It was an eight hour train ride from Olso to Bergen. Finse was one of a dozen stops, a little farther than half way and the highest point on the route. The train stopped only long enough to allow a family of four to disembark. They each bounded off the train with a rucksack and just kept sprinting toward the cabins on the far side of the lake. I don’t usually lower myself to taking photos out the window, but this view from the carriage door was all there was time for.
Gamle Bergen Museum
One of the earliest moguls of Bergen built a summer home here. The estate was eventually set aside as a park and later on, the city decided to relocate historic buildings to this site in order to create a cultural museum. The museum opened in 1948. (In 1944, a German munitions ship was blown up outside the fort by the Norwegian underground. This so completely damaged a section of the harbor, the city decided to move the few remaining historic houses and rebuild from scratch.) It is a green and shady setting with some beautiful views of the city across the water. They have done a good job preserving not only the houses but also the interiors, so that they provide a palpable view of the past. There is large dining table set just as it was last used, a dentist office, a bakery, a seaman’s lodging. I liked it so much I ended up taking the guided tour twice - and was delighted to find that the different guides had different stories to tell!
Leprosy Museum
It gave me the willies just to step foot in this place and it was heartbreaking to consider what life was like for leprosy sufferers of old. But this preserved lodging for leprosy patients actually had a very positive story to tell – how the young doctor Armauer Hansen charged onto the scene, confident and determined to run leprosy into a corner. His discovery of the leprosy bacillus in 1873 suddenly focused a spotlight on the plight of lepers. With new interest and hope came public funding for better living conditions and cure research. Although a cure was not realized, means of prevention was. The number of lepers thereafter sharply and steadily fell to zero – the last two suffers lodged here died of old age in 1946.
Old Town
Bergen has suffered a long history of fires. Fires were so frequent that people living in the outskirts made money building houses on speculation and reselling them to people in need of quick replacement. The houses were built on skids; floated across the harbor and drug into place. Fires became less prevalent after people got a clue and started building houses out of brick instead on wood. Despite the perennial waves of damage, a couple neighborhoods of old wood houses remain and they are very pleasant to walk through – if you can handle the hills.
Old Town
There are trees, lawns, shrubs and flowers fitted into every unpaved pocket in Bergen. There seems to be a great appreciation here for nature and a fair number of public places in which to sit and enjoy it.
Bergen from Floyfjellet
There is a large park situated high above Bergen with many views of the city. There is a walking route up to it as well as a funicular. At the top of the funicular is a full service restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating and, of course, stunning views. There is also a sports arena and hiking trails that lead yet higher.

Bergen, Norway, 8/12-14/2012

The Bergen Railway
In Norway, their internet train reservations system works with Eurail Pass. But for some reason I couldn’t get it to work in Oslo. And, since I assumed there would be no problem doing it that way, by the time I tried it, the rail office was closed for the night, so I couldn’t go down there in person. So I checked out of my hotel very early in the morning and got in line at the ticket window before they opened.

There were only two trains a day to Bergen and the second arrived late at night. So I was none too pleased when the ticket agent told me the early train was already sold out. However, he gestured, I could try my luck with the conductor on the platform when the train arrived. I thought to myself, “Hell with that!” If it was possible to negotiate with the conductor on the platform, then they weren’t really sold out. There was slop in the system. Better to get on the train and act like I belonged there and let them deal with me as they would, when they would.

That turned out to be the right approach in this case. The conductor came by several stops later and sold me a ticket without any fuss. (Eurail Pass covers some rails, makes for discounts on others.) On later stops – once the train had truly sold out – the conductors forbade people to get on; told them they would have to wait for the next train. Evidently it was high season for travel to Bergen. In fact, at this latitude, summer is just a moment of exposure between snowfalls and August is the last glorious month before that aperture closes.

Much of the rail line between Oslo and Bergen is a single track. So there was one station where we had to wait on a siding about 20 minutes for a train coming the other direction to pass. We were allowed to get off, walk around and sit in the sun. But the conductors expected us to scamper back and climb aboard before the train finished passing. Our train was moving again as soon as the signal tripped. There was no actual communication about this – or, if there was, it was all Norwegian to me. Everyone took their cue from the first few who ran back and there were no stragglers.