Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fjell and Almost Fjord

It's currently 7am after an all night train ride to Oslo on which I got very little sleep. Expect little in the way of sense and you will be well served.

I have spent the last few days in Bergen, Norway. The train ride there from Oslo I recommend doing with as much daylight as possible as you will get to see all the scenery of Norway without the inconvenience of having to walk up and down on it. There's gorges, mountain lakes, rocky highlands, alpine forests, waterfalls, all your key mountainous terrain, plus a few tiny little Norwegian towns.

Bergen itself is no slouch on the picturesque front, being situated in and around what they call the seven mountains, or fjells (more on these later). It's also, being Norway, egregiously expensive. As such it's rather handy that I got to stay with my cousin Julia and her partner Ben who both play for the Bergen Philharmonic. Their apartment is centre left, just off to the side of that bridge, in case that becomes critical information at some point.
From Bergen

It was good to meet up with family, and also really nice to stay in a home for a few days. I realised about halfway to the train station on my way out of Bergen that I didn't take any photos of my gracious hosts, a fact my parents will likely berate me roundly for. As a consolation, here's an artist's rendition:
From left: me, Julia and Ben standing outside historic Bryggen. Bryggen is a bunch of old wooden houses that is heritage listed. Turns out this is about a hundred times more interesting than it sounds, and the buildings have the air of a group of old drunks leaning against each other for support as you can tell from my picture. It doesn't take long to see most of it, but I wandered around a couple of times because it stays interesting.

I booked a Norway in a Nutshell tour for Sunday which is trains and buses and boats around a couple of fjords. Very scenic, majestic, even. So where are the pictures? The evidence, as it were? Well, for various reasons I got to the first train as it was pulling out of the station, whereupon the conductor gave me one of those shrugs. You know, the sorry-I-could-resolve-this-in-your-favour-but-choose-not-to-because-I-just-don't-care-enough-to-stop-the-train kind of shrug. You see it on public transport officials the world over. So, soaking wet, I went back, dried off and instead went and looked at some Edvard Munch paintings while listening to Radiohead's The Bends. You can relive the experience by looking here, with this playing in the background. Not the best way to lift the spirits.

You may have noticed the soaking wet bit. That's because in Bergen it rains 275 days a year, and that is according to their tourism office. Guess who didn't pack a rain coat?

Back to the seven mountains. I went up two of them (two of seven is a pretty bad hit rate, I know, but they're tall, and I'm lazy): Floyen which I walked up, and Ulriken, the highest, which I took a cable car up. Technically Floyen has a / through the o, but I can't be bothered figuring out how to do that. In both cases I saw an inordinate number of crazy Norwegians running up them. Apparently 7pm on a Monday is the ideal time to run up a 650m mountain in Norway. In this weather, too.
From Bergen

The only bad thing about the trip, apart from the missed train and subsequent wasted 950NOK (about $200) was that a good deal of the attractions in Bergen are only open, or regularly open, during summer, which ends at the beginning of September. As a result I missed a few things, including the Leprosy Museum, which might have been fun to see.

All in all, Bergen gets two rained upon thumbs up, with thanks again to Julia and Ben for putting me up, and putting up with me.

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