Listening For The Weather


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Europe » Norway » Western Norway » Bergen
September 21st 2019
Published: September 25th 2019
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I have never had good reason to monitor the weather in Norway. My eyes have always focused on the clouds passing over Britain and heading to Denmark and the lower areas of Scandanavia. However having decided it was about time we made our first forray into the country, I purchased two £30 pound returns to Bergen and everything changed. Bergen is officially confirmed as the European city with the most rainy days. I know you don't exactly go hunting the sun in Scandinavia, but the averages make some depressing reading. There were on average 17 days of rain in September. The hours of total sunshine in the month didn't look too clever either. The average rainfall is even extreme by Norwegian standards and comes in at nearly 3 times the totals of Oslo. I checked back through other Travel Blogs and didn't see too much by way of photos with sunshine. The Other Half queried what she should prepare for? I had no real answer, apart from anything. There were 4 days to departure. The forecast was was still deluge after deluge, although there was a suggestion of respite on the Sunday. It was very much a question of hope, rather than expectation. There were 2 days to go to departure. The hope was paying off. Clouds, giving way to sun on Friday and 2 days of sunshine for Saturday and Sunday with temperatures approaching 20 degrees. We'll take that, I thought. We duly landed in Bergen Flesland Airport and looked out on to sodden ground. The tarmac was wet and the grey sky heavy with more threatening looking clouds. The moral of the story - don't trust the weather forecast for Bergen and prepare for anything to happen, all in the one day.

Norway is not in the EU. We have had so much nonsense in the news about Brexit in the last 2-3 years, that a lot of people are now quite aware of that fact. The so called "Norwegian Model" means that they sign up to most of the EU rules, but have no effective say in proceedings. In return, they hang on to their prized fishing grounds and take more of an active interest in their own borders. We found this out, as waited patiently at immigration. The queue built up, as the diligent border control officers went through their insistence on studying visas, return flight tickets and fingerprinting anybody that aroused their suspicion. The moral of the story - don't assume Norway makes an easy back door route into these called European utopia. The straw haired one is probably working on our own such plan for after 31 October ( assuming he hasn't locateď that ditch he has threatened to jump into). In the usual off the cuff approach seen recently mind, it could involve Dylin the Downing Street Dog snapping at the ankles as he wanders through the lines at Heathrow!

We alighted into the terminal entrance and located the Deli de Luca, from where we were to pick up our Bergen Cards. The city cards in any Scandanavian city make a lot of sense. The initial outlay often looks expensive, but once you have a few free rides on public transportation and go into a couple of museums you have made the money back very quickly. There was no manned public information counter at the airport, so the Deli was a convenient 24 hour option for all parties. We handed over the confirmation number and were on our way with two 72 hour cards in a couple of minutes. As with everyone in Norway we encountered, perfect English eased the transaction. The airport is linked to the city by the Bergen Light Rail system. The one line takes about 40 minutes and is straight outside the entrance. Trains were pretty regular - about every 8 minutes - which logically would keep cars ofthe road The journey was free with the Bergen Card. After one stop on the train, I could see the country was keen on its green credentials. A large compound of new vehicles were awaiting their new owners - it was full of Tesla electric cars.

The overcast skies were depositing their load, as we neared the central area. A light drizzle was replaced by steady rain, just as we stepped out st Danmarksplass. The Other Half was bemoaning her decision not to bring an umbrella. I spied a discarded one on the platform, which had been cast aside by a local as not worthy of repair. A quick assessment of the situation and it was repaired in 2 minutes flat. We were now prepared for the "anything" I had told the Other Half to prepare for and set off up the hill towards our Magic Hotel. We were only 4 stops from the city centre, but the cost saving was dramatic compared to the hotel prices right by the harbour. We had arrived expecting the worst in a financial sense, but the prices in Norway are truly eyewatering. The Magic Hotel included breakfast - the idea was to stock up as much as possible on the carbs to reduce the spend during the day - and had everything else we equired, so it would allow us to make the most of our funds. The design was interesting and modern. The psychedelic approach to decorating could lead one to think somebody had been at the mushrooms! We headed out, umbrella in hand.

In view of the water falling from the sky, we opted to try a museum. We stepped out by the transport interchange, where the Railway Station meets Bus Station meets multi storey car park in an ugly concrete mess. Two minutes walk and you are in the Byparken area. As anymore water were needed, a huge fountain in the centre of the lake fired jets skyward. One side of the lake was flanked by the Bergen art Museum Quarter. We headed into the Kunsthalle - free with the Bergen Cards - which was full of abstract art and it didn't detain us long. In the brief interlude, the rain had stopped. We had no need to use our "free" umbrella for the duration of the stay. The adjacent small park has a bandstand at the centre. A bust of local composer, Edvard Grieg, kept watch on proceedings. He gazed out towards the imposing Bergen Theatre and Concert Hall at the far end, where he played many times. The equally impressive building behind him looked like it was formerly the Post Office, but is now transformed into an upmarket mini shopping centre. The streets run off at a grid pattern towards the harbour area. As you would expect, there was an air of prosperity and the shops were definitely at the higher end of the spectrum. We checked the prices in Mcdonalds, just in case we needed to head down the food chain in search of ssustenance. It was clear however, that there would be no bargains here. I photographed the Seamans Monument at the end of the street, before the vista opened out on to the harbourside.

The skies were still grey, but the Bergen in the tourist brochures was still visible. You eyes are cast upward to the cable car at Mount Floinen and the white board houses, which hug the steep hillside. On the waterfront, the richly coloured buildings of the old Hanseatic port dominated on the far side. A huge cruise ship was moored at the far end and its human cargo could be seen wasting a potential inheritance in the area known as the Fish Market. In truth it was no more than a series of fish stalls inviting you to try the fresh produce in the adjacent, overpriced restaurant. Live Lobsters and King Crabs jostled in the tanks. The rows of filleted salmon laid out on ice looked tempting. Norwegian Caviar was £30 for a small tin. I am perhaps being unfair my assessment, but if the prices in the major fast food places looked scary then these would definitely bring you to tears. Welcome to Norway! The Bryggen or Hanseatic port city on the other side of the harbour looked photogenic, but I largely kept my powder dry for an occasion when the sun appeared. It is a listed area, though largely not original. The buildings gave way to a maze of narrow passageways, where every corner was occupied by a gift shop or cafe to relieve the cruise passengers of their Krone. If you were after a piece of Norwegian knitwear, you were in the right place. Waterproof coats were also much in evidence and are no doubt, a good seller most days. The majority of the remainder of the stock is probably the greatest example in the world of how to "add value" to Chinese plastic, before it is boarded on a cruise ship and enters the USA without the Donald noticing he has missed out on a tariff opportunity. The architecture is akin to northern Germany or the Baltic States. However as the streets rise towards the sky up the hillside, I was increasingly thinking we were more somewhere in New Zealand. It felt very much like being in Wellington with less wind, high prices and a lack of Lord of the Rings merchandise. We climbed higher among the white clapperboard houses. It was picture postcard pretty, but with the climate I was not sure about how I felt about living in one. I guess it is an irrelevance, given most properties in this area have probably been in the same family ownership for generations. We stopped for a coffee - our first purchase on Norwegian soil. Two double shot latte coffees came to 104 Norwegian Krone. We would have get used to cash disappearing through our fingers. The photographic vista was spoiled a bit by the wheelie bins dotted around. The houses were designed long before a bin store was an integral feature. We walked along through the sprawl of houses clinging to the slopes and descended to the waterfront by some swanky looking PWC offices with fantastic views out across the outer harbour. This area was formerly home to fish quays and warehouses, but now the city slickers have moved in with their fancy apartments. The late afternoon sun was starting to make an appearance and we would have blue skies until our departure. We caught the tram back to Danmarksplass to get changed.

The price of alcohol in Norway necessiated a bit of careful planning at this stage. We would normally retire to a bar for pre-dinner refreshments, but with prices approaching the equivalent of 90 to 100 Norwegian Krone ( or £10 for a pint) it might be an expensive start to the evening. We ventured into the supermarket instead. On our trip to Helsinki last year, we had a fridge in the hotel room and I got used to stocking up before we went out on a morning. A couple of cold ones would then be ready and waiting for later. Why the rush? In most of Scandanavia, there are strict sales times and such as the hard liquor or spirits are available at state controlled shops. Beer is available in the supermarkets in Norway, but only until 8 pm between Monday to Friday, until 6pm on a Saturday and not at all on a Sunday!! We had no fridge in our room this time, so it was just a question of purchasing some for tonight. The cheapest can of routine lager beer was 25 Norwegian Krone and the Other Half's selection of a can of pear cider rocked in at 35 Norwegian Krone. As I highlighted earlier, Norway is big on being green and to encourage you to recycle your cans, each has a 2 Krone deposit added. We retired to get changed with our limited supplies. The recycling deposit certainly works. I carefully retained the cans to make sure we took them back to the supermarket. As a well known UK establishment would say, "Every little helps"! After an early start, we decided on staying in the hotel to eat. I am not usually a fan of hotel dining, but this seemed to be a good option - a panoramic view over Bergen from the 5th floor and as sensible as prices get in Norway. I restricted myself to just one more drink ...... 84 Krone..... and settled for the free water, that was served without exception everywhere we ate or had a coffee. Water is definitely not in short supply in Bergen. The main courses were pretty good and substantial, which was a consolation given both came in at around 200 Krone. We retired for an early start.

I had read breakfast could get busy, so were up with the lark. The large party of Japanese had fortunately got an appointment with a fjord, so were on their way as we arrived. Breakfast was substantial, so we stocked up on the carbs to reduce expenditure later at lunchtime. The hot and cold selection even included baked beans (to add to the sausage and egg), which I presumed to be a sign of healthy numbers of UK visitors. We walked down the hill to the Light Railway at Denmarksplass and headed into town. Bergen is very much a city of the sea, so we started with a visit to the Norwegian Fisheries Museum. In a converted warehouse on the waterfront, it was reached in 7 or 8 minutes on the bus from near the central park. Entry was free with the trusty Bergen Cards. The savings were mounting. The old warehouses in the area were all of a type. A first floor gantry overhung out on to the water, designed to make winching the barrels of fish from the ships easier. The Museum was a bit simplistic - designed to appeal to all the family - but we came away with a better understanding of fishing in these parts and a few choice facts. Who knew for example, that the length of the Norwegian coast in a straight line is about 1700 kilometres but by the route including the circa 240,000 islands it is over 100,000 kilometres? Only Canada can claim a longer registered coastline. We know there are a lot of fish off the coast, but so many cod that each Norwegian technically has 300 kilos of the fish swimming out there.

We walked up to the Bergen Fortress Museum, hidden away behind the Hakon Hall area. Entry is free to all. The Museum covers the military history of Bergen, but with a special exhibition on the resistance movement that was active in World War 2. Bergen was at the centre of the movement against both the Germans and the local Quisling administration. Norway was neutral in World War 1, but became embroiled in a dispute over the herring catch which in 1914 and 1915 was shipped to Germany. Britain started a blockade, before agreement was reached in 1916 for the total catch to be sold across the North Sea at vastly inflated prices. I think the most informative part of the World War 2 displays were the photographs of the destruction of the waterfront in 1944. A Dutch vessel in the employ of the Germans was at anchor, when the cargo of high explosives ignited. The Hakon Hall opened at noon. It was a royal residence 700 years ago, but also became a victim of the aforementioned explosion. Today fully restored, it is kind of a modern day medieval banqueting hall. The Rosenkrantz Tower next door was closed and covered in scaffolding. In contrast to yesterday, the tables were all out in front of Bryggen and people were enjoying the sunshine. I grabbed a few photographs of the Cathedral, which comes complete with cannonball embedded above the front entrance. It has apparently been there since a skirmish in the mid 1600s.

The breakfast plan had worked to a degree, but food was next on the agenda. We caught a bus across the other side of the harbour in pursuit of the Daily Pot. The establishment ranks at the top of the tree in cheap seats in Bergen. "Cheap Eat" is of course a relativel term. A simple menu of soups and "power bowls" is hearty nourishment. We had 2 small soups, that come with free toppings at 99 Krone each, before heading to the Maritime Museum on the top of the hill. A sports bar nearby was flying Brann Bergen flags and a noisy group of fans were engaged in the pre-match refreshments. We would see if they were still in good voice later. I would wholeheartedly recommend the Daily Pot as a must lunch stop, if in the area. The Maritime Museum was clear 3 pm, so time was limited. As you expect, it concentrated on all things sea related from the Vikings through to trading past, Bergen's role in passengers crossing the Atlantic and on to the modern oil era. We walked through the University gardens and caught the Light Rail back to the hotel to pick up the football tickets.

I will leave you on that note to enjoy the photographs of blue skies over Bergen.


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25th September 2019

Interesting! Thanks for sharing!

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