July 21/22, 2014
Today was a long pair of days. Our flight to Reykjavik left promptly just before 4 pm, our wait in the Keflavik airport went by very quickly, and after a couple of hours we landed in Bergen. There were no formalities in the airport so we collected our bags and headed outside to catch the airport bus into the city. Using the tiny map which Rosemary had printed and some guesswork we found our way to the Marken Gjestehus, which was located on Kong Oskars Gate near the city centre.
The hotel was accessed via an old-fashioned elevator, complete with beautiful wood paneling, a leather bench, and a gate which you close after closing the outside door. Despite its antiquated appearance it worked very efficiently. Finally we could change out of our hiking boots and put on our regular shoes!
The last time we visited Bergen was 24 years ago, and it still looked very similar to what we remembered. The most obvious difference was that the port was full of huge cruise ships (four of them) and the streets were full of tour buses (we didn’t try to count). But the Bryggen buildings still looked pretty much the same. The port was preparing for a tall ship festival starting the day after tomorrow, but there weren’t any tall ships in port just yet. It was hot and sunny, must have been 25°C, so we located an ice-cream shop and had yummy ice-creams, definitely a great treat.
Now that it was later in the afternoon the light for photography was getting better, so we decided to ride the Fløibanen funicular up the hill for a view over Bergen. The view from the top was spectacular and worth the (one-way) price. We bought Fantas at the kiosk, then headed out on one of the numerous trails which laced the area. First we went around the plateau past a small lake, then followed the path which plunged down the hill into streets which led back to the city. At the bottom the route turned into flights of steps which had people huffing and puffing up them.
Down at the end of the harbour the fish market had been going full-blast all day, and we had thought about getting fish and chips for dinner there. But when we finally arrived the fishmongers were all closing up—all except one, luckily for us. But we have had better fish and chips.
July 23, 2014
Despite being above a busy street, we had a reasonable night’s sleep. For breakfast we had tea and the last of our raisin buns from home. We packed our bags and asked the hostel to store them for us while we went out to explore more of Bergen. First stop was at the DNT (Den Norske Turistforening) shop, which was just about next door. Paul had forgotten to bring his Camelbak and Rosemary had brought an old backpack from Caroline’s swimming days which turned out to smell rather sweaty. There was a small Bergans of Norway 12-liter pack complete with platypus, which solved both problems in one go.
We walked over to have a look at the Domkirke (cathedral), which was just opening. It was very different from the English cathedrals we had seen; the inside was very plain. No carvings on the pillars, no fancy ceilings, no monuments to saints, only some lovely stained-glass windows around the altar.
Back out in the sunshine we walked down to the harbour to check out the tall ships. A few of them had arrived already; there was a four-masted Portuguese ship and a huge four-master from Russia, the Kruzenshtern, which dwarfed the 13th-century fortress it was moored next to. The rest of the harbour was still empty, awaiting the other 30 or so ships. For lunch we bought sausages in buns from “Bergen’s Best Sausages” and ate them while sitting on a bench next to the water and listening to a brass quintet performing. A very enjoyable way to spend our time.
We still had a few hours to kill before heading over to the Hurtigruten dock, so we decided to walk out to the Nordnes point to see if we could see any more tall ships arriving. There were some lovely houses and a shady park and a busy swimming pool, but no tall ships.
We went back to the hostel, retrieved the packs from storage, and walked down to the Hurtigruten terminal to check in for our cruise. Before boarding we watched the safety video which is mandatory for all passengers. (If you’re going to abandon ship then it’s a serious business and you put on the serious survival suit, not just a cheesy life-vest.) Our departure time would be at 8 pm, so we looked around the ship, the MS Lofoten, and then sat in the deck-chairs, enjoying the warm sunshine.
Around 6 pm we went in for dinner, which was a buffet including classic Bergen fish soup, lamb stew, poached salmon, and a variety of desserts. The food was all really tasty and there was plenty of it.
Next: Hurtigruten, Part 1