Norway 2006: Day Eleven (Bergen, then home)
If you’re ever in Bergen, let me suggest the Hotel Augustin. It’s a nice place – friendly staff, fair trade coffee, organic tea and at breakfast they have what they call “eco-muesli”. There’s lots of “eco” stuff in Bergen. It seems to mean organic. I think. Anyway, the “eco-muesli”, perhaps with a spoon-full of raisins, is really nice.
A good hotel breakfast does set you up for the day, and we did have a big day. It was Monday – the day we went home.
Boo! Hiss! Don’t want to go home! Norway’s nice!
But still, we must go. But not until just after lunch – we’d have until 2pm to explore Bergen. Hurrah!
So we eat breakfast, dumped our luggage in the luggage room and hit the city.
As well as the Fløribanen, Bergen has a second funicular – a cable car that goes up Mount Ulriken. And there is only one way to get to it! Well actually that’s a lie. There’s quite a few. But you want the way to get to it don’t you? Yes, the way is much better.
There is really only one true way to get there and that’s the Bergen in a Nutshell double decker sightseeing bus. This is no ordinary off the peg bus – the pictures we’d seen proved that. No, this is a totally unique, handmade, tailored bus. The pictures of it looked quite frankly odd.
So a totally unique, hand built bus for Bergen. “Hourly departures 0900-2000”! 130 NOK each! Including a trip on the cable car! Includes GPS system to give you a tour guide in multiple languages! Cool!
It’s 08:55 and we find the bus stop.
09:00. We’re at the bus stop. Some other people have joined us.
09:10. Still at the bus stop.
09:25. Haven’t moved from the bus stop.
And so on. The other people gave up around 09:20. We hung on until 09:35 before we got bored and wandered over to the tourist information office across the road to see how we could get there without having to wait all day for this unique, hand crafted experience. It’s inside there that we see a little sign. The sign that told us what we really needed to know.
The Ulriksbanen is closed due to “technical difficulties”
Hmm. I stroke my stubbly, unshaven chin. Well that’s a bit of a conundrum. Our entire plan for the day consisted on going on a strange bus to a hill so we could go up in a little carriage dangling from a narrow cable. What on earth were we going to do then for the rest of the day?
Thankfully Bergen is not like Ulvik. There’s actually things to do in Bergen. There’s the Art Museum, the Maritime Museum, the Leprosy Museum… Ah choices!
We chose to wander to the Bryggen district – an area which is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site full of wood build tenement builds dating back to when the Hanseatic League controlled the dried cod trade in the city. Some of the buildings date back to the 13th century in one form or other.
In amongst the narrow alleyways there’s a small visitor centre – mostly shop actually – but there’s a small, discrete room where you can watch a video about the area. It’s mostly pictures with English subtitles, but it gives you an interesting introduction to the history, and to how the place today is maintained.
More importantly, it showed that at the turn of the 20th century, after fire had ravaged the area, there was a bit campaign by locals to demolish the area and rebuild it in such a way that it would be modern and appropriate for the city. Thankfully it never happened – something we should remember when viewing 1960s monstrosities with an eye to demolition. One days eyesore is often the next years heritage site.
After wandering round wonky wooden houses, we go to the Bryggen Museum to find out more. In what would become a theme for the day, it was closed. Albeit until 11. As we were nearby, we popped to see residence, defence post and part keep that is Rosenkrantz Tower. This tower, that dates back to the 1560s, is of course closed on Mondays in September. As is the adjacent Håkonshallen ceremonial hall…
So we go to Mariakirken, or St Mary’s Church. It’s a stone church favoured by the Hanseatic League when they used to be in town. It looks very impressive, but is, naturally, closed on Mondays in September…
One thing that is not shut is the Schøtsuene – a reconstruction of one of the original Hanseatic meeting halls. It’s open and we dutifully look round, although sadly there’s no context; no information to explain what you’re seeing. Well unless you purchase a guide book that is.
Our ticket also provides entrance to the Hanseatic Museum – which is, funnily enough, a museum about the Hanseatic League and their dominance of Bergen commerce – and it’s here that we go next, huddling under umbrellas. Bergen is, coincidentally, one of the wettest places in Norway. The huge number of mountains surrounding the city see to that.
The museum is a bit more informative, although we found ourselves battling our way round a group of Japanese tourists who are there on a large tour group.
It’s an interesting museum which is based in a Hanseatic house, showing the living quarters (the league members were single men, and forbidden to have relations with women during their time in the League) and the fish rooms where the dried cod was processed and stored. If there’s one flaw, it’s that it doesn’t really explain why the Hanseatic League in Bergen disappeared.
This omission isn’t explained in the nearby Bryggen Museum (which was now open) either, which skirts over the issue by saying that the locals began to take over the trade.
The Bryggen Museum features various archaeological finds, which are well presented. The highlight however is a short, but very well done video all about the Hanseatic period, and the life which the league members lived – putting the people into the picture for perhaps the only time on our Hanseatic tour.
Upstairs was also a temporary exhibition – rather randomly about children in the middle ages, but which was fascinating non-the-less – not least because they freely admitted that there was much that no one knew!
By now it’s lunchtime, and obviously the Bergen bus is operating as it zoomed past us (too fast for me to get a photo) and we scour the streets for food. Unlike Ulvik, choice is not a problem although finding something for a vegetarian is is another question.
After peering into cafes, we come across the Godt Brød bakery – an organic baker by all accounts. Whilst they do freshly made sandwiches to order, we each have a mini-pizza thing (scrummy!), some tea and share a frankly deliciously wonderfully fantastic chocolate brownie. All that came out at about £12 which some might consider excessive, but the brownie alone was well worth it. So much so that we share another. At £2.50 they’re not cheap, but as this is one seriously good brownie, it would be worth it at double the cost.
With time passing by, we meander back to the hotel, through the shopping area and by 2pm we’re in the minibus to the airport. By 14:30 we start playing the waiting game. Our flight to Stavanger is at 16:15, and once we get there we get our duty free. Aquavit – local spirit made out of potatoes. Embarrassingly we managed to buy Danish rather than Norwegian. Still it will give us something to try when we get home several hours later…
So long Norway. Thanks for the trip.