Beautiful Bergen

Trip Start Jun 20, 2004
1
8
20
Trip End Jul 05, 2004


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Flag of Norway  ,
Saturday, June 26, 2004

It was a early start today. At 5.45am we woke up and head for breakfast at 6.30am. The coach sped off in the direction of Bergen at 7.30am. Highlight of the otherwise monotonous journey to Bergen was that we went through a tunnel 230m below sea level (tolls were 90 Nok for cars and more for buses). It was here I realised the Norweigian enjoyed an impressive network coverage for their mobile phones. From the deepest tunnel to the most rural valleys and hills, the reception meter on my Nokia was at its highest everywhere and stayed that way no matter where I was in Norway. It was definitely better than Singapore where signal can be lost in an expressway or a slightly rural area (hello telecoms why can't you cover a small country) or Australia where mobile signal will be lost somewhere between Sydney and Hunter Valley.

To get to Bergen, we have to hopped on ferries intermittently instead of following the long fjords shorelines. We reached Bergen by noon and our centrally located hotel let us into the heart of Bergen easily. The first thing we did was to look for lunch at the Fish Market selling all sorts of seafood and of course souvenirs. Lunch could be a choice of raw salmon sandwich, whale meat (Japanese tourists seem to buy this without fail), king crab legs about 2 feet long, crabs and smoke fish. We tried the salmon sandwich (20-30 NOK) and bought some smoked fish. We didn't like the taste of the smoke fish. It was too salty. As we wandered around the market, we realised how touristy it had become. Signs put out by stall owner proclaimed they could speak any major european languages and Japanese and accepted major currencies. The Yen was particularly welcome there. The atmosphere wasn't as lively as any Singaporean Pasar Malam (Night Market) or the ones in Bangkok. Business went on pretty orderly. There were no shouting from the stalls to gain passerby's attention to his goods.

We walked to Bryggen, the world heritage site. Bryggen is the old wharf of Bergen. It's a reminder of the town's importance as part of the Hanseatic League's trading empire from the 14th to mid-16th century. Many fires, the last in 1955, have ravaged the beautiful wooden houses of Bryggen but its main structure has been preserved. Many of the remaining 58 buildings are now used as artists' studios. However, at street level, there were simply too many shops selling trolls and tourist junks. We ended up buying the miniature houses of Bryggen as a display for our home.

After dinner at our hotel, the sky was clearer and we headed out to Floibanen Station to take the funicular (tram like thingy) up Mount Floyen, the mountain that overlooks the city of Bergen. A return ticket cost 60 Nok. We missed the 8.30pm funicular and went to look at the closed shops display. There are a few home decor stores nearby selling Far Eastern decors. Many Balinese, Thai and Chinese decor were on sale. There's even a 'huge' 4 feet buddha. The price of such decor commanded a hefty premium. A wooden Balinese carving cost about 5 times of what it would cost to buy and ship it over in Bali. The price of the carving I figure cost about US$10 and was selling for about US$50. It was then the shop owner came out to locked the shop. Upon seeing us, he greeted us Konbanwa and ogenki desuka (Good evening and how are you in Japanese) I said, "Genki desu (I am fine) but I am not Japanese." He hazard a guess that we are from Hong Kong and when that was wrong he guessed correctly Singapore. We chat a bit more about his shop (He'd traveled a fair bit in Asia) and he said he's off to grab a beer and watch the Eurocup match in a pub and hope the French will lose that night. He hated the French he said. Gosh, who else in the world didn't hate the French. We bid farewell and returned to Floibanen.

It was at the station where we met one of the American couple in our tour group. We chatted and we learned that he was a history lecturer from California. We asked about Singapore after he found out where we are from. Being a history lecturer, he got me to brief him about the history of Singapore. He initially confused Singapore with Shanghai, China and asked why the Chinese would grant us independence. I guessed I have to start all over again with the geography of Singapore. It was at this tour that we realised many Americans associate anyone with a chinese heritage with the Chinese in China. He questioned about the religion in Singapore and was curious when we told him about 'free thinkers' a broad term we used to describe someone without religious conviction. He also asked about our attitude towards the Japanese. I explained that Singaporean rather look forward and forgave them about the war crimes and attrocities the Japanese (not them trying to whitewash it though) did during WW2 unlike the Koreans or Chinese who still have a grudge to bear. He was intrigued by Singapore history of being a British Colony, our education system based in English that he vowed to find out more once he got back.

Our 9pm funicular came along (Funiculars depart at a regular 30 minutes interval). The funicular was unlike the one we took in Penang, Malaysia. This one was fast and modern. The trip to the top took about 7 minutes. The view of Bergen from the top was spectacular only slightly marred by the mist. There wasn't much crowd at this time of the night.
It was here I found a statue of the biggest (7-8 ft) touristy troll. The troll arms were made to look like it went around your waist. The perfect spot to take photo with a troll. Needless to say, a tourist gift shop was also located next to the train station at the top. This one is cheaper than those in Bryggen.

We walked around the walking trails and made the descent at half past 10pm. Last funicular down from the top is at midnight.
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