Sandvika, Norway 59:53.243N 010:31.766E

Frans & Sarah Toonen
Mon 26 Jun 2017 17:00
Monday 26 June 2017. 12nm. 3 engine hours. 

Frans went for a swim and could not tempt our guests to join him - the water was only 16C and there were a few jellyfish around. The anchor was lifted at 1100 and we motored less than a mile to the Oscarsborg Fortress securing alongside in the tiny marina. All this was achieved without Steve noticing as he was busy with some essential work related jobs inside. 

The Fortress is barely visible from the sea as there are high earth ramparts protecting about 3/4 of the fort. It is spread over 2 tiny islands in the middle of the Drøbak narrows where the Oslo fiord is only a mile wide. This gives it an excellent defence position protecting Oslo. In April 1940 the German navy were unaware that the underwater torpedeo launching gear was still operational and the Norwegian army sunk the German cruiser Blücher using 40 year old armaments originally supplied from Austria. This action is credited with giving the King and parliament time to escape to England before the Germans disabled the fort with air-strikes, moved on to occupy Oslo and subsequently the whole of Norway for the duration of WW2. We had a quick look around the museum and ramparts as we had to get to Sandvika and to the railway station for Jane and Steve’s return to the airport. 

Sandvika (only 10 miles from Oslo) has a council quay which is very smart and there was plenty of room. Great price of 150NOK (15 pounds) a night and all facilities close by. Less than 10 minutes walk to the station so all went smoothly and we waved our guests off after their ‘Introduction to Sailing’ long weekend. We all had a lovely time and we managed a variety of stops despite having to head north up the fiord to avoid strong south westerlies. 

We checked the weather and noticed that it was to be very sunny in Bergen for the next 2 days. Yes we know that is the other side of Norway but Sarah had a notion to ride on the Flåm Railway and although this is our third visit to Norway we have always been south or north of Bergen without time to motor into the 120 mile (world’s longest) Sognefjord and reach the railway from Flåm at the head of the fiord. Accordingly the 06.39 train to Myrdal (the top of the Flåm railway) was booked and happily it was direct from Oslo and stopped at Sandvika. 

Up very early on Tuesday and it took about 5 hours to cover the 200 miles to Myrdal. The scenery was amazing as we climbed to about 1250 metres/ 4000 feet and crossed a huge area of low mountains with plenty of snow patches and some lakes still mostly frozen. When we reached Myrdal at 866 metres (2850 feet) the sky was still clear but the temperature was only 8C. As soon as Frans saw it was only 21km to Flåm there was no way he was getting on the train so he reduced the weight of his bag and set off foot. 

The Flåm Railway is the steepest adhesion type railway in the world where the electric train uses a normal track. 80% of the track has a gradient of more than 55% so going down there is a bit of brakes squealing. There are 6 kms of tunnel through the mountains and the river was diverted into a tunnel under the railway at one point to avoid having to build a bridge which would be at risk of avalanche. It took nearly 20 years to complete the railway and although it opened for steam in 1940 it was converted to electric by 1944. 

For our overnight stay we booked a ‘rorbu’ (meaning fisherman’s) cabin on the side of the fiord in Aurland which was a short bus ride from Flåm. Arriving at Flåm one gets off the train and right next to it the giant cruise ships are alongside. The Queen Elizabeth, the Balmoral and a Dutch cruise boat were all close by and they are dwarfed by the height of the mountains. Flåm is quite touristy with a shopping mall selling Norwegian warm clothes to Asian visitors who all head back to the cruise ships laden.  Aurland is a sleepy traditional village and so were just lucky to be there as we had only booked the night before. 

Wednesday morning after a relaxed start it was no surprise when Frans suggested we walk back up the mountain to Myrdal. He knew the track was Granny friendly and allowing six hours even Sarah should be able to climb the 866m or wimp out at one of the stations! The views were great and the thundering noise of waterfalls and the raging river was never far away. Only the 20 hairpin bends on the last section were very hard work and when Sarah caught Frans up in the hotel at the top (yes he wanted to walk further to the Reinungavanet lake) he said he had seen paler beetroots! Sarah also saw the lake of course by going upstairs in the hotel and finding a shady balcony whereupon after some furniture movements she could cool down and recover with warm waffles. It is handy to be nosey sometimes. We managed to stay awake all the way back to Sandvika and it was not dark when we arrived at midnight. Travelling east the sunset had been behind us all the way with a pink/purple sky reflecting in the many lakes we passed. The train was deserted so we could move around with the view. Some excitement too when there was a bump and one of the windows shattered. It was only the outside pane luckily and when the guard investigated at the next station he thought perhaps it was a deer. 

Thursday morning we thought we better get on and see Oslo. Ten minutes by train and a short walk to the waterfront. All very nice with lots of flowers, statutes, boats (all sizes), bars and restaurants of course. It is not all attractive as it is a working port but efforts continue to glamourise it and the waterfront path and public area runs for 19kms. We decided on targeted sightseeing and todays target was the Fram Museum. The Fram was built in 1892 and is the vessel that has been the furthest north and south. In 1936 it was brought ashore on Bygdøy island (a short ferry ride from Oslo) and a museum was built around it. The Fram is of course the vessel that carried Roald Amundsen’s expedition to the Antarctic in 1908/1911. Captain Scott’s party reached the South Pole a few weeks later and perished on the trek back to their ship. The museum was really interesting and covered all nationalities of explorers from the time of earliest records. We have been to a lot of maritime museums and kept an eye out for (the other) famous Dutch seafarer, Jan Barents. Sure enough he was covered and his discovery of Svalbard in the 16th century duly reported.  

Friday saw us in Oslo again headed for the Resistance Museum which is within the Akershus Festning (fortress) on the headland right in the city. The Museum is housed here as it was the place of execution used by the Nazi’s when they caught members of the resistance. We were particularly interested to hear more about the ‘Shetland Bus’ and the work of the British SOE (Special Operations Executive) who trained and supported the Norwegian fighters during WW2. We had heard about the British view in Scalloway on Shetland when we visited that museum and so it was great to expand our knowledge and learn a lot more about the Allies efforts in 1940 and throughout the war. A number of British films have been made about the operations - such as the sabotage of the heavy water (used for the German atomic program) plant at Rjukan, and the blowing up of the Tinnsjoen ferry to prevent the transfer of stocks of heavy water to Germany. We spent several hours in the museum and so Frans had to sit on the waterfront with a beer whilst Sarah visited the fortress. To round off Oslo we had dinner at the Akershus restaurant overlooking the harbour. Plenty more sights to see in Oslo next time! 

Oscarsborg fortress hidden in the centre of the island

Drobak narrows from the ramparts

A final snapshot before departure. We had a great time together.