“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
Bergen – The city of colours, the Gateway to the Fjords of Norway
As part of our trip to see Sognefjord, after we cruised through its scenic waters from Flåm to Bergen, we had one morning to explore Bergen, a UNESCO World Heritage City. You can read all about my Sognefjord trip here: To Sognefjord and back – Part 1 – 1222m Above Sea Level, Part 2 – Finding my Rivendell on the Flåmsbana, and Part 3 – Through the Waters of Sognefjord and Back
What do you do when you have just one morning to spend in a city like Bergen? Simple, you walk around, stroll through its streets filled with history and colour, and soak it all up as much as you can. And that’s what we did. We stayed the night at the Grand Terminus Hotel, which is right next to the Bergen Railway Station. That proved convenient when we needed to leave our bags at the hotel and collect it before we caught our train to Oslo the next afternoon.
Bergen was founded in 1070 by King Olav Kyrre. Thanks to its harbour, it soon became a centre for commerce. In 1360 , it attracted the attention of the Hansas, the German medieval guild of merchants, who built their import and export offices on the wharf called Bryggen, the iconic wharf in Bergen. The rows of coloured wooden buildings with ancient gables facing the picturesque harbour are probably the most familiar attraction in the city. Though devastated by several fires, especially the Great Fire of 1702, which burned down the entire city, Bryggen was rebuilt on the original foundations and entered UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1979.
Travel to Bergen
Here are some links to help you plan your trip to Bergen:
What many tourists may not know till they walk through the streets of Bergen is that colours, on murals, on buildings, and on flowers, embrace you at every turn. We saw some beautiful street art and art displays as we walked down from the hotel into the heart of the city. Shades of ultramarine blue, crimson, chrome yellow, fuchsia pink, purple, and orange, depict a different story on every wall. We even found a house with shoes stuck all over its exterior wall.
The bright colours gave the whole city a freshly washed look. We walked through a local market selling all things touristy. The prices though, were typically Norwegian (read expensive). As we had just a few hours to spare, we wanted to make the best use of it by taking the Fløibanen, the funicular railway that takes you to the top of Mount Fløyen in just eight minutes.
We caught the funicular at the city centre, not too far from Bryggen. As we stood in the queue to get out tickets and waited for our ride to come back from the mountain top, the dark surroundings made me feel as if we were in a cave and were waiting to be transported through tunnels to some far off place. The ride on the funicular was interesting, the compartment going up and down at an incline. But as it left the dark dungeon-like station behind, it opened up to breath-taking views of the city. By the time I knew where to look, we had reached the top. We streamed out into a viewing area overlooking the entire city. At around 320 metres above sea level, we could see every little detail of the city – the harbour, the fjords around the city, roads, the green oxidised copper spire of the cathedral we had just walked past on our way to the funicular, sea green lake in the heart of the city with a little fountain in the middle – and the spectacular cityscape gave up all its secrets with dignity and pride. The slender arms of Bergen stretched into the sea, creating strips of colour, the teal of the sea mingling with the lively hues of the city.
After a photo frenzy (obviously!), from every possible angle at the viewing area, we moved on to the exploring the nature trails nearby.
If the 360 degree views of the city were magnificent, the nature around the mountain top was out of a fairy tale. The green grass, trees and bushes were so vibrant, it was as if someone had just painted them onto the mountain surface. Thin gurgling streams were on their merry way under adorable little wooden bridges. Stone sculptures and interesting displays entertained us on our trail.
As we walked further into the forest around us, among tall trees, stony paths, fallen logs and cascading moss, I could see why the legend of trolls became so popular in the north. Nature and time seem to have sculpted the rocks into clear shapes and with the mossy grass tumbling down them like windswept hair, it’s easy to mistake them for trolls. I was so lost in its magic, I almost hoped I would see a pair of eyes peeking out at me from underneath some rock and I would quickly snap a picture before it vanished behind a tree to hide from prying eyes. Well, that didn’t happen and I had to settle for befriending a troll statue instead!
We had to part ways with Mount Fløyen, thanks to the ticking clock reminding us of the train we needed to catch. We took the funicular back to ground level and took a leisurely walk one last time through the flower-filled streets of Bergen. We had lunch, collected our bags and got to the station just in time to find our train waiting to take us back to Oslo.
I will end this post with two displays I saw in Bergen. This one is from a shop display on one of its streets:
This sheer contempt for nature and other living beings, despite the city being steeped in nature, is just sad.
However, something I found on one of Bergen’s walls sums up the feeling I left with from this beautiful city: