There were some domestic chores to be done in the morning before we checked out. City Box advertised laundry facilities, and we had only brought a week’s worth of clothing with us to Scandinavia. After a bit of a goose chase (not a terribly wild one) of trying to find the laundry room and get the appropriate change for the machines, I was able to get a load going. Once we were all packed, pressed and dressed, we headed up to the train station to stash our bags in a locker for the day. From there, we wandered the streets, through a colourful (in several senses of the word) square, until we reached the harbour.
We stopped in for a coffee and some pastries (a tasty cinnamon bun and a custard filled pastry) at Baker Brun, which was apparently established in 1893. Caffeinated and sugared-up nicely, we set out to explore the harbour around the bay of Vågen. Bryggen (Old Town) lines the waterfront with cute and brightly coloured buildings. In our search for a good view, we stumbled across a fish market. D quickly sought out a pair of Norwegian oysters, which we’d heard about in Oslo. They were, as advertised, supremely delicious, though not cheap. We meandered down the boardwalk and soon faced with an imposing structure, Bergenhus Fortress, which is one of the oldest castles in Norway (with some buildings dating back to the mid-1200s). We took a walk around the grounds, though there didn’t seem to be a way to get inside, so we continued onwards. Old town Bergen seems to be fond of narrow lanes and streets, as we discovered some hilariously narrow corridors amongst the old wooden buildings along the harbour, where the buildings were actually leaning and touching each other.
From there, we continued to walk through the narrow streets, lined with darling wood buildings. We chanced across a cute little café, Krok og krinkel bokcafé, which was part used bookstore and part coffee shop. The interiors were lined with bookshelves and vintage furniture, and the fact that it was in essentially a basement made for a cozy feel. They also served coffee roasted by a local Bergen roastery, so D was able to get his local coffee fix. We lingered over our hot drinks in the warmth of the café. As the sun was starting to set, we decided to continue our walk through town. We came across imposing, almost austere, churches, both Bergen domkirke and Korskirken, though neither was open.
As I was still sick, my sniffles were starting to get the best of me, so we started in the general direction of where we planned to have dinner, though it was still quite early. The only disadvantage of checking out of a hotel and then spending the day wandering around is that you have nowhere to go back to, should you need to rest or a get warm. A beautiful, brick church (Johanneskirken) at the top of a hill caught our eye, so we headed up to it. Unfortunately, we were 0 for 3 for churches, as it too was closed. We walked through the small side streets nearby, with a few viewpoints that were a little too far away to be any good. The houses that lined these streets were just darling, and we pined away as we caught glimpses of their well-furnished abodes. We stumbled across a portion of the University of Bergen, which was strangely open, so we took a peek inside (it was also deliciously warm). Parts of it reminded D of SFU Surrey, with its concrete and wood design.
We made our way back towards the restaurant. I noted there seemed to be a surprisingly high number of hairdressing salons, particularly given the size of the town. We must have passed ten or fifteen in just the small section of town we went through. Our restaurant of choice for the evening, Pingvinen (the Penguin), was recommended by our Lonely Planet guide as a nice play for Norwegian “home cooking”. It was, by all intents and purposes, a pub, with stools and tables lining the windows and an order-at-the-bar way of doing things. A bowl of mushroom soup passed by us that smelled delicious, so we went ahead and ordered a bowl to share. D ordered braised pork cheeks, and I went with a cod dish with egg, bacon, butter and potatoes. The soup was delicious, and we gobbled it up quickly, down to the last drop. Our mains were similarly tasty—D’s pork was super tender and the sauce was rich and flavourful. I was surprised to find my sauce to be, likely, straight butter, which made it tasty but a bit rich after awhile. The cod and egg combination was an interesting one. We lingered as long as we could, watching the buzz of activity, before heading towards the train station. While normally we would be happy to kill a couple hours in a pub over a couple of drinks, at $10+ a drink, the cost starts to add up. So we hung out in the waiting area of the train station until our train arrived.
Our overnight train was kind enough to provide us each with a little travel package with a light blanket, small inflatable pillow, eye mask and ear plugs. Definitely one we were taking with us. As the train departed at just after 11 pm, we were already pretty sleepy, so it wasn’t long before I was dozing off—though D stayed up for awhile, editing photos. Every so often I would wake up and be treated to a truly spectacular view of the Norwegian countryside. Illuminated only by moonlight, it was a black and white wonderland, with glistening snowfields and looming mountains.