I love flying! I don’t mean sitting on a sandy beach soaking up the sun, or traipsing the sidewalks of Manhattan – I mean flying itself. For me the journey is as important as the destination. The nuances of an airport experience that drive most people to a 6am glass of wine in the lounge are the things that get me all warm and fuzzy inside. The check-in, the bag drop, security queues, all make me tingle knowing that my next adventure is nigh.
I am an “airplane nerd”, an “avgeek”, a travel fanatic. And unashamedly so – we all need a hobby!
It is for this reason that most of my journeys are long-haul. The longer I can spend on board an aircraft, the better value I am getting, and this year so far has taken me to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Washington, Chicago and New York for city breaks, and the closest to home has been Reims, in France (booked by my wife who doesn’t share my love of airplanes!).
I had never really considered Bergen, Norway as a city break destination but soon discovered that was purely down to ignorance on my part rather than any founded reason, so when Loganair asked me to go and have a look at what the Gateway to the Fjords was all about, I was delighted.
We started at 8am at Inverness Airport, which is always my favourite airport to fly from – and at the time of writing, has just been voted #1 airport in Scotland – as its size makes for a very pleasant journey from check in to gate.
The journey itself was very pleasant. Around 1 hour and 20 mins, punctuated perfectly by a cup of coffee and a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer – the calling card of Loganair.
Upon arrival we were ushered to an awaiting bus, or “flybussen” (I started to pick up the lingo fairly early on this journey) for a very reasonable 105 Norwegian Kroner (Around £10), which took us to our stop with zero fuss in around 30 minutes. The journey alone was worth £10 as we meandered through historic streets and wonderful architecture. Tickets can be bought in advance at https://www.flybussen.no, or you can simply buy on the day.
Next stop – the hotel. The Scandic Neptun is considered a value option, however prices in general in Norway are quite high, so don’t go expecting any Travelodge level bargains. A night in the Scandic Neptun will set you back around £125 a night. It is a basic hotel with decently appointed rooms, however the lack of air con, charging points, and other amenities did make for a slightly stressful stay. For around £20 per night more, you could stay at the Radisson Blu on the other side of the harbour which is located in the heart of the old town – and well worth the extra. https://www.scandichotels.no/hotell/norge/bergen/scandic-neptun
There really was so much to cram in to our 2 days, that we didn’t even stop for lunch before we were met by our guide who was to spend the next 2 hours leading our walking tour around the city. Originally from England, XXXX met a Nordic fellow 20 years ago, moved across the pond and the rest is history. What that meant for us, apart from the slightly unnerving accent, was a truly passionate and informative account of the city and country’s history. Walking tours can tend to err on the side of dull, however this one was truly attention-grabbing, and as we strolled around Bryggen wharf, the old hospitals, bakeries, and the new town we really got a flavour of what life in Bergen was like through the ages, and the importance it played as a port in our own trading history.
Our next port of call was, well, the port, where we boarded a speedboat that was to take us to a private island, home to Cornelius and his world famous fish restaurant. The imposing metal and wooden structure is a beacon of modern but tasteful architecture against the rugged backdrop of the Fjord. We are greeted off the boat by the waiting staff and guided to our table where the tasteful style continued.
We were to opt for the “meteorological menu” which is a 3 or 5 course tasting menu (we chose 5) costing 995 or 1145 NOK, or £90 / £105. It was explained that the menu is dependant on what the waters have given the chefs that day, and that the scallops were all hand-dived by the restaurants unassuming owner – Cornelius.
What followed was a gastronomic experience that titillated the eyes, gratified the tastebuds, and fulfilled our eager bellies. Scallops of course featured, along with a variety of other shellfish, as did pollock, minke whale, ling cod and plenty more. Each course was presented and described by the chef, and made for a very relaxed and enjoyable experience.
The boat ride back saw the opportunity to take in the incredible sunsets before heading back to the hotel for the night. http://corneliusrestaurant.no
The following day we took in the Fish.Me market – a relatively new addition to the wharf which compliments the older market stalls beside it. Salt cod, Scallops, whale, the list goes on, buy if it at any point swims, you can almost guarantee that you will find it here. Buy to take home, or buy to eat at one of the restaurants and cafes that line the harbour. http://fishme.no/en
Their national delicacy is dried cod, which is exactly as it sounds. An ancient preservation technique, the fish is air dried and sold. You then soak it in water for 24 hours and cook it. I didn’t really understand the point – I’d sooner have a fresh fillet of cod, but the locals cannot get enough of the stuff! Live and let live I say.
After a fishy breakfast, we took a 3-hour cruise of the fjords, which had to be the highlight of the trip. Again, the scenery was breath-taking with emerald green foliage lining the deep blue waters edge. Rolling hills, a vast network of rivers and waterways, waterfalls and more. The relaxed environment was perfect to appreciate the splendour of what Nordic Mother Nature had to offer. The boat itself was immaculately clean and comfortable, and regular announcements were made to ensure you didn’t miss anything. The boat also stopped regularly, allowing us amateur photographers to snap a few memories. At £50 per person, it is a great value way to spend a ½ day. https://rodne.no
The afternoon was spent tearing up the side of Mount Fløyen in the funicular railway which has been around for almost a century! Despite its age, it still performed better than some of our national rolling stock! The vistas from the top really were incredible. 180 degree views of Bergen and beyond, and the chance to see just how sprawling this incredible city is. From the multicolour buildings that make up the UNESCO world heritage site, to the deep harbour welcoming cruise ships and fishing vessels from around the world, to the undulating beauty of Norways Fjords. The only thing perhaps that could distract you is the wild mountain goats who were keen as mustard to come and say hello!
I think we can all be guilty of not appreciating what is on our own doorstep, so experiencing Bergen must be like experiencing Loch Ness or Loch Lomond for the very first time. It is fitting then, that Bergen now enjoys these likes with Glasgow and Inverness, and I for one hope to see these routes succeed and grow.
I would go back in a heartbeat – there is so much more to see and do, that for the next while, I might keep the miles off my passport and see what else I can discover in our own backyard.