I’m tempted to start this post by saying what a busy day we had today. But I suspect every day on this trip would start that way so I won’t.
Today was our day to explore Bergen. Bergen used to be the biggest and most important city in Norway. Its heyday was in the 12th to 15th centuries as a member of the Hanseatic League, a confederation of trading partners in the Baltic and Northern Europe.
Before traveling back in time we caught a very modern means of transport – the Fløibanen Funicular – to the top of one of the mountains surrounding Bergen for a spectacular view over Bergen, the fjord and surrounding islands. Bergen is known as a rainy city. It has been said that Bergen is the rainiest city on earth. So we had low expectations and packed accordingly. As you can see from the photos, we struck gold with the weather. Sunny, blue sky, warm but not hot. PERFECT! We got off the funicular at the second last stop and walked down, wandering amongst pretty weatherboard cottages built on the impossibly steep hillside. Also, we saw some yarn-bombed trees.
The Hanseatic history in Bergen is quite fascinating. Bergen supplied dried cod and cod liver oil, and in turn received grains, fabrics and luxury items from England and Europe. We visited several museums showcasing the lifestyle of that era, with reconstructions and relics. As we wandered through The Hanseatic Museum (former offices and living quarters of Hanseatic merchants) & the Schøtstuene (the assembly rooms where the merchants met and ate) the smell of old timber, the informative displays and the creakingof the stairs presented a picture of those days. We walked into one dining hall and I swear you could hear the sounds of men talking and dishes clattering as they shared a meal!
Finally it was time to board the Viking Sea! We walked the short distance from the hotel to the ship, wheeling our bags along the harbour front and dodging the many many tourists about. The ship is lovely and our stateroom is spacious and comfortable. So far I can’t find anything to fault about the ship, the staff or the food. The ship is staying docked in Bergen overnight, so after lunch we headed back on shore to continue our exploring. This time we visited Rozencrantz Tower, which dates back to the 13th century, and Håkon’s Hall, the largest secular medieval building in Norway. Originally a banqueting hall for the king, it is still in use today as a function centre.
Our stamina was starting to flag, but we had to see the old Hanseatic quarter of Bergen, known as Bryggen. Rows of old timber warehouses lean haphazardly over timber paths oozing charm and “shabby chic”. As soon as we left the harbour front the crowds disappeared and it was oh-so-atmospheric!
Finally our aching legs complained so loudly we took them back to the ship. We unpacked and chilled for a while, then ate a very delicious dinner, chatting enjoyably to our table companions. We were offered the choice between a table for two or a shared table, and we chose shared. Conversation flowed freely and we now have 4 new friends. I just hope I still remember their names tomorrow!