Bergen or Bryggen (the local pronunciation) happens to be the only town in Norway that I know well enough to actually say with confidence, it’s far more to me than a tourist resort or a Kosher vacation. I spent a whole month there, staying with my close friend Gina Overland, a young doctor and an incredible person. As a result, I got to meet many Norwegians on a personal level. Since she and her boyfriend are vegans I could eat healthy gorgeous meals without being concerned about Kashrut and participate in the healthiest lifestyle I have experienced anywhere.
The city is beautiful, I couldn’t help clicking away on my camera, taking pictures, and have created some of the most beautiful paintings I have ever painted. When I got there by train from Oslo, I was almost in tears from all the natural beauty around, feeling a highly spiritual gratitude to Hashem for his Creation of such magnificent majesty. I had a stop in Geiranger, about which I wrote in my previous blog, and spent half a day kayaking and soaring high in spirit.
When I took the train to continue to Byrggen, all I thought about was the excitement of seeing my girlfriend and for a change. I did very little research about the town I was going to spend time in. Nevertheless, the amazing views of the rail line, crossing the mountains, endless villages, and sparkling blue fjords kept me in a state of bliss.
Arriving at the lovely train station, there was Gina with a giant bouquet of flowers, and tears of joy. We haven’t seen one another for two years, yet I was too excited to go home and catch up. There would be plenty of time for that… Instead, we took my luggage and the flowers to her house and went straight to the famous UNESCO Bryggen Wharf, which is very close to the train station. We made our way through the colorful wooden wharf houses, perfectly intact from the Hanseatic era. We visited the fish market and the adjoining open-air market.
The town is beautifully situated by the famous Bergen fjord, which is surrounded by seven mountains and is considered the gateway to the Norwegian Fjords. It’s amazing how the fjords carve their way from the coast into the countryside, thus infiltrating the town and adjacent mountains with the bluest, cleanest water, creating so much beauty. I was told from time to time that I had not stopped smiling the whole time I was there.
For some reason the waterways of Venice, Italy popped into my consciousness, as I’m sitting here writing this account of Bryggen. Venice an exquisite town built on a body of water, and not unlike Bergen, has an endless amount of canals and water wherever you are. Yet there is a huge difference between the two cities: as opposed to the gorgeously decadent palaces atop the water, the quality of the canal waters in Venice, which are greenish blue with a distinct smell of age and and ancient history. The waterways of the fjords in Bergen are fresh, young, invigorating and come naturally without human interference. Whereas as the Venice canals lull one to to a dreamy state of laziness, a ride or even a look at the fjord waters awaken the athlete in us, almost commanding you to exercise and eat healthy foods. It could just be my very own perception, but looking at the slender and fit Norwegians, my theory seems to work.
Another must see on a day trip, is the funicular, which can take to mount Floyen.
Breathtaking beauty and an adventure even the tiniest kids and the frailest of adults would enjoy. There is a cable car to the top of mount Ulriken, the highest mountain surrounding Bergen with an altitude of 700 meters above sea level. The view from the top takes your breath away, and a scheduled bus service takes you to the city center, and from there to the cable car or car station. My hosts and I took our time before we explored the different and wonderful museums, but if time is limited, it can be done satisfactorily, during a single day shore excursion.
Bergen is home and birthplace of composer Edvard Grieg, whose home, a tiny wooden villa with a gorgeous garden by the Nordas lake is a must see for classical music lovers. By the way, Bergen has a symphony orchestra which is so brilliant, that if you find that your boat docks there on a day which offers a matinee, try to make it. The same can be said of the local Ballet Company, which offers world-class performances. Kode the art museum houses work by Edvard Munch, the expressionist painter of ‘The Scream’, Picasso, Klee and 68 others. The aquarium at the Nordness peninsula can be reached in a few minutes by taking the tiniest of ferries, departing from the fish market. On the way back I suggest strolling through the picturesque Nordness, reveling in the beauty of the narrow streets and small, painted wooden houses.
Although I found enough to fill a month of staying in Bergen, most of the highlights can be crammed into a delightfully enjoyable one day, if you come by boat to Byrggen. The beauty you’ll encounter will make your heart soar.
Love is the most powerful way to create profoundly tangible transformation in everyone who crosses our path. Yet we must be mindful to endow the self with pure, unconditional love and acceptance, which will result in an infinite fountain of empathy and joy, readily available to give others.