Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bergen, Norway

Map picture

Who Needs A Guide Anyway?

Bergen, Norway

Our month long journey is coming to an end here in gorgeous Bergen, Norway. We have arrived on a bright, sunny morning. It is cool, but it promises to warm quickly, and so Lisa and I cannot wait to get going. We have been to Bergen once before, so for today, we elected to hire a private car and guide for just a half day.

We were to meet our guide at 8:30 am, but hoping to beat the tour buses to the funicular, we got off the ship a little early in order to get the jump on the masses, which we call “locusts.” Usually our car and guide would be right there, but alas it was not so this time. We watched as one by one all of the tour buses departed and we found ourselves alone on the dock with just a few guides who were awaiting their groups to disembark. At the appointed hour when no one had arrived, I pulled out my trusty confirmation and dialed the emergency contact number, only to get a recording in Norwegian. Getting nowhere fast, I walked over to one of the guides and explained the situation and asked if she would mind dialing the number and tell me what was being said. Using her phone to avoid international rates, she dialed the number, listened, and started laughing. She looked over at the gathering group and told me that the phone number had been disconnected. The group all started talking at once and trying to be helpful. One of them grabbed my confirmation and noted that she had been hired by that same company, but not for us, however, she did have a different contact number. Sadly, no one answered her call, and she explained that since it was Sunday, nothing would be open. Just to be sure she phoned the home office in Copenhagen, and just as she predicted, no one answered. By now their groups were arriving, and so they suggested that Lisa and I walk outside the security perimeter. Several of them had some trouble gaining entry, and so perhaps our guide and car were waiting for us there.

Sadly that was a long walk, but once outside the gate two things were obvious. First, no one was waiting for us, and since it was Sunday there were no taxis, in fact I could not see any traffic or anyone on the streets. It looked all the world like a ghost town. We found a rock to sit on, and waited. Shortly a lone station wagon arrived and the casually dressed driver jumped out and ran into the security shed. Well, it was not the black limo we were expecting and he did not look like a professional driver, but perhaps he was here for us. When he came out we hailed him and sure enough he was here to pick us up – a little late, but here. However, he was only a driver. We should have been met by a guide. We drove back to the ship in a futile effort to locate our wayward guide, but to no avail. Our driver was clearly perplexed at this point about what to do. It took some persuasion to convince him to simply drive us around Bergen. He did speak good English, and after my earlier experiences on this trip, I had come prepared with a list of places that the ship was using as tourist stops, so I was all prepared to be our own guide. Finally he agreed, and I told him that our first goal was to reach the funicular before the buses. A look of understanding appeared, and we all jumped in the car and made a beeline for the funicular. As luck would have it, even with our late start, we arrived just in time to catch the first car to the top of the viewpoint located on Mt. Floien. DSC_2713 On our return back down, the station was not only full, but the line of people waiting to go to the top stretched for three blocks. Anyway, since it was a beautiful cloudless morning, we had wonderful views of the city below and in the distance the surrounding islands seemed to go on forever. Our driver said we were very lucky. Most days the hillside is covered in early morning fog and for the last three days the city had been having a cold windy rain.

Bergen is an absolutely beautiful city of around 250,000 people. It is considered the Capital of Fjordland and is Norway’s second-largest city, having been founded in 1070 AD. Norway amazes me when it comes to Sundays. Nothing is open, nothing! The streets in the morning were deserted. That allowed us to drive all over the city in quick time. We drove into the outskirts of the city to visit the Palace of the King. DSC_2736 He uses the Palace when he visits Bergen, but only if he is staying for more than two nights, otherwise he just stays at a Hotel.

Rather than try to bore you with names about which I am not sure, since we had no guide, I will just say that we hit everything on our list and then some. My best memories of Bergen are in the beautiful pictures that I added to our album.

At this time our ship is cruising at full speed for a two day journey to Stockholm, which is where it all started for us 4 weeks ago. We will fly home on the 28th, first with an SAS flight direct to Chicago and then a United flight to Kansas City. In fact, we will finally get to try our new “trusted traveler” status at US Customs and Immigration.

I hope that everyone has enjoyed the updates. All of our blogs are up and posted at and from there is a link to our complete picture album, which I just completed a little while ago. I am looking forward to seeing everyone soon.


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