Travel Tips Part 2: Bergen, Norway

Welcome to this tiny haven of paradise heartily recommended to you by the trusty team at Lonely Planet. The 7.5 hour train ride over was worth the 50NOK seat reservation alone: you were greeted by snowy mountains which look just like those Norwegian postcards you’ve seen dotted about the place. As soon as you arrive in Bergen you feel relaxed and at ease: Bergen is a small town populated by a lot of international University students. As you walk the 5 minutes to your hostel, you bump past various moody looking students with half-shaved heads and lip piercings. This time, you don’t get lost on your way to the hostel which isn’t something to get too smug about – it is quite literally around the corner from the central station, which is why it becomes all the more pathetic when you manage to get lost on the way back, but we’ll get to that later.

You arrive at your hostel and are slightly confused by the ancient elevator; considering that at this point you’re still carrying around the world’s heaviest rucksack, this annoys you quite a bit. You step into the elevator and all grumpy thoughts vanish when you have to pull a caged door across to ascend. The old door nostalgically reminds you of old movies like Rocky Horror Picture show and that other one with Audrey Hepburn. It then eerily reminds you of that drawn-out, elevator sex-scene in Fatal Attraction whereby Michael Douglas nuzzles his raison face into that blokey woman’s breasts. You shudder.  Up to reception, check in, make the bed and have a well-deserved shower. Look around the dorm: this hostel was booked completely last minute because there were no other places to stay so you therefore had to pay quite a bit more than you can afford: but it was completely worth it. Not only are the beds super comfy but they’re each fitted with their own personal reading light, plus the bathroom is equipped with a hairdryer! Winning. You have a sudden urge to just lie down and relax, but, you’re unable to do this due to the immense pressure of being in a new town for a short amount of time so you therefore have to explore and fulfil your time. You head out into town: this trip is a lot different to your exploration of Oslo, as it’s just much much much more beautiful. You think of using the word “quaint” even though it sounds like you’re describing a cabin in Cornwell or a carefully designed hospice.

You head to the local shop and because in your logic-ridden mind you are suddenly loaded, you decide to buy some rollies. As you walk out the shop (214NOK lighter – you fucking retard) you realise you forgot to buy filters. Instead of going back you decide to walk to another shop to buy food to fill the empty hole that has created itself after feeling so damn alone. You also buy some weird filters that aren’t what you were looking for but you buy them anyway because…at this point you have no idea why you do anything. At least they were cheap. You walk to the local lake where there are some food markets on: you sample some cheeses and nuts but buy nothing – you are now poor. You sit down feeling rather existential and look around you: this town is truly beautiful and you realise that Bergen feels more like an authentic Norway rather than Oslo. Oslo is a capital city and despite the fact that it’s still weird and foreign, all capital cities are a much of a muchness. This place is encapsulated by mountains which hold tiny, old houses illuminated by fireplace light. It’s a stunning day and you realise that despite being in such a faraway town, you feel just as lost and depressed as you do back home. At this point it’s become pretty clear that your unhappiness doesn’t just click away because you are in a different place, and that this cloud of anxiety and hopelessness is going to follow you around despite which country you’re exploring. Having these realizations makes it easier to deal with. You feel you might be able to get your head straight.

In the mean-time it’s getting dark and cold. Head back to your hostel and do what you’ve wanted to do since you left home: go to your dorm, lie down and watch some mindless shit on your laptop. Just relax and get lost in Alcide Herveaux’s abs. *

Fall asleep and wake up at 10 in the morning feeling wonderfully refreshed. Get ready, check out of your hostel and get into town to do some serious sight-seeing, but first, go to the nearest shop and buy a 3 pack of bolle for 25NOK. Bolle are Norwegian pastries that are kind of like hot-cross buns without the cross and the bullshit only-once-a-year designation. They’re also much more delicious. They are the sole reason why you’re putting on weight – or at least assume you are. Take a stroll to the famous fish market and hop on a bus that takes you to the cable-car centre. Take a cable car up the mountain: look around at some seriously spectacular shit. All crap thoughts from yesterday are completely gone as you stare out onto a panoramic view of Bergen and the surrounding mountains. You’ve picked the perfect day to do this trip: not one cloud in the sky. Take some photos using your trusty iPhone and sit down to take some stealth photos of yourself using the Hipstamatic app on. Memories captured using a tradition created by MySpace years ago.

Look around, there are signs showing the various hikes available. Choose the “green” path as it’s the easiest and stumble down a rocky path while continually flailing out your arms lest you should fall 10 centimetres. Start to feel like a wimp when you notice children and old people doing the same hike as you. You’re not very skilled in the hiking department as you tend to get a wash of vertigo at great heights. Milan Kundura once said that vertigo was less about the fear of falling, and more about the intrinsic urge to jump. You’re more worried about falling and making a tit of yourself. The hike is short but incredibly satisfying as you’re constantly looking about at the most breath-taking views you’ve ever seen. This really beats paying 30NOK to go to a dusty museum.  You remember that your train leaves for Oslo that night at 11, and although you’ve got plenty of time to bum around town, you don’t have the money to go out for dinner or drinks. Also note: having dinner alone may just be a new low you’re not quite ready to face yet. Hike back to the main point (be sure to skip a little getting the ol’ heart racin’!) and take the cable car back down to civilisation.

Once you’re back at the hostel, sit in the common room and force yourself to engage with fellow human beings. This isn’t a challenge as you would expect seeing as you’ve spoken to quite literally no-one for the past 24 hours and it’s driving you a little doo-lally. This was a good decision: you meet some awesome people from all over the world, hence making waiting for your train much fun! When it’s time to walk to the train station (remembering it’s literally around the corner) be sure to walk in the complete opposite direction for about half a mile before you ask someone where the fuck you are. Curse yourself for being such an arse, and then relax onto the train.

This is your first ever night train and although you’ve heard some horror stories (thank you do those people by the way) you feel relaxed because Norway is safe and everyone assumes you’re Norwegian anyway. Take out your laptop and start doing some much-needed writing, when a gentleman comes and takes the seat beside you. Although you are not particularly prejudice of the male species of any race, you wonder for a moment whether or not this man will try to finger you while you sleep. Feel bad about thinking this when the dude helps you with your computer. Sleep on and off horribly for the next 7 hours, while your right leg continually gets pins and needles. Arrive back in Oslo and wait for your next train to Stockholm while munching down on a delicious Norwegian pastry. You wish you could have stayed longer in that gem of a town.

*If you don’t know who I’m referring to here just Google his name. You’re welcome.

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