While planning my trip to Europe I knew I'd be flying with Norwegian Air, aka the new best thing in international, budget travel. They offer incredibly low prices, the only catch - you have to depart from one of eight cities in the US, none of which are near my hometown. Thankfully, I have friends in New York so starting my trip with a long layover visiting them was no problem. After a breeze through the city I was soon en route to Norway, comfortably seated on the new dreamliner 787, another perk of Norwegian Air. I booked my flight to Copenhagen for the following Monday, giving me 2.5 days to explore Bergen. The first question one of my friends asked, "Is two days really enough?", the simple answer was yes, but also no.
The truth is, Norway is an enormous country and Bergen being "The Gateway to the Fjords" two days was not nearly enough time, however for me, it would have to be. My intentions for the visit were to simply get a taste of the place, knowing I didn't have thousands of dollars to spend or weeks to explore I was content with my drop in, leaving the real adventure for my future self. Despite one of my reasons for visiting Europe being "The Euro isn't so strong right now" I managed to send myself to countries with ridiculously strong currencies. Not wanting to blow my budget on my first stop I took to scouring the Couchsurfing pages and thankfully found a host for my full visit.
Taking a red eye flight into Europe isn't the best way to arrive, but as this is how the cards were dealt I went with it. A short (yet pricey) bus from the airport dropped me downtown where my host was kind enough to meet me (in the wind and rain, no less). Rather than trekking back and forth between his apartment and town we stashed my bag in a locker and began my tour. Kareem led me around the downtown area, pointing out the fish market (can't miss it laden with tourists), Bryggen (old houses), and waterfront. I was then given a choice: hike up Mount Floyen or resign to the weather, call it a day and head back to rest. Obviously my three hours of airplane sleep were making me delirious because I chose the hike. It wasn't so much of a hike as it was a long steep walk, which in normal circumstances would have been great, coupled with rain and minimal sleep however, not quite as enjoyable. The views at the top though were magnificent, despite being overcast and cloudy. I would've enjoyed staying longer, but the winds and rain sent me longing for a hot shower, warm blanket and nap.
I'm doing something right in the Couchsurfing lottery because I hit another jackpot with this one. After arriving back at Kareem's apartment he encouraged me to take the nap I was craving while he prepared dinner, I awoke to freshly backed salmon, potatoes and wine! All of this just a preparation for a night out with some of his friends, sharing travel stories and delicious beer. If my first day was any indication of how the rest of this trip was going to go I was in for a great adventure.
The following day being Sunday Kareem was up for spending they day showing me around, yet again. We stopped by his friends before venturing back to the city, using the remaining hours of my 24hr bus pass to explore the coastline and Gamle Bergen, a reconstructed town full of old wooden houses, perfect for a morning walk. In the afternoon we made our way back towards Kareem's apartment to visit the Gamlehaugen and Fantoft Stave Church. Not too far from his place, but not exactly close either. The Gamelehaugen resembles a castle and was once the home of former prime minister, Christian Michelsen, and is now the home of the royal family. A large park surrounds the grounds and had my feet and legs not been already tired I may have explored a bit more. Our final stop at Fantoft Stave was short but interesting, apparently Stave churches follow a distinct style using logs with this ones' original construction occurring around 1150. The interesting and unfortunate information is the entire church was destroyed by arson in 1992 so the one now standing is only a copy. Eventually my feet had enough, so we called it a day, grabbed some frozen pizza and relaxed with a movie, the proper way Sundays should end.
For my final day I decided to take it easy and relax, retrace some of my previous steps and prepare myself for the adventure ahead. Kareem had a morning class so he accompanied me back to the city where I stashed my bag in a locker and said goodbye, leaving me to explore on my own. I took advantage of the gorgeous weather, sunny skies and ample benches along Lille Lungegårdsvannet, parked myself on one and read for a while. There wasn't much else around town I was dying to see so I decided to take my time, letting the city surround me and soak it in before it was time to go.
Bergen itself was a lovely introduction to Norway, but I don't think there's much need to return unless I am jumping on one of those Fjord tours. There was a somewhat eerie feel of happiness and complacency coating the city, everyone seemed perfectly content and happy with what they were doing. By no means do I consider this a bad thing but it was odd, to say the least. Even among the random bursts of rain, cool winds, crowds of tourists and ridiculously expensive beers, everyone was just okay. I actually felt like I was living in Mr. Rogers "Neighborhood of make-believe", which for me, meant three days was plenty of time.