Bergen

There can’t be many cities with such a beautiful approach by sea as Bergen. Islands of all shapes and sizes line the fiord as you approach the city each with the pastel coloured, wooden houses dotted amongst the woodlands that let you know you’ve arrived in Scandinavia.  As we approached on Boudicca there were two White Tailed Eagles soaring over the cliffs which made the birders on board very happy!

National Day in NorwayOur first day in the city had what has to be one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. The day of our visit was the 17th of May.  National Day in Norway with ninety percent of the women dressed up in fabulous traditional dresses.  A fifteen minute walk from the ship took us into the city and we milled around with the locals who all seemed to speak perfect English explaining what the colours and symbols on their beautiful dresses.

The parade went on for two hours with masses of red Norwegian flags, vibrant drummers, bands and people wearing their national costume with immense pride. Even toddlers were decked out whilst people in flats above who had no intention of coming down waved  flags and leant out of windows in the national dress.

We also took in fish market and harbour but as we had decided to take the excursion the next day around the city we went back to the ship for lunch. We watched the fireworks in the evening from the sun deck and they were superb as was our meal with once again the quality of the meal and the wines being spot on.

BergenBergen is one of the most fascinating and compact cities I have been to. Next morning we took the coach waiting for us on the quayside for the tour of the city. Accompanied by a commentary we found this to be informative and enjoyable before pulling up outside the bottom of the funicular railway which takes you up to Mount Flojen with amazing panoramic views of the city and the mountains that surround it.

The railway takes you from the city centre to the top of the Mountain some 320 metres above sea level (1050 ft).  During the summer the restaurant on top of mountain is open daily whilst the kiosk and souvenir shop is open all year.  The journey takes 5–8 minutes and is an experience in itself if you can get in the front seats on both the ascent and descent it makes for great photographs!

You can if you want get the coach straight back to the ship or get dropped off in the city to explore. However as Norway can be quite expensive we decided to take lunch with a glass of white wine on the ship before walking the short ten minute journey into the city. The ship was not due to leave for another five hours so we no knew we had plenty of time.

The jewel in Bergen’s crown is the ancient row of Hanseatic League warehouses on the harbour with their brightly coloured frontages. Bergen's first buildings were erected along this row and the site is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.  Behind them spreading eastwards bounded by the Ovregaten is the Bryggen district full of tiny boarded houses and ancient alleyways, antique bric-a-brac shops, artists’ galleries, jewellery makers and a host of small bars overflowing on to the pavements.

After you’ve explored this area walk down to the harbour by wandering along the narrow passageways called "smau", and sample some of the great seafood from the stalls clustered around. It what’s the locals do so it must be a good idea.

Bergen Art MuseumThe new city is also worth a look with several valuable and impressive art collections, housed in galleries facing the central lake Lille Lungegardsvann. These include the Bergen Art Museum which includes unique collection of Edvard Munch’s paintings, Bergen Contemporary Art Centre, and West Norway Museum of Decorative Art.

Bergen has so much to see that it’s difficult to pack it all in from the Aquarium with its seals and penguins to the many fascinating museums. The ship also has excursions on offer which are well worth looking at if you want to explore further afield.

Do use the free City map as it discounts for cruise passenger offers on it and is very useful in finding your way around. One last thing Bergen may be in Norway but don’t forget your sun cream. It was 20 degrees on that day and when we got back to the ship the jacuzzis and pool looked so inviting!

For cruises along the Norwegian coast including Bergen, Silver Travel Advisor recommends Hurtigruten
 

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Steve Newman

Eco Adventure Cruising writer & photographer

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