Bergen’s unpredictable weather delivered snow on our second full day in town. Admittedly there was just a dusting around our hotel, but the mountains that encircle the harbour were covered with the stuff.
So we decided to visit them after another hearty breakfast, Graham suffering from a heavy cold and me with a headache. I could only blame the vodka we’d brought with us, mixed with plentiful lager.
The city was desperately quiet as we made for the Floibanen, the modern funicular railway that carries passengers to the top station on Mount Floyen (with a few stops on the way). And up there, the views of the harbour were worth their weight in gold.
Occasionally the sun shone, opening up views across the water to the mountains, inlets and headlands that make up Norway’s chaotic coastline. Clouds rolled in as quickly as they departed, shutting off the views and bringing the occasional snow shower with them. Below, historic Bergen lay alongside the busy harbour, it’s ferries and shipping destined for neighbouring towns and the North Sea oil fields.
We’d planned to walk back down to the city but there were a number of walks laid out on the mountain so we opted to give them a go instead. And I’m glad we did.
Thick snow surrounded us, the branches of the pine trees weighed down with it. When the sun shone and made the mountain sparkle, it was stunningly beautiful. Streams ambled their way down the slopes, beside the footpaths.
The mountain was popular with locals out for a Sunday stroll, some with their dogs. Other energetic souls were jogging or cross-country skiing, even on the steeper sections of the route.
We were climbing quite noticeably amid the woods, and when the low clouds parted the views across the mountains were majestic.
We arrived at the popular Brushytten hut, where we stopped for a breather, tea and hot chocolate. It sat at a crossroads of paths but the signposts did a frustratingly poor job of matching up with our map. So we plumped for another route uphill, climbing steeply amid thicker snow on a path that clung tightly to the side of the mountain. Below us lay a snow-covered lake.
As we climbed, the clouds rolled in and the snow began to fall. And it began to dawn on me that this path, despite being a busy one, was not on our map. Fearful that we’d end up miles from home, with no map for support, we decided to retrace our steps. And fortunately it was downhill all the way.
The sun returned, the numbers out on the paths grew as morning turned to lunchtime.
Rather than taking the funicular down, we continued walking but the snow was melting rapidly as we reached the edge of town.
My legs were burning, my head was aching and I needed lunch badly. But the city was still strangely quiet. Perhaps everyone had decamped to the mountains for the day? The shops were closed, along with many of the cafes and restaurants. The beggars – and I was surprised by how many there were in this socially aware country, and how they knelt in supplication awaiting donations – were doing lousy business. After a tetchy period of indecision, we found ourselves a table at the modern, international Bocca for a sandwich and a glass of wine.
Obviously it wasn’t cheap, but nothing in Norway is. A ride up the funicular, tea on the mountain and some lunch and we’d kissed goodbye to 70 quid. Madness!
In the evening we walked out to a restaurant called Spisekroken. We were the only diners but the food was exceptional, especially my duck with beets and bulgar wheat. Graham opted for a fishy soup. Beers followed at the previous night’s hangout, Pingvinen.
It was chucking it down with rain on the morning of our departure from Bergen – and Graham was suffering gut rot to add to his cold. Why is it that one of us always seems to be ill on holiday?
As we walked to the train station and our three-hour trip to Geilo, Bergen looked thoroughly miserable in the rain. But it had been a great place to spend a weekend, and I wouldn’t mind coming back to see it in all its summer glory one day.