After taking the longest break from travel in my whole adult life thanks to the wretched pandemic, I was pleased to read, a few weeks ago, that Norway would become the first country in Europe to remove all travel and domestic virus-related restrictions, meaning that anyone can come and go as they please with no hassle (or expense) around testing, proving vaccination status, pointless forms or any of the other measures of dubious efficacy currently blighting the travel industry. It was the moment I’d been waiting for, and within 12 hours of reading the news I had booked myself a short break to Bergen, gateway to the fjords.
I travelled from London Heathrow with the Norwegian airline Widerøe, arriving late on the Friday night and jumping straight in a taxi to my lodgings at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel. This turned out to be the perfect place to stay, as it’s literally part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Bryggen, a historic wharf with lots of wooden buildings that appears on all the tourist photos of Bergen.
Unfortunately a couple of buildings were shrouded in scaffolding, and that coupled with the fact that there was a massive ship moored in front of it meant I failed to secure any decent photos of it!
Nonetheless, once you’re into the little alleyways between the buildings you can lose yourself in a bygone era. These buildings have been burned down and rebuilt many times over the centuries, but with the quirky mix of colours and features and the wooden decking to walk on, they maintain a historic atmosphere unlike anywhere I’ve ever visited. I left my hotel at 9am and had the place completely to myself, as everywhere seemed to open at 10am. The perfect time to take photos!
At 10am I found a lovely little cafe among the alleyways called ‘Kaf’, and it was warm enough for me to sit outside to enjoy my coffee and cinnamon bun (which was so good I had exactly the same thing for breakfast the next day, too!).
Suitably fortified, it was time to head around the harbour to board the sightseeing boat I’d booked a place on. I had booked a three-hour cruise into the fjords, and couldn’t believe how lucky I’d struck with the weather – Bergen is apparently one of the rainiest places in Europe!
After a slow passage out of the harbour, the boat picks up speed to get to the fjords and my goodness, it was WINDY!
The boat took us out to Osterfjord and the Mostraumen straits, luckily slowing down a bit to take in the views. There was snow on the mountains, and as you can imagine it was all very beautiful.
Occasionally there would be a cute little house to make one entertain fantasies of running away from it all to live in the fjords.
And at one point, the boat goes right up against a waterfall so you can feel the spray against your face!
Back in Bergen, hungry and windswept, I sought out a suitable lunch spot, which I located in the form of this attractive old red building back amidst the alleyways of Bryggen.
I had a traditional meat and vegetable soup, which certainly hit the spot after a few hours in the fresh fjord air, sitting alone at the bar like the enigmatic lone traveller that I am!
After lunch, I headed around to the other side of the harbour to have a wander around some of the picturesque residential streets.
Honestly, I could happily have lived in any one of them!
The weatherboard style put me in mind of New England, as well as, more obviously, Reykjavik, as many of the older buildings in Iceland were originally shipped in from Norway.
This was my favourite one!
Come the evening, having rested my weary legs in the hotel for a bit, I took myself out for dinner at a nice fish restaurant by the harbour called ‘Fish Me’, which had a nice view of the city lit up at night that I couldn’t do justice to in a photograph. I began with this platter of local cheeses and cured meats (chilli jam in the oyster shell!), which was so delicious. And then, I confess, I couldn’t resist the sushi and somewhat over-ordered. Oops!
Next day, I only had until about 2pm before I had to catch the bus to the airport, so I began the day with coffee and a cinnamon bun and then walked up the hillside a bit to get some views over the city. The tall white building in the photo below is where I walked up to.
There are lovely views even from that relatively low height, but you can go much higher, and I would have done if I’d had time. Unfortunately the funicular railway was out of action for refurbishment, so I’ll have to do that next time!
I couldn’t leave Bergen without seeing a bit of the local archaeology, so I went to the Museum of Bryggen, which was conveniently right next to my hotel and the airport bus stop.
It was full of interesting things that had been found in the Bryggen area, which, as I mentioned, had been razed to the ground by fires and rebuilt many times, offering ample opportunity for archaeological investigation.
From there it was back to the airport for my flight home.
I’m pleased to say that Bergen airport is a civilised place with no masks in sight.
There were lovely, classically Norwegian views on the climbout – a nice end to my trip.