A Fire Sale

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September 24th 2019
Published: September 30th 2019
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We were speaking to a Dutch couple at breakfast, who had been on an amazing expedition further north in Norway armed only with a Landrover that had a roof tent. They had been defeated by the rain and had retreated back to hotel civilization in Bergen. It will be busy in town today - they informed us - there is a big football match. This obviously wasn't new information to me and we were back at the hotel to pick up our tickets. The "big" football match was the "Westland" derby between Brann Bergen and the upstarts from down the road, FK Haugesund. The distance between the 2 cities is miniscule in Norwegian football terms which in theory makes it a hot rivalry, but the tradition of the 2 clubs could not more different. FK Haugesund were only formed in 1993, but the Brann boys have been around since 1908. The added spice of the derby was that this was the 111th birthday of Brann and the website promised a celebration and pyrotechnics. My close interest in their website paid off, as I noticed an announcement that birthday celebrations tickets would be on offer a few days before the game. The offer - tickets for 111 Norwegian Krone for a limited period of 111 minutes. The full retail price was 280 Krone and even more at the actual ticket office, so I brushed up on my Norwegian to understand how their web ticketing system worked. I successfully made the purchase, which were a positive bargain in value for money in Norway. I downloaded them to my phone and had a printed copy ready just in case my battery died.

The Brann stadium is easily reached on the Light Rail - a mere two stations beyond the hotel. I had joked with our Dutch friends that it would hardly be Feyenoord v Ajax in terms of anomousity and as we wandered through an estate of white board houses, it was difficult to envisage anybody getting very worked up about proceedings. The Brann stadium is in a wide open setting surrounded by training pitches and other facilities. A sort of birthday party fan zone was in full swing with children's activities. We walked around to the far side, where the FK Haugesund team bus was parked up. Fans mingled happily together. The online discount for tickets was obviously persuasive, as not one soul was waiting at the ticket office kiosks. I bought a pin badge to add to the collection, which in the bigger scheme of things was a steal at 39 Krone. As well as the pyrotechnics planned, Brann were encouraging a "flag day". A discount was on offer to tempt purchases. There were a couple of statues of former Brann greats on the grass banking outside.

The match itself was a massive disappointment. The news reports suggested that the wise ones were those who had chosen to enjoy the good weather elsewhere. The compact stadium wasn't bursting to the seams and the attendance was less than forecast. We filtered along the back of the stand, amused by the club emblems of English teams pinned to the wall behind a sheet of protective perspex. Two were missing. Arsenal had gone presumably as a souvenir, but the disappearance of Oldham Athletic raises more questions. Why Oldham, when such as Liverpool made an easier target? We started with the promised pyrotechnics. It wasn't exactly Balkan or Polish standard, but it filled the air with smoke for good few minutes. The show was accompanied by a lot of enthusiastic flag waving. The excitement largely ended there. The atmosphere was very strange and almost akin to a sports event in North America. A good number of the crowd were busy feeding their faces at every opportunity. A smell of hot dogs and the like wafted around us. Popcorn and football do not mix! A game of few chances and little ambition fizzled out to a 0-0 draw. In the Norwegian language, Brann means "Fire". It was fair to say, on fire they were not! FK Haugesund were content with the point. In Norwegian circles, Brann are well supported. They left me with the same feeling you get at Newcastle. The crowd can't make up for the mediocrity on the pitch. The next trophy could be a long time coming.

The Other Half was woken from her semi slumber at the final whistle and we headed back to the Light Rail station. It was all calm. The tepid display had left most wondering why they had bothered. We alighted at Danmarksplass and went into Peppe Pizza, which is a chain establishment around the Bergen area and possibly elsewhere. In the middle 1990s, we were in Iceland and I still have the price of the meal imprinted on my brain. £37 - at a time when you would have been unlucky not to get it for £10-12 in the UK. We ordered a roughly similar meal and whilst it was quite acceptable, the price was ridiculous. As the 6 pm Saturday booze cut hour had long since expired, it was time to head back to the hotel.

Breakfast in the hotel was a similar scramble to the previous day. It was another glorious day on the weather front, so we had always planned to be up early to minimise the inconvenience. Bergen is surrounded by 7 mountains of varying size. The most accessible and most visited is Mount Floyen. The funicular railway that climbs to the summit conveniently starts in the city centre, but with that it brings ease for the cruise ship gang to fit it into their schedule. We caught the Light Rail into town and were at the city Station around 9.20 am. The queues were short. We paid our return trip - with roughly a 50% discount for the production of the Bergen Cards - and were gazing down on the city in less than 10 minutes. The first line was opened in 1918 and the locals were as much in evidence as tourists this morning. Hikers, runners and dog walkers were all on board heading up to enjoy the morning. As I indicated in my previous blog, weather can be a big issue in Bergen. I suspect that there are few better days than we got in the year. A magnificent view across the city and out to the islands unfolded. We went for a short walk around the summit. The local resident goats looked decidedly unimpressed about having a succession of cameras poked up their noses. Signs warned against feeding them. The main terrace area below was filling up with the Japanese, all competing for a vantage point. The decision to rise early had been vindicated. The queue stretched back to the pay point at the entrance, as we made our way back down.

We were now on the Hop..... not literally, but on the Light Rail station of the same name. We were about half way back to the airport on the way to the Edvard Grieg Museum. The easy option is the special tourist bus from the swanky Tourist Information place on the harbour. However as we already had our valid tickets to make our own way, it was a no brainer. It was about a 20 minute walk ..... turn back on yourself as you leave the train heading from the city and follow the signs for Troldhaugen. The main difficulty were the cyclists speeding around this Sunday lunchtime. We passed some fairly impressive modernist houses of the suburbs' residents, all living the Scandinavian good life with sea view. We opted to include the lunchtime piano recital in our entrance fee, which is not my normal gig but when in Rome and all that! Greig was a native of Bergen, who studied in Leipzig and Copenhagen before becoming recognised as a master of composition. The Museum is in what was his second residence, where he spent most of his later years. A small cabin below the main house is where the man did some of finest works gazing out across the bay. The house itself is very small and complemented by an information centre, shop and cafe (which had a non functioning coffee machine, but turned out a mean sea trout wrap at a price). The life of Greig was documented in the information centre. What surprised me more than anything was the extent of his touring. We become accustomed to bands these days ploughing round the world to support their latest recordings. Greig was ahead of the game with his busy schedule that would see him take his show to such as St Leonard's on Sea and Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. The piano recitals take place at 1 pm each day through the summer in a specially built auditorium in the grounds. The pianist sits at his grand piano framed in a picture window above Greig's cabin and the bay below. It was very impressive and worth the extra. The pianist today was a young rising star, Thormod Ronning Kvam, who gave his interpretation of a few of Greig's classics. In all honesty, Norwegian Peasant Dances didn't hit the mark. However, I was surprised to actually recognise such as Morning Mood and In The Hall Of The Mountain King from Peer Gynt. We walked back to Hop.

The next port of call was the Stave Church at Fantoft, which was a 10 minute climb up the hill into the forest. The original church dated from the 12th century and was moved to Fantoft in the 1880s. The suburbs of Bergen have now almost consumed the church. Alas, it went up in smoke in 1992. Today, what you see is as close a reconstruction as is possible. It was closed for the winter. They hadn't seen the weather. A high fence surrounded the church to keep out unwanted visitors. CCTV watched on. There was nobody about, except a few dog walkers and a car of Japanese tourists. The girl still had one of those masks they wear to save her from breathing pollution. The suburbs of Bergen - complete with the locals buzzing around in their expensive electric cars - were clearly a threat to her. The ironic thing was the group climbed into a battered old diesel car and went off to destroy the planet.

The later afternoon sun was very pleasant in the city centre. The crowds were still out, but many businesses were closing down for the day. It pays to plan your itinerary on a Sunday- some places close early and others don't open. As for buying alcohol from anywhere outside an expensive bar, forget it. We found a coffee and listened to the woes of an Australian cruise passenger and his views on European steaks. We checked a food possibility for later. The internet said it opened between 5 pm and 9 pm on a Sunday. It didn't! We found an excellent alternative in Pygmalion.... a sort of Asian fusion restaurant, which served good quality fayre at sensible prices and served beer at possibly the cheapest prices in Bergen city centre. I had two, just to be social. I would recommend the place.

There was one last task to achieve before heading for the airport in the morning. I had the empty cans stored and I was determined to get my 2 Krone deposit back. We located the relevant recycling machine in the Kiwi supermarket next door. The cans were fed into a sort of conveyor belt for cans. The credits clicked up. The machine had a choice of 2 buttons - the first to donate to charity and the second for the return of funds. We pressed the second option. A bar coded slip appeared. You then take it to the till and the money is refunded. We were a whole 60 pence better off, but as they say ..... every little helps. It would make the difference in the purchase of a chocolate bar at the airport, as we got rid of all remaining change. We took off in a southerly direction. It was a glorious morning and the coastline towards Stavanger looked stunning. The blue skies in this blog show I needn't have worried about the weather after all.

We landed at Luton Airport, which seemed more chaotic than usual. The collapse of Thomas Cook had seen emergency repatriation flights take to the skies to "rescue" stranded holidaymakers. Had they all landed in Luton? The queue into passport control was so long it didn't get into the hall. It took ages. A sign of post Brexit times ahead perhaps?

Appendix 1

Norwegian Eliteserien

SK Brann Bergen 0 FK Haugesund 0

Date: Saturday 21st September 2019 @ 1800 Hours

Venue: Brann Stadion, Bergen, Norway

Attendance: 10,129

Brann: Opdal, Teniste, Acosta, Wormgoor (Martinussen 86 Mins), Kristiansen, Rismark, Jenssen, Barmen, Berisha, Koomson, Heggeba (GRogaard 77 Mins)

Haugesund: Sandvick, Berqvist, Desler, Tiedmann, Gringheim (Nilsen 86 Mins), Tonstad, Pederson, Sandberg, Leite, Krygard, Kone (Samuelson 60 Mins)

Additional photos below
Photos: 79, Displayed: 30


Bergen Bergen

Can recycling machine

2nd October 2019

Love that church!

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