Now we were on our own. No more tour operator organised bookings for accommodation or travel. The official end to the arranged tour.

It was the first time we had done this sort of tour where all the bookings are made for you but you have to get around on your own.

Not sure if I really liked it as the pressure is on oneself to get to the train and bus stations on time, to find the departure area and hotels or other accommodation. This was, on occasion, quite stressful. As we were prepared to do all of the organising of ourselves for the next 3 weeks it would have been great if we could have enjoyed a week where we sat back and allowed others to do the ‘work’. It is not a form of tour we would choose again especially for Senior Citizens.

What awaited us over the next 24 hours was unexpected, frustrating and very stressful! We had purchased a Eurail Pass so that we would not have to purchase train tickets for each of the journeys to our booked destinations from Northern Norway to Southern Spain. Our first train was expected to be direct from Narvik, Norway to Stockholm, Sweden.

My pre travel research had uncovered the information that there were 2 trains per day going directly between the 2 towns and, whichever time we chose, it would be an overnight trip which meant that we needed a sleeping compartment. A friend who lives in Sweden sent me all the details, including all the stations en route some of which looked very interesting places to visit – the Ice Hotel, a beautiful bridge and others, but that was not to be as we would have passed them during the night.

A few weeks before leaving home I contacted the Tour Operator who had arranged our 8-day trip in Norway from Oslo to Tromsø. He said that he could not help with a booking for the train as we had a Pass. I then contacted the Eurail Office from which I received a reply saying that bookings had to be made in Norway! Very frustrating and there was worse to come.

On arrival in Oslo, we immediately went to the Railway Station Ticket Office to make our reservation for the trip from Narvik and it was not a success. We were told, “Sorry but the trains are already fully booked. It is the Christmas season.” This was a huge blow. We had a big rethink about what to do as we had not been booked on the return flight from Tromsø to Oslo as it had always been our intention to travel by train and arrive in Stockholm at 09:30 the next day giving us a full day and a half in the city.

Instead of being able to catch one bus and one train to Stockholm we would now have to catch 2 buses and 2 trains and this would only get us to Stockholm at 21:00 the following day. 12 hours less time to see Stockholm! We could make the booking without validating our Pass so that was one good thing. Of course, further unplanned costs were encountered. The 2 buses were private and not public transport so did not accept the Eurail Pass and then there was a reservation fee for each of the 2 trains.

(Previously, when we had used our Pass, it was not necessary to reserve seats on every train so there was no reservation fee. It is now necessary to reserve a seat on every train with the exception of the local, Metro trains. This was an added expense that we had not planned for as it was not included in the information supplied by Eurail when we got our ticket. It is clear that this has been introduced as a security measure along with a number of others which I shall tell you about as each situation arises.)

We had purchased a Continuous Global Pass valid for a month from the date of validation We validated our Pass in Bergen on 23 December 2015 to 22 January 2016. This was just perfect for us as we were due to fly home from Madrid on 19 January. It was a 1st Class Pass but, now that we had to pay for reservations on each train, and that it was considerably more expensive to book on 1st Class than 2nd, we travelled 2nd class most of the time.

So day 1 of our travels using the Eurail Pass was very hectic and exhausting. We caught the 1st bus out of Tromsø to Narvik at 10am which was the only advantage to not being able to catch the train as to have done so would have meant getting a bus at 06:20. In fact, our bus left 10mins late as a woman with a baby had to be settled into the specially designed baby seat which popped out from behind the seat in which Trevor was sitting. The process took more than 10mins as the driver had never opened the baby seat before. Eventually another passenger came to his aid.

At Narvik we had a 2 hour wait for the bus to Fauske to take us to Trondheim and then just 20min wait for the train to take us on to Oslo. I was amazed at the number and length of the tunnels through which we travelled. It was on this train that we had the most amazing experience – the train had to go across a fjord by ferry. 

 A train on a ferry?? What a fascinating happening. There were rails on the ferry and so it simply drove on.

It was also on this train that we tried to get some ‘shuteye’ as this was our longest journey. We finally reached Oslo at midday and had another 2 hour wait for our train to Stockholm.

An absolutely beautiful thing we saw on the way was long icicles hanging down the rocks on the sides of the railway lines. They shimmered in the gentle sunlight creating a sight beyond anything that I could ever have imagined. We also experienced a beautiful sunrise that morning as we travelled toward Oslo.

We finally arrived in Stockholm at 21:55. Thank goodness our hotel was right across the road from the station and that we had a beautiful room with a BATH!


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