From the moment I woke up Wednesday morning, I knew it had snowed. I could hear cars slushing through the streets, and that hazy blue that follows a night of snow filled my room. From the top floor, I could only see white roof tops, and it didn’t look like much. I felt a little sting of anxiety about my coat decision, but adventures dictate forward progress only. Up and at’am.
I had a delicious shower in that hot bohemian bathroom, and I slipped out with an hour to get to the station, eat breakfast, and find my train. I braced myself for the cold, but the air temperature felt inviting and well-above freezing. (Well-above for this mid-west girl is like 36 F). Though the streets and sidewalks were already brown slush, the heavy snow that had settled on on the trees and buildings still looked perfect.
I got to Central Station dreaming about a Norwegian waffle with brunøst and a cappuccino. The cap I expertly procured from a pre-fab machine–two shots and one pump coconut flavor. Unpopular opinion alert: Norwegian hot beverage dispensers spit out better coffee than Starbucks (sorry not sorry). My waffle was going to taste so good with this machine-crafted latte, but when I got to the counter, there were no waffles with brunøst! Dejected, I settled for a plain waffle. THEN. AS I WAS LEAVING. I SAW THE WAFFLES WITH BRUNØST IN A DIFFERENT PART OF THE CASE. Too late.
I boarded the train and found an open seat. I realized then that, unfortunately, I had forgotten to refill my water bottle before I left the apartment. Options: Buy another bottle on the train ($$$ + more plastic in the world + more plastic guilt); Refill my water bottle in the train bathroom (GROSSSSS); Get by on 4 ounces of water for the next 7 hours (dehydration is a real thing, ya’ll). None were ideal, but I chose option 3. Dehydrated train traveler selfies:
Just before departure, a group of French tourists flooded into my train car. What luck! I could hear them talk about seats and rows and I realized that there were assigned seats. Two grey-haired women were coming my way, counting rows, and I realized that I was probably in their seat. I non-chalantly slipped my ticket out and sure enough, I didn’t magically sit in the correct place. The ladies were very nice about my error, and I said that I didn’t realize there were assigned places. I SPOKE IN ENGLISH BECAUSE I AM A COWARD. But a “désolé” (sorry) slipped out as I passed one of the ladies. She paused for a second then let out a little delighted gasp. ❤
Getting on the train surrounded by families with a million kids and a million bags, I worried that I’d have to sit amid a choir of ceaselessly chattering children for seven hours, but no! I spent seven hours listening to the familiar cadence of my favorite romantic language. As an added bonus, the group had a tour guide who kept explaining things. Thanks for the info, tour guide! #ClandestineEducation
The train ride was incredibly relaxing; the car’s gentle rocking lulled me into a few naps. In the waking hours, I read my book, fished in my bag for travel snacks, and took pictures out the window. As we got farther north, the scenery became more mountainous and more beautiful. A low fog hung at the tree tops, with bright blue sky above it. The fresh snow stuck perfectly to every tree limb and every shingle–it looked like a movie set. From a distance, the snowy pines made a herringbone pattern as the train passed. Mountain tunnel after mountain tunnel played peek-a-boo with the scenery. One moment I’d be looking at wide water basins surrounded by snowy trees and colorful houses, then darkness. Like many long slow blinks. Sometimes the mountains were so close, it seemed like I could touch them if the window were open. I could almost feel the cold glacial sheets of ice clinging to the rock. Train window pictures can’t capture it, but here’s what I got:
The train arrived in Bergen around 15:00 (3 pm). The population of Bergen is about 200,000, making it the second largest city in Norway. Its is surrounded by mountains, situating the town in a somewhat isolated basin. Wikipedia says it’s known as the “city of seven mountains” which is a pretty cool city nickname. Bergen’s unique geography means its climate is more temperate than surrounding areas, and it rains a bunch. When I arrived–it was raining. But I’m still a Portlander at heart and I took the rain without a second thought.
I had printed walking directions to my Air BnB and I’d saved a map on my phone (though the step-by-step directions weren’t available without wifi). Finding this place felt impossible. Like most European towns, Bergen has weird streets and difficult to locate street signs. The street my Air BnB was on followed the street around a hair pin curve but also…continued down some stairs? That’s just weird, man. And easy to miss. Though it was only about 15 minutes from the train station to the apartment, it took me about 45 minutes to find.
They had a unique key system that I liked: A series of coded black boxes outside the apartment corresponding to the rented room. All the directions about how to find the place and find the key and the code, made it feel like I was on a scavenger hunt. As I said before, I didn’t feel encumbered by my things, and the rain wasn’t so bad. The apartment presented another creaky winding staircase, and my room had a tiny couch that I hoped unfolded into a bed (it did–a very comfortable one too). My only real complaint is that the directions said “yellow building with black door” and THE DOOR WAS GREEN. After being lost and even trying to open the wrong door of the wrong building once, I was really looking for that black door. Otherwise, the place was great.
After I settled in (and charged my phone) I was anxious to explore Bergen. Beautiful Bergen. By the time I ventured out, the rain had subsided and left behind a city painted in water color. I discovered that my Air BnB was just off of Christie Gate! (I think gate means street.) And this is where the University is located, and a beautiful museum that’s unfortunately under major renovation until 2018. (2018–right?)
I also found some lovely buildings and a park with a big lake in the center. That little OCD part of my brain insisted that I walk all the way around the lake, so I did. I noticed a lot of young people in Bergen, and it seemed to have a pretty happening night life. The Google says that Bergen University enrolls about 14,500 students. Given my proximity to the University, it makes sense that I saw so many youngsters. The city felt familiar to me, but I wasn’t able to place that feeling. A lot of Norway reminds me of Portland, so maybe it was the rain that made me feel at home. I did notice that people seemed to be in more of a hurry–walking and driving much faster than they do in Moss. But, it’s a much larger city. If I were to visit Bergen again, I’d give myself at least a day or two to do the things. I’m a little sad that I just spent one night and only got a superficial exploration of the town. Maybe I’ll sneak away to Bergen for a weekend…
Pretty, right? I think people from Bergen must be extra proud to call this place home. I walked until it was completely dark, then I found a little Thai place to have dinner. I saw Massaman curry on the menu outside and that was that. I was a little chilled from the rainy evening, but hot curry and tea warmed me to the soul.
After dinner, I stopped at the Rema 1000 to restock my travel snacks. I made it through the checkout without speaking English and I felt very proud of myself. I hate opening my mouth and revealing myself as a foreigner. I much prefer to blend blend blend, like a well-contoured chin.
Next post: Train to Voss, Bus to Gudvangen, Fjord Tour, Flåm, and snowshoeing in the mountains–the most magical part of my whole trip.