in Antwerp it was announced that an accident had happened in Rotterdam and the train would take another route to reach Amsterdam. Thankfully, this did not mean the train was immobilized and the train was able to proceed via a different route. I noticed that the train staff were helpful with people who needed to stop in Rotterdam and they could speak several different languages, including English. However, because of the route change, I arrived much later in Amsterdam than expected.


Amsterdam

I thought that Amsterdam was a pretty city with canals flowing all around it. I did a cruise of the canals and I realised it was the best way to experience and discover Amsterdam. After the cruise, I visited the Van Gogh Museum and the Jordann district, including the Cheese museum which I really enjoyed.

Since the service for my night train to Copenhagen had been cancelled, I flew there instead. To reach Copenhagen city, I took the train from the Airport with my Eurail pass. Most of the trains in Denmark do not require seat reservations, so all I had to do was hop on the train. In order to be valid, the Eurail pass needed to be filled with the correct day and journey information.


Copenhagen

Copenhagen was perhaps my favourite Scandinavian city (fortunately, I got to see all three). It boasted impressive buildings mixed with its famous Scandinavian Design. After an interesting canal cruise, I visited the Christianborg Palace and the ruins under the palace. Then I strolled to the famous "Little Mermaid' and Nyhavn district. Nyhavn was very beautiful with the Christmas market and the colored houses along the quay.


SJ2000

My next destination was Stockholm in Sweden. I boarded the SJ2000 in 1st Class. This class offered great comfort with spacious seats and legroom. A little breakfast is also offered with Wi-Fi. A great moment was when the train took the bridge to reach Sweden. The journey was around 5 hours. My ticket was checked and verified by border control in my carriage.


Stockholm


When I arrived in Stockholm, I went to the hotel and then commenced my visit of this beautiful city. I walked along the promenade to reach the Vaas Museum, a museum owning a fully intact war ship from the 17th Century. I followed this visit with a trip to the ABBA museum to discover more about the most famous Swedish band of all time. The next day, I decided to visit the Old town (Gamla Stan). I really appreciated this part of the city, with cobblestone streets and little stores. I continued to visit the city via a cruise to see the 14 islands that form Stockholm, then a visit of the Photographic Museum (Fotografiska), which was showing an extensive exhibition of the late American photographer Herb Ritts, as well as several others.


The following day we took the train for Oslo. This train was very different from the previous one. The First class was very cosy with a wooden carriage. The burgundy coloured seats were very spacious, with sufficient legroom. The luggage racks above our heads were deep, though very high up. The journey was very smooth and relaxing by watching the Swedish countryside. However, just after crossing the Norwegian border, the train stopped and I was asked to leave the train to take a coach which would bring me to Oslo. I had to take the coach matching with my class. Everything was organised so it was very easy and train staff were present to answer any questions. The premium coach was very nice and comfortable with spacious seats and well heated - important for Scandinavia!


Oslo


A friend came to pick me up, so I was able to discover Oslo with a local. Oslo had a different atmosphere from other Scandinavian cities, with a mixture of architecture throughout the city. We went to the main strip and had a glance at the royal palace.
The next day we went to visit the Vigeland Park, famous for its statues. After this, I went to the Ecopark, which displays traditional Norwegian houses and then onto the Viking Museum. We finished the day by climbing the roof of the Opera House and admired an incredible sunset.


Oslo - Bergen


For the last day of the trip, I decided to do the Norway in Nutshell trip going from Oslo to Bergen. At Oslo station I took the train. The train was pretty basic and only second class. There was enough space though to put our suitcases. Unfortunately, my train stopped after 45 minutes in the middle of the countryside. I was told very quickly that the issue was coming from the power supply. After a two hour wait, a coach came to pick me up and drove me to another train, similar to the first one. After a 3 hour ride, I was told I would not be able to do the Norway in Nutshell because I would not be able to make the other connections due to how late we were running.

I decided to stay on the train and go straight to Bergen. The route between Oslo and Bergen is incredibly beautiful. The train travelled between snowy fields and mountains, following fjords and crossed typical Norwegian villages. Then the train stopped again to take another much smaller regional train for the final hour. This train was very crowded. Despite those events, the train staff were very efficient and communicative, nor did I ever feel lost. I would strongly advise the best option to complete the Norway in nutshell tour is to allow a few days in this region to avoid any trouble.
After this long trip I arrived in Bergen. Bergen was a gorgeous city, circled by mountains and stunning coastline. Bergen has beautiful coloured houses and a very nice old centre. I took the funicular (Fløibanen) to reach the top of a nearby mountain and take in an amazing view of the city. I enjoyed my last day of the trip in Bergen.


To conclude:


I really recommend using trains, it is easier to reach train stations than airports and using a pass can be economical if you travel extensively. Trains have the added benefit of dropping you right into the centre of town, which I appreciated throughout my trip. Passes are very easy to use, you just need to fill out the pass and pre-book seat reservations for high speed trains. I recommend you to purchase your seat reservations via Rail Plus to avoid any delays or concerns whilst travelling. I really enjoyed visiting Scandinavia by rail.

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