Friday, August 05, 2005

Day 7 |Bergen|Little boxes all made of ticky tack

Woke up this morning in the gateway to the fjords. Or the town between the seven mountains. A possible case of snow white and the seven dwarves mildly altered.

Snow white it was not this morning, but sort of like a page from a faded fairy tale book. Bergen was much kinder to those who wished to sleep - the fog considerably ameliorated the effects of never- ending light.

There wasn't much i knew about Bergen before it was on the itinerary for this trip, except 3 little facts. One was it remained an ice free port in spite of its high latitude (60 degrees N) thanks to the Gulf Stream (i clearly had an excellent geography teacher!). Also that it was an important Hanseatic port, similar to Brugge. The third B. told me - that if it ain't raining, it ain't Bergen.

Looks as though he was wrong, and Bergen was behaving - because it wasn't raining, and the fog lifted, to reveal a glorious shiny Bergen. A short walk down the innumerable stairs along the hilly path, and here we were, right at the fish market. A visit to the tourist information office, situated in a lovely building, the Fresco Hall coupled with considerable excitement at meeting Tyler's Norwegian cousins at the aquarium, pretty much sums up the morning. Unless you count the smiling fishermen who offered me endless shrimp and oysters to sample in the fish market. It must have been my reciprocating smile - though B attributed other things to their generosity.

The Bergen aquarium turned out to be a bit of a disappointment - other than the seals and penguins. S Where had all the sea lions gone? It wasn't lunch - for that there was salmon. Took me back to a work- related gala dinner at the New England aquarium - where I ate about 3 pounds of clams thanks to the kind hearted, squeamish guests who felt guilty eating the mites in their own homes!

We hurried along - and made it to the White Lady before she set sail for the fjord cruise. The rest was magic. Other than a rather boisterous Italian gent who clearly had one too many beers for lunch. Past the Hanseatic wharf area - Bryggen, rebuilt after a great fire in 1702. Bergen it turned out - had fallen prey to conflagrations throughout its entire history. The house we were staying in currently dated back to the 18th century, and was only partly destroyed by the fire. Suddenly i appreciated it much more, though its modern interiors belied its age.

The White lady took us deep into the Sognefjord, and adjacent fjords. We saw some fascinating sights (the scenery by now was given!), such as a partially floating bridge, one of the oldest stave churches in Norway and a refueling station for boats! Unfortunately there were no seals that i spotted with my naked eye, though i was able to spot several families, sitting out in their little private jetties, outside their summerhouses. Some of the children jumping in and out of the water could have been mistaken as little monk seals, a mistake B made when he pointed to one excitedly, "look a blue mottled seal". Turned out to be a little girl in a polka dotted bathing outfit!

The fresh air had whet our appetite, and we ended up as giants refreshed in a waterfront restaurant, with a charming Thai waiter. Our sense of well being continued as we headed to the 7 minute ride to the top of Bergen,the much famed Fløibanen.

The Floibanen is a funicular railway that takes visitors to the top of MountFløyen - all in 7 minutes for a view that is truly breath taking. Atop the mountain, i found myself in the arms of a giant troll! Once B managed to extricate from the Troll's charms, we wandered around some. We had a spectacular bird's eye view of Bergen, the surrounding fjords and the mountains, of course. There are also hiking trails around the mountain, but it was getting darker, and some curious black bugs in the woodsier parts soon dissuaded me, much to B's relief.

Around us were the usual motley tourists doing the usual tourist things. There was a charming outdoor cafe where friends were meeting for a friday night drink. So far removed from life in parts I had grown up in. I could hear some English tourists on their mobile phones, considerably less obtrusive than their American counterparts, discussing yesterday's incidents.

It was something of an awakening, because reality seemed so far away atop this hill. With tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly, because i felt like a girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

No comments: