24 Hours in Bergen
We are in Bergen for 26 hours 15 minutes to be precise (from the time our plane landed to the time the boat sails) and subtracting sleeping time and post “check-in time” on the boat, we have about 8 hours to explore Bergen. There is a lot one could do in the town if one had 48 Hours but we do not.
Of no interest to anyone except perhaps a geographer, Bergen with co-ordinates of 60.38° N, 5.34° E, is almost exactly 2/3rds of the way from the Equator to the North Pole. It has quite a compact city city centre and the usual sprawl of
suburbs, and its compact nature is well shown by its Google Earth picture
By the end of the day, we think its city centre is absolutely delightful (and frighteningly expensive).
Our Hotel (Grand Terminus) is on the edge of the city centre and we are not far from everything central.
The hotel has a slightly gothic exterior with some lovely well maintained old features inside. It proudly proclaims its award winning whisky bar but how anyone could afford a whisky in Norway we do not know. A 1/4 bottle of indifferent wine in the hotel is £9.26.
Our bedroom is far larger and more
luxurious than we had imagined on booking. As well as the four poster, there is a settee, two arm chairs, a coffee table, a bathroom with a heated floor, a chandelier and lots of room – a pity that we are there only for one night.
The hotel is adjacent to the Central Railway station whose inside has a lovely symmetry about it
as well as some interesting carved scenes of the
Norwegian countryside on display in the waiting lounge. The station is the terminus for a famous train ride from Oslo to Bergen and a number of Hurtigruten passengers come this route in order to see the mountains – we do not have the time on this occasion.
The plan for the day is to walk through the town via the Fish Market and Old Bryggen to the fortress (Bergenhus Festning), then back via the cobbled streets behind Old Bryggen, take the eight-minute funicular ride to the top of Mount Fløyen to see the view over the town, walk down, the go past St Mary's church which dates from the first half of the 12th century and is the oldest building in Bergen (it is being repaired and is currently closed to visitors), grab lunch; and fill the rest of the afternoon with more walking until we run out of energy.
the view if the weather is fine
“If the weather is fine” is an optimistic phrase. Bergen is known to be a very rainy city (it rains 284 days a year on average and the weather chart says we have only a 25% chance of a clear day at the end of November). When we arrived it was pouring down with rain but the current weather forecast is for sunny bits between 2 and 4 pm today.
the view at dusk
When we have run out of energy, it will be back to our hotel to collect our luggage before heading off to the MS Lofoten by taxi.
It takes about a 15 minutes easy walk to get to the harbour and the Unesco World Heritage Site of Bryggen. On the way there, we past some of the most charming buildings which look exactly as we wanted Norwegian buildings to look.
The Fish Market on the harbour side is famous for the quality and freshness of its fish.
The market itself is on the ground floor of a modern building which has the tourist office the floor above. As you might expect of a Fish Market, it sells a lot of fresh fish to the general public. The wholesale fish market is elsewhere in town.
Refrigerated cabinets are interspersed with seating areas so shoppers can buy fresh fish and eat it there if they wish.
This is a small halibut (about 60 cms long). The fishmonger told us that large halibut are up to 3m long and a large cod would weigh 300 kg.
There were more varieties of salmon on sale than we knew existed.
Shrimps, Langoustines and bits of crab are just as popular
as Norwegian Caviar
Sushi is obviously well established in Norway (in fact we notice quite a lot of Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants)
Dried fish is a popular Norwegian delicacy (the Lofoten Islands are well known for their dried fish) and the market sells it as well as fresh fish.
Some of the fish is so fresh, it is still alive. In this tank are a number of crabs and lobsters, each neatly price tagged with a water proof label, awaiting their fate.
Outside on the quayside, are a number of holding tanks for live fish through which sea water is pumped to keep them alive until their time on the table arrives.
The quayside of Old Bryggen is well known for its buildings dating from around the 1600s
when the town was a member of the Hanseatic League and hence the port was a Hanseatic Port. Above is an official tourist poster picture. What we saw is not much different to this
the long view around the harbour with
Bryggen in the distance.
Here we have a shopping arcade on the edge of Bryggen.
The fronts of the buildings show simplicity and elegance in design.
Most of these shops now sell things to Tourists or are cafes / bars. Around the back of the famous facade, the buildings are just as interesting
This particularly pleased me (although no one else I have shown the photo to seems to be excited!) because the original builders chose to use a tree trunk and its branch as one piece of timber in order to get the maximum strength for supporting the floor above. The end result was a narrow alley between two buildings with the second floor of each building being supported on limbs of tree trunks chosen because of their shape.
And some carving which we are sure is not a period piece – we just liked it though!
Not to far away is the Bergenhus Castle which is the oldest medieval fortress in Norway and has some atmospheric buildings. Here one can see King Magnus the Lawmender’s Keep which although nothing special to look at, is a great title for a king.
The Palace courtyard
King Hakon’s Hall which dates from medieval times
An entrance to the fortress with the Rozencrantz Tower to the back left which incorporates king Magnus the Lawmender’s Keep.
The easy way to get to the top of Mount Fløyen is to take the Funicular – seven minutes from sea level to the top. Apparently in summer, the queues to board it can be at least
200m long – today there are 6 passengers and no queues for our 40kr
per person trip to the top.
Once we emerge from the tunnel over the lower part of the ride, we see Bergen starting to be laid out in front of us
and from the top (the webcam which took the pictures at the start of this blog is above the exit of the funicular station)
you get an amazing view of Bergen
In the woods around the funicular station and hotel at the
top of the mountain are a number of interesting creatures
No doubt, children find them delightful.
Having got to the top, you can go down again by funicular (for another 40kr each) or walk down in about 45 minutes. We choose to walk and are so rewarded by what we see on the way down that it is highly recommended to anyone reading this and going to Bergen.
The route is well signposted and quite easy to walk
and it wends it way down through the forest before getting to the outskirts of an old section of the town with interesting views at every point.
The Hurtigruten terminal is in the centre of this photo but our boat has not yet arrived back into town to pick us up.
Houses in this section of town are delightful and all seem to be made of wood.
as is the building which used to be the Fire Station.
By chance on the way back to the hotel, we go inside Bergen Cathedral.
the organ and for a while, we are two of
three people privileged to hear the organist attempt to blow the roof off by filling the cathedral with sound.
A cake shop provides an easy way to spend £16.75 on a hot
chocolate, a latte and two large rather delicious pastries which fortify us for the rest of the afternoon which involves a gentle meander back to the hotel, admiring numerous old buildings on the way.
not totally guilt free in building design, I show two less than desirable
buildings in the centre of Bergen which are completely out of sympathy with their surroundings – the first is a fish factory and the second is an office block.
When you cannot speak the language, signs take on a greater significance although here, many Norwegian signs are in English as well as Norwegian. Amongst those which we liked are:
We are not sure what sort of building this sign was attached to
this head intrigued us because the face is repeated around the head and therefore from whichever position you look at it, you see a mouth, nose and two eyes.
This is one of the city manhole covers which is unusual because it has a picture on it.
This sign looked like a ship’s prow and was near the fish market and these three (really two) speak for themselves.
And finally, a rather nice wedding dress which we include
just because we liked the dress and the simple window display (not that we know anyone who is getting married).
A taxi (cost £18.95) takes us the 2.6km from the hotel to the Hurtigruten terminal which appears absolutely deserted.
We are expected however and upon check-in are given our
boarding passes and permanent table number for dinner.
It is then that we find out there will be only 19 passengers on the boat this evening (hence the deserted terminal) making the trip from Bergen to Kirkenes (and 16 making the return trip). There are a further 14 “bus-stop” passengers getting on in Bergen but soon getting off.
The ship has berths for 151 (19!) and seating space for a further 250 (14!). We had hoped that the boat would not be busy but had not realised we would have it nearly to ourselves. Apparently the winter trip is not that popular with tourists (we cannot understand why – certainly travel is harder but what you see is so different) and even our taxi driver commented on how few times he makes that trip in the winter (as compared to the summer).
Our first view of the Lofoten is not one we will ever forget. It sat there, quiet and small and yet it felt very like it
was ready for a hard working trip. We immediately knew we had made the correct choice of a small working ship rather than a large car ferry.
Each and every time you board or get
off, you have to have your boarding pass scanned by a member of the crew
and then the ship’s computer knows
how many people are actually on board (and who they are) if there were to be an emergency. It also knows how many are still ashore if the boat is ready to leave (they are usually left behind).
After dinner, there is a long briefing which covers safety and other matters including how to put on a survival suit and
then a floatation device and then how to jump into the sea without breaking your neck – apparently no one has had to do this for the past 48 years but we need to know just in case!
To keep us entertained (not that we felt bored), three musicians from the Bergen Grieg Conservatoire suddenly appear and we are
treated to 30 minutes of various classical items played by three French horns.
They leave, the gangplank is pushed onto the quayside,
the mooring ropes loosened,
and precisely on schedule at 2230, we are off.
Our final view of Bergen is of the mountain which we rode up and walked down during the day – the route of the funicular is clearly shown.