At long last the countdown is done and the time has finally come to disembark. Our plane left from Vancouver at 1:30 in the afternoon on October 23rd, through Seattle and then Iceland, arriving at last in Bergen, Norway around noon on the 24th. The night was short as we sped forward through time zones across North America and the Atlantic Ocean. Getting any sleep was difficult, even after popping Gravol pills that were supposed to make us drowsy; no matter what sleeping position I took I couldn’t get an hours rest in that cramped little seat.
We hadn’t had much luck in finding a place to work for room and board around Bergen, so we booked a hostel for a few nights to get over our jet-lag and to find our new bearings. The Montana Youth Hostel is situated on top of a mountain which overlooks the city of Bergen and gives us quite the view, and it is around 40 dollars a night. Originally we were planning on camping for a large portion of our time here to save money, but the rain in Bergen has been almost non-stop and I’m just not ready to give up the comforts of the hostel. Every morning from 7:30 to 9:00 Montana hostel hosts a free breakfast, not just a continental breakfast of coffee and a bagel, but a traditional Norwegian feast, complete with slabs of liver, herring in ketchup, herring with mustard, and just regular pickled herring. Not a huge fan of the ketchup herring by the way, as mouth-wateringly tasty as that may sound.
Being thrifty and all, Ashleigh and I wanted to see if we could volunteer at the hostel for free rooms, perhaps by doing a few hours of cleaning every day. Most of the independently owned hostels that I’ve been to in Canada had a deal like that, but the Montana Hostel already had a paid staff that did all the cooking, cleaning, and ran the reception. Nevertheless, we sat down and had coffee with one of the managers who told us that Norway’s hostels have recently started a program that allows travellers from other countries to volunteer at the hostel for three square meals a day and a bed. Their job, for a few hours a day, would be to take visitors to the hostel out on hikes, to the cities main attractions, or out to the bars or restaurants for the evening, all in order to promote a more communal atmosphere within the hostel and bring people together. Unfortunately for us the minimum required stay to be a part of this program was a month, and we realized that we could not be in Bergen for that long without sacrificing the time we want to spend in other places. Afterwards we continued talking and had a long conversation about Scandinavian history and culture. The manager ended up being a part of the Couchsurfing organization and offered to host us for a little while, which we gladly accepted.
I’ve been in contact with my Norwegian relatives here from my dad’s side, and we’ve decided to take a ferry northward up the coast of Norway to the Nordfjord region and to Dombestein where my grandmother’s people came from. I’m not exactly sure how we’re related to them yet, but it will be a excellent experience to stay with them and learn a bit about my family’s history. I’m also looking forward to the four hour ferry ride up the coast to Leirgulen, hopefully it won’t be too foggy and the sightseeing will be fantastic.
So these are the things that have been keeping us busy so far… there’s an area in downtown Bergen that we visited called Bryggen (Norwegian for ‘Wharf’) where the city began in year 1070. Some of the original buildings date back to 1702 and have been claimed as an UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. If I was to personally describe Bryggen, I would call it a pirate town. The buildings are leaning and rickety, the wood is notched and blackened with age, and the thin, cobblestone alleyways are dark and twisted. In the centre is a wishing well that looks so ancient I would believe it could really grant wishes.
We’ve done a little bit of hiking here too; there’s a trail that leads further into the mountains (in particular, Ulriken) from the Montana Hostel. We hiked the extremely steep and rocky path which snaked alongside a clear mountain stream all the way up to the summit. There was no view from the top, however, only the nothingness that the surrounding mist had created. It was a beautiful hike.
So far it seems that we’re flying from the seat of our pants, so who knows what the future holds. Wish us luck!