May 11 & 12, 2022. 45°F/7°C and rain. Brrr.
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.
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.
The city also has many, many statues, which only seems fitting since it also has many, many art galleries.
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.
There were also just lots of interesting buildings and art installations. Bergen is definitely charming.
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 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.
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.