It’s always exciting when a place exceeds the dreams you have had of it in your imagination. I have been dreaming of Bergen for over twenty years. I imagined myself here in 1989… but on a budget of $50/day, Scandinavia dropped off the table.
I had read an article in the globe and mail travel section about the “mail boat” that cruises up the coast of Norway through the fjords. Not a cruise ship but a regular boat whose principal purpose is cargo and mail delivery. At the time it seemed you could book something really basic and it didn’t cost a fortune.
It was still way out of my backpacking budget so I’ll never know but a trip on Hurtigruten in 2014 is not cheap although I am sure the cost is substantially less out of season. But I am here in Bergen on a glorious day in mid-May. It is so sunny it’s tough to type and I have to contend with my reflection in the screen as a kind of unwanted screensaver.
I wanted to save a little money on the Hurtigruten ship so I booked really far ahead and came in May instead of June. I can’t guarantee your experience of Norway in May is going to be as spectacular as mine but I have rarely had a more perfect climatic travel experience.
And then there is Bergen… (the Hurtigruten ships start out of Bergen)… It is like Brugge and Ljubliana – another small city that is so cute and perfect it’s hard to believe Tinkerbell didn’t scoot in prior to your arrival and sprinkle pixie dust over the place.
It’s an old trading post and seafaring port, one of the Hanseatic merchants` four most important trading centres. I am sitting typing this next to the harbour on one side and rows of adorable houses rebuilt a series of times due to fire but apparently using the original blueprints from the 12th century. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site called Bryggen.
As has already been noted, Norway is a wildly expensive country to visit so I read about all the tourist attractions but almost nothing is free (maybe a church… not all churches though) so you will have to explore them on your own. Most sound pretty small town so paying at least $12 to be underwhelmed seems a recipe for disappointment.
And the town is gorgeous so exploring it will provide plenty of free entertainment 🙂 The one thing I did pay for – and I would encourage you to do the same – is the funicular up to the top of one of the mountains (the city is surrounded by seven).
It`s the Floibanen Funicular and takes you to the top of Mount Floyen in seven minutes. It costs under $20 (not much in Norway does J) and, on a sunny day, the view is breathtaking. It also provides a great bird`s eye view of the city.
The other cool thing to do from Bergen is explore the fjords. I expect I will be back. There is no question Norway is gorgeous – but, like supermodels, it charges a lot of cash per hour so one has to plot a careful strategy.
I`m not sure exactly what I will see via Hurtigruten so that`s the plan for this trip. I can fly back to Bergen on another European jaunt and check out the missing fjords if I am not OD-ed on ice, water and rock in the next seven days.
Tomorrow I join the ship. Today I am soaking up the sun and the immense satisfaction that comes from realizing one’s dreams – and having the reality exceed everything one has imagined. Skol Bergen 😉
p.s. after I wrote this, I searched for a great final meal in Bergen that wouldn’t break the bank. I wanted to have fish. I knew that if I got off the main drag next to the harbour the cost would likely come down. I finally settled on Ruccola at Verdidsalmenningen 7. It’s just down the street from the station for the funicular. An amazing meal of salmon and vegetables for about 220 kroner – and the best house wine I have had in Norway!