On Bergen Blondes and Strolling Stockholm

22 Aug

Everywhere I turn natural blondes rule. The Norwegian girl on the airport bus to downtown Bergen mesmerised me. Performed a magic trick with her shoulder-length, thick pale hair, twisting it into a knot atop her head without any visible means of securing it. A giggle of female university students on the shopping street, competing to see whose jeans were the tightest; six fair-haired and one brunette outlier. Teachers dragging armfuls of tiny blonde boys and girls wearing green fluoro vests and teeny backpacks all the way from their kindergarten part way up Mt Floyen to the panoramic viewpoint. And not to forget the over two metre tall Adonis who served us so politely at Deli & Luca. Carved marble jaw and precisely cut honey locks curling to one side. Finally, savouring a chilled, blonde Norwegian-brewed beer in the sunshine on the Bergen waterfront. Worth every cent of AUD13. We really have arrived in the Viking heartland. Time to stop counting blondes and kroners. 

When we left you three days ago we were in Tallinn, Estonia. Caught the overnight Tallinn-Stockholm MS Romantika, another Tallink ship. The most luxurious thus far. Once again I saved pennies booking an inside cabin – 150 euros. Nothing but a lot of black night through the porthole anyway so why pay more? 

 B grade inside ensuite cabin. 
 Arrived in bright sunshine in Stockholm and within 15 minutes our Somalian taxi driver had dropped us at our destination, Ahlens City Department Store. The globe trotters amongst you will know what comes next. Yes, this grand department store really is the only place to store luggage in downtown Stockholm. With a 6:30pm flight to Bergen and only four hours to see Stockholm, Ahlens is super handy for airport bus/train transfers. I was sorry to rush Stockholm but we had bigger fish to fry. A date with a ship in Bergen. It was, however, delicious to window shop the Swedish homewares displays and sip coffee at their streetside cafe. Best soy flat white since I left Australia. 

From the store we strolled around old Gamla Stan and central Stockholm, stopping only to watch the changing of the guard at the Palace and take a lunch of leek and potato soup with lots of crusty rye bread. It seemed all Stockholm not holidaying at their summer place were perusing hardbacks at the street book fair, shopping the summer sales, or on the water. We were grateful for a chance to snooze on the thirty minute bus ride to the airport. 

 We’re not so jaded we don’t appreciate the ease with which we can move from airport to airport, city to city. First world transport is a wonderful thing. Bergen similarly has an efficient airport-city bus link. I texted our apartment owner, Francisco, coming into Bergen. He met us from the bus and helped us move into our studio apartment, two minutes walk from the quayside. 

Stuart is in fish heaven here. So much seafood on offer, much of it farmed and some imported from France. Stuart ate his share of fish. The live crabs in tanks especially saddened me. Norwegians are so entwined with fishing culture they cannot conceive how someone would not want to eat sea creatures. It’s going to be an interesting experience eating vegan these next two weeks.
 Stuart was last in Bergen 53 years ago on a school soccer exchange program (scarily he remembers it vividly), while I’ve been here on university business a few times and enjoyed a wonderful trip on the Flam railway and along a fjord with Eva, the mum of one of my students, Janne. This trip was a long anticipated return.

I feel a kinship with Norwegians, their practical nature, and their appreciation for the fundamentals of a good life; clean water, be it sea or lakes, the great outdoors, and family ties resonate with me. This could be Australia but for the climate!

High points of our two nights here were hiking a loop up and down Mt Floyen, (a thirty minute, steady climb rewarded by crystal clear views over the harbour and a gentle 35 minute walk down through mossy, fir forest), the Edvard Munch exhibition at Kode (so many more accomplished works than ‘The Scream’), a sublime Grieg, Taneyev and Arensky concert by a Russian trio of piano, violin and cello, in the Church of the Cross, and coffee and oven warm cinnamon rolls at a bakery on a cobbled back street. 


  The Troll forest is popular with kids, they can run around troll spotting.  
That’s our apartment, the one that looks like a laundry! 

  Munch’s ‘Sick Child’, his sister Sophie who died young from TB.

 Another Munch woodcut. 

 Self portrait after his stint in the asylum. 
 Stuart’s favourite Munch nude. 

The next instalment will be the much anticipated boat trip on Hurtigruten’s MS Finnmarken along the coast from Bergen to Tromso, well inside the Arctic Circle.

Must dash, Heinz, our ship’s activities officer, is about to brief us in English, but I hope you enjoy the laundry room notice in our Bergen apartment building as much as I did. And – be cool!



2 Responses to “On Bergen Blondes and Strolling Stockholm”

  1. carmel August 22, 2015 at 9:56 pm #

    love the Be cool washing instructions!
    lots of colourful photos. lovely writing as always sharon

    • Sharon Tickle August 23, 2015 at 8:35 am #

      Much as we try we will never be as cool as Scandinavians. Too much Irish in me. Sxx

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