Ambling in Bergen (part 2)

Unfortunately, the National Museum was closed for a year for refurbishment, so I was disappointed to miss that. But the National Aquarium (Akvariet) was only about 30 minutes’ walk from the hotel and the weather was perfect for it. Bergen is a pleasant city to walk around – small (about 270,000 people) with pretty buildings and parks, and lots of history in evidence.

A pair of European otters (Gizmo and Bella) were doing the ‘cute’ thing – I’m always surprised at how big otters are.

There was a small waddle (yes, that is the collective noun for penguins on land; in the sea it’s a ‘raft’) of the world’s northernmost penguins, gentoos. (The only wild penguin that lives (just) above the equator is the Galapagos penguin.)

There was an ocean sunfish (either taxidermy or model) on the wall. When I was working at the South Australian Museum, I saw one washed up on the beach.

The marine stuff was centred on Arctic waters. I was very pleased to see a live basket star …

It lives only in the freezing regions.

I guess rays are easy to keep.

There was a surprising number of reptiles and amphibians, from all over the world. I took only a few shots of the many animals and did not get names.

The aquarium was quite crowded with families, so it was difficult to get shots without people in them. On the way back, I window-shopped (it was Sunday and the shops were shut – bad luck as I might have found strange and interesting things in them). The Norwegians are very proud of their culture, and the traditional costume, the bunad, is still worn on their national day and other important celebrations. These were in the windows of stores, so are modern takes on the costume. Different regions of the country have slightly different designs.

The rest of the afternoon was spent meandering back to the hotel, looking at the lovely old buildings and pondering my surroundings – so much history!



Back at the hotel I decided to treat myself to a local beer in the lobby (the world’s northernmost beer? No – that goes to the Longyearbyen brewery) at A$16 a schooner. I was sipping, writing up my notes to the pleasant music, then the receptionist turned on the TV to the World Soccer and half a dozen people appeared to watch it (our rooms didn’t have TV) – time for me to retreat to my room!

The following day we caught a coastal ferry to Balestrand, which I covered here and the day after Sognefjord, which I covered here. After that it was time to catch the ferry to Flåm, then the rail to Oslo, which I’ll cover next time.

Ambling in Bergen (part 1)

Day 16 To Bergen

We flew south from Tromsø to Bergen. The flight itself is only a couple of hours, but it seems to take all day from leaving a hotel in one city to arriving at the next in another city.

The views from the aircraft window were spectacular – steep mountains covered in snow, glaciers, and glacial lakes with various hues of blue. Apparently the differing colours are caused by the differing amounts of dirt that drop out of the glacier when it melts at the water’s edge. Despite looking pristine from afar, glaciers often have grey patches – fine soil carried along over centuries.

The airline provided a handy Norwegian air sickness bag, with comforting sentiments. (Honestly, we tourists take photos of the weirdest things, just because they are so different from home.)

Jerry’s suitcase, along with about 20 suitcases of the passengers of a huge Viking cruiseliner, didn’t arrive with the flight, but it arrived the next day. I hope the cruiseline passengers from the flight got theirs before they set sail – cruise passengers usually stay only one day in a city, spending the nights on their ship. Our hotel, Scandic Byparken, was in an older building than our previous, very modern hotels, and our rooms were decidedly of a lesser standard, but, hey, variety is the spice of life. It was in a convenient location for the usual walk around town after settling in. I always like to do this to get ‘the lay of the land’, so to speak. Tromsø, being within the Arctic Circle, still had the midnight sun, but in Bergen (outside the Circle) the sun was setting about 11 p.m. and rising about 4 a.m., and the ‘darkness’ was still quite light.

Day 17 (morning) Bergen

Our lovely guide for the morning (I’ve forgotten her name but she was most pleasant to be around and very knowledgeable) walked us through the city around the picturesque Old Quarter (nowadays mostly student rental accommodation) …

Anything dropped into the numerous street recycling bins goes onto the underground pneumatic system. Bergen uses underground waste collection to cover its entire city centre, around 7 sq km and 12,000 households.

Recycling bins

To my surprise, such a system is almost ready to go in Australia.

On the way from the old town to the centre of town, we passed the National Theatre. I couldn’t help wondering if those two birds keeping an eye on us were actually Hugin and Munin, Odin’s all-seeing ravens. But our knowlegeable guide didn’t know (I asked her). They weren’t ravens but you can never be too careful with Norse gods, especially in their own country.

We headed across several pleasant parks looking towards Ulriken, the highest of the seven peaks surrounding the city. There’s an aerial tramway to the top, which a couple from our group went on. The view from the top would have been spectacular.

There are a lot of statues around the town – for example, the Seamen’s Monument in the main square, Torgallmenningen. The four sides illustrate four ages of history in Norway. Unfortunately I didn’t come across any statues with women.

I’d noticed a lot of what looked like beggars on the streets, also in Tromsø. I knew Norway had a splendid welfare system and very little unemployment, and the beggars didn’t look Norwegian so I asked our guide – she said they were the ‘Romani Mafia’ – gypsies sent from outside Norway for six months (the legal limit) to beg. Once their time is up they are replaced by others. They can make a good living from tourists.

We arrived at the quite small retail fish market, where whale ‘steak’ is on sale among other North Sea fish, including the invasive but apparently delicious king crabs. Norway still fishes for minke whales. There is no wholesale fish market presently in Bergen.

Divide by 6 to get Australian dollars

After perusing the harvest of the deep, we headed for nearby Bryggen, a World Heritage site, the first settlement in what was at one stage the capital of Norway. The many big old wooden warehouses have burned down and been rebuilt several times. Bergen was the capital of Norway. From the 11th century, Bryggen was a major trading centre. It was a Sunday afternoon and very crowded with tourists, a bit like a walk in Sydney’s Rocks. The city’s stores were generally shut, so I couldn’t indulge myself in the sport of ‘finding weird and interesting things to look at or buy in foreign countries’. This was probably a good thing as I really don’t need any more. Apparently Bergen can have 200 days of rain a year, but this was not one of them – the weather was perfect for ambling around.

The area also has the oldest building in Bergen, St Mary’s Church, built between 1130 and 1170.

Also in the area is a giant wooden carved stockfish (dried cod) – cod are the mainstay of the fishing industry, now and in the past, for eating and trading.

There were plenty of museums and old buildings in the area, but being on a guided tour means you can’t really diverge to visit them. Our guide took us back to the hotel – we had to avoid various bands as there was a musical festival that weekend, and bands seemed to be practising in practically every park.

After lunch, I decided I’d had enough of plants so didn’t go on the afternoon trip to the Arboretum, but instead walked to the impressive National Aquarium. I’ll write about that next time.