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We arrived in Bergen about 8am. We were blessed again with another bright sunny day. We have been fortunate in our visits to Bergen, in recent years, as we have only had rain once in this notoriously rainy town!
Bergen is Norway’s second largest city and is known as “the gateway to the fjords”. It is beautifully set within seven mountains. It has a long maritime history and was an important member of the Hanseatic league.
We decided to take the hop-on hop-off bus again, which starts from the quayside and travels around the harbour and town.

Haakonshallen

Haakonshallen

The bus takes you down the side of the harbour past Haakonshallen, a large ceremonial hall built in 1261,which was damaged in WW2 but has now been fully restored, past the Rosenkranz tower, which the hardy ones can climb for a fine view of the harbour! and on past the Bryggen. This was the heart of mediaeval Bergen and boasts the last surviving houses o the Hanseatic League.

Bryggen

Bryggen

Next comes the fish market. There were not so many stalls this time, maybe because it was not a main trading day, but there were still a few tanks of live fish. This had fascinated us when we first visited (50 years ago). One of our great pleasures used to be to stroll along the harbourside eating the very fresh prawns out of a paper poke, pretty much like we would eat fish and chips at the British seaside.

Live crabs

Live crabs

More crabs

More crabs

town train

town train…..alternative transport!

There are 14 stops on the route including the Aquarium, Fredriksburg Fortress, Museums, Art Galleries, Parks and shops, so lots of choice.

waterside

waterside

In the afternoon I treated myself to a foot massage in the Atlantic Spa. This is a lovely relaxing part of the ship offering all kinds of tempting spa treatments, given by their beautiful and kindly ladies.

Before dinner we had champagne and canapes delivered to our cabin, courtesy of Fred Olsen. We were joined by our friends, Eileen and Terry who we met on the previous cruise. Fred Olsen also presented us with a photo frame and voucher for a portrait photograph. At dinner the waiters serenaded us and served us with a cream cake.

The theme for this evening was Rock and Roll and there were several elderly “Elvises” complete with Elvis wigs. The crew were also dressed up in 60s costumes. The waitresses looked very pretty in their circular skirts over layers of stiffened petticoats. What memories this evoked. I remember as a student nurse how we pooled our stiff petticoats for the lucky girl with a date.:)

This had been a lovely memorable day, one of my favourite towns, sunny weather and celebrations with friends especially my best friend for 40 years, JW.

photography by Justwilliams.

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We left Bergen at 10 pm and sailed off for Stavanger. This was an short unscheduled stop made possible by the change of route when we got permission to travel through the islands on the “inside route”.

En-route Bergen - Stavanger. Last chance to see the impressive sunset over Norway

We docked in Stavanger at 8am 22nd June. We decided that we would just wander around Gamle (old) Stavanger as we only had a few hours. I had had several short stopovers there before, as that was part of the route on the Bergen Line ferry service from Newcastle to Bergen.

We decided that we did not have time to visit any of the several museums, which cater for all tastes, and just walked up and down the steep cobbled streets of the old town. The wooden buildings there date from the 19c.

We came across a flower market in one of the squares. Most of the flowers there were indoor plants, which reminded me that most of the private houses  I had visited had a variety of indoor plants, no doubt to compensate gardeners  for the long winters and short summers. As usual there are many statues around, some of people I had heard of, but many I hadn’t.

Pigeons the world over have no respect for worthy citizens!

I’m afraid I don’t remember who this gentleman was and have lost the notes I made. Maybe someone out there can enlighten me.

When we arrived back on the Balmoral, the official from the tax office was there to refund the VAT we had paid on some of our purchases which was rather pleasant. 🙂

 We left at 1pm and waved our fond farewells to Norway.

I decided to treat myself to a spa treatment in the afternoon. The spa is staffed, mainly, by beautiful girls from Thailand. They are tiny, perfectly proportioned ladies with welcoming smiles and give the impression that their aim in life is to make you feel special.

My lady was called Lala and as I peered through the hole in the bed, when I was lying face down, I realised that her immaculate grooming even included beautifully pedicured feet with the nails  French varnished.

I had never visited a spa before but I  could see how addictive it could become, (for those with money to spare!), as I floated out of the salon to go and get ready for the Captain’s farewell cocktail party and gala dinner that evening.

June 21st We arrived in Bergen at 8am, another return visit. I have landed in, or departed from, Bergen many times before but JW  had only been once before and it had rained solidly all the time we were there, so he had never seen it at its best!

It was cloudy when we arrived but I had high hopes that we would have a repeat of the previous day and the sun would find its way through again.

We met B at the dockyard gates as arranged. I had been a bit apprehensive about him recognising us as it was 10 years since the last meeting and I had put on weight in the intervening years and my hair was lighter! It hadn’t occured to me that B might have changed too! Fortunately, after a double take, we managed the reunion. (JW recognised him straight away).

It is strange how the years roll away with true friends and it took no time at all for us all to adjust.

We wandered back along the quayside and round Bryggen, the old Hanseatic merchants quarters and now a World Heritage site, where the old wooden buildings now house interesting small shops etc. By the time we had wandered around there the sun was showing through so we decided to take advantage of this and go up the Mount Floyen on the funicular railway. Luckily we arrived before the crowds and were soon whisked up to the top where we had coffee and waffles whilst surveying the fantasic vistas.

"Happy Snappers" at the top of Mount Floyen

                                                     “Happy Snappers” at the top of Mount Floyen

Another view from Mount Floyen

                                            

Bergen has welcomed visitors from the sea for over 1000 years. The Hanseatic merchants established one of their most important trading stations here.

When we came down from the mountain we strolled along to the fish market. This has changed since I was a fairly regular visitor and now has a variety of stalls as well as the fish. When I used to visit nearly all the stalls had a large tank of live fish, from which you chose the fish you wanted. This time we had to hunt around for a tank and only found one with crayfish.

We had a break for lunch and then went to explore the Rosenkranz Tower and Hakon’s hall before repairing to the oldest inn in Bergen, a wonderfully preserved wooden building in Bryggen, where we enjoyed a nice cool drink whilst admiring the painted walls.

We had caught up with all the friend’s and family news, worked out that we had been friends for 45 years and promised that we would not leave it another 10 years before we meet again and then it was time to say goodbye. B to the airport and us to the Balmoral.

We left at 8.30pm sailing down the fjord to our last port of call, Stavanger, and we went to celebrate British Evening.

My earliest memory of travelling by train was from Nottingham to Mablethorpe. It is about 80 miles and I was about three years old. It was one of the old steam trains which had no corridor, just carriages strung out behind the engine.

We were going to the seaside so I was very excited about seeing the sea for the first time. My father was in the Royal Navy and my mother and aunt had rented two bungalows for a few weeks. We filled the carriage. Great- aunt Clara sat in one corner, bolt upright and dressed in black as usual, her only consession to the holiday mood was a white lace jabot held in place by a cameo brooch. She clutched a capacious handbag from which she produced barley sugar sweets for my brother and me. Auntie Annie nursed a basket, covered with a checked cloth, containing a picnic lunch as there was no restaurant car. Uncle Tom sat, silent as usual, and smoking his pipe. My cousin Joan and her friend Rene had managed to get time off from the munition factory to join us for a week. We had to provide our own bedding  linen and food which had been packed in tea cases and sent on ahead. This was the pattern of our holidays until the war was over.   

After the war and my father was home again we always travelled to the seaside by car, but I was a poor car traveller I missed going by train.

The next memorable journey was when I was sixteen and went on a school trip to Austria. We travelled by train and boat. The journey from Ostend to Salzburg was a long journey by day and night. Border control was much stricter then and we found it quite exciting having our passports stamped as we passed through different countries. We didn’t have sleeping berths and I remember two of us (being small) sleeping in the luggage racks!

A spectacular journey in my memory was on the West coast of Scotland, which we treated ourselves to when my nursing friend Beryl and I went on a Youth Hostelling holiday about 1960.

Another spectacular train journey is the magnificent railway from Bergen to Oslo. This is a journey I made many times to and from Geilo. Whenever I travelled to Norway I travelled from Newcastle by sea, either to Bergen or Oslo and then the train up into the mountains. I always thought my holiday began with the train to Newcastle. I loved breaking up the long journey with a visit to the restaurant car. In those days BR served very good meals, especially breakfast. It was served  by well trained stewards and felt like a real treat,  not the snacky food they offer now from the trolley dollies.

Before I was married I usually travelled by train. I am not a good road traveller, even now I cannot read when travelling by car or coach, and I never enjoyed driving. I only learned to drive because I thought everyone should be able to drive, not from a burning desire to drive myself around, and the only good thing to come out of learning to drive was meeting JW.:) I have hardly used my licence and did not bother to renew it when I turned 70.

The most luxurious train journey was on the Orient Express. JW  was sent an invitation to a press event which he couldn’t use, so he passed it on to me. This was a trip on the Orient Express from London to Beaulieu motor museum. It was sheer luxury from beginning to end. We were met on the special platform at Victoria Station by the train steward who then escorted us to our very comfortable seats. We were served a champagne breakfast on the journey down and a splendid afternoon tea on the way back. I was transported to another world for a day, (very Agatha Christie).

The most recent journey was comfortable enough, but I would have found the handful of tickets for the various parts of our journey very confusing if Jennie had not been there to sort them out. Before the privatisation of the railways you just had to choose single, day or period return, first or third and received one ticket.

At last we arrived in Norway.

Approaching the Bergen Dock

 It had been 26 years since I had set foot on Norwegian soil. The last time was when Jennie  was nearly 5 and I took her for about a month just before she started in primary school. She had a wonderful time learning to ski, toboggan and spark. She also learned the folk lore about the Trolls and the Nisses. JW  had been too tied up at work to accompany us so this was his first visit. How did Bergen welcome us?  With rain and low cloud!

Bergen

We had not booked any tours, we went on the hop-on-hop-off bus. They have these in many cities now and we like being able to get off and loiter we choose. We had a pleasant journey round listening to the interesting commentary about the notable places and their histories.

After lunch I had thought to take JW up Mt. Floien on the funicular railway but the cloud was so low that the fantastic vistas would have been hidden amongst them, so we took the bus back to the fish market and wandered around the few stalls open on a Sunday and then ambled back to Bryggen.

Bryggen is the old Hanseatic quarter and many of the old houses have been turned into shops which had a wide variety of lovely goods, souvenirs, knittware,  beautiful silverware and unusual household goods.

We had a lovely time wandering around and buying gifts for the family. We found the Christmas shop which is full of Christmas decorations etc. and had an enjoyable time choosing tree decorations for Jennie and me to add to our growing collection.

I was pleased to find that my Norwegian was not so rusty as I expected, though it is difficult to use it when the Norwegians have such a good command of the English language!

We left Bergen at 9pm. It had been a lovely day despite the rain and I was looking forward to seeing our next port, Olden.