Bergen, Norway

Bergen waterfront

The first stop our ship made was in Bergen, Norway. It took a day and a half to get there from Southampton, sailing through the North Sea, which can be quite rough at this time of year. Even though our ship is 17 decks tall and looks more like a floating office building than a ship, we could feel the effects of the wind and the waves much more than on our previous two cruises. The Grand Princess doesn’t quite have the aggressive ocean-liner profile of the Queen Mary 2, the ship on which we crossed the Atlantic in the other direction. It still amazes me that a ship as large as this, regardless of profile, can be moved so much by mere water. Still, it’s a far cry from the sickness-inducing bouncing and swaying of our ferry crossing to Zanzibar.

Fjords of Norway

As we approached Bergen, we altered course and turned to the east to begin threading our way into the fjords of Norway. We passed within throwing distance of so many islands and peninsulas that I felt sure we would run aground at any moment. The landscape was unreal. The outcroppings were littered with small houses and boat docks, and it was neat to look down on them from 17 decks up as we passed. Eventually, after some skillful navigating by our captain and the local pilot, we pulled alongside the docks right in the heart of the city.

Bergen is Norway’s second biggest city, but it hardly feels that way. We set out on foot for the top of the nearest mountain, which was really a glorified hill compared to some of the other mountains we’ve seen. There was a funicular (cable car on rails) going to the top, but we elected to walk, partly for the view and the exercise, and partly because we couldn’t find the station it left from. We meandered back and forth along streets lined with beautiful little houses before leaving the city behind and climbing on through trees to the top.

Bergen and our ship

The view from the top was expansive. We could see our ship docked down in the middle of the city, and it looked more than ever like just another building, albeit somewhat larger than most of the other buildings surrounding it. But we didn’t hike up there just to look back at our ship. Norway’s famous coastline stretched away from us in layers, each rugged crest offering hints of the folded fjords beyond. Take a look at Norway on a map, and you can get a small sense of the incredible complexity of the landscape that we were looking across. I can only imagine how stunning the coast must be away from the settled part we found ourselves in. Perhaps I’ll get to come back and explore it more one day.

The hill top was covered in a wonderful forest, and we went for a walk to a small pond to have our lunch. As we walked, we were watched closely by a multitude of strange wooden faces. I have no idea what the story is behind these guys, but they were everywhere.

Faces in the forest

One of the best things about the ship we’re on is that it stops in wonderful places like Bergen, but one of the biggest drawbacks is that it only stops in each for about 8 hours. It’s barely enough time to get a taste of a place, but a little teaser is better than nothing. We were back on our ship in time to enjoy the sunset over the fjords as we made our way back out to the open ocean. Our next stop: Lerwick in the Shetland Islands, yet another place I never dreamt I’d find myself going to!

Creepiest picture ever...

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