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Bergen: Gateway to the Fjords of Norway
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Courtesy: Noreen Kompanik | News Source:

One of Europe’s crowning glories, Norway is a magnificent land of snowcapped mountains, troll-haunted forests, iridescent glaciers and sparkling fjords. Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city, has been christened the gateway to these picturesque fjords—some of the world’s most spectacular natural attractions.

Today, Bergen is considered Scandinavia’s premier cruise port. Its connection to the sea has historic origins dating back over nine centuries when the city dominated trade throughout the North and Baltic Seas and Northern Europe.

Crowned a European City of Culture, World Heritage City and UNESCO City of Gastronomy, it’s no wonder Bergen—with its intriguing culture, history and tradition filled with small-town charm and atmosphere—is a favorite Norway destination. Experiencing the best of Bergen is easy once you know where to find its most storied Scandinavian treasures.

Bryggen “The Wharf”

Strolling through Bryggen, the old wharf’s narrow alleyways and overhanging galleries are a step back into the mists of time and bygone era. The ancient medieval harbor district has been the vibrant heart of Bergen for centuries. Its wharf and fascinating colorful timber houses built in the traditional Scandinavian style have remained basically unchanged throughout time, only once rebuilt along the waterfront after the disastrous fire of 1702. Today, well-preserved cafés, shops and galleries still pay homage to its seafaring roots.

Ships in Bergen's Wharf

PHOTO: Ships in Bergen's Wharf. (Photo by Noreen Kompanik)

Alleyways off the main wharf lead to more surprises along narrow cobbled streets lined by charming rainbow-hued buildings complete with brimming flower boxes. Fjellsiden and Nordnes are areas that each have their own unique stories to tell. Old wooden houses huddle closely together here and their fascinating shops sell a myriad of Norwegian goods. A top seller is, of course, those famous trolls—coming in all shapes, sizes and demeanor.

Bergen Fish Market

Europe’s coastal cities are filled with seafood markets, but few can rival the Bergen Fish Market. Norway’s extensive coastline and fishing industry have been an integral part of the country’s economy and cultural life throughout the centuries. As Norway’s busiest seaport, its abundant treasures from the sea are brought in daily from area fishermen to its restaurants and fishmongers in the city center. The colorful vibrant market also sells a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and hand-made crafts. It is by far the cleanest outdoor market we’ve ever seen.

Bergen fish market

PHOTO: Bergen Fish Market. (Photo by Noreen Kompanik)

Fløibanen Funicular Railway

Just steps from the Fish Market, a historic 1918 railway transports guests 320 meters to the top of Mount Fløyen for some of the most picturesque views of Bergen and surrounding areas. Once there, visitors can take advantage of walking and hiking opportunities that offer even more amazing vistas. If there’s not enough time for an extended hike at the top, no worries, as idyllic Lake Skomakerdiket is just a short jaunt away from the funicular station.

Krekling in an Ice Bar

“You have to do it... at least once” a friend of ours told us. That is—experience a wondrous winter wonderland constructed from several tons of crystal-clear Norwegian ice. Bergen’s Magic Ice Bar is the work of world-renowned ice carvers who have created an indoor winter gateway to adventure. Elaborate ice carvings, fascinating seating areas and even an ice throne entertain guests as they explore this frozen cave-like attraction.
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Guests don heavy fur-lined jackets and gloves before entering a near-zero-degree bar complete with elaborate ice carvings. Adult admission includes a specialty drink of the house—Krekling, a frigid berry-infused cocktail served in an iced glass at a bar made entirely of massive blocks of ice.

Norwegian Cuisine

Sampling the traditional foods of Norway is the icing on the cake on a Bergen visit. And you can find just about everything here, from coffee bars to seafood restaurants and international cuisine. It’s no wonder this Northern European destination has been rated as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy.

Fresh seasonal fruits grown in its picturesque inland countryside can be purchased in bustling beloved markets. Fish is, of no surprise, a staple of Norway and practically on every restaurant menu. You’ll find salmon, herring, stockfish and much more. But you’ll also find pork, meatballs and for the more adventurous, reindeer and yes, even whale meat. Krumkake is a common sweet dessert typically stuffed with chocolate, cream or jam.

Rather than dine at a sit-down restaurant, we decided to snack our way through the town, savoring the tastes of Norway at various eateries, street vendors and markets. What better way to get a culinary orientation to this amazing part of the world?

Exploring the Norwegian Fjords

No trip to Norway is complete without a cruise and guided tour to witness the majesty of the Fjords—the true soul of Norway. These long, narrow inlets are framed by steep-sided cliffs formed by glacial erosion producing rugged, snowcapped mountains. Hundreds of roaring waterfalls and secluded valleys with idyllic villages blend perfectly into the stunningly picturesque landscape.

Fjords of Norway

PHOTO: Fjords of Norway. (Photo by Noreen Kompanik)

Our awe-inspiring three-hour round-trip Rodne Fjord Cruises departed from Bergen’s wharf, slowly traversing the 27-kilometer long Osterfjord route and through the powerful currents of the narrow Mostraumen strait. There’s plenty of comfortable indoor and outdoor seating along with sun and weather decks.

Incredible views are forever etched in our minds as we sailed past small picture-perfect villages, native wildlife and western Norway’s most stunning outdoor scenery. The boat was able to get so close to the thunderous waterfalls that we could literally reach out, touch the water, feel its spray on our faces and taste the sweet fresh mountain water.

A Norwegian proverb states “That which is loved is always beautiful.” Though this was our first visit to this gateway to Scandinavia, it won’t be our last. Because Bergen is so incredibly, unforgettably beautiful.

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