Sleepy eyed, I stumbled into the early hours of a bleakly lit Bergen, and my heart burst a little. Bergen is so completely different from Oslo, but in the loveliest way possible and of course, this is exactly what I was hoping for.
There’s nothing worse than spending an awful long time during the night on a train only to reach your final destination and to be disappointed – but even in the drizzle Bergen has a romantic, rustic charm to it.
Bergen, for me is the autumn city. Its buildings are cosily nestled around a charming little harbour and gently pull at your heart strings in their golden yellow hues and bright brassy reds.
One of my first views of Bergen was Bryggen. Also know as Tyskebryggen this row of lovely wooden cabins is Bergen’s answer to the Eiffel Tower and became a World Cultural Heritage site in 1979. Bryggen is Glasgow’s Duke of Wellington with a cone sloppily placed on his head, you’ve not seen the city unless you’ve visited it. Fortunately, like the Eiffel Tower, you literally cannot miss it.
There’s something I really value about smaller cities. Since moving to Oslo I’ve become heavily reliant on public transport. Bergen, on the other hand, allowed me to explore it by foot, which was so lovely as I’ve come to really miss little pleasures like walking everywhere since being in Norway.
As well as this, there’s much more time for unplanned accidental wrong turns that lead to discovering the most idyllic secret places. Fortunately, this happened a lot during my Bergen trip and more often than not I found myself on pastel coloured, wooden build streets with cobbled roads covered in vines and buried in flowers. These are things that all appeal to my dreadfully nostalgic soul. The architecture in Bergen was too perfect for words.
A highlight of my trip was the Fløibanen funicular. Bergen is tucked away in valley and dubbed ‘The Gateway to the Fjords’: to understand why, this seven minute funicular ride is essential. The top did not disappoint and for an hour or so we basked in the vast and dramatic scenery of this truly wonderful country.
Although small on the city scale Bergen still offers a huge choice of places to visit and things to see. On Friday alone, we spent the day visiting four museums. KODE is a quadruple collection of art galleries containing a range of works from bold contemporary work to traditional Norwegian art by Johan Christian Dahl (a new favourite of mine) to celebrated Munch. But my personal favourite was an exhibition which focussed on art during Word War II which examined how the Nazis labelled some art as ‘degenerate’ due to it’s content.
As Bergen is the rainiest city in Norway, with three times more rain than Oslo, I was expecting the worst. After a Friday spent looking like I’d been swimming fully dressed and an incident where our umbrella was stolen, things were looking bleak. However, the rest of my trip was drenched in a late September sun and it was particularly warm and sunny which was a real treat.
We tried to book a youth hostel in the city centre but fortunately didn’t manage to get one. The youth hostel we stayed in was seriously cool. Just a short bus journey outside the city centre Montana Youth Hostel was my first experience of backpacking life.
There’s something homely in squinty hung maps and barely alive potted plants, cooking in a kitchen with twenty other people speaking in languages from all across the globe. Montana was quite something, a little gem really. When exploring outside we learned how high up Montana really was, with views all over the city. Each evening, we sat and watched the sunset over Bergen, which was really special.
As you stand above an undiscovered city, there’s a certain feeling of anonymity. I felt I could have been anywhere, Norway, Scotland, America even. Some moments stay with you for a long time and I think that will be one of mine.
Bergen is about seven hours by train from Oslo. I admit, I was a little naive about how large Norway is, but really wanted to visit somewhere completely different from Oslo and Bergen certainly fit my criteria. I spend a lot of time undecided on whether I’m a city or country girl but I think Bergen provides a happy medium for my fellow undecided cohorts.
The train journey is supposed to be one of the most beautiful in the world and as I travelled to Bergen by night I was especially looking forward to the journey home. I thought I would read a novel but constantly found myself abandoning it to stare longingly outside. I’m pretty certain we travelled through every possible landscape imaginable (bar a desert).
From deep vast turquoise lakes full of tiny little rowing boats floating side by side, to barren landscapes with abandoned red wooden cabins and rocky, snow covered mountains filled with fast flowing waterfalls with froth hitting my window. It really was my most spectacular train journey ever and I would love to see it all again. For that simple reason alone I would recommend a visit to Bergen.