After a rather damp start, the day slowly picked up as we made our way into Bergen. We parked up Oscar on the top level of a huge multi-storey, and walked the short distance into the old town and harbour.
Bergen is a very good looking city – in fact it is stunningly beautiful. It’s geographical situation helps considerably – the natural harbour sitting at the end of a fjord, with seven hills rising up behind. By nature, therefore, that makes Bergen pretty compact, and easy to negotiate. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Bergen was the capital of Norway, and a significant trading port. The focus of trade was Vagan Harbour, with it’s UNESCO listed Bryggen Wharf sited on it’s north side. Bryggen was once home to German merchants from the Hanseatic League, and although many of the original warehouses have long since burnt down, they were replaced in the early 1900s with colourful wooden buildings bordering the harbour. Tiny alleyways lead up the hillside from Bryggen have become home to many artists and craftspeople, and a labyrinth of bijou shops are housed in the attractive wooden buildings.
After a statutory coffee, our first port of call was the Fish Market down by the harbour. The main speciality here seemed to be shrimp and King Crabs. Many restaurants were serving up seafood, some of which could be selected live, straight from large tanks, and then cooked. Not for me!
We then headed the short distance to the Floibanen Funicular railway, which travels up to the top of Mount Floyen, giving spectacular views over the city. By now, the sun had appeared, and at the top we watched a huge P & O cruise ship negotiate the narrow passage out of the harbour. The summit of Mount Floyen is forested, with many walking paths, so we took a wander around the top, before catching the funicular back down to the town.
We then hit the tourist trail, and explored Bryggen, browsing in a few shops in the alleyways, and admiring the beautiful sailing boats moored up in the harbour. We watched as one of these huge vessels left port. A small tug actually drew up alongside, and literally pushed the vessel around 180 degrees, so that it could negotiate itself into the fjord.
By now it was time for an early tea, so we picked a restaurant on the quayside, and ate our supper, watching the world go by. We had opted to sit outside, lured there by the brief sunshine. However, thick clouds once again rolled in, and it became decidedly chilly once more. However, we should count ourselves lucky, because Bergen has rainfall for an average of 260 days per year, and in its wettest year, it rained on 300 days. It also meant that Howard didn’t have a chance to wear his new hat, for which I was grateful!
There was plenty we didn’t have time to see. Bergen was also home to Edvard Greig, and houses a museum in his honour. We did however pass by his statue in the park. We chuckled as a large pigeon sat on top of his hat, and rather tragically, the entirety of his face was covered in bird excrement. A rather unfortunate memorial to such a great composer!
In all, we thoroughly enjoyed our day in this wonderful city. They call it the ‘Gateway to the Fjords’, so in the next few days, we hope to explore some of these. Rather disturbingly though, at the top of the funicular we saw a sign, that showed distances to various places. It turns out that we are closer to London (1,049 km) and Iceland (1,462 km), than to Nordcapp, where we are headed in the far north of Norway – a staggering 1,508 kilometres! Maybe time for a re-think!!