Beautiful Bergen

This morning we were up at 8.30am and we looked out of our cabin window to clear blue skies and sunshine.  We found we were berthed in Bergen, and we were looking forward to revisiting this lovely town; we have been several times before and the last time was in 2008 on the Boudicca.

Bergen was founded over 900 years ago and has roots in the Viking age and beyond.  It was for several hundred years the centre of prosperous trade between Norway and the rest of Europe and today makes a good deal of money from its thriving tourist trade and its many restaurants, pubs, craft shops and historical museum.

As we knew the town quite well and Kath and Louise had never been before, we offered to show them around and we arranged to meet them in the Morning Light pub at 10.00am so we could go ashore together.  So we didn’t have an excursion organised today, preferring just to do our own thing.

After breakfast we joined up with Kath and Louise and off we went.  We’d decided we go, first of all, to get the Fløibanen funicular up Mount Fløyen, as this was something we knew about but hadn’t actually done before.  We had the best of weather to go 399 metres up the mountain; beautifully clear without a cloud in the sky, and the sun already warm and bright.

We stopped a passing taxi whose driver agreed to take us to the funicular for 111 kroner, or about 10 quid.  When we arrived, there were already lengthy queues, and the driver said it was because it was so rare that the weather was that good in Bergen.

We had about 15-20 minutes to wait until we could board the funicular.  The ride up the mountainside was spectacular, not just because of the view of the town and harbour below us, but because of the trees and colourful wild flowers which filled the air with the scent of summer.

When we got to the top, we had the most superb views and we could see for miles and miles.  There was also a few souvenir shops and a café, as well as little footpaths for those who wanted to walk a bit further.  Trevor and Louise were keen to explore one of the footpaths but Kath cannot walk very far, so I agreed to go for a coffee with her.  We shared a table with an American couple from North Carolina who are travelling around Europe for a few weeks; this was their first visit to Norway and they were well impressed.

When Trevor and Louise came back, we went and bought some postcards and stamps, then we went back to the funicular where there was no queue, and we only had a couple of minutes to wait for it to take us on the four-minute ride back down.

We spent some time wandering around the lively streets and looking in the shops.  I knew what I was looking for; some salmiak, or salty licorice, which is a Scandinavian delicacy and often an acquired taste, although I love it.  I also like the Wrigley’s Extra Salty Licorice chewing gum and always buy plenty of it whenever we go to Norway.  Today was no exception; we went into a 7-11 supermarket and I bought half a dozen packets of salmiak, as well as a dozen packs of the chewing gum.  This should keep me going for a few days, ha ha.  🙂

We then walked through the fish market, tastebuds alert to the delicious smell of fresh fish coming from the various stalls.  There were prawns and mussels and all different types of fish, and live lobsters and crabs in tanks.  Many stalls were selling fresh prawn or crab sandwiches, and Kath and Louise decided to have one each while we settled for a cold beer and found somewhere to sit and write out our postcards.  Then it was off to find a postbox, and we left Kath and Louise to do their own exploring while we walked around a bit further before returning to the Balmoral for lunch.

Back on board I enjoyed a fresh salad with cold meats and fish, washed down with a chilled glass of cava, before going out on deck to sit in the sunshine.  Someone said they’d been in touch with their folks back in Newcastle who’d told them it was cold and raining.  Oh dear!  😉

While we were up on deck we thought we could hear a baby crying, which seemed strange as there weren’t any kids on board.  Going to the deck above, we saw that Captain Bent Ivar Gangdal, who is from Bergen, had invited his wife and baby daughter on board with him, and it was nice to see his family again when we spends many months at sea.  We had seen this particular captain before, on the Braemar in January 2014, where we’d promptly nicknamed him Bent Over, lol.   😉

Back in cabin 4125 around four-thirty, the captain announced that since everyone was back on board we could leave earlier than our scheduled departure time of 5.00pm, so the Balmoral gave a blast on her foghorn and slowly moved away from the dock side.

We pottered around a bit before getting ready for dinner, where once again we were joined by Colin and Sue, who told us they were very impressed with what they’d seen so far, both with cruising and Norway.  Still no sign of the mystery couple; either they eat every night in the self-service Palms Café or they’d been moved to another restaurant.  Not to worry though, there was never any shortage of conversation and we enjoyed the usual first-class meal in convivial company.

Then along we went to the Neptune Lounge, in our usual front row seat.  We watched the ballroom dancing before the start of the performance which was by the Balmoral Show Company and was called “21st Century Swing”, featuring a modern take on some of the old big-band swing favourites. It was the usual excellent performance we’ve come to expect on Fred Olsen ships.  🙂

As ever, we followed the show with a trip to the Observatory, where we joined another pleasant couple to form a team of four.  So far a quiz win has eluded us, and tonight the trend continued.  We got 12/15 which was not enough to win.  We then did the “just for fun” quiz where we had to guess which company the slogan belonged to, such as “The best a man can get” = Gillette.  One of the slogans was “Bringing the world closer to you” which some teams (including ours) suggested was that of British Airways, but in fact it is Fred Olsen Cruise Lines!  How we didn’t get that when we see it all over the ship and the various brochures is a wonder, but it’s one we won’t forget in a hurry.

From our vantage point in the Observatory lounge we could see the beautiful mountain scenery, and it was also no surprise to still see the sun shining even though it was nearly 11.00pm.  We are, after all, much further north (Bergen is situated at 60° 23′ north) and if we’d been above the Arctic Circle (at 66° 33′) then the sun would not set at all at this time of the year.

We then made our way to the Morning Light pub and joined Kath and Louise, who said they’d had a lovely day.  We had a few drinks, enjoyed John Smithson’s music and once again were just about the last people to leave the pub after the bar closed.  Another late night.  All these late nights and (free!) booze are going to catch up with me at some point, but what the hell… we’re on holiday.  🙂

Tomorrow morning we were due to arrive in Geiranger, and once again we slept very well.

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