Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Dining, Wining & Hill-Climbing - in Bergen

Today I thought I would take the time to write a post about my holiday in Norway, it lasted for two whole weeks! Hence my absence from the blog. Now, I haven't had a proper holiday since last christmas, so this was much needed to say the least!

I got to spend time with my family and some old friends that I had missed now over the last eight months. Nice meals were had and mountains were climbed, I tried to squeeze in as many experiences as possible! Also, I got to show my boyfriend where I am from, and I believe that can add a certain depth to someone, no matter how close you are and how well you know one another - or thought you did!

Born and bred in the West of Norway, in and around Bergen, I got used to being surrounded by mountains and great scenery. As well as the Seven peaks, Bergen also is the home of one of the famous Norwegian fjords. The people of Bergen are very proud, and a common saying is "I'm not from Norway - I'm from Bergen!" Perhaps a bit pretentious, but I suppose most people would feel the same about their hometown.

I went to visit the aquarium we have there, it's kind of like a tradition except it's been a few years since I last visited. They had made a few changes to the place, as they had received some Californian sea lions that had taken the place of the noticeably smaller seals that used to live in that tank.

One of the good ol' seals relaxing with style!

As for eating and drinking out, Norway can be a bit expensive if you're not on Norwegian wages, but it is definitely a country worth visiting, and you can make sure to find somewhere affordable. Having a cold bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale in the Irish pub "Finnegan's" in the sun, with a welcomed mild breeze was great on a hot Summer's day. The first week the weather was actually perfect, almost too good to be true (the second week, it was raining, but we don't have to go into that, heh!). During the first week, we also went for a family dinner at my aunt's - three courses, followed by a nice cuppa and some walnut brownies, it was divine *smiles*. That evening, my cousin also suggested we'd meet up with him and his girlfriend for a drink (which turned into two, even three for the guys, before we had to catch the bus home) at Sjøboden. It is a peculiar but cosy little pub down by the jetty, which happens to sell a jug of beer for 100 kroner on a Sunday evening - bargain!

A romantic meal was also had at one of the several restaurants that goes by the name of "Zupperia". I had a lovely dish with venison on a bed of vegetables, topped with a delicious gravy that had some kind of berries in it, accompanied by some delicious potato mash.

Later on in the week, I discovered a new place in "Galleriet" in the city centre called "Anne's Deli". On a Thursday, they sell my favourite dish of all time called raspeballer (almost like potato dumplings served with mashed turnip, smoked meat and topped with diced crispy bacon). I should perhaps hang my head in shame when I say this, but I ended up going there twice over the two weeks I was there... It was so worth it though, and it'll unfortunately be a while until next time.

Wanting to catch up with some of my lady friends, a few of us got the idea of having an evening of prawns, salad, wine and other delicious things. There were six of us, and it was really good just to relax with the girls, have a couple of glasses of wine and enjoy some good, simple food.

Another thing I did over the fourteen days, was to walk up/climb a few mountains. At the island where I spent most of my life in Norway - Askøy; the highest one is called Kolbeinsvarden, it isn't very high, but it makes for a nice morning walk if you have a couple of hours to spare, perhaps not even that! I walked up there three times, and every time I ended up as number four. They have a mailbox at the top with a book inside it wher you write the date, your name, and the time you made it to the top - quite neat!

Then, for the memories and for the view's sake, we went up Fløien, this is one of the smaller mountains in Bergen, but you can walk up from the city centre, in other words very convenient. The path up is mainly cement and gravel, so it makes it quite easy with the exception of the steep hill at the beginning.

The two biggest challenges was the highest mountain in Bergen, Ulriken, and a hardcore trek up some 900-stairs in what they call Stoltzekleiven. Now, after a couple of years of regularly working out, the walk up Ulriken went quite smoothly (with the exception of excess of water that greeted us uphill), but Stolzekleiven? Well, it was tough, and no matter how good a shape you're in, it will be. To put things in perspective, my dad, who is very active, has a record of around 15 minutes up. My auntie who enjoys walking, has made it up there in about 25 minutes. Determined not to do badly, told myself that I would try and make it up there in less than 20 minutes - and after innumerous of stairs in all shapes and sizes, heart "breaks" (pauses) and ache-breaks, both my dad and I made it up with 2 minutes and 2 seconds to spare - result!

This is the only image I did not take myself, but I took it from Google to give you an idea what this is all about!

Another thing was that I was wearing something close to ballerina shoes, and afterwards when my dad and I went hunting for a pair of proper training shoes, the guy in the shop said that walking up Stoltzekleiven in those little things could have been newspaper material. He couldn't fathom how that had been any good at all, I just found myself smirking once I heard.

Oh! I also had to go up in my mother's attic to sort out my treasures that I have kept up there for years. She said that the amount of things that we had stored was ever-growing, and that if I could, it would be great if I could figure out what things I really wanted to keep a hold of. I was looking through one box after another, stuffed with what had at some point, been my most valuable things. It's funny how many memories can fit into a box, I really enjoyed looking through it all. In the end, I got about two big boxes' worth of things I decided I felt less connected to, such as some more recent school books and a few plastic toys I couldn't even remember having played with. I also found a few things that I decided to take with me back to Glasgow, for good measure. My luggage was 200 grams short of the maximum weight they allow at the airport, and I blame the treasure hunting for that!

It is funny how life changes, and how we move with the tide or against the streams. I, for example, have gone from living so close to nature and the fjords to living in a big city, and it does feel strange at times - leaving your home behind. There are good things and less good things no matter where you go, and you just have to make sure to follow your own dreams. If it takes you far from where you started out, I am sure you can always turn back, or revisit those familiar places every once in a while.


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