Our second day in Bergen was a Sunday and as Australians, we were very impressed by the quality of the breakfast we were served at our hotel. We just weren’t used to the concept of different varieties of fish for breakfast, something we decided after our boat trip and visiting other hotels in Norway must have been part of a Norwegian’s standard breakfast diet.
We had planned two walks for the day. The walk after breakfast was to take us west of the harbour, in particular to visit the Bergen Cathedral. From here we would then visit the area of the city south of the main railway station and up one of the regular hills of Bergen to inspect the landmark church, Johannes Kirken. This walk is illustrated on the map to the right by the red dashes. After lunch we had decided to take it a bit easier and go for a ride on the funicular up Mount Floyen. This route is indicated by black dashes on the map to the right.
Our walking route took us back to the end of the harbour and then across the road to a small piazza to inspect the weather-beaten statue of Ludvig Holbert, a 17/18th century local nobleman who is considered to be the father of Danish and Norwegian Literature. It is no surprise that the statue is looking a little worn having stood here since 1884.
Walking on we found the streets narrowing but the buildings becoming more attractive the further we strolled. We noticed a Tapas restaurant in this area that looked worth checking out for dinner later that evening.
The streets led us on towards the foot of Mt Floyen where we turned the corner and found ourselves outside the Bergen ‘domkirke’, the city’s cathedral. It was originally dedicated to St Olaf (a King of Norway) and the first reference to the church was in a saga in 1181 when warriors took shelter in this church, then called Olavskirken. Like so many local churches, the original building was burnt down in 1248 as part of a city-wide fire. Rebuilt, it burned down again and was not reconstructed until the 1550s. Being nominated as the city cathedral in the 16th century didn’t stop this church being damaged again by fires in 1623 and 1640. It received its final reset after these fires and took on today’s appearance. We were able to have a look inside Bergen’s austere cathedral and were very impressed by its sparse but beautiful images and furniture. We also discovered it was famous for its organ music and its first organ was dated to 1549.
One of the things we regularly came across in Bergen was high quality street art. (See Bergen Blog 3, Appendix 1). The street the domkirke was on was called Kong Oscars Gate and just down the street from the cathedral was a huge ‘King Kong’ or ‘Jolly Green Giant’ type figure painted on a wall. For a while I thought it must have been put there due to the name of the street until I realised that in translation that ‘Kong’ meant ‘King’; the street was named in 1857 after King Oscar 1 of Sweden.
Continuing to walk along Kong Oscars Gate, we came across some other curious buildings. The small green church on the left below is called St Jorgen Kirke (St George’s Church). Looking great today, this little church dates from before 1411 when it was originally a chapel for a hospital in the area. It of course was burnt down in 1702 in a city wide fire and rebuilt. It holds 150 people, but its main function today is as a leprosy Museum.
When we came across the white building below right, we decided it must have been used to slow down the traffic into town and council officials could collect toll. It was in fact the city’s original city gate on this spot from 1645 as well as Bergen’s first custom’s house.
By now our walk had taken us to the part of town just above the city’s main railway station where we had arrived after lunch on Saturday. We turned right and headed down hill and decided to walk through the station’s main building as we hadn’t had much time or interest yesterday to have a good look at it. I admired the mural over the main exit that gave the visitor a potted summary of the history of Bergen and its main monuments.
Over the road from the station there is a beautiful lake (Lille Lungegardsvannet) that originally was much larger than it is today, given that it was at one time connected to the nearby bay by a short strait. It is a natural lake that since the early 20th century has been modified as the city grew. Its strait was filled in and replaced by an underground culvert system and its banks were adjusted so it took on its current octagonal shape.
We had a rest in the park around this lake, enjoying the sunshine and the lake’s fountain before continuing our tour of Bergen. The view shown in the image below is of the buildings on the left-hand side of Lille Lungegardsvannet; there are five main buildings here and they are all institutions showcasing the art of Norway. The first gallery, KODE 4 is a general art museum with an attached Michelin Star restaurant. The second building is KODE 3 and is an Art Gallery. The third building is the Bergen Kunsthall specialising in modern Art. The fourth and last building houses the West Norway Museum of decorative Art. There was a lot of art on display on this side of the lake but alas we had plenty more places to visit this morning as well as find coffee and cake to fuel us for the rest of the journey, much of it up hill and down dale.
We found a lovely café on the corner of Lars Hill Gate and Vestre Torggaten which was convenient for us because we could see our next destination up the hill at the top of this street; Johanneskirken (St John’s Church). One of the curious aspects of travel is that you often strike up accidental conversations with people you meet in cafes like the one we sat ourselves down in its outdoor chairs. There was an Iranian man enjoying his coffee here and he was very happy to chat to us about his life and job in Norway and his perceptions of Norwegians in general.
The walk up the hill was tiring on our legs but impressively beautiful as we climbed. The church on this hill is comparatively modern compared to the other local churches we had visited. This church was built between 1891 and 1894 and it is the largest church in Bergen seating 1250 people.
The area around Johannes Kirk is very much a university area, with plenty of associated buildings nearby. We had decided that it would be a good idea to find out what dock our Hurtigruten boat would be leaving from tomorrow afternoon, so our next destination was the dock area. Just outside the church grounds there was a very clear map that showed us that if we walked down hill past many of the university buildings, we would eventually encounter the dock area we were looking for.
We made it down the hill to the dock area and found the sign pointing to the Hurtigruten dock. On the way we passed some curious images. One was a cartoon of an elongated dog tied in a knot and unaware of his connection with a ghastly claw from another dimension. The other curiosity was that the harbour in this area appeared to be treated by the youth of the city (perhaps the Uni students) as the town beach. Not far from where the big ships were docked, a long area beside the harbour had been taken over by scantily dressed youth who appeared to have no concerns about any pollution that might have escaped the ships and spoilt their local swimming spot.
Our Afternoon Adventures
After lunch on Day 2 in Bergen we headed out again with the goal of finding the Funicular Station and catching a ride up the slope of Mt Floyen that loomed over the city. It was a fairly short walk up the hill from the fish market to the Floibanen Station. Given that it was a Sunday, we shouldn’t have been surprised that it was a very popular place to go for both locals and tourists alike and the queue for buying a ticket was fairly long. However we were soon motoring up the hill with a grand view over the city for much of the way.
It was the views over Bergen City that were the most attractive features for us from our trip up Mt Floyen. We spent quite a bit of time moving around the amphitheatre style steps that enabled us to get view in all directions of the city below. For example, we were able to trace our morning walk around the city below; the view of the city’s lake and the four Art Museums/Galleries along its edge were an interesting sight.
As can be seen from the map of the area on top of Mt Floyen, it is a fun park designed for everybody, but particularly the local hikers who have lots of forest walks as well as the privilege of skipping the Funicular and walking the 3 Km back down the hill to Bergen City; apparently it only take 45 minutes! We also encountered our first statue of a smiling troll, a feature of almost every town we visited in Norway!