I was tempted to do a “24 hours in Bergen” article. However, an article like that needs a well organised timetable and that was never the point of this trip. The goal was to ‘be’ in Bergen. Feel a little bit of its atmosphere, in addition to some of the attractions of course.
The Widerøe plane landed at a newly refurbished Flesland airport on Friday afternoon and from there we took the Bybanen (tram) into the city. We smiled at each stop, as it has its own tune and I think I recognized a couple of them (‘Åh, Vestland, Vestland’ …). We left the tram at Byparken and walked to the Scandic Hotel, where we had booked a room (reputed for its breakfast buffet). We were hungry, so we checked in, dropped our bags and headed back out again to find our first stop.
So then we went there, where all the other tourists go, ‘Bryggen’
This place was recommended by a colleague who knows the city well; it has a cosy atmosphere and home cooking. We ordered fish grateng and Norwegian stew (lapskaus), with the dark beer and wine that followed, we let our shoulders relax. We heard several different languages in addition to the local dialect. Bergen is an old trading city, a popular student city and being on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, a tourist destination too.
So then we went there, where all the other tourists go, ‘Bryggen’. It was dusk when we arrived and I told Joe that we must come back in the daylight to see more and take pictures. We crossed a Christmas decorated ‘Torgalmenningen’ (the main square), passed ‘The blue stone’ and felt pleased that the rain did not come in sideways from the fjord when we got to the old Bryggen area, with the crooked houses.
These buildings have seen so much weather, so much life. No wonder they have to lean on each other. I felt a certain apprehension when touching the timber walls.
We left the old Bryggen area seeking shelter in the narrow streets close by and found a nice bar ‘No Stress’. Although their fire wasn’t burning, the place was full of candles and felt warm and inviting. Joe ordered a Guinness and gave it a thumbs up. There are not many places here in Norway where the Guinness tastes good, he thinks. But this one was approved. Well… you’re just a short trip across the sea from the source here, aren’t you! We toasted.
We relaxed and had a good time before we took to the streets again. It was cold and damp outside, so we were not tempted to stay out too long. Besides, we felt a little peckish now. A little cheese and ham maybe? Well, that was at least the choice we had when we arrived at ‘Dråpen Vinbar’ and sat down with a glass. The Christmas dinner season was in progress and most tables were busy and full of happy people.
While Joe ordered a drink, I counted ‘Spellemann’ awards
Before we went, I told Joe that many good Norwegian artists come from Bergen. As ‘Garage’ music venue was right outside our hotel, we went there. While Joe ordered a drink, I counted ‘Spellemann’ awards (Spellemann being the Norwegian version of Grammy). It was really popular for a while for bands to donate their prize to Garage. Now you will find most of them as door handles, while some decorate the bar.
We found a concert program. No concert this evening, unfortunately, but there was the next day! We went online and bought tickets for the Belgian band ‘Triggerfinger’, with ‘Kindred Fever’ from Haugesund as warm up. It looked promising.
The breakfast buffet really didn’t disappoint us. It had ‘everything’. So we could take to the streets again with full bellies. We headed to Bryggen again, in daylight now. We spent some time there, slowly walking through the narrow alleys.
The ‘Tyskerbryggen / Hansabryggen’ was built around 1070 and was a central hub of trade in Norway. In 1979, the building was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List and comprises the 61 buildings.
It’s so charming these labyrinthine streets with their cosy houses
When in Bergen you should take the funicular ‘Fløibanen’. It’s a must some will say, but when we stood outside the ticket office, heavy clouds came in over the city, covering the mountains. It didn’t look promising for a good view. We wouldn’t see anything from up there, so the funicular will have to wait for a clearer day. Instead, we went to explore the neighbourhood behind the Fløibanen’s ticket office. It’s so charming these labyrinthine streets with their cosy houses. A little up and a little down, around a corner and what do you see? A cat to say hello to, a nice decoration.
But what now? We were still full after breakfast and it was too early for lunch.
“Didn’t you want to see Pepperkakebyen?” asked Joe. Oh, yes! If you are in Bergen in December, you can not miss this one. We made a separate article about the amazing gingerbread town. Read it here.
There was rain in the air when we came out again. We wanted something warm to drink and we walked around a little before we found a place we liked, ‘Folk & Røvere’. Tea for Joe, cappuccino for me. We sank down in a sofa and relaxed, people watching. Locals meeting over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, discussing life, while taking a break from Christmas shopping. Outside, people hurried past, with and without umbrellas, laughing, smiling and everything was fine.
Although the city was Bergen, there was a moment it felt good to pretend you were somewhere much further south.
As we improvised what to see and do, we had not booked a table for dinner that evening. It was pretty full everywhere due to Christmas, but we found a place at ‘Pygmalion’ in the street Nedre Korskirkeallmenning.
Quite a nice place really. It was cosy and had good food and wine. With Spanish speaking waiters, we felt for a brief instant that we were in a completely different country. Although the city was Bergen, there was a moment it felt good to pretend you were somewhere much further south.
Soon enough we had to go out in the rain again. We found some seats in’ Apollon’ where we had a beer while looking at old vinyl covers. The place offers both beer and vinyl records. We only had the one, as we had a concert to go to.
Joe was peckish when we went back out in the rain again. The concert was good, but we thought maybe it would last longer. We realized that there was only one set when the band played an encore. I think I preferred the warm up band, Kindred Fever.
We did not walk far. Just around the corner from the hotel and a short walk from Garage is ‘Don Pippo’. The building looked interesting so we decided to go in. We ordered cheese, ham and a nice glass of red wine, while we summed up the concert and the city.
We enjoyed Bergen. I have friends who have studied and lived there for several years, they all enjoyed it too. I really understand why as everyone is so relaxed there. It is my experience that westerners and northerners in Norway are really friendly and warm. With the weather conditions they experience, they have to be.
Another thing I noticed was the culture of nightlife (and Garage, for that matter). If somebody bumps into you, they immediately say sorry (it doesn’t happen in Southeast, where I am from). The people of Bergen are polite and well behaved. Maybe it has something to do with its status as a trading city from the past, or that there are so many foreigners in the city most of the time, working or visiting.
Bergen, we will be back!