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Bergen

rain 14 °C

We have had two stays in Bergen. One was just for a night before heading off to Flåm, and the other was for two nights after Flåm. We stayed in the same hotel both times.

Bergen is a lovely city, whose wharf architecture hasn't changed since 12th century. Bryggen, which is the old city on the wharf, has these wooden houses painted yellow, red or white with narrow "streets" running between them that are only 2m wide. These wooden houses burn down every century, the last time was in 1702. They don't muck around here. If there is a fire it wipes out the whole village! They then rebuild it the same way it was, but just a little closer to the water as over the past millennium, the water has receded.

So as Bryggen couldn't be bothered altering it's buildings, the city has now been heritage listed.

Bergen's main produce over the years has been dried fish. You wouldn't believe how much of the stuff they have traded. To me fish rots if left out for more than 5 minutes, so these people leave it out for weeks or months, watch it dry, then sell it. The producers would rip off the merchants by leaving semi dried fish in their bundles, thus delivering a greater weight than what the merchant thought he was getting.

Little did the producers know that they were being ripped off as the merchants weights were overstated. We know that now as these weights still exist and it is clear that most of them are significantly out.

When I was fishing in Geiranger, the crew were offering me some dried fish....literally a 40cm dried fish that they were pulling apart and hoeing in to. I declined at first, but I normally adopt the "when in Rome philosophy" so caved in. It was also free and when in Norway, don't knock that back! That was about 6 days ago and I still have the disgusting taste of fish sinews in my mouth. It has the texture of tree bark and I wish it tasted like tree bark.

The route from the Bergen train station to our hotel is about 250m according to Google maps, though that is from the nearest end of the railway station and we had to walk from the middle of the station. Louisa's main form off luggage is a roller suit case, mine is a back pack. We both have a smaller backpack each as carry on luggage. What you find when you get to Bergen is that the. streets are paved with millions of cobblestones.

Some of the cobblestones are small, around 3cm x 3cm and there are about 2 million of these between the station and the hotel. I know as I counted them. There are 1.5 million of the10cm x 10cm variety laid out 20 in a line to make the road.

Now Louisa's suitcase weighs between 22kg and 23kg and I can tell you that the natural predator of a roller suitcase is the 3cm cobblestone. You can see roller suitcases running for their lives, unattended, back into the railway station when they see these cobblestones.

Judging by our experience, the life expectancy of a roller suitcase weighing 20kg, over 3cm cobble stones is about 250m. It had the living, well suitcases, belted out of it while dragged across these blighters. Towards the end I had to carry Louisa's as it was surely about to disintegrate and spew Louisa's lingerie around the streets of Bergen.

We are hoping the suitcase life expectancy is restarted each trip and not cumulative!

On our first real morning in Bergen where we had the entire day to check out the sights of the place, Louisa looked out the window and saw some sunshine. The previous night was quite balmy so we were hopeful of some nice weather. Louisa looked up the local weather forecast for somewhere nice and found that it was going to be a sunny 23C. We dressed in shorts, T-shirts and took to the touristy sights of Bergen.

It appeared to be pretty chilly outside, windy and raining, but we soldiered on knowing that weather forecasters are never wrong. I did overhear a conversation that morning between Louisa and her mother and Louisa did mention "Trondheim" more than once but without context so I wasn't too alarmed.

When we were sheltering in a coffee shop out of the elements, we both had a Norwegian newspaper and the only thing in the entire paper that we could understand was the weather section. It was there that "Trondheim" was mentioned again but this time I had some context. We were in Bergen, Louisa had had a mental blank and thought we were in Trondheim. This had a little to do with the delta between the weather we were in, and the weather that was forecast.

Bryggen, and especially their lovely old wooden dwellings, is mostly occupied by souvenir shops and restaurants. This is where I get to the boat people, or as some people might say, cruise liner patrons. The bloody MSC Spendida that berthed 50m from our lovely balcony in Flåm, was stalking us. It was berthed at Bergen and it's payload of boat people were smashing the souvenir shops. It was mayhem again. These cruise ships like the Spendida, carry 4000 passengers. The passengers are cramped up in their luxurious ship, but when it is docked they spew everywhere like an over ripe zit, in groups of 50 or more, following a crew member with a sign in their hand to keep them together for part of the journey.

They have rattled off 326 camera shots before they get off the gangplank, normally photos of trees, water, seagulls, more trees, gangplanks, statues, buildings, clouds, cracks in the pavement, their partner standing in front of a tree, their partner standing in front of a statue, their partner walking off the gangplank, their partner taking a photo of them and basically anything that moves or doesn't move.

They then hit these souvenir shops in droves. This is not the time to be souvenir shopping. They have no concept of personal space and will cut into queues and hip and shoulder you away from the "SALG" bin.....my Norwegian is really coming along! There will be no apology or even acknowledgement that they have delivered the best shirtfront since Stan Magro got Jezza all those years back.

The time to hit the souvenir shops is when these boat people are summoned back to their boat caves, much like Morlocks. They have free food on deck and do not miss their dinner time, so that is when it is safe to move around souvenir shops, museums, and markets. Sometimes you can hear the loud ship horns summoning the Morlocks back to their base. This is the opportunity to go about your holiday in peace and quiet.

The weather hadn't really improved and we took some refuge in a McDonald's store to get a quick cheap bite....well that was the plan. I have never been so nervous carrying Macka's on a tray as I was in Bergen. $40 for a medium and small burger meal!! The pressure of carrying such a large purchase, up stairs on a McDonalds' tray was almost too much to handle.....having said that, I should have thrown the lot as it tasted quite ordinary.

Off to Oslo from here, if our suitcase can tolerate the cobblestones. Oslo and Bergen is much like Melbourne and Sydney. Intense rivalry exists between the cities since Oslo assumed the capital city of Norway from Bergen in 1814. Looking forward to it.

Posted by mljjs 15:06 Archived in Norway

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