We'd been looking forward to today because our friends Cath and her Mum Dorothy were coming to the city of Bergen on their Scandinavian cruise and we were meeting them for dinner!
It was late on the Sunday morning by the time we arrived and suburban life was in full flow. Some were out walking with dogs, kids or both. Others were doing DIY, maintenance or having a good clear out.
Modern, concrete good quality multistorey housing with terraces was mixed with large homely looking wooden board buildings.
Nearing the city centre the van rattled slowly along cobbled streets, passing large groups of tourists and the cruise ships from whence they came, moored at the spacious marina. The sightseers soon thinned out and it wasn't long before the streets were quiet once again. It took a bit of time to find a suitable parking place but being Sunday, it meant that many restrictions were relaxed. We parked up in a marked bay on dead end road up the hill by the University, overlooked by grand stone townhouses in pastel colours, that looked as if they were now rented out as student accommodation.
Walking down to the centre, we passed the tall steepled, red brick, St John's Church. The morning service had ended and inside only a few worshipers remained while the candles were blown out. There was a rich smell of wood and looking up, we found ourselves under a beautiful dark wooden ceiling.
A wide pedestrian thoroughfare led us downhill alongside water that flowed along channels inset in the dark grey pavement and steps, before sliding smoothly over a flat slate of dark marble to form a waterfall.
The dockside was where most people were clustered. Running along one side was an indoor fish market. This was more like a market than the one at Trondheim; it had several sellers, each with beautifully presented arrays of seafood and fish on ice, on their slanted silver metal counters. Gigantic crabs, prawns, salmon and oysters (at £3.50 each) were all available to take away, but you could pay extra and have them prepared into a meal for you to eat at one of the wooden slat picnic tables, sitting on chairs covered with plush cusions and sheepskins. Alternatively you could laze away the hours with a cocktail on one of the large, low grey sofas.
A corridor of outdoor market stalls ran perpendicular to the angular head of the dock, each counter covered with a smart maroon awning. These sellers focused on street food, with cups of mixed berries, salami selections and freshly cooked meats and fish to take away. Prices displayed were in Norwegian Kroner and Euros, the cost of the latter being even higher than the former!
Skirting round the dock we saw an eclectic range of boats, from huge modern cruise ships to little tour boats. We passed another electric car ferry charging its batteries and took time to peer at the expensive leisure cruisers and the sleek lines of classic sailing ships, one with beautifully varnished wood, another that looked brand new and spotless in smart navy colours.
The two long sides of the dock were very different, the south side with its markets, appeared practical with wide streets and modern buildings. The north side contained the well preserved Bryggen area, with its wooden board warehouses painted in rich reds, blues, greens and deep yellows. The area within this old town sector had wooden floorboards and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The atmosphere that pervaded the traditional working area was different from that outside, whilst the internal spaces were all occupied by tourist shops, these sold handmade lace, rich brown moose leather products and traditional knitted jumpers and gloves to name but a few. Cheap tourist nik naks had not been allowed to distract from the 'ye olde worlde' feel.
We were going to go up Fløyen mountain on the cable car but the £9 fee and our aching feet decided us against it and we instead wandered around a garden area with a fountain spilling over rocks upon which bronze statutes were perched. A large lake stood nearby, around which greedy gulls perched, their beady eyes studying those passers-by who had icecreams. Vicky's favorite place in Bergen had to be the ornate band stand around which bright flowers bloomed. People sat out on the neatly cut grass enjoying a bit of Sunday rest and relaxation.
After returning to the van to sit with Poppy, we once again wandered down the hill to meet Cath and Dorothy at their hotel. We'd looked up a pub with good food and prices that were decent (for Norway).
Pingvinen (The Penguin) was only half a kilometer away and we walked directly there through the heavy rain, catching up with Cath and Dorothy as we went.
The pub didn't take bookings and it was lucky we arrived when we did because there were no free tables left. There were however, two friendly looking people sitting at a table for 6, so we asked whether we might join them and they happily agreed. They turned out to be British and really good company!
There was all sorts on the menu, including reindeer, cod, moose and whale, but most dishes could be adapted for vegetarians. We both went for reindeer shank which was cooked perfectly and delicious with a hint of cinnamon. We'd decided this was the only meal we'd have out in Norway and so splashed out on beers. We chose the cheapest ale at £7 but it was Norwegian and tasted good. Cath and Dorothy are both great company and it really buoyed us up to be able to spend the evening with them, even if it did feel a bit bizarre just meeting just for dinner in a city so far away from the UK. We stretched out the time with another round of beer and walked back to the hotel, again sheltering under umbrellas. It would have been great to spend more time with them but our visit home in November doesn't seem too far away now and we are looking forward to spending time with many of our friends and family then!Read more