Episode 272 – Bergen, Bergen

May 11 & 12, 2022. 45°F/7°C and rain. Brrr.

#myvikingstory

DAY ONE

Our accommodation for our short Bergen extension is at the Hotel Norge by Scandic. According to the hotel’s website, Hotel Norge first opened its doors in 1885 but was completely renovated in 2018. It is totally modern Scandinavian design in its rooms and public areas; very clean, bright and attractive. The hotel is beside Byparken city park, but the view from our particular windows is of the windows on the other side of the hotel. Oh well.

We had to be off the ship by 9 a.m., which meant sitting in the hotel lobby drinking coffee until after noon, which was the earliest the hotel had rooms ready. We chose not to go for a walk since it was pelting rain, and Ted didn’t want to leave his technology bag at the front desk, or carry it around in the rain.

Once we had keys and got settled in, we joined 2 other world cruise couples for a cold lunch at a local restaurant called Pingvinen (the Norwegian word for penguin). We’d been warned that Scandinavia is expensive; a light single course cold lunch for 2 with a half pint of local beer and a coffee came to 384 Norwegian Krone, or $51 Canadian. Ouch.

Left: Ted’s lunch, consisting of a starter-sized portion of cold quadrupel beer-cured deer, pickled vegetables lingonberries in sour cream, and flat bread.
Right: my lunch, made up of a lunch portion of cured leg of lamb with potato salad, buttered crisp bread, and pickled vegetables.

We got a wee bit drenched scurrying the 2 blocks from the restaurant back to the hotel, but by the time we’d dried off the rain had stopped so we ventured out for a couple of hours walking around Bergen.

What a lovely downtown! There are lots of typically European pedestrians only areas, beautiful parks with fountains, manicured hedges and beds of tulips and hyacinths in full bloom, and CHERRY BLOSSOMS in the kind of profusion we haven’t seen in our travels since we honeymooned in Washington DC in 1978.

Byparken.

The city also has many, many statues, which only seems fitting since it also has many, many art galleries.

Bergen’s own Edvard Grieg, the famous composer and pianist, who was born here in 1843, and died here in 1907.
Henrik Ibsen, Norway’s most famous playwright. He wasn’t a Bergen native, but there’s probably not a town or city in Norway which isn’t proud of him as a fellow Norwegian…. However this statue is just freaky.
A portrait of Henrik Ibsen, displayed in the KODE 2 Art Museum. Far less freaky than the sculpture.
Ole Bull was a famous Norwegian virtuoso violinist, born in 1810 in Bergen. He died in Bergen in 1880. The water was not yet in the pool below this statue, but when it is the stepping stones would be really effective.
Christian Michelsen was the first prime minister of independent Norway from 1905-1907.
Statue of a homeless person, with the very moving inscription “ingen er bare det du ser” (no one is just what you see).
Den Blå Stein (the blue stone) is a 30 foot long Brazilian sodalite stone donated to Bergen for the 100th anniversary of the Kavli Trust, and was used as a memorial after the 2011 Norway attacks.
Modern metal sculpture of Bergen’s founder, Viking King Olav Kyrre, on his horse. You can tell it’s a king by the crown on his head, but I honestly thought the “horse” was some great winged bird with a long tail. Oops.

For Ted and for me the most amazing of all the sculptures in the city centre is the Sailors/Seamans Monument. It was designed by the artist Dyre Vaa during the period between 1939-45 and unveiled in 1950. It consists of twelve male figures, and 4 double-height reliefs, all cast in bronze, mounted on a large square granite plinth, sitting in a shallow raised reflecting pool. The monument honours Norwegian sailors from Viking times through the 20th century. For each era, there are 3 figures, from each level of society: the poor, the middle-class, and the elite.

Southeast side. The inscription on this side of the relief reads “tiende århundre” (tenth century). One of the reliefs at the top includes a totem pole, representing the Vikings’ discovery of Vinland, what is now Canada.
Southwest side. Inscribed “attende århundre” (eighteenth century). The theme is the rediscovery of Greenland by Bergen seamen. The relief at the top depicts the advent of Christianity in Norway.
Northwest side. Inscribed “nittende århundre” (nineteenth century). Bergen’s mercantile success in the 19th century is depicted, including the whaling industry.
Northeast side. Inscribed “tjuende århundre” (twentieth century). The reliefs above these figures were very disturbing to me – I thought they seemed related to the world wars, but I couldn’t find verification. One travel site suggested that it was simply a dedication to sailors lost at sea and being welcomed into heaven.

There were also just lots of interesting buildings and art installations. Bergen is definitely charming.

DAY TWO

We rose early to have breakfast before heading out at 8:00 a.m. for our scheduled pre-flight PCR test. Walking into the breakfast room we were immediately reminded of why we so love European hotels’ breakfasts.

The selection and presentation rivalled what we’ve become used to by being on the Viking Star, but unlike on the ship where we were all snapping photos all the time, here it would have felt like an intrusion on the other hotel guests, so I’m going to try to describe it so I remember if we ever come back and need to choose a hotel.

In the anteroom was a large round table – about 8 feet in diameter- with dozens and dozens of kinds of pastries and sweets, ranging from sweet filled croissants to fresh fruit danishes, tiny sugared yeast donuts, and fruit and nut breads. In the centre of the table were multiple bowls of oranges, apples, and bananas. Over the table was a hemisphere-shaped open-work light fixture made of wire lines of latitude and longitude with part of the map of the world on it outlined in light.

The first of the actual café self-serve rooms was dedicated to beverages: coffees and teas, and at least 8 kinds of freshly pressed fruit and vegetable juices: orange, grapefruit, pineapple, strawberry, apple, tomato… and a couple of green options. Like many modern cafés, the specialty coffees are dispensed from a machine; this one had 12 options, from espressos through café au lait and macchiatos. The second “room” had a fresh cooking station for omelettes, eggs of all other styles, sausage, bacon etc on one side, plus hot cider, and hot and cold soups. The other side featured a yogurt and muesli bar with dried fruits, nuts, honey and more. In the centre was what I’d consider typical “German” breakfast foods: a wide array of sliced meats and cheeses, plus cold sliced vegetables, salads (not green salads, but things like barley salad, potato salad, and dressed vegetables), pickles, varied mustards and spreads, patés, trays of assorted sliced melons, piles of juicy grapes, strawberries, julienned mangoes, and fresh pineapple. There were also various smoked and sliced types of salmon, cream cheeses, dill, capers, and more sliced fresh vegetables. In the third area (each area except the smaller coffee/tea station being about 10 feet wide and 20 feet long – about the size of the living room in our house in Milton) were fresh breads of every description, from hearty dense ryes and crisp flatbreads to crusty rolls and baguettes to softer brioche; it was like standing in a bakery. Past the regular bread section, there were several gluten free options. Overall, perhaps the nicest hotel breakfast buffet we’ve seen to date.

Then it was on to our Covid test. Although we were originally told we’d need to walk to a nearby clinic, when we arrived at the Viking courtesy desk (decked out in our rain gear) it turned out that the technician processing the 30 of us was in a room on the hotel’s 2nd floor conference level. The 5 second per nostril test was ticklish but over really fast, with results expected just after noon. One more thing done. 140 days. 140 PCR tests. All negative. All good.

We ventured out again, despite now knowing that Bergen’s weather is like that of Nova Scotia: it changes every 5 minutes. Rain, no rain, sun, rain, repeat. Nonetheless, we walked through the Rhododrendrium (yup, that’s what it is called) as well as through the Akademiske Qvarter (Academic Quarter) with its beautiful buildings.

During the sporadic periods of rain, we explored the KODE Art Museum, which has 4 distinct buildings. We started with the one furthest from our hotel, alongside Byparken. KODE 4’s current exhibit is called The Queer Gaze and provided lots of food for thought using art from Greek and Roman times, through Viking legends, the Christian influences of the 11th – mid 20th century, and modern works. It was incredibly well curated.

KODE 3 houses the Rasmus Meyer “Samlinger” (collection), consisting of only a few of the nearly 1,000 paintings by important Norwegian 17th through 20th century artists that he collected, as well as a selection of Norwegian and German-made furniture and musical instruments that are uniquely and intricately carved, inlaid, or painted. There were lots of works that I really liked, and many pieces of gorgeous furniture…. and then there were his many Edvard Munch paintings.

The Blumenthal Room contains ceiling and wall murals by Norwegian painter Mathias Blumenthal, 1760, as well as an ornate wood stove and sculpted plasterwork wall decoration.

The 1844 painting called Nigard Glacier, Norway, by Johan Christian Dahl, was one of my favourites from the collection. Dahl’s paintings all capture light in a mesmerizing way.
Munch’s Winter Night, the least depressing of his paintings on display from Meyer’s collection.

The KODE 2 had a small exhibition focussed on creating communal housing spaces. It had a bit of an IKEA feel to it, if you can imagine a multi-family dwelling in that kind of modular style, with common kitchen and workshop areas.

The KODE 1 currently houses works from Norwegian Moderne (Paris-influenced) school of painting in a Renaissance Revival structure designed by Henry Bucher (1864–1944). The building itself is stunning; I’m really glad it was saved after it caught fire during the 1916 Bergen Fire. The 4th floor landing is particularly impressive, with its beautiful stained glass roof light and 4 friezes depicting arts and crafts.

The 3-1/2 story tall highly polished twisted silver pole in the top photo, which stands in the centre of the ground floor lobby and almost reaches the window, is just one of many similar pillars holding up roofs in front of stores along Bergen’s main pedestrian mall.
Top: carpentry and smithing. Second: sculpting and painting.
Third: pottery and leather-working. Fourth: music and spinning/weaving.

We were very impressed with Bergen. My one caveat would be that there are way too many tall blond Alexander Skarsgård look-a-likes walking around. It’s distracting.

8 comments

  1. Thank you Rose and Ted for a wonderful trip around. Yes, Bergen is a neat village and yes, the train ride from Bergen to Oslo is unbelievable over 100 tunnels many, many waterfalls. Have a great next adventure.

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  2. Wonderful description of Bergen! We visited Edvard Grieg’s home and were treated to an amazing piano concert there. Instead of “brrrr”, they were experiencing a heat wave (July 2018)..94F.
    Quick question for you, Rose. We just made full payment for Viking’s World Journey beginning in January, 2023. Did the internet improve once the Star’s antenna was replaced? Thinking about doing a blog but want to look for another way of keeping in touch if that will be frustrating.
    My husband and I have really appreciated the time and attention you have paid to sharing your cruise with us! It makes me sad to imagine Ted reaching for his wallet for the first time after a four-month cruise…especially for a $51 lunch. It’s always such a shock to the system to pay for something for the first time…reality☹️ We will be following your adventures in the future as well. Jayne

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    • Sadly, our internet never really improved. We had sporadic great days, but they were few and far between. I fid find, though, that once I started downsizing my photos to a shortest side of 800 pixels, I was able to upload most days even with crummy speed. (I use a free app called Image Size that has a black and light blue icon)

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      • That’s sad to hear. We were on a river cruise recently and the text I had written wouldn’t save on a few of the days due to their internet problems…so frustrating…all my hard work gone! That was before I even added pictures too. I’m wondering whether I can write my text in “Notes”, then copy and paste it into WordPress??? I know how much time and effort it takes, and really want it to work!

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  3. I can’t remember what your plans are, Rose, but if you have an opportunity, the scenic train ride from Bergen to Oslo is to die for. The fjords are breathtaking. I know you said Ted enjoyed the nature experiences on your WC. And while I know you said it can be cold and rainy, do try the amazing soft serve ice cream in Norway. As always, thank you so much for sharing your journey.

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