Monday, April 4, 2011

Beautiful Bergen

Have you ever been someplace that was so pretty it just took your breath away? I felt like that as we exited the funicular car at the top of Fløyen mountain and took in the stunning beauty of Bergen and the fjords laid out below us. It was freezing cold, but I wanted to stand there with the light of dusk showing off this pretty little city for as long as possible. 
Bergen, Norway is one of Seattle's (many) sister cities. In fact we live right by Bergen Place here in Ballard. It's Norway's second largest and was one of the most important Hanseatic League cities. We stayed at the First Hotel Marin which was the perfect central location for our sightseeing. 
Along the waterfront is Bryggen, the oldest part of the city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The funny row of merchant buildings date back to 1360. Also near by is the Fish Market, much smaller in the winter but still a great place to check out all the different live fish, smoked fish, dried fish, lobsters, caviar, etc.

In the center of Bergen is a lovely lake, frozen solid in the winter and used as a pathway across. Small sections are cleared by the city for ice skating and one area is kept from freezing over by swimming flocks of birds. A Christmas tree stands in the middle. Although our hotel manager told us she thinks it's crazy that everyone walks across it! But still, if this doesn't look like a Christmas card I don't know what does!

Surrounding the lake are the various buildings of the Kunstmuseum, housing the works of Munch, Picasso, Miro, Klee, Dahl, etc. As we wandered through the galleries we couldn't help but notice the lack of security, I think I saw one the entire time. You'd think they would tighten things up since they seem to have an ongoing problem with this around the country.

During the holidays Bergen has the World's Largest Gingerbread City on display. This cavern of sweet smelling creations included amongst other things, an aquarium, a brothel, trains and even Michael Jackson's Neverland. Last year there was some issue with a man, aquavit and midnight hunger... the gingerbread police seemed to have everything under control when we were there though. 
We enjoyed a very nice dinner at Bergen's best restaurant Potetkjelleren, the best of our trip. Meaning "potato cellar" it's in the cellar of a house, the stairs leading down to the dining room quite steep and the doorways being quite low (cute video of the space on their site). Monkfish ceviche, Jerusalem Artichoke soup, duck breast and an amazing selection of cheeses. All perfectly paired with wines chosen by the sommelier. 

And of course we found Bergen's best cocktail bar, Biblioteket Bar where JP warmed us all up with Blue Blazers!
I really enjoyed Bergen and I'm sure it's just as beautiful in the summer, but this little city really charmed me with its holiday spirit and I'm glad I got to experience that. 

Lots of pictures of snow, sleds, and gingerbread here.

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