Throughout our trip in Norway there was one statement we heard over and over again, when refering to Bergen: It is the rainiest city in Norway and supposedly even in Europe. The more surprising it was for us, that we spent 3 nights there and saw almost no rain, missing out on this “typical Bergen experience”. I can’t say we were all that sad about it.
We did not miss out on all “typical experiences” though, unfortunately. We were stood up on our sleeping arrangement in Bergen and had to find a new place to sleep the evening we arrived in Bergen. We had not expected Bergen’s Youth Hostels to be sold out at the very beginning of May. We called around but all dormitories were fully booked and we finally settled for a smaller, more expensive, dorm right in the old center of Bergen.
All in all it must be said that the entire tourism branch in Norway seems to be somewhat unorganised and chaotic. Tourist information will frequently hand out incomplete or incorrect information on schedules and prices. Informational brochures are usually out of print or not available for other reasons. The receptions of almost all hotels are closed by 9pm and only reopen after 8am the next day, making an arrival in the evening close to impossible (eg when you’ve been stood up by someone) and an early check-out a challenge if you can’t get your account settled the previous evening.
This, however, is compensated by the friendly and open manner the Norwegians treat you in the streets and on the busses. We have had lots of friendly and informative bus drivers point us one way or another and helping us find our connections. We even had a bus driver taking pity on us poor, half-frozen students and let us ride the bus for free or driving on after the final bus stop to drop us off a bit closer to our final destination. The peak of consideration was a city bus that actually slowed down so as not to be in a picture my sister was taking. I don’t know how they manage to still be on time if they stop for each tourist making a picture.
Bergen itself is a nice city. We were lucky enough to see it with some sunshine and the old wooden waterfront, which has been given UNESCO world heritage status, is an intersting sight, not least because those houses seem to bend and lean in every possible way and one wonders how long this construction will still hold before finally tipping over. Everything is built out of wood, the houses and the small streets in between the houses, which you can explore if you aren’t claustrophobic ad trust the houses to hold for the next few minutes. The roofs all have multiple cranes incorporated with their own small roofs to protect them from the rain. Today, they serve nothing more than to look pretty, but at the time were used to heave the goods into the attics.
The rest of the city is a mix of cobble stone streets and small two-level houses painted in different bright colors with the Norwegian flags flying on many of them. Unfortunately we still hadn’t reached tourist season, hence all the churches and museums were open from 11am to 12:30pm, which in the end meant that we didn’t visit any of them from the inside and just visited “the outside”. Nevertheless the colourful and peaceful flair of Bergen makes for a nice stroll through town, even in the “not so touristy” areas.
As the weather slowly deteriorated while we were visting, we decided not to climb onto the mountain for an aerial few of the city. This proved to be a good decision as the rain set in minutes after we’d reached our hostel again. So, in the end, we did get an idea of Bergen in the rain, but luckily only after we’d reached a dry and warm place ourselves!