Bergen International Festival • Bergen, Norway • May 25, 2018
I took the Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen this morning, with the grandness of the Berlioz Requiem still ringing in my ears. The mountaintop promised a view that would add perspective to Bergen’s unique location, and its Hanseatic history.
The Fløibanen trams run in all seasons, and for the roundtrip cost of about $12, passengers are transported to the 1,050 feet elevation in about 8 minutes. After waiting a half-hour for the tram I was on good terms with the Norwegian, German, and Canadian travelers in my car—and their dogs.
There are three intermediate stops before reaching the upper terminus. Not just for tourists, a number of homes (with stunning views) can be accessed from each tram stop.
The Song Above Bergen
Bergen takes its music to heart, as illustrated in the panoramic iron railing atop Mount Fløyen. I sat on the steps and sang the melody in my head, while eating a delicious Norwegian apple. I wondered, was it one of the Norwegian folksongs adapted by Edvard Grieg? The song was later identified as “Views from Ulriken,” or simply, “Bergen Song.” A notable 18th-century resident (a priest-politician-poet) wrote lyrics about his pride in place, and set them to the French minuet now preserved in the mountaintop railing.
Mount Ulriken stands next to Mount Fløyen. At just over 2,000 feet, Ulriken is the tallest of the seven mountains surrounding Bergen. Strong hikers should consider walking the rigorous 11-mile trail between the two summits.
Fløibanen Celebrates 100 Years
A bit of history: The 1895 proposal for a funicular was considered for almost 20 years before construction was begun in 1914. The timing was not ideal. The outbreak of World War I caused numerous setbacks and a delayed opening in 1918.
In 1940, German occupying forces controlled the funicular for strategic purposes. When the city was liberated, post-war, the two trams were painted in Norway’s national colors: one red and one blue. Those colors remain standard today. I took the red tram, known as Rødhette, or “Little Red Riding Hood.”
Typically Norwegian, A Walk in the Mountains
The Mount Fløyen trails are listed as appropriate for all ages, but hikers are cautioned that they must be “in shape” and “dress to accommodate weather conditions.” Guided hikes (off the beaten track) are also offered. I considered the durability of my shoes and decided, instead, to visit the café.
Uphill from the children’s playground is the whimsical Trollskogen (Troll Forest)—a park filled with wooden trolls of all shapes and sizes.
May 28, 2018
Fjordcruise • Bergen to Mostraumen
Temperatures were rising above 80˚F in Bergen, and it seemed wise to head offshore. I chose a half-day boat tour of the local fjords.
My mini-cruise included some commentary on the area, an observation deck full of curious travelers, and the opportunity to drink fresh mountain water (it carried a strong mineral flavor) from a waterfall. We sailed over the pristine waterways not long after winter snows had melted. I was told that it had been an unusually long and cold season that persisted through April.
On the return to Bergen, while seated inside the large catamaran, I met a delightful Scottish woman and her adult daughter, who was also a mother. The younger woman’s children, still in the UK, interrupted her tranquility via Skype, seeking information about removing stickers from their hair. The conversation was sweet, and hilarious. We talked a bit about their lives at home, and I described my one-and-only visit to Scotland. But my greatest take-away (that I wish I could have actually taken away) was the air quality on the fjords, which I dreamed of bottling for my return home.
Fjords are a gift from time, when glaciers carved deep valleys that extended below the level of the sea. Later, those valleys filled with water. There are 1,190 fjords in Norway.
© 2018, Cynthia Albers, All Rights Reserved
Photos by Cynthia Albers, unless otherwise noted.