6 GREAT Reasons to Visit Bergen Norway – Gay Penguins and Trolls!
We decided to visit Bergen, Norway as the jump-off point for our Great Summer Eurail Adventure for two reasons. First, because it was so far North. Farther North than we’d ever been before. What would it be like to have daylight until well after midnight? See below…it was SO fun! Why should YOU visit Bergen? Let’s start with 6 GREAT THINGS TO DO IN BERGEN.
Would it be unbearably cold? We’re Floridians, remember? Cold weather scares us mightily. The second reason we decided to visit Bergen was because of Instagram. Just try searching on the hashtags #VisitBergen or #Bergen and not be impressed. The charming village atmosphere. Dramatic and scenic fjords. Boats and history galore. We couldn’t think of better reasons to visit, so Bergen it was!
It wasn’t hard to find lots of things to do in Bergen and the experience far exceeded our expectations. Little did we know we’d find such a fascinating place – and even go through a complete WHITE-OUT IN JUNE on the Scenic Bergen Railway!
Here are our 6 GREAT Things to do in Bergen
Now that we’ve been here, we want everyone to put Bergen on their travel radar. It’s well worth a visit for everyone! Why?
1. Gay Penguins!
The Bergen Aquarium embraces the diversity of their penguins. So much so that when two bonded male/female couples “broke-up” and the two males found they liked each other better, the aquarium decided to see what would happen. The pair were so devoted to each that the aquarium gave the Gay Penguins an egg to tend (another penguin had laid a third egg which typically would have been crushed). The Gay Penguin pair, Pondus and Herman, nurtured the egg as if it were their own and when the little penguin hatched, the first same-sex penguin parents raised it as their own. Sporting a rainbow band, the Gay Penguin couple’s baby now has a mate of his own.
2. Street Art.
Bergen is such a walkable city. It’s possible to walk from the Bergen Aquarium on one side of the city to the Floibanen Funicular in about 20 minutes. Of course, admiring the interesting Street Art Bergen might slow you a little. Be sure to look down!
In Scandinavian folklore, trolls are powerful woodland beings who live in caves deep in the woods. According to legend, a human coming upon a troll rarely leads to a pleasant outcome, but in Bergen it’s possible to spend time with some of those who treat humans well. Take the Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen where you’ll find the enchanting Troll Forest!
Norway’s vast coastline has an incredible number of fjords, carved out by the ice during the Scandinavian Ice age. Due to the unique geography of Norway, with fjords carving their way from the coast and far into the countryside, Bergen was in the older days quite isolated from the rest of Norway. However, the city was open to Europe, with a large fleet of wooden sail ships carrying dried cod to the European markets, mainly in Italy, Spain & Portugal, for their bacalao and stoccafisso dishes. These fjords were once the only means of culture and transportation to Bergen, but today they are best discovered by boat tours. Many companies will take you out for an hour or several days to enjoy the beauty and grandeur of the fjord system.
At the Bergen Fish Market you will find live crabs with a three-foot claw span – NO KIDDING! I’ve never seen crabs that big before in my life. Located in the heart of the city, this area is one of Bergen’s most visited outdoor markets and is well worth a browse.
The iconic Bryggen buildings are what most people immediately think on when Bergen comes to mind. These colorful wharf-side structures date from the Hanseatic era. The picturesque UNESCO Bryggen wharf houses are fun to explore – and imagine what life must have been like for the sailors and tradespeople who made this area their home.
So What’s Wrong With Bergen?
The downside? Yes, everything can’t always be wonderful, no matter how much we wish it so…
1. It’s EXPENSIVE. Very, very expensive. In fact, the city of Bergen was recently quite happy to have been taken off as #1 for the Most Expensive City in the World list. Bergen is now #3. Paris has taken the #1 spot.
The Clarion Collection Hotel Havnekonteret understands the sting of high price tags and has adopted a program to help tourists stretch their travel dollars if interested. In addition to the ample Breakfast buffet provided, an Afternoon Crepes Tea and an Evening Meal are all available as part of your room rate. The hotel is also more than willing to recommend local restaurants – because after all, you’re on vacation and occasional splurges are always in order! And don’t forget to ask about the key to the “Secret Tower” for one of the best views in the city.
2. It can be rainy. Bergen is Norway’s rainiest city. We were fortunate to have several gorgeous days and it’s said the summer months are the best bet to avoid the clouds. When blue skies make an appearance everyone is smiling! On our trip across Norway to Oslo, we experienced a complete snowy white-out in June at the mountain top…but the remainder of the Scenic Bergen Railway trip was spectacular!
Eurail provided our First Class train passes and #VisitBergen gave us 2 Bergen Cards to discover the city. The wonderful Clarion Collection Hotel put us in a room at a media rate to make the trip even more comfortable.
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Bergen’s a great city, but, yes, it will cost you dearly, including that aquarium. Nevertheless, a shrewd visitor can get around the expense and enjoy it thoroughly. If you’re there for the Independence Day celebration, you just may be asked to join the torch parade at night–a free treat you’ll remember forever.
Stephen Garone recently wrote an awesome post…A Home for War Blimps: Tillamook Air Museum, Oregon