Bergen main street

After a good night’s sleep we went downstairs for breakfast which was, on a scale of 1-10, about a 6 and then set off to explore Bergen.

In the past few months we had been watching a snippet about Bergen which was shown a number of times on the DSTV Travel Channel and a couple of things in particular stood out for us. These included the Gingerbread City created each December by the children of Bergen, Bryggen which is an area on the wharf with 14th Century wooden commercial buildings which are built on some ancient excavations and the Museum of Edvard GrieFung and his statue which has pride of place in the City centre.

Bergen main streetThe main street of Bergen

Before starting our day out we encountered a surprise and irritation. We had expected to be able to leave our luggage at the hotel for the day and collect when we set off to board the ferry which was to take us up the coast to Ålesund and Trondheim that evening. When we took our luggage to Reception they informed us that the hotel was closing at noon until 5 January 2016 due to insufficient bookings! We had to leave our luggage in lockers at the station and pay 50 Norwegian Krone (NoK). These are one of the indirect costs to which I refer in my blog on finances.

Bergen is the 2nd largest city in Norway and is the Gateway to the fjords. It was started in 1090 as a commercial post and has a rich and beautiful history. Those of us who are accustomed to cities with a million or more would call it a town. Being on the East Coast, there are a number of cruises up the fjords lasting anything from 3 hours to a full day. Sadly, we were in Bergen for just one day and there were lots of other things to see and do.

The city is situated right on the seashore with 7 mountains creating the background. Most of the homes are built up the side of Mt Floya, the largest and closest. The funicular, which goes up & down the mountain, is used not only to take tourists to the top of the mountain but also to drop and pick up residents for whom the roads are very steep and winding. There are 3 ‘stations’ on the way up and when it stopped at the first one we were all very puzzled. When a woman with 2 small children boarded at stop 1 and stepped off at stop 3 we realised that there were parking areas at these stations. Locals were able to park their cars at these stations and use the funicular to & from town.

Ent to our hotel in BergenThe entrance to our hotel in Bergen

Being a small city with few roads on the ‘flat’, there was no hop-on/hop-off bus, walking was the next best thing. We started our tour by looking for the “Largest Gingerland Village” which is created by the children of Bergen each December. When we found the venue there was a long queue which we joined. As our position in the queue slowly approached the actual entrance there was a sign showing the entrance fee. Unfortunately we would not be able to get in, not because of cost but because they did not accept Credit Cards or Euros. We did not have enough NoK nor enough Euros, to convert into NoK, as we needed those for the rest of our journey. It was really disappointing not to be able to see something unique to Bergen.

We decided to travel to the top of the mountain via the funicular For a change, the weather was good to us for the initial ride and arrival at the top of Mt Floya as the mist lifted, but within about 15 mins. it started to rain again and rather heavily this time. The view from the top was a super 180deg over Bergen and we were really pleased that we had been able to see that. There was a lovely covered area with benches and small tables where we were able to have something to eat and drink. While descending in the funicular, we were far more aware of the stops on the way and how the houses were built into the mountain. A sign we had not noticed on the way up indicated that when one of the 2 funiculars stopped at a station, the other had to stop as well to ensure the synchronisation of the 2 as they go up & down.

Once back on the level ground of the city which winds its way around the harbour which is established in the entrance to a fjord. On the western side is the most beautiful Tourist Information Centre (more on this later) and on the eastern is Bryggen, a series of Hanseatic commercial houses built in the 14th Century. These are the oldest wooden buildings in Europe and are now a UNESCO Heritage Site. Today they are still commercial buildings in everyday use.

Bldg originally from 1480A home first built in 1480

Original trading blds on Bergen wharfArea of Bryggen with buildings for trading since the 14th Century

While walking along the western side of the wharf in front of the wooden buildings we noticed that the time was 1pm in South Africa, the time at which the wake for my sister, Iris, was to start. We stopped and spent a few minutes in silence and prayer. It was a very poignant moment for us both.

We then walked across to the other side of the wharf to the Tourist Info Centre which was fabulous. Situated on the 1st floor of a building with glass walls so you can see something of the city from every corner, chairs for visitors to sit on and browse the booklets and pamphlets with really well trained staff. What a pleasure to visit such a beautiful and welcoming place. On the ground floor was the largest and cleanest fish market which is considered the best in Norway. The market also has fruit, flower and handicraft stalls.

By now it was time to collect our luggage and go to board the ferry at the far southern tip of the wharf. We caught a bus from the bus station just up the road from the train station and then had to walk about 1km to the ferry which will be the centre of the story in my next blog.

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