Still a bit giddy (silly but true) after the previous day’s spectacular adventure on the Flam Railway and through the Nærøyfjord I opted to spend my final day in Bergen and the nearby fjords. After a relatively late start Anna and I once again set out together to aimlessly wander the city. As usual the first stop was back down along the harbor and the warehouse district, but that didn’t last long. We were eager to get into parts of the city we’d yet to explore.
The first stop was just off of the central square. Up a green boulevard and around a few statues we found the city’s opera house/theater. A fun building with a series of beautifully cast and carved figures. Some, like the flowing bronze in the image above, captured the classic imagery of theater. While others had a more unique/Scandinavian feel.
The building was decorated with a series of masks which took on the shape and appearance of animals, but done in an art-deco sort of powerful, but rudimentary form. The lamp posts each had extra metalwork which wrapped around them showcasing viking ships and marauders. The whole venue had an air of character to it, which made me wish that I had time to catch a show.
From the theater we wound our way through back streets and quiet alleyways before eventually marching up a large flight of stairs. The stairs dumped us out in front of one of Bergen’s main cathedrals. A large, beautiful building that showcased a beautiful wooden roof, set with subtle but elegant wooden highlights and fine artwork.
As we wound our way through the city we could not help but enjoy the skyline. Norwegian cities offer an interesting mixture of styles and a beautiful combination of greenery and ancient architecture.
From the Cathedral we wound our way down the other side of the hill and over towards what we later found out was the local University. There we paused briefly for a quick snack before winding back down towards the main lake – a large man-made rectangle which rests right in the heart of Bergen just off the central square.
The square featured a series of interesting sculptures. However, the one that I found most interesting was a large aluminum (or stainless steel) cube which looked as though its surface was cast out of water caught in the midst of a rainstorm. It was odd, stood out, and ordinarily would have clashed with its setting. For whatever reason though, perhaps the nature of the northern weather, it seemed to fit and in an odd way reflected and captured the region’s moody weather.
The day was a gorgeous one. Flowers in bloom, a few clouds in the sky, a slight northern crispness to the air, and the warmth of the sun all set to the backdrop of rich blue skies. As we wandered through the city’s streets and parks, I paused briefly and chuckled. I can’t fathom where the balloon came from, but the little girl pictured above was at play in the park with her younger brother, both with floating balloons in tow. For some reason, set against the gazebo and blooming flowers they seemed to embody the spirit of late spring and early summer. In truth, they embodied life, youthful energy and the essence of positive spirit.
From the park it was back to the harbor where Anna and I had decided we’d pick up some local seafood for lunch, then hop on the local fjord cruise which left twice a day, lasted 3 or so hours, and was fairly affordable. To our surprise there was a fair amount of commotion in the harbor. Somehow, the cute pink fishing ship I’d observed and commented on the previous day had sprung a leak. As the ship sat, partially submerged and resting on the harbor floor a large barge was brought in with a sizable winch. The plan appeared to involve divers in dry-suits, the barge, and a large cargo winch. From the general approach the locals were taking it must have been a somewhat common occurrence.
Hungry, Anna and I decided to splurge a bit and both went on a small buying spree, planning to pool what we picked up in a two-person potluck once we got on the boat. The region is famous for its seafood, especially for its smoked salmon, fresh arctic shrimp and dare I say it – whale. Anna went for the healthy route and picked up a carton of fresh strawberries and raspberries. It’s worth noting that I was surprised how many small fruit stands were selling strawberries and cherries in Stavanger and Bergen. They were everywhere, dirt cheap, and absolutely fantastic. They were fresh, sweet, and a deep rich color with a strong strawberry scent. The type of strawberries you only find in the US at local farmers markets.
In addition to the strawberries and raspberries, Anna picked up a lightly seasoned piece of smoked salmon and freshly cooked combo plate which had a few skewers of shrimp and a piece of whale meat. I opted for a pound of fresh crawfish, cup of fresh cherries and a more heavily spiced/slightly dryer piece of Salmon.
The meal was absolutely spectacular. The salmon was delicious – well spiced, perfectly smoked and a great mixture of flavors. Mine was more like traditional smoked salmon while Anna’s rode the middle and was far closer to lox. The crawfish and shrimp were both extremely flavorful while the strawberries and raspberries were perfectly ripened and some of the most flavorful I’ve had in a long, long time. I have no doubt I’ll take some flack for it, but I also opted to try whale. While opposed to their hunting, curiosity and hunger for new culinary experiences won out. It sounds silly, but i was quite surprised by the taste. I was expecting something fishy, which given that whale is a mammal is a bit daft. Instead the flavor was extremely gamy and almost had a liverish taste to it. The liver taste was more pronounced in the smoked version I tried, while the thinly cut BBQ’d piece was fairly good, but nothing special. Truth be told it was like a gamy carne asada.
The cruise left Bergen Harbor and wound its way out towards the main bay/fjord. There we passed near a series of beautiful suspension bridges and motored past a number of sailboats out enjoying the nice weather.
About an hour or so into the trip we started to leave the more densely populated coastline behind. It was replaced by small lighthouses, boathouses, and the occasional home and small village.
The whole area is incredibly picturesque. From the architecture, to the rich mixture of colors used on their buildings the small towns each have their own unique character. All set against a rich green backdrop.
The coast/fjord is also home to a series of small waterfalls and impressive cliffs. However, in comparison to my previous day’s adventure, most seemed fairly small and plain. Which is not to say that they were not gorgeous and incredibly beautiful. Rather, the cruise from Bergen gave me the opportunity to enjoy architecture and human’s footprint set against a majestic backdrop.
Eventually the day wound to a close as we slowly completed our long loop and headed back towards Bergen. Just in time, I might add, as the weather had slowly begun to change. The clouds had thickened and spread and the temperature slowly dropped. As a fresh sprinkle cleared the dust from the air, I took one final, deep breath, enjoyed the beauty of the fjords and prepared for my last night in Bergen. The following day promised grand adventures and my first taste of Denmark.