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.
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.
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.