WARNING: Graphic scenes ahead!
In Bergen it rains two days out of three, they tell us, but our day was brilliantly sunny and warm. The 63 colourful wooden wharf buildings lining the harbour were designed originally for storage, homes and trading. The first eight are straight, and the rest lean against each other like drunken sailors, which is how you can tell they are the originals, and have never been destroyed by fire and then rebuilt. Today all of them are shops and restaurants, with a few offices. Because the whole area is made of wooden planks and logs, all smoking and open flame of any sort is strictly (fanatically, neurotically) forbidden.
There are laneways in between the old warehouses that lead to back courtyards and more shops. Originally the street was not numbered, but you could tell how far along the street you were by the wooden carvings mounted on the front of the buildings in the place of signs. Including the anatomically correct unicorn.
All this old area of Bryggen, iconic to Bergen and subject of many a fridge magnet, narrowly escaped total destruction after WWII. The Nazis used these buildings as their offices, and Norwegians were so heartily sick of the Nazis that they wanted to destroy every reminder of their presence. Fortunately these buildings outlasted the Nazis, and nowadays this area is treasured.
We took the funicular to the top of Mt. Flooiban (so glad we bought our tickets in advance on line) to see the spectacular view over the city and surroundings. Then we followed a short hiking trail to a mountain lake, humming that Grieg piece about the Troll King under our breaths. It was easy to imagine trolls and fairies under the massive trees and hidden among the huge mossy rocks.
Here’s a version of that piece played by two American harpists of Norwegian heritage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w44b6tqUd6s
The air smelled wonderful – full of pine needles and yes, just clean. A woman back at the ship later raved about the glass of water she’d had. What an awful commentary on our world that we were excited about clean air and water.
Then it was a walk around the fish market, with its reindeer sausage and caviar in addition to all the gifts of the ocean, and into town, with a rest to watch children playing around the statue and fountain of Ole Bull, violinist and composer, said to rival Paganini for his virtuosity.
Here is one of Ole Bull’s compositions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXqnLooMLO0
In its nineteen hours of daylight today, Bergen is magical, but I had a vision of it in nineteen hours of daily darkness, cold, colourless, and under Nazi rule, and shivered.
TOILET TALK: This is how Lars and Linnea of Norway know which bathroom door to use: