Alright, we get off the plane in Bergen at about noon and we get our luggage and head for the exit. After no passport check or anything, we go through the doors to find the smiling face of my dad's second cousin Bjørg. She and her husband were gracious enough to let us stay with them for two nights before we headed south to see Anne and her family in Mandal, but more of that later.
Bergen is Norway's second largest city and has a long history as a trading port between the north or Norway and the rest of Europe. It's really rather beautiful as, much like a lot of Norway's coast, mountains and sea come together. We were somewhat tired from the previous two days worth of whirlwind traveling and I suspect that Bjørg could see that. She said, “why don't you guys take a nap and I'll wake you up at 3:30 and we can go out for a hike and some sight-seeing.” We agreed to her plan. And boy, did we nap!
After that, it was up and at 'em to find dinner. We wanted to get hiking, so we ended up at McDonald's. Not just any McDonald's, mind you, but a McDonald's where a “meal” (McChicken, fries or salad, and soda) came to a whopping $17. Yes, you read that right, SEVENTEEN DOLLARS!!! And we don't even like McDonald's! In fact, we haven't been to one in years. And yet, there we were, eating our first meal in Norway under the golden arches.
Then, off we went to ride a tram to the top of a mountain and we enjoyed a glorious hike down the side of it. That was more our style. It was also great to chat with Bjørg and her husband. Bjørg, a believer, spent years with the Navigators in Norway; I (Katie) was part of the Navigators in college. Connections like that are always fun.
Here's a picture or two:
The next day we slept in and took a tram ($5) into town. There we faced a couple of dilemmas.
Dilemma # 1: We needed to change money, having only 100 kroner left (about $20). In Bishkek this would be no dilemma at all. Walk across the street from our apartment and there are at least 8 different places to change money, all with a competitively high rate. (That is to say, walk in and change $100 to som, then sell the som back into $ and you'd only lose about .75¢). Now, go to Norway where you could change money at the tourist information venue for a terrible rate of 4.8 (The real exchange rate is about 5.5 kroner per dollar). Or you could go to the bank and get a rate of 5.3. The only hitch was, at the bank there was a fee of 200 kroner. Do the math (or have a husband who does) and you realize that that is a fee of $40. Do the math again and realize that if you change a large sum of money, that fee of $40 is actually less than the amount you would lose at the tourist place. So, we took a number and waited at the bank. (We were reminded again that we were not in Kyrgyzstan where the concept of “take a number and have a seat while you wait”does not exist). We waited. And waited. And found free coffee/hot chocolate. The only thing free in Norway. Then, Peter was called up to the window and asked to show his passport. Um, we didn't need a passport to get out of the Norwegian airport, why the heck would we need it now? So, no, we didn't have the passport.
Okay, now things were getting a little desperate 100 kroner was just enough to get us back to the house and back to town again. And I was hungry. Which brings us to dilemma # 2.
Dilemma # 2: How will we eat in Norway?
A Snickers bar costs $3. A measly looking hot dog costs $7. A meal at McDonald's, oh wait, we've covered that one already! If you have a cheap soul and are looking for a way to diet, I suggest you go to Norway – without a lot of money. I am ever so grateful to the families that fed us during our stay there.
Our dilemmas were solved when: We wandered around and found a small bank that didn't need our passport and only charged us a $30 fee to change money (only!) and we bought a calzone (~$10) to split from 7-Eleven.
Then we were finally off to play in Bergen! We walked around and saw a bunch of the oldest parts of the city...
We ended up walking up one of the city's seven surrounding hills. On this particular hill, there is a funicular railway which you could take to a restaurant and viewing area. As Katie mentioned above, we wanted some money left when we departed for Bishkek, so walking was our mode of transport; we probably would have walked even if things weren't so expensive, but it has become a joke, so we'll go with it.
These buildings are very old and really are as catty-wompus as they look. Very cool.
We had dinner back at the house, and enjoyed an evening relaxing and chatting with our distant relatives. It was very fun to be in Bergen and to get to know some special people! Thanks!
Next morning, a bus to Stavanger to meet Anne!