We’d had a big weekend of adventure already in Bergen, with a hike up Ulriken, seeing Kygo live, and cycling along the amazing Rallarvegen trail. Today though, our friends went to work, so we were left alone to explore the city.
But, before he went to work, I joined him on an early morning bike ride up one of other, slightly smaller mountains in town, Fløyen. He had organised for me to borrow his neighbour’s bike, which happened to be a monstrously large e-bike. I wasn’t keen on the idea of the e-bike as it feels like cheating, however, you could turn it off and ride it like a normal bike. Let’s just say, I tried turning it off, but the increased weight of the batteries/motor, as well as the reinforced frame made it rather difficult to pedal without assistance. I had it on the lowest setting, but there was still far too much assistance. It turned out that I needed that assistance to keep up with my friend on the climbs anyway…
The view from the lookout was amazing, and we were there in time to see the first light hitting the tips of the mountains. Sadly we didn’t have much time to savour the view, as we had to be back in time for him to start work – and there was much riding to be done still.
I still had to stop to photograph the views from the along the trail, as it was too beautiful not to. It’s experiences like this that make me sad to be living in London. I miss the ability to do this before work, or on an early morning on the weekend.
And explore Bergen we did! We caught the trams as far as it would take us, and wandered around the central area of town from there.
Our first real destination was the fish market. We were expecting a tourist trap, and we weren’t disappointed. Well, it might not have been a trap, but it was most certainly aimed at tourists. However, some of that fresh seafood looked amazing – and this is coming from someone that would generally prefer a hamburger to a nice seafood meal. The salespeople couldn’t tempt Risa to purchase anything – she was quite content with the free bite-sized samplers.
From the market, we walked along the harbour-side, looking at the old painted wooden houses that front historic Bryggen. Even with the limited shades being used (white, yellow, brown, red), the houses looked so colourful, and really made the area look like a toy town.
It was visible from a distance, but once we were up close, it was apparent how old these buildings were, with them leaning on each other for support. I can imagine it would be a carpenter’s nightmare trying to get anything to close/fit! I loved that even the manhole covers featured tilted buildings.
Unsurprisingly, these buildings were all filled with shops selling souvenirs to tourists. Not having anything that we need (or space for any unnecessary objects in our lives), there wasn’t much there to tempt us. That said, some of the furs were so incredibly soft, and Risa nearly left with a sheepskin rug.
The area was more than the pretty façade, too. It was really interesting to wander through the tilted alleys that snuck away from the promenade.
The weather today was fantastic, hot enough to get by with a t-shirt. We left the tourist-centric Bryggen behind, and ducked into some of the side streets a little further back. Immediately it felt more genuine – even though they too were selling merchandise marketed at tourists.
Lunch was a great little place called Pingvinen (penguin), which was described in Lonely Planet as ‘the place locals go to eat the meals their mother would make’. Plus, it was said to be cheap (which, in Norway, means affordable). Inside it was an interesting mix, with a very ‘metal’ feel to the staff, but with a kind of dining room/café feel to the décor. They also had a pretty impressive local selection of craft beers – though, we didn’t partake with our lunch. As described, the food was simple, no fuss meals, but they were very, very comforting and moreish. I had sausages and mashed peas, and Risa had a stew (again, with sausages) – I wish I’d taken note of the names of the dishes… Regardless, we left there with a polished clean plate – it was that tasty!
The day was starting to run out, so we made a quick visit to Johanneskirken (St. John’s Church), whose spire we’d seen peeking above the rooftops. Entrance was free, as most churches are. It was incredible the difference to the interior to some others we’ve recently visited in Europe. There was none of the pomp, and golden opulence like the churches in Malta, Italy and France. It was incredibly restrained, with a simple, but very decorative, wooden interior. In hindsight, it felt very Scandinavian…
We certainly could have done more with our day, like visiting some of the many museums and art galleries, however, we were happy with our stroll around downtown Bergen. It’s so pleasant and clean compared to walking around in London. It’s been half joked about moving here, and I honestly think I could live in a town like Bergen – shame Risa hates the cold!