August 2019. Bergen may be my favorite stop so far on my 10-city, 8-country summer trip, except for that one incident, but more about that in a later blog.
Right away as we stepped off the plane my curiosity was piqued. A huge sign on the mountain across from the airport says BERGEN?. What does that mean…are we in Bergen or not? It turns out this was the winning entry in the competition for an art installation at the airport in 2017. The jury said, “The artist does not seek to provide textbook answers, instead pointing to the universal human experience of being new to a place. Bergen is the place – but the place for what? The question mark contains an infinitude of possibilities.” Sounds artsy-fartsy to me, but I don’t explain things, I just report them.
Bergen is on the west coast of Norway, and we had to fly over the mountains on the east side to get there. From the plane we could see flat-topped mountains with vast amounts of snow even in August. Perhaps they were glaciers. Then as we came into Bergen, we saw the land where it meets the Atlantic Ocean and many fjords, the intersection of the two.
Our AirBnB was in the old part of the city, as were all of our lodgings so far. We were on the bottom two floors of a tiny burgundy house squeezed between two larger ones. The walkways to the back on both sides led to additional houses back there. How do they get furniture in and out?
Bergen started out in the flat area around the harbor, but soon sported houses hanging on the mountainsides, including ours. That meant that every trip down came with an uphill return.
After quickly settling in, we headed down to the harbor and the fish market, the heart of the town. On the way we appreciated all the pedestrian streets, broad swaths of road with cobblestones and monuments, and flower festooned gazebos and parks.
We soon came across the jewel of it all, their shallow lake, Lille Lungegårdsvannet, with a fountain. Our paths would cross the lake park several times in our short visit here. At the lake, we struck up a conversation with a local who recommended a restaurant for supper, and off we went.
But once we reached the harbor, we let our eyes decide for us that we must eat right in the fish market, which has been running since 1796! It was a riot of colors, rich smells, and cooking aromas so strong I could almost taste what we smelled. We had the opportunity to sample reindeer and moose sausage, and local honey. But it was the seafood that was the focus of all.
It didn’t take long to decide on the Spaniards in rubber waders boiling, sautéing, frying and otherwise transforming all manner of SEAfood into seaFOOD. When the flirty guy taking our order found we were from Hawaii (they always ask this to open a conversation that might lead to a sale), he immediately said “Aloha? Is that the word? Teach me some others.” I ran through a good list. “And would the ladies like mussels to start?” Oh yes.
Oh, the mussels! I learned to eat them on the trip I took to rural France in 2017, and haven’t been to a place where I can get them since. The only thing wrong with them was that there weren’t enough to feed all three of us hungry gals. Luckily the rest of the food came quickly. Carly and I had kabobs of shrimp, salmon and halibut; Kay had lobster. We all shared.
After that it was only 8 pm, so we wandered and snapped photos of the colorful houses along the Bergen Harbor, every bit as pretty at Nyhavn in Copenhagen, and far less crowded. Bergen was founded in 1070, and was at one time the capital of Norway. The harbor is Norway’s second busiest port.
I wanted to ride the Bergen Funicular up Mount Fløyen for the view of the city. Kay and Carly tried to climb it, with their scooter injuries from Helsinki still hurting! Luckily there were several stops on the way up and they joined me at the first stop.
The sun was glinting off the harbor water and it was easy to spot the lake. Breath-taking. The funicular is one of Norway’s most visited attractions. It runs until 11 pm, but even then I don’t think you’d see full darkness with the city lights on. And after a very long day, I was not about to wait around to find out. Good night all.
For other essays about my summer 2019 Europe trip see:
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