Bergen, Norway

Our first cruise port is Bergen (or Bryggen if you prefer), former capital of Norway until the 13th century and a bureau city of the Hanseatic League. It is the second largest city in Norway (behind Oslo) and has a half-million residents. It is picture-perfect charming! And look, our first Viking spotting – looks like a mean one!

I have been watching the weather forecast for the last couple of weeks and the weather in Bergen can be variable; much like Alaska. We had been hoping for some nice, sunny weather, but it was not to be. When we looked out the window of our cabin first thing we saw that it was cloudy, but not rainy. We would hope for the best but prepare for the worst by wearing our North Face jackets (lightweight and waterproof). We don’t bring umbrellas; they are for wimps (at least, that is the prevailing wisdom in Seattle). Actually, there if it is rainy, it is often windy as well, making umbrellas fairly useless. It is also one less thing to carry.

Our plan for the morning was to quickly locate the funicular, the Fløibanen, and ride it to the top of Mount Fløyen. We have found that it is best to arrive at popular attractions first thing in the morning, before the lines start. We were not exactly sure where we would dock but had downloaded a map of Bergen ahead of time. There were two other ships in port, so quite a few other eager tourists would be heading in to see the attraction. Though we were docked the furthest from town of the three ships, we were still only a ten-minute walk on flat cobblestone to reach the funicular. We had pre-purchased tickets on-line (always a good idea!) and so were able to walk past the ticket booth, scan our tickets, and board the funicular. It was already pretty crowded; we were joined by a large group of Korean tourists. On the ride up the mountain we chatted with the tour guide and our fellow passengers.

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By the time we reached the top, the skies had opened and it was pouring rain. A little rain never hurt anyone so we pulled our hoods up and walked out to the overlook to view Bergen and its surrounding waters. Even though it was raining we were able to see quite well. There are walking trails, a restaurant, a zipline, mountain bikes for rent and a hut with adorable (and friendly) mountain goats. They were all sheltered in their hut; apparently smart enough to stay out of the rain. The zipline and mountain bike rentals are seasonal and had closed down the day before we visited.

After exploring the area we headed back to the funicular. By then the rain had stopped but the fog had rolled in so you could no longer see the scenery below. We were glad that we had taken pictures immediately upon our arrival!

We were able to get into the front car for the steep decline down the mountain.

We spent the remainder of the morning walking around town. There is a fish market at the end of the short canal that branches off of the main harbor. Rick Steves labels it as “very touristy”; he is 100% correct! The fish market here has nothing on the Pike Place Market in Seattle other than having a few unique goods, such as dried fish, reindeer sausage and whale sausage. It only takes a few minutes to walk through.

We also walked through the “Old Town” area which was where the trading originally took place. It has burned down multiples times over the years so the buildings are not the original ones. Nonetheless, it is a cute area to walk through. You will notice in the pictures that all of the buildings here look very similar. If you look closely you will also notice that a couple of them are apparently being worked on; their exteriors are actually large pieces of fabric that have been painted to look like the rest of the buildings

There are multiple opportunities to part with your money for souvenirs – lots of Norwegian sweaters, hats, socks decorated with a reindeer motif as well as plenty of trolls. We managed to hold onto our cash (at least for now); we will also be stopping in Älesund and Oslo.

We returned to the ship in time for lunch; several hours in Bergen turned out to be enough time to see everything we wanted to see.

When we returned to our room after dinner we found a letter inviting us to have dinner with one of the ship’s senior officers the following evening at 7:30 pm (dress formally). Having Platinum Plus level status with NCL entitles one to having dinner with a ship’s officer if you so desire, but we had not requested it. My guess is that not enough people had wanted to take advantage of this opportunity so they had to invite people to attend. We decided against accepting the invitation – if we had wanted to dine with a ship’s officer, we would have requested it ourselves. And, given our packing light philosophy, you shouldn’t be too surprised to find that we do not pack formal wear!

Tomorrow, Ålesund!