Sunday, 16 December 2018

On the Way Home

Right now we are sitting in the British Airways Lounge at London's Heathrow Airport (not as nice as the lounge in Toronto). After a little something from the buffet we are relaxing and sipping glasses of wine. The buffet is in front of us, but we can't eat to much. They will feed us as soon as our plane takes off (about three hours). The wine bar is across the room with about a dozen options. Around the corner is the bar, There is no bartender. but instead it is self-serve. There is a pretty good selection, but again, we will have champagne and drinks in the air. There are large lounge areas with easy chairs and couches for relaxing.

Yesterday was pleasant enough. It was a day to relax. We got up fairly early in Bergen and waited for the airport bus. We met a lovely young lady who regaled us with tales of progressive Norwegian policies (free education, one year maternity leave, subsidies for continuing education, etc., etc., etc. We really are quite jealous.

Upon arriving in Oslo we went straight to our hotel. It is a very large, very new convention centre which is almost completely empty. We looked around quickly and then had a nap. We went to the restaurant for dinner, then we made sure we were packed, then we watched TV and went to bed. In the morning we were presented with perhaps the largest and best breakfast buffet that we have ever seen. The dining room could have held a couple of hundred people. There were perhaps a dozen guests. We were concerned about how much food they must throw away. I suspect that this is either their off season, or the hotel is just too new to have built up a clientele.

Anyway, we took a shuttle to the airport and caught our first flight. We are now in London. We will be home much later tonight (tomorrow morning).

Friday, 14 December 2018

Last Day in Bergen

Tomorrow morning early, we will begin our trip home. It will take two days because we will be staying one night in Oslo. This morning we bought tickets for the airport bus. Then we just wandered around.

This is our street, all of it. Deb loves the patterns in the cobblestones.

Some Final Pictures of Bryggen......







Many people live on nearby island and commute via ferry.

Manhole covers show Bryggen sights.

Just a wall around a construction site.
Narrow pathways and stairways go up and up between the buildings.



These final days in Bergen have felt like some of the coldest days we have had in Norway. It is not really colder than it was up north, but we have spent much more time outdoors and seem to have felt it more.

The Norwegians seem unperturbed by the cold. They just bundle up and get outside. In the evenings the streets are crowded with walkers. Sidewalk patios are open and people do not hesitate to sit outside. Chairs and benches have caribou hides or fur throws. Blankets are spread over knees. Heaters and fires are abundant and the people just seem comfortable.

Home in Bergen

Well, today has certainly started slowly. It is almost noon and we have not yet been outdoors. Okay, so I just went to the window to look outside. The sun is shining and the sky is blue again.

I'm looking around this little apartment and I like what I see. All is not perfect, but it is comfortable. There is no central heating, so there are several space heaters. You worry mostly about warming the room you are in. Furniture and fixings are Ikea. White is the colour of the day. Appliances are new and shiny. There are some touches of luxury.

The floor in the bathroom is heated ceramic tile (as is every bathroom we have been in). The coffee maker in the kitchen is Nespresso, but there is also a kettle and a plunger coffee maker. The heater which moves from room to room with us is one of the new Dyson models. The framed pictures on all of the walls are signed limited edition prints. There are ceramic bowls and flower pots here and there. It actually seems like it could be somebody's home.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Funicular

After our tour was finished we stopped in Bryggen for lunch. We were tired and hungry and needed a rest. On our way to the funicular, we passed a toy store. I was intrigued by the fact that one of the doors was only about three feet tall.

At many doorways, candles are set on the ground (useful when in is dark).

Bergen from the funicular.


From here you can see how the historic buildings of Bryggen extend away back from the street. Up front all you can see is the facade.

People living near the top actually have spacious yards.

While we were up top, a Hurtigruten boat arrived.
After our trip up the mountain, we went home for a cocktail. Then we walked to the Julemarked (Christmas market).

Walking Tour

Today started a little early. Well, we were awake early, but we didn't meet the tour guide at the tourist centre until ten o'clock. No-one else showed up so we ended up having an entirely private tour. It was wonderful because we were able to go at our own pace and to ask questions constantly. Martin could not be stumped. He had an answer for everything. Okay, so he could have been making things up.

This is Bergen's off season, so there is always space. Apparently in the summer time cruise boats roll in one after another and the streets are wall to wall people. I like it this a lot better.

The weather is cooperating with us. Bergen is normally very rainy. They have an average of 240 rain days every year. Yesterday and today the sky was blue all day, and the prediction for tomorrow is the same.

The tour began at the harbour, looking across and talking about Bryggen. In this picture you can begin to see that the buildings extend well back from the street.


We went into the fish market, which is indoors for the winter. Here we saw stockfish, which we have seen hanging on racks in northern Norway. This is cod which has been hung on racks at cold temperatures to dry. Once dried, they can be kept for up to seven years. This was the major trading item in early Bergen. If you intend to eat the stockfish, it first must be soaked for seven days to rehydrate. I'm afraid it still doesn't look too appetizing.

Rehydrated Stockfish
 Klippfish is also dried cod, but from southern Norway. The temperature is not cold enough, so it is salted and laid out to dry. I don't want any of this either.

Klippfish

Of course there are many options in shellfish.

This commemorates the meeting of Viking and North American cultures (The totem pole is wrong, not the east coast)

Henrik Ibsen in front of the National Theatre

One of the back streets behind Bryggen.

These benches on the sidewalks have wonderful armrests.

Does anybody notice that the angles are all awry. This is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Alleys extend back beyond the street.

Originally, these were all warehouses for the stockfish. A unit this wide would be three stories high. The third floor would be living quarters for up to thirty men. For a row of ten or more warehouse, there would be only one shared washroom down by the water, which flushed into the harbour.

Each row of warehouses would have a building for meeting and socializing. This would be the only building which was heated.

A recent wooden carving of a stockfish (cod)

Incidentally, Martin pointed out that many of the cars passing by are fully electric. Norway actively promotes these vehicles. They provide subsidies and they provide free charging stations. They allow toll-free access to bridges, tunnels and toll highways. There is free parking allowed in parking garages and free use of special lanes on the highway. It is quite remarkable.

Perhaps it is possible because Norway produce virtually all of its electricity using renewable resources, much of which is hydro-electric. In fact they are able to export electric power. They have large oil resources and the largest oil company is state owned, so they have huge financial resources. 

The entire population of Norway is lightly more than that of the Greater Toronto Area. It may be that this smaller population makes it easier to meet everyone's needs.


Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Bergen

After breakfast this morning, Deb went back to sleep and didn't wake up until almost noon. Even then, she still felt tired. She wonders if she might be coming down with mono, but she desperately wanted to go out for a walk. We are only ten minutes from the Fish Market and from Bryggen.

We wandered down a central pedestrian street until we reached the water. We were looking for the Tourist Information Centre and found it on the second floor of a glass building. When we were upstairs, we were told that the Fish Market was downstairs (Indoors for the winter). We decided to save this market until we were on our way home.

Our House (on the right), Our Two Windows (on the bottom)

Our Neighbourhood (A University District)

These are waste receptacles. Locals have a fob to unlock the appropriate chute, garbage, glass, paper, etc. Waste slides down and disappears.

They call it "The Slurp".  Floating waste is sucked down for collection and analysis. Thus they are able to make plans to reduce, and to attach blame.

In Bryggen, the first building are multi-floor brick structures.

Then comes a row of smaller wooden structures.

Here and there are entries into narrow wooden shopping strips.

The manhole covers are somewhat unique.

Many of the angles are skewed and doors appear crooked. I couldn't decide whether this was intentional quirkiness.
On her way back to the Fish Market, Deb ran out of energy. We sat in a pub and drank water for a few minutes and then we made a beeline back to the apartment.

Deb lay down and relaxed while I cooked up some spaghetti for dinner. We did not go out again after dinner, so I did some laundry. I tried to get a bottle of wine at the grocery store, but all they had was beer.

Erik's Apartment

The message from Erik said that his apartment was an easy ten minute walk from the Hurtigruten terminal. For us it was more than ten minutes and it was not easy.

At first, we showed a taxi driver the address and he didn't know where it was. He consulted another driver who also did not know. We decided to walk.

Using instructions from Google Maps, we soon found ourselves a little lost and a little winded. Deb lost sight of me. She thought I was behind her, so she was waiting. Meanwhile I was half a block ahead of her before I noticed. A taxi stopped and the driver was obviously concerned about Debby. He recognized the address so we hopped in.

When we arrived at our destination, it was easier to understand why the location might be a little hard to find. It is on a very narrow, very short, cobblestone street (or laneway) which is off of another narrow cobblestone street (or laneway), which twists on an angle as it leaves a main road.

When we arrived, we decided that we had done very well. We have a lovely little apartment on the ground floor with all of the conveniences which we might need. Four rooms go in a straight line from front to back. We have a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom. The dining room is actually set up as an extra bedroom which we have decided to use to store our bags. They can sit open and accessible on the bed so that everything is easy to find. The entire place is white and it looks like it has recently been decorated by Ikea.

The Dining Room (with the extra bed in the foreground) 
The Living Room (with a good selection of English TV stations)

Kitchen (look, a Nespresso coffee maker - with pods)

The Bathroom (regular fixtures plus a brand new washer and dryer)
Looking around, we found the drawers and cupboards full of everything we might need, including dish soap, laundry detergent, coffee pods, salt and pepper, coffee, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pasta, some spices. etc., etc., etc.

Deb settled down for an immediate nap and I went to find a grocery store (less than a block). I came back with a basic set of groceries to get us through a few breakfasts, lunches, and at least one dinner. I only made one error. What I thought was a tube mayonnaise turned out to be a squeeze tube of ham goop. Oops.

We lounged for a while and then crashed. Deb thinks this is the most comfortable bed she has slept in this trip. She is still there.

She was awake for a little while early this morning. Then she fell asleep again.