Bergen is a fairly walkable city but it also has a great light rail system which got us to several other interesting sites.
- Gamie Bergen, actually located outside of Central Bergen, is a collection of relocated and restored 18th- and 19th century homes, shops buildings that have been moved from other locations and set along cobblestone streets to represent how Bergen used to appear. The land, originally part of an estate owned by a shipbuilder, was converted into streets and representative houses and shops of Bergen citizens (ship captain, sailor, dentist, baker, etc.) were moved to the new location and rooms were furnished in representative styles. Some are manned by actors portraying characters from the homes (dentist, shopkeeper, housewife, etc.) and some participate in skits to portray life during the era. For example, one woman about to be married was forced to go to the dentist to get her teeth pulled as rotting teeth often caused early death.
- Fantoft Stave Church, which was originally built in 1150 by skilled shipbuilders. It was dismantled and moved 300 km from a small town to its current location in the 1870s. This second oldest stave church in Norway was inexplicably burned to the ground in an arson attack in 1992 and a private family found and paid skilled craftsmen to reconstruct a precise replica, using original materials, tools and techniques. The entire church, which is quite tiny with only four small pews on each side of the aisle, is supported by eight primary and 12 supporting staves and is tarred to protect the wood from the weather. In front of the church is an original, hand-carved stone Christian cross which was created shortly after 1000 AD.
- Fisheries Museum, housed in a 19th-century fish warehouse, examines the history, growth and decline cycles, nature, economic role, challenges, disasters, and personal stories of the country’s fishing industry. It examined the origin of the incredible growth of the herring and cod industries (including the Hansiatic era), the emergence and the growth of dried cod and canned herring fish industries and the more recent growth of the salmon industry (enabled in the 1970s by breakthroughs in sea-based farms). It shows the special notched construction of the buildings, their layout and the wall paintings in owner’s offices. It discussed the ways in which power blocks and ring nets made fishing much more efficient and explained the changing nature of an industry where stockfish (air-dried cod) now accounts for only 20 percent of the country’s export revenues, 90 percent of its salmon catch is now exported and where the primary focus—after many periods of overfishing–is now on sustainability. The museum also touched upon Norway’s 1,000 year history of whaling including Norwegian innovations (such as grenade harpoons), the country’s objection to the International Whaling Commission ban, its current self-imposed limitation to whaling only Minke whales and the gradual decline of the industry and the number of people willing to engage in it.
- Gamlehaugen, the Bergen residence of Norway’s King and Queen which we viewed from the outside, but did not visit.
- Mount Ulriksbanen, a 2,100-foot peak up which we took the cable car for a panoramic overview of the entire region and for a walk through the mountaintop forest. The panoramic views from the cable car and from the viewing platform were stunning—at least when the mountain was not so enveloped in clouds that we couldn’t see a thing. We, however, went for more than the view. The top of the mountain is crossed with walking trails (of varying degrees of difficulty) and filled with beautiful sites. The natural, unspoiled landscape is pocked with ponds, studded with cabins, populated be a few sheep and offers beautiful views from almost all directions. Although hiking can entail scrambling up and down some rather steep rock structures, scampering through soggy bogs and maintaining one’s balance while traversing slippery rocks, it is beautiful and well worth the effort. Before we descended the cable car, we rewarded ourselves with drinks (a Chablis and a local Seven Mountains IPA) at a window overlooking the city (at least when it wasn’t enveloped in clouds).
As a footnote to our time at Mount Ulriksbanen, a big oops. Our ride back down the cable car was extended by a power outage which left us swinging above the trees—with a wonderful view of the city, the harbor and the surrounding archipelago—for 50 additional minutes. Fortunately we had someone in our car who worked at the property and called his colleagues to find out why we were stopped. But despite the delay, all’s well that ends well, and given the view, the excursion did end well.