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Monday, August 14, 2017

Bergen - Picturesque but rainy

I arrived into Bergen on the Rotterdam ship one Monday morning in July. The skies were overcast but I wasn't about to let rain deter me from the one day I had in this port.

Bergen is famous for its World Heritage Site of Bryggen, which is the fishing wharf with brightly painted buildings. However, there are other places of interest in this picturesque city, Immediately evident is the aesthetically pleasing Norwegian architecture throughout but nature is also on the doorstep, with the sea and mountains both surrounding this port city.

First stop was, predictably, the Bergenhus Fortress, situated as it is on the harbour. One of the oldest castles in Norway, it is remarkably well-preserved and the defensive tower from the 13th Century still stands proudly overlooking the water. The fortress is still used by the Royal Norwegian Navy however the buildings within at one point accommodated the royal family, a church and a bishop's residence. I was interested in learning about it and I always admire old buildings and ponder at what stories we aren't told.

I grabbed a hot tea from a roadside van to warm me up as a persistent mist threatened rain and I headed along the waterfront, with all it's pretty buildings. Many of these are souvenir shops, so I walked on, heading to the funicular to take me to the top of Mount Floyen. The funicular costs NOK 45 (approx EUR 4.80 or GBP 4.30) one way, although you can take a steep walk of over an hour to get up there. I love funiculars so I decided on this, particularly as the rain was now pouring out of the sky. The trip takes between 5 - 8 minutes so you quickly gain great views across the city. At the top, the views are quite breathtaking as you can take in the several mountains around and the different parts of the city. The rain obviously didn't deter many tourists, as it was pretty busy there.

Misty panorama of Bergen and me

I had heard that the coffeeshop/restaurant at the top were quite nice, although pretty expensive - like most things in Norway, but I wasn't hungry or needing a break yet. There's a playground with troll figures for kid's to enjoy and different scenic walks through the mountains that lead off from here. I decided on walking back towards the city. A couple hundred metres from the viewpoints, I came across some free-roaming goats, who are tagged with this new technology that prevents them from going outside certain areas. I'm not 100% that this is particularly animal-friendly, as it gives them an electric shock if they venture into prohibited areas, but I suppose at least they aren't penned in. Some of these goats were highly entertaining, with one parading around on a table top, posing for pictures. I also found it amusing that the only black goat was called Obama.

Off I wandered back down the mountain, through the forest and on a well-worn path. The views are quite nice on the way down too and I enjoyed being out in the fresh air. It took me around 40 minutes to get back to the city and I had worked up a bit of an appetite so I headed through the fish market to Trekroneran for a tasty, budget-friendly meal. This small stall has a variety of hot dog options around 50 - 60 NOK (Around GBP 5 - 6). I thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm not normally a hot dog fan.

I wanted to visit Troldhaugen, the composer Edvard Grieg's house but I hadn't left enough time (the perils of drinking in the crew bar til 4am). The house is a living museum and concerts are held daily in the summer at lunchtime. It was now past that and I was worried if I took the bus that I wouldn't make it back to the boat on time. You can take a bus from the Visitor's Centre in Bryggen and please go if you're a music lover!

I wandered back through the wooden houses of Bryggen, visiting the shops and workshops that sell a myriad of tourist goods but also some beautiful handcrafts and clothing. All the staff have impeccable English and were really friendly. I bought a couple of affordable items for friends who may not make it this far North and headed back to the ship.

I definitely wished I had more time to spend in Bergen as it was somewhere that surprised and delighted me, with its' quirky streets and an abundance of caf├ęs and restaurants that I'd be keen to try if feeling more flush.

We set sail in late afternoon, luckily getting some spectacular scenic cruising in before we left Norway. The sun came out a little, but my photos definitely would have benefitted from better light.