Wednesday, June 15, 2011
As my ferry from Stavanger pulled into Bergen harbor, the historic buildings of Bryggen wharf basked in the sunshine. The bustling fish market buzzed with afternoon commerce, and Scandinavia’s only funicular glided gracefully up the wooded hill to Floien. It was quite a welcome, and I was excited to do some Bergen sightseeing.
I was in Bergen on a trip with the Norwegian Tourism Board to see one of Norway’s great coastal cities.
As soon as the ferry arrived, my friend and I walked to our accommodation, the Thon Hotel Bergen Bryggen. It was conveniently located right between the UNESCO World Heritage wharf and the city’s historic Bergenhus Fortress.
We checked into our room on the 8th floor and took in the views over the harbor and across the fjords. Back inside, we arranged our things around the twin beds, sofa, desk, and table. The room also had an ensuite bathroom with a power shower, although amenities were BYO except for soap.
We wanted to take advantage of the sunny weather to do some Bergen sightseeing, so we quickly went back outside and walked to the funicular. Up, up, up the hill we went. When we arrived at the top, we were rewarded with views across all of Bergen and the surrounding area. It was stunning.
Having sat on a ferry for four hours that day, we wanted to get some exercise. We decided to walk down from the top of the hill through the woods. Along the way we passed through a forest full of gnomes, many of which were as large as we were. It was a truly unique sight.
Back in Bergen, we walked all through the city, passing through such famous areas as Torgallmenningen Square, the fish market, Lille Lungegardsvann pond and the row of art museums that flanked it, the beautiful red brick Johanneskirken church, the natural history museum, and the early 20th century theater.
Later we walked back to Bryggen to explore the colorful historic buildings and the narrow passages between them. The modern shops, restaurants, bars, and museums that filled the spaces didn’t diminish the feeling of awe the wharf inspired as we ducked into secret alleyways and forgotten spaces.
We worked up quite an appetite exploring the city, and soon took the advice of the Bergen Tourism Board to have dinner at a fish restaurant in Bryggen called Enhjorningen. My starter of mussel soup in a creamy saffron broth was excellent, and my main of salmon was a generous portion of deliciousness.
The desserts were a bit pricey (15 GBP for a bowl of strawberries and cream!), but the historic atmosphere of the upstairs dining room in the heritage building in Bryggen was enough of a treat for me.
Dinner ended at 10pm, and it was still light outside. As such, we decided to take a post-prandial walk through the fortress. It was a large complex full of buildings that dated back centuries, and it provided a pleasant place to stroll and peruse the comings and goings of cruise ships and ferries as the evening drew to a close.
The next morning we awoke to thick fog and driving rain that fell in shivering puddles on the pavement. Our luck with the weather had come to an end. We were glad we had saved the museums for a rainy day of Bergen sightseeing.
Our first stop was the Hanseatic Museum in Bryggen. The museum housed a historic 18th century replica of the living and working quarters of the merchants of the Hanseatic League, a trading body that prospered in northern Europe for centuries. Bergen was an important base for the league, and Bryggen was home to the German Office.
From there we ran through the rain to the art museums along the Lille Lungegardsvann pond. First we visited the Bergen Art Museum, where we saw an array of 19th and 20th century art, including some works by Picasso, Braque, and Klee.
The museum was also home to Bolgen & Moi restaurant, which had a famous fish soup that the tourism board recommended. Given that it was pouring outside, it was a convenient place to stop for lunch.
I’m glad we did. The fish soup was every bit as good as we had been told, from the spicy broth to the salmon and mussels. We also shared a plate French fries with aioli, which was a winner.
Sated, we ran next door to the museum’s Rasmus Meyer Collection. There we saw everything from famous paintings by Norway’s Edvard Munch to replicas of 18th century Bergenian home interiors.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped for hot chocolate at a small cafe called Solbrod to fortify ourselves against the weather.
By the time we finished, the rain had magically stopped pouring down from the Nordic sky. We strolled back to our hotel, stopping by an irresistible design shop called Ting on the way.
Back at the Thon Hotel Bergen Bryggen, we picked up our bags, walked to the nearby airport bus stop, and took the 45-minute ride to the Bergen airport.
Our flight from Bergen to London departed on time, and we arrived back in the UK to find ourselves under clear skies in warm weather. But even the sunshine in London didn’t stop me from missing Norway and my two days of Bergen sightseeing.