14 July 2011


Constraints with booking the boat for the next leg of the journey meant that I got to spend just one night and under 24 hours in Bergen. But that was enough to get a flavour of the place.

As you would expect, Bergen is centred around the harbour which is still very active but these days caters more for tourists than for fish.

One of the things that draws them in is the charming cottages that hug the harbour-side that is now littered with tables and chairs ready for those tourists to spend some of their money on food and drink.

At one end of the harbour is the old fort.

As with Oslo, this fort seems more for decoration than defence. At least it does the decorating bit quite well.

The setting helps with the old buildings surrounded by bouncy grass and appropriately regimented trees.

The park is not that large but the greenery sits nicely between the closely packed buildings of the harbour-side and the open sea beyond.

Having finished exploring the East side of the harbour it was time to climb the hill behind.

The lower slopes of the hill are packed with houses that despite the discomfort and difficulty of living on the slope make an effort to keep clean, pretty and colourful. The good burgers of Bergen add to this beauty by putting pots of flowers outside their houses.

Before long the houses give up trying to survive on the slope and they give way to the trees.

A network of paths criss-cross the hill-side taking you up and around to several places. Maps and signs help you to choose your way but I had no specific destination in mind so just kept going uphill for the better views.

There is also a funicular railway that goes straight to the top but I preferred the exercise and to keep the large amount of money required in my pocket.

A few other people were walking, jogging and even cycling along the paths but not that many and they soon passed so the walk was quiet and peaceful. One minute in the bustle of the town and the next in the calm of the country.

The point of climbing high is to look down.

The climb offered many views of the town below and while I would usually chose a picture of just roofs (and nearly did so) this time I've selected a panorama to give some idea of the size and shape of Bergen.

Of course there are the lovely roofs in the foreground, behind that are the grounds of the fort and behind that the entrance to the harbour.

The three cruise ships in the harbour seem to defy perspective by dwarfing even the buildings in the foreground. The fort would have been of little use if faced with warships that size.

Coming back down the hill a different way reveals more pretty houses on the lower slopes.

It's finding clutches of houses like this that made the random walk through Bergen so worthwhile.

Returning to the harbour-side it was time to trawl the Bryggen UNESCO World Heritage Centre that lies next to the fort.

Bryggen is a jumble of wooden buildings that grew organically to fill that section of the two with only a few narrow passageways between them.

The original buildings date from the 14th to the 16th century when Bergen was a major trading centre for the Hanseatic League.

Fire has been unkind to them over the years but they have been carefully restored allowing us an honest view of times past.

Trade has changed a little over the years too and now these buildings meet the needs of tourists with the predictable souvenirs, local crafts (jumpers mostly) and cafes. Trolls too.

So far I've only described the old town on the East side of the harbour but there is a new town too that caters more for the locals than the tourists.

The new town looks much like any other town in any other European country with wide pedestrianised streets lined with familiar shops.

In the one walk that I took in this area I found very little worth taking a picture of.

The one place that did stand out and which justified having its photograph taken was the park and lake in the centre of the town.

The fountain was expected (Norway has a great number of fountains) but is welcome none the less adding a touch of excitement and action to an otherwise sedate park.

I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Bergen and if I ever go back I'll spend more time exploring the hill and the new town. But, to be honest, I am unlikely to go back because, pretty though Bergen is, I think that I did all that I want to do there in one day.

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