Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Exploring Bergen and Bryggen - June 21 2011

The eagle's claw
This morning we were powerless. The intensity of the 5+ leg 14-hour fjord tour plus the sun and fresh air - this is where 'fresh' is defined - knocked us out. The only thing that got us out of bed at 9am was the singular notion that there are so many things to see and experience in Bergen - more even than Oslo - and we have only a day and a half remaining.

Pinup girl in the old
sleeping cabinet - Olga
providing the missing limbs
We kept forgetting to bring things and dropping jackets, bags, hats due to lack of mental and physical strength. After we managed to coast through a lovely breakfast where we shared an open-face jamón serrano sandwich and a vanilla cream Danish with coffees, we took the walking tour of old-town Bryggen.

Old Bryggen buildings falling
down quite spectacularly
Our hotel considers itself 'basic' because it doesn't have daily housekeeping, a phone in the room for a wake-up call, or a place to check luggage on your last day. What it does have - large space with fancy and useful new furniture, funny inspirational quotes on the walls, heated bathroom floor - more than makes up for it. Especially the heated bathroom floor.

You can't see, but there is a 10+ foot
drop immediately behind me to
the park below
On the Bryggen tour, we learned that the Hanseatic period assembly hall kitchen floors would get so hot, the young apprentices would wear Dutch-like wooden shoes as to not burn their feet. I have experienced my first and second heated floors on the same day. It must get REALLY cold here in the winter.

Why do they always come here?
I guess we'll never know
(cute toy store in Bergen)
The tour of old Bryggen was like a European Williamsburg, complete with the tiny cabinets the apprentices slept in (tops-to-tails, sitting upright) and the eagle-claw-laden rope the housemaster used to ring for help. Our tourguide had just returned to Bergen (and tourguiding) this week - as well as our bartender in Flåm). As the summer kicks into high gear, we see concerts series' starting a day or two after we leave, but we're happy to be able to catch both the Solstice in Norway and Midsummer in Sweden.

Ordering fish ball soup and
four kinds of fish cakes!
Tired of having museums close on us at 4 or 5pm, we went to the leprosy museum at 3pm, thinking we were plenty early.

What? foiled again!
The museum closure afforded us a little downtime, which meant some postcard and journal time for Olga and a nap and catch-up blogging time for me. We started at the hotel and then found ourselves attracted to the Chillout Travel Centre.

Cool free high-wire (actually low-
wire) in a park in Bergen
I am quite smitten with Chillout. They have everything a traveler might want: overstuffed couches, fancy coffees, an amazing chocolate-chili-fudge flourless cake, all kinds of gadgets from electrical adapters to sporks to TSA-friendly breathstrip-style laundry detergent sheets, gear including various sizes of backpacks and moisture-wicking shirts, and a very diverse collection of travel books for sale - oh and free wifi. Love this place.

Chillout Travel Centre
Up the funicular we went around 8:30pm, what would've been sunset had it not been solstice. But the solstice sunset - where the sun just hangs there reflecting off the harbor - is the most beautiful. The top of the mountain, 3 short minutes up from downtown Bergen, is like another world. The forest is cool but humid, still damp from the light rain yesterday.

People are mountain biking, hiking, and eating ice cream. Starting our hike, a couple asked which was the direction back to the funicular. It seemed a strange question, obviously it's back downhill. Then a half an hour later, we found ourselves nearly lost as we wandered off-trail through the streams and mosses high above the city. The strange couple we had met earlier could've easily been an older version of ourselves trapped in a time loop.

View of Bergen from the
top of the mountain (8:30pm)
Dinner at Pygmalion cafe. The patrons (almost entirely female) seemed to be fanatical about the restaurant, the folk singer playing, and each other. The singer's accompanist reading the palm of a beautiful young lady. The older patron gushing over the dreadlocked possibly Haitian restaurateur. Perhaps they are all a bit tipsy. Ok, they were quite drunk.

Mountain nature hike
before heading back down
the mountain (9:00pm)
The food was excellent - all natural slash organic ingredients - we shared Norwegian smoked salmon, potato salad, roasted potatoes (they are fanatical about their potatoes), garlic bread, salad, and an open-face brie sandwich on spelt rye bread.

Dinner (10:00pm,
still light out)
Wandered into Garage bar - rock bands play the 6 nights a week - but Tuesdays are cheap wine nights. Wall to wall blonde cute college kids drinking their local Hansa beer and passing around 140 Kroner (very cheap) bottles of wine. Unsatisfied, and unable to find a good desserty cafe, we tried the 'if you can't beat em, join em' strategy and visited Vamoose bar(directly under our hotel) that we heard in overdrive last night.

Mad customers at the
Pygmalion restaurant (can you
spot the palm reading?)
Ended the solstice there with Dorothy Goodbody's Wholesome Stout (British) and an all Bruce Springstein montage in tribute to Clarence Clemons.


mizzkg said...

Is she the blond lady (aren't they all) wearing a black top and bent over? Do I win a prize?

Dave said...

Any other guesses? :)

mizzkg said...

Can I guess again?

Dave said...

yes please guess again!