On the way to Bergen, we had managed to book ourselves at the YMCA in Bergen. Aniket was not really fond of staying in hostels, but we had managed to get a 4 bed dorm and he seemed quite okay with the arrangements. We entered Bergen and the city shock finally hit us. After days of roaming in the wilderness and small towns, we were finally in a highly populated city and for us it seemed very different. Suddenly all that quiet and peace was gone and all we could see around us were people and cars. There goes the fun, is what I thought... but then you can always be wrong.
So we said bye to our goodluck charm - Cristina - (ya.. coz it rains in Bergen 362 days of the year and we were lucky to have found the day when it was not raining, which she claimed was because of her lucky charm), found a parking lot for our car (huge parking fees) and then walked our way back to the hostel. Aniket went downstairs to explore the hostel while I enjoyed a refreshing bath (much needed after the Trolltunga hike). Ben and Watson, (our two roomies from England) dropped in to say a hi. Soon we were all set to explore the town.
Since the YMCA was bang in the center of the town and a short walkable distance from the market, tourist information center, Bryggen, the wharf and almost every other hotel around, much to the Aniket's displeasure we started walking around the town. :)
The first thing that we noticed was the sheer number of people on the streets and then the pretty ladies all around. Till now we were just roaming around in small towns at odd hours running into a few people here and there. Here it seemed that the entire town was out on the streets.. .. we saw musicians playing at different locations, vintage cars and bikes being driven around, a group of students playing bagpipes, some singing carols and it seemed like a beautiful atmosphere. For us it seemed like any other day in Bergen, and honestly speaking, I fell in love with the town there and then. There was a slight chill in the air as we walked towards Bryggen - the UNESCO world heritage site.
The wooden buildings of the Hanseatic League that form Bryggen are a treat to watch at any time of the day. Brightly colored and now housing various offices, pubs, and shops its a pleasant sight to watch during the sunset. Opposite the Bryggen we saw a lot of vintage cars, bikes and parties hosted on the boats anchored in the harobor. Little did we know that we were in for a treat that night. It was the cultural night in Bergen and hence all the hustle and bustle in the city.
Since there were so many options to eat in Bergen, we decided to try out something new and Aniket chose "Selam" an Eritrian restaurant right across the hostel for dinner. I had one of the most tastiest meal consisting of Injera Dorowatt. Basically a big flat bread (Dosa) of humongous size on which they serve 5 different types of curries/ stews/ preparations. It was amazing. After a fulfilling dinner we set out for another walk on the streets trying to catch what the whole excitement was about.
As we turned a corner on the main street - we could make out two familiar faces in the crowd. Two faces who were beaming smiles back at us - Talk about coincidence :) It was Michael and Uta our friends from Germany who we had met on our first day in Norway. We walked all across the town, enjoying the music on various boat parties, the various bands playing, the fortress or Bergen and exchanged notes and experiences of Norway that we had all along the way. It always is fun to run into familiar faces in an unknown country - gives you a sense of homeliness.
Michael mentioned to us how beautiful the city looked from Mt. Floyen - one of the 7 mountains (hills) which surrounds Bergen. Actually there are various hikes across these mountains that you can take but given the fact that I had done the Trolltunga hike the same day, we were not much in the mood for another 4 hour hike. So we decided to take the Floibanen (a steep funicular) tram going up the Mt. Floyen. We checked with Michael and Uta if they were keen enough to join us, as it had been a long day for them, specially Uta who had a sore ankle, but she was keen to go too. So finally we took the last ride up with a group of Americans and Europeans who had a friendly banter going amongst themselves all the way up. :) Must tell you the view from the top seemed out of this world. Completely mesmerizing. I spent a few moments taking in the view and then, as there was no way down but to walk along the trail we started off.
Since it was our lucky day, and our good luck charm had predicted that there was the high chance of sighting the aurora in Bergen on that day, we could see a lot of enthusiastic teenagers, photographers all trying to catch sight of the aurora.However with the bright city lights below, it seemed a distant dream to catch a trace of it. But that's when the luck factor kicks in - with my now well adjusted eyesight, I could make out the faint green of the Aurora on the horizon. I asked the others to stop for a bit, set up the camera and clicked a picture for others to see. Soon enough there was a group of enthusiastic photographers around us, asking us for how to capture the same. As the location was not a great one to click the photo, we decided to take a walk down the longer path, in the starlight, through the woods in search of a better location to click the Aurora. We walked as a group of 15 odd people, at midnight all with the same goal. Finally we were able to get a spot from where we could take a decent picture of the Northern lights and everyone seemed pretty satisfied.
By now, I was feeling guilty about making Uta walk on the downhill path with a sore ankle and although she denied having any trouble, i knew that we had to find the shortest way back home to ensure that she did not stress her foot. A few staircases and zig zag turns later, we were back where we started and we bid adieu to the beautiful couple, wishing them luck for the rest of the journey and retired to our hostel. The city was still up, partying late night but we were tired and decided to call it a day. Just before crashing into bed, we had a brief chat with Ben and Watson who happened to have their return flight in the morning and since our car rental agency was at the airport we offered to drop them off.
There is an inexplicable feeling that you get walking around a city that is still asleep .. a sense of calm and peace, which offers you views which are normally hidden in the daily routine. Bergen proved no different. Remnants of the party, a cloudy sunrise, empty streets and a slight chill in the air - gave me some of the most beautiful treasures.
Bergen if you observe is a hub of fitness enthusiasts. At any given hour of the day, you will find people of all ages (youngsters, teenagers, people who have just become parents with their toddlers, middle aged men and women and even oldies) running all over the mountains or cycling around them. I saw people in running gear from 6 am in the morning till midnight after which I was tired. I even saw moms with two kids piled on in the bicycle trailer racing up the mountain. Even for a fitness conscious person like me, i felt out of place and as if i was the least fit person around. Given the state of mind I was in at that point in time.. i would have given anything to stay back there and train for all the upcoming marathons. But then fate had other things in store ...
Back after a morning walk, we dropped off our roomies at the airport, bid adieu to our beloved Citroen and took a bus back to the city center. With a complete day at our disposal - for the first time in the trip - we decided to explore the city and its museums. We spent sometime at the tourist center trying to figure out what all we could do. We strolled around the lanes eating hot dogs and sipping cups of hot chocolate or coffee from various cafes around town. Owing to the cultural night, all the museums had been open till 10 pm last night and mostly free of cost. Today most of them were open till 2 pm and we were running short of time to visit any. We decided to visit the Viking museum and spent a good time going through the various ships and stories that it had on display.
While walking towards the city center we came across the park in Bergen where some parties were campaigning for elections. There were two major parties and each one in its own way was trying to WOW the crowd. One of the party had organized a performance of some artists and we had a great time just lazing around in the park listening to it and watching the kids enjoy the performance. Also they were serving nice free coffee for anyone who cared to stop! Next stop was the famous Bergen Fish market - This one was right opposite the hostel and you get all varieties of seafood served right there. People swear by its taste, however for some reason both of us were not in a mood for seafood and we decided to chuck the plan to eat there. However we did explore the meat market right next to it, which served all sorts of packaged meat - right from Whale meat to reindeer meat. We had a taste of both, however none of them seemed to different from the lamb meat that we usually get here and were not too exotic either.
As it was still early evening, we took another stroll by the Bryggen and then went for some grocery shopping - to prepare for our journey to Oslo the next day morning. Since we were on a train and it was going to be a long journey, we decided to pack some cereals, and yoghurts along with a couple of sandwiches as our breakfast and lunch. We left the stock at the hostel, where by now we had shifted to a 20 bed dorm and whose inmates were in the process of cooking pasta for dinner. As the already small kitchen was full of people with no chance to help or stand around, we decided to head towards an Indian restaurant for an early dinner. We thought that we might be able to save some money in the process and also get some good old Indian curry, however the plan turned out to be a disaster. The food taste was good, however the quantity was too less and the price exorbitant. (Well can't blame anyone for trying to earn extra money in Norway... the place is expensive even by European standards ). Aniket by then was tired and decided to head back to the hostel for a nice quiet read, while I decided to capture some nightscapes of the city.
There I was on the pier trying to capture the Bryggen at night when someone on my right mentioned seemed like talking to me... it's a beautiful sight aint't it? I turned around to meet a pretty couple Bethany and Jake. They had just landed from a ferry from the fjords and were here to spend a few days in Norway. A few pleasantries were exchanged and then asked me if I could be kind enough to click a picture of them in their camera. However, me being me, I was not satisfied with the result of it and asked them if they would mind if I clicked a picture of them in my camera and mail it them once I get back to India. They were overjoyed and happily stood still till i got the perfect picture :)
It was the perfect end to our beautiful stay in Bergen - 2 days of rain free pleasant weather and loads of fun and pretty pictures.