Looks & personality
22.05.2019 - 25.05.2019 17 °C
Bergen, Norway’s second largest city and, sadly, our last port of call provided what we came to understand was a characteristic welcome. Due to its location nestled between seven hills and it’s watery location on a convergence of fjords, it receives rain on 2 days out of 3 and is known as Europe’s rainiest city. So, when we docked at 7am on the morning of 22nd May, Keith’s birthday, it was one of the rainy days and the hills were shrouded in mist.
Our last port! Nice little harbour with a variety of interesting vessels.
Although it was our last port, we would have one more night on the ship and, with an afternoon tour, left us the morning free to FaceTime the kids and to enjoy a quiet morning on board. We had a nice surprise when we returned to our room later in the morning. Our ‘Viking Family’ had noted that it was Keith’s birthday and had delivered champagne and cake. The champagne we could manage, but just look at the size of that cake!
Our afternoon bus tour took us around and out of the city, through the still misty hills with their leafy neighbourhoods, lovely timbered houses and views back to the various harbours and bays. We then had to tackle the packing! It had been so nice being on a holiday and not living out of a suitcase so this was a bit of a reality check as we confronted our last night on the Viking Sea. One last great dance party would help the spirits.
I was a bit emotional when we disembarked at 9.30 next morning. It had been a wonderful 15 nights that we will long remember. Although not previously having been interested in cruises, Viking had exceeded our expectations with their organisation, outstanding service, friendliness and comfort level.
We had another two nights to further explore this lovely town, so made our way through misty rain to our little Airbnb house, well located not far from the town centre in a cobbled street lined with painted wooden houses with pretty handkerchief-sized gardens or colourful flower pots.
Our Bergen home - ground floor of orange house. Our lovely host Kjell lived above.
Two days out of three are wet, so the next day should be fine, right? Right! We woke to sunshine so this was the day for taking the funicular to the top of Mt Floyen, the forest clad hill behind the town from where we had spectacular views of the hillside, the town below and surrounding harbours.
After taking in the view, we set off on foot back down the hill, zig zagging our way through beautiful forest with mossy groundcover and breakout views of the LEGO like houses below.
After 30 minutes of this pleasant walking we ended up amongst the zigzagging residential streets lined with their colourful photogenic houses.
We had been keeping an eye out while coming down the hill for trolls, which are part of Norwegian folklore and which we understood lived in gloomy forests, however we didn’t see any until we arrived at the souvenir store in town and there were hundreds of the ugly things! They are known for being unfriendly, stupid and dangerous, so not sure why they have found such a prominent place in Norwegian mythology and why souvenir shops are full of them. We sure weren’t tempted to buy any.
Founded in 1070AD, Bergen owed its wealth to the fish export trade, which has been at the heart of the town since the Middle Ages. It’s still an important industry, and the Bergen fish market, with its cheery red canvas stalls displaying all sorts of shellfish, smoked fish and even whale meat, (I’d not seen this before and was surprised that it was black!) occupies a prime spot beside the central harbour.
However, it’s not the fish market that is the most charming part of Bergen. More picturesque is the quaint quay of Bryggen with its timber warehouses and wooden rust-red and ochre buildings that overlook the eastern side of Vågen Harbour. Dating from the 12th century, it has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historical significance as the site from which the Hanseatic League, founded by German merchants in the 14th century to protect trade around the North Sea and the Baltic for member countries, lived and operated for the best part of 400 years, trading in dried fish and grain. Over the centuries it has been ravaged by fire, so the 60 wooden buildings you see today are mostly around 300 years old, reconstructed after a devastating fire in 1702.
Following a relaxed couple of days in Bergen, we caught a train to Oslo, capital of Norway. This trip, like the Flam Railway, is regarded as one of the world’s spectacular rail journeys. The 7 hour trip passes through a variety of landscapes, from tundra like landscape, high lakes, snow capped mountains, waterfalls and rivers.
Although we’d only seen a little corner of Norway, we could understand why, with its spectacular scenery and clean living it was ranked first on the World Happiness Report in 2017. Who wouldn’t be happy living in a beautiful country like this?