Our flight from Brisbane to Bergen via Hong Kong and Helsinki arrived in the gathering dark and driving rain of a Norwegian autumn evening. After 24 hours we had landed in Bergen but only one suitcase had made it with us. We were told the bag would arrive in a further 24 hours. My thin sweater and Pashmina shawl were going to have to keep me warm in the meantime. Fortunately I’d packed my toothbrush in my hand luggage!
Despite this, Bergen Vagen or harbour where our Clarion Admiral Hotel sat looking across to the historic Bryggen did not disappoint. Brightly painted wooden warehouses with pointed rooves were lit across the water, the lights reflecting off the rainy cobblestones along the wharf. Inside the hotel, the lobby was lit with filtered down lights and candles. It seemed very warm and cosy.
Bergen was Norway’s capital city in the 12th and 13th centuries and was an important trading city. It became one of the 192 cities forming the Hanseatic League, a conglomerate of trading cities and guilds and based in Lubeck, a very powerful trading bloc. Bryggen means ‘wharf’ and the historic wharves today service tourists like us. The whole of Bryggen is sinking into the harbour. It has almost burnt down several times and had its rooves blown off in a munitions explosion in 1944. Only after archeological artefacts were found and a determined campaign by locals and finally its listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site has saved it from being torn down.
Next morning, we watched the dawn break at 8am as we ate breakfast overlooking the harbour, savouring the delicious range of bread, cheese and berry jams. Right along the cobbled wharf was the Bryggen Fish Market, which apart from selling a huge range of fresh fish, also dealt in local small goods, moose, reindeer and whale! We purchased a Bergen Card for 200 NKrone which provided free transport and entry to museums. It was well worth it.
We wandered in between the beautiful old pine buildings of Bryggen and finally up to the entrance to the cable car to Mt Floyen. Built originally in 1918, through the granite mountain, the original wooden cars have now been replaced with modern electronically operated ones. We bundled on with a group of Australians up to the top of the mountain. The views were spectacular.
The rain was beginning to drizzle down so we decided an indoor activity was best. After a coffee and pastry pick up, served by a beautiful young Norwegian damsel, who like everyone spoke perfect English, we walked down to the KODE area.
The four KODE are fabulous art galleries. KODE 3 is the oldest and was previously the home of Rasmus Meyer a businessman entrepreneur, who supported local artists and collected period Norwegian furniture.
The museum, among other things houses a wonderful collection of Edvard Munch’s work from his early paintings to his bright later work after he embraced German vitalism and recovered from mental illness! The famous Scream was not here but many of his other work was and his depiction of the stages of a woman’s life featured below, seemed particularly grim.
Behind KODE 3 is the Greighalle. Edvard Greig who composed Peer Gynt and beautiful piano music lived in Bergen. Unfortunately for us a weekly piano concert is held in his house – a museum – every Sunday. Being Saturday we stumbled on the Greighalle instead.
The concert hall was celebrating it 40th anniversary with red, white and black balloons festooning the entrance. Free coffee, cake and frankfurts with blueberry juice were offered to families participating in a promotion of music for children by the orchestra. So looking like Norwegian grandparents we participated too. We must have looked authentic because an Indian family, now living in Bergen asked us if we were Norwegian – in English. I felt embarrassingly monolingual but it was a great way to finish off our day’s adventures.