We had descended from the mountains back to sea level and out to the coastal city of Bergen. Sailing Sognefjord out through the archipelago and south to Bergen showed me a very different perspective on Norway. Houses lined the rocky coastlines, nestled in the forests of the hundreds of tiny islands.
Getting in via Sognefjord
We took the 3.30pm Norled fast ferry from Flåm along Sognefjord. They had a deal of two adults for 1,200NOK which was good value per person considering the bus was around 400NOK. Plus you get to experience almost the whole fjord from the water with space to move around.
The scale of the fjords might have shrunk as we got further out to sea, but the views were still brilliant and snow capped mountains ducked and weaved from view. The ferry stopped at a whole bunch of places that begged for exploring.
Where we stayed
We arrived in Bergen at about 8.45pm and from the drop off point it was a short ten minute walk to Basic Hotel Bergen. As the name suggests, it’s basic! It was an acceptable 3-star, but the bar downstairs could be heard when we finally wanted to sleep. Not too loud though since we requested a high floor.
In typical Norwegian style it was super expensive at 950NOK/n for two people, but hostels are about 400NOK per person anyway.
If that’s still too much I’m sure people were camping on the Seven Peaks.
Bryggen is surely the most famous spot in Bergen. The old town waterfront is a UNESCO site and the old wooden buildings are a from the 1700s. They certainly aren’t the original buildings though as Bryggen has been ravaged by fire many many times in it’s thousand years of existence.
As you walk through Bryggen it’s amazing that the buildings still stand. Warped and sloped, they lean on each other for support. Literally.
It’s not huge, but it’s charming. The back streets are also really nice to explore with loads of shops, bars and cafes inside the old, but newer buildings.
We were lucky to have spots of good weather in a place where it rains 240 days a year, but the best light is never the middle of the day anyway.
The Hanseatic Museum
The Hanseatic Museum is housed within a façade, but it’s also a very old building. It will tell you everything you need to know about how the German Hanseatic League dominated trade in Europe for hundreds of years and the role Bryggen played.
Merchants lived in what were surely horribly cold conditions in winter (though the fishermen had it worse as most of the catch was made in winter) with their protégés inside the store houses. Their beds didn’t seem so bad for the time, but they were all essentially inside cupboards in the centre of the buildings to keep warm. No heating was allowed in Bryggen due to the fire risks. At least they had plenty of dried fish to eat.
Like all of Europe there are all sorts of churches built during different eras or times of influence. Bergen has quite a few nice ones. Norwegians seem to be very religious still and can be seen attending church on Sunday morning in traditional dress. Shops are often shut on Sundays too.
Fairly far south from Bergen’s centre there is also this Stave Church. It wasn’t open so late in September, but it’s quite a big one and so it would probably be worth a peek in summer. We took the opportunity to see it while we had a car.
Vikings in the Castle!
Funnily as we entered Bergenhus Fortress to see Haakon’s Hall we stumbled across some Vikings! There was a dozen or so of them in groups practising sword and spear techniques and breaking lines.
It seemed pretty ferocious at times despite the blunt weapons (I’m sure it still stings!), but if anyone is tough enough it’s the Norwegians.
Mt Fløyen and the Seven Peaks
Apparently Bergen-ites can’t agree on exactly which peaks form the Seven Peaks of Bergen, but who could blame them, there are a lot of them.
The easiest one to climb is Mt Fløyen behind Bryggen, but of course you can always take the train. It takes about 45 minutes (don’t try and cut the time, Norwegians are fit) and you can always reward yourself with a softie (what Norwegians call soft serve) at the top.
What to Eat
Norwegians are big on baked goods and Bergen is rife with bakeries. I don’t mean it as a bad thing! These bolles seem to be popular with cinnamon or custard.
Fish, fish and more fish
With fishing so important to the history here, Norwegians make a damn good fish soup! Mmm herby..
The popular fish seem to be cod, haddock and mackerel. Now you could always go to the fish market, but it’s not really a proper market anymore and more so a series of bars on the waterfront. We had nice seafood somewhere across the road at The Classic restaurant.
There’s no better way to be naughty and ruin your chances of Santa visiting you this Christmas than eating the sleigh pullers. I didn’t find reindeer all that amazing, but maybe a steak cut would be tastier.
Where to grab Coffee
Bergen is also a place where you can get great coffee. Kaffebrenneri Vågen behind Bryggen was the best double-the-price-of-home latte I had. Krok og Krinkel Bookcafe could also deliver.