We arrived in Bergen ‘Fjord Capital’ and second largest city in Norway before 7am on the 2nd of June. Time in port was limited to an all aboard time of 1.30pm, which meant excursions were shorter and time to explore the sights limited – a great shame, as even before disembarking it looked like there was much to see! We met up for our excursion at 0745 in the Princess Theatre, our destinations for the day being a scenic city drive and a ride on the Funicular up Mt. Floien.
Today’s guide was another really interesting, knowledgeable local (a massive improvement on yesterday’s fiasco!). We learnt so much about the city, and it was really beautiful – though it felt rather cramped and crowded considering how immensely huge it was!? Home to more than 200,000 people, Bergen is a sprawling city lying between 7 mountains, no wonder it was originally named Bergvin – meaning meadow between mountains.
Just a small section of this 'meadow between mountains' that is Bergen
We were originally due to go on our Funicular ride at the start of our city tour, but with four cruise ships in port that day the queue was massive! The Funicular is like a Tram that runs every few minutes up the side of Mt.Floien, taking tourists to a spectacular viewing area high above the city. It also serves as a key method of transport for the many residents who reside within the mountainous area, so every half an hour additional stops are made along the short journey to allow locals to reach their homes. Due to the length of the queue our guide decided to do the city drive portion of our tour first, in the hope the queue would subside a little upon our return.
Bergen is a city with a colourful history and was the largest city in Norway until the early 1800’s when Oslo became the largest. Vikings brought leprosy to the city from their travels; a leprosy museum stands monument to these times, and the Black Plague in the 1300’s wiped out 3/4 of the population. There are numerous churches from different time periods and Rhododendron’s in bloom everywhere you look – Bergen is often called Rhododendron City. The city was German occupied from the mid 1300’s to the mid 1500’s and had connections with Denmark during the 15-1800’s, both of which had notable impacts on the architecture and dialect of the region. Dotted amongst more modern buildings there is much evidence of the cities past; in the surviving wooden buildings – the city was plagued with fires throughout it’s history; 18th century charm and statues and monuments – mainly of famous Norwegian Authors, but also things such as a monument stone (The Witches Stone) in memory of women burned at the stake during the middle ages. German’s occupied the city again during World War II and on Hitler’s birthday (20th April) 1944 a massive explosion on an Dutch ammunition ship damaged many of the remaining wooden buildings.
The cities ports continue to be the hub of trade and fishing which have been vital to the city throughout it’s life, in addition to bringing in vital tourist trade and it is no surprise that so many cruise’s choose to bring their passengers here! My only complaint is that we didn’t get longer to stay and explore the city more, there hadn’t been many opportunities to record our visit in photographs due to time constraints and lack of stopping places whilst aboard our coach – I would have loved to get off and take pictures of the sights 😦 After weaving through the narrow (for coaches) city streets we finally came back to the Funicular station, unfortunately the queue was still huge, but this time we had to join it or we wouldn’t have time to take the trip before we had to return to the Grand Princess. The wait was worth it though!
A nerve wrenchingly steep ride up the mountainside bought us to a beautiful panoramic view of the city (as shown in the photo at the top of this post). All too soon our time here was up, but it was ‘just in time’ as the heavens opened and the rain (Bergen is famous for having 300 days per year) began to fall and mist/fog began to obscure the views.
Running a little late for our return to the Grand Princess meant we missed the Tax representatives as they were just disembarking as we came aboard. This was a bit frustrating as it was the only opportunity to reclaim the tax paid on purchases made whilst in Norway – if you are going on this or similar cruises I recommend you either find out about how to reclaim your tax early during your visit and get it dealt with, or ensure you get chance to see the tax-reps who are on board for approx 2 hours (in our case 11am till 1pm) during the last stop before leaving the country!
Back aboard after stopping for some lunch we had another pampering afternoon lined up. Starting with a Reflexology seminar where we learnt some basic techniques, followed by actual reflexology sessions, we then had a ‘couple’s massage’ class where we learnt how to give each other a basic back and shoulder massage. I then tried my hand a ceramics painting – it was harder than it looked! I like my crafts but having watched a few people work then attempting to create my own ‘ceramic photo frame’ masterpiece I felt I needed to practice much more if I was ever going to create something as eloquent as what I had witnessed other passengers produce! But it was fun, and also inexpensive – unlike our many spa treats! lol
As it was the second and final Formal wear night of our holiday we once again donned our smart clothes and headed out for our last chance to get more photos! hehe
Final Formal Night
After my roaring success (ahem, okay nervous screw up) on the karaoke the night before I decided to give it another attempt, this time singing Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of the Heart. I was a little less nervous but still not good enough by my own standards! Still again the following day people complimented me, so it can’t have been that bad. Actually, I felt like a minor celebratory aboard several times with how often I was recognised for either my dress or my singing! With around 2,300 people aboard I think it was quite something to be recognised by so many people I hadn’t actually spoken to!!
It was sad to head to bed thinking that when we awoke it would be our final day aboard the Grand Princess, the time had just gone so quickly and we hadn’t even experienced half of what the ship had to offer! We would just have to fit in as much as we could on our final day – in between packing 😦