Bergen, Norway: a little colour from one seriously cold town. Guest blogger Belinda Jackson sailed with the cool people.
Dark days, freezing temperatures, treacherous ice and limb-numbing snow: what’s not to love about travelling in the world’s extreme north and south?The Danes even have a word for the addiction that sees intrepid travellers spending their lives exploring the polar regions: polarhullar.
After several days sailing in the Arctic Circle on the coastal passenger and freight shipping route the Hurtigruten, I’m below the circle and back in the (relative) comfort zone of the Norwegian town of Bergen, trying to describe the snowy-hail mix I’d experienced further north, in Rørvik. I’m grappling with the description of the small, tightly formed balls of snow that were powdery, almost dry to the touch.
“Sorry, in Norwegian we don’t have a hundred names for snow,” says a Bergen man. “But in Bergen, we do have a hundred names for rain,” and everyone around him laughs knowingly.
Bergen, you see, gets 265 days’ rain each year.
Bergen - pretty as a picture!
“And last year, we had 300 days’ rain,” adds his friend. Yes, they’re counting. It’s midwinter, with no sun and it’s absolutely pelting down. I can’t wait to go outside.Despite its dreary winter weather, Bergen is picturebook charming, with its quaint timber waterfront buildings, all pitched roofs and summery colours against the darkening sky. This gloomy winter’s eve, the brightest shops on the waterfront are selling delicate glass Christmas ornaments and knitted snowflakes. Even the town’s McDonalds is situated in an elegant old building, dishing up en smak av Norge, their Taste of Norway burger served with the country’s most famous cheese, Jarlsberg.
My hotel, the nattily named Clarion Collection Hotel Havnekontoret (above), is right on the waterfront in historic Bryggen. The hotel is a short walk to the Fløibanen – the shiny funicular that takes you to the top of Mt Fløyen, 320m above sea level, to buy moose fridge magnets and take in the panorama of the Norwegian coastline – and close by Fisketorget, the city’s fish market.I know, it doesn’t sound toasty, but the glamorous, modern glass market spills across the waterfront, and does a racy trade in fish and chips, fresh crab and tastes of hot-smoked spiced salmon. In the 800-year-old market, its most famous resident, a colossal Svalbard polar bear (stuffed), overlooks the treasures of the cold sea spread out for us chilled shoppers. Stock up on eminently packable gifts or picnic fare such as tinned king crab, reindeer salami and tubes of the iconic Norwegian Mills cod roe kaviar – the rich bounty of the Arctic.
Surrounded by the city’s twinkling lights, eating kaviar and toasting the snowy peaks with hot cocoa, polarhullar is guaranteed.For more information: visit bentours.com.au, hurtigruten.com, clarionhotel.com, visitbergen.com and visitnorway.com.
Belinda Jackson was a guest of Bentours, bentours.com.au.