We arrived in the university city of Trondheim on a cold, dark winter’s night. The rain & hail were lashing down and an Arctic wind gust along the fog-bound fjord straight into our frozen faces. Dark shadows moved furtively in the distance.
As we struggled to keep warm in the bitter conditions, the ghostly wail of a ship’s horn blared out from the distance across the grey waters of the ice-cold ocean, perhaps a call for help, perhaps a warning to others? We could only speculate. These weren’t conditions for being out in the open, let alone out at sea. We both shuddered at the prospect.
In the distance we could make out the hazy image of a light, perhaps a sanctuary that we could shelter in as we awaited the striking of the 23rd hour, time for our night train to Fauske, deep, deep inside the Arctic Circle.
As we made our way towards the light, we noticed more shadows in the distance, all of whom seemed to be fixed upon the same destination as us, the eerie light barely visible through the fog.
Undeterred we ploughed on until such time as we realised that the light belonged to a bar. We froze with fear! How could two impoverished students barely out of their teens possible afford £7 for half a litre of beer? This was 1989 and £7 would have fed us for a week back in the UK.
What should we do in these most unfortunate of circumstances? There were five hours to go before we would be boarding the polar express. Our supplies were low and if we were to eat any time soon, sitting in a bar clutching a cold one between us was not an option.
I reached into my bag and pulled out a well-thumbed & tattered book held together with string and sellotape. Perhaps the answer was in there on what we should do in our unfortunate predicament? The holy book in question was the winter 1987 edition of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable.
As my shivering companion held his inadequate torch in my direction, I searched for what I wanted. I could just make out the script – Scandinavia……….Norway…………Trondheim. And there it was, our salvation!
There was a train out of this wretched place that we could take and according to the good book, we could depart in just 20 minutes, reach our destination in a further thirty and be back into the relative warmth of Trondheim Central by 10pm, enough time to buy some meagre rations from the remote railway kiosk for our journey into the land of sprites & trolls.
So, heartened by our seemingly improved fortunes, we retraced our frozen footsteps towards the misty tracks for what was to turn into our railroad to Hell……………….
Footnote – there was sod all to do in Hell, why the devil anybody goes there I have no idea!!