We got pretty shit weather for the whole of the Hardangerfjord drive, but it still looked beautiful and the rain only made the valley of waterfalls more impressive.
The driving has been a bit stressful as the roads are so narrow and the Norwegians like to leave a huge gap between them and the wall. We realised the best way to get through is to follow a truck; anyone meets him and they have to reverse all the way back for him and we just poodle on behind.
We took one of the longest swing bridges in the world across the fjord – and bloody paid for it, I’m sure our toll fee is getting onto £50 or so in Norway. There was a huge tunnel before and after the bridge and they were quite something in themselves. About 7km long – you ain’t holding your breath in a Norwegian tunnel, and they had roundabouts in them!! Huge roundabouts made from dynamiting a bloody hole in a mountain, all the walls were white around it and lit up with blue and purple lights. We should of driven around a few times to take in the unusual sight, I was like an excited dog in the passenger seat sticking my head out the window.
We drove towards Bergen and decided it was cheaper to get the train in from Arna, than pay tolls and parking. Bergen is my kind of city – home to only 235,000 people and surrounded by seven hills and seven fjords. It’s best know for Bryggen, the old medieval quarters along the waterfront; A line of brightly painted timber buildings, some slanted and looking like dominoes all lined up in unison.
I thought it was just the fronts of these buildings which were impressive but alleyways led off between them. Along the sides of the buildings were rickety wooden shops and cafés hidden away. Roofs hung above us with pulley hooks and rope dangling down. They were all leaning across one another with undercover balconies and shutters.
It seemed that a lot of the shops sold animal hides. I’m pretty keen in buying a reindeer rug, they are only £70 which is very reasonable, a moose however will set you back about £300 – 400, the rack on a plaque £500 or so. One shop had a whole collection of animals, polar bears, brown bears and wolves all made into rugs, rolled up with the head intact and stuffed. I don’t know what a polar bear – AND it’s cub were doing in a back street taxidermy shop in Bergen? There was a section full of deer, moose and reindeer antlers, and rails of fox scarfs, claws en’ all; I’m sure it would be very warm, and the claws could double up as a weapon should anyone mug you, but unless your Cruella Deville, you’d look ridiculous in one. Amazingly one of the softest fur’s was seal; they had a few different varieties, jet black, grey and spotted, they’d probably make quite a good jacket with the waterproof style fur.
I realised while at Bergen’s popular fish market that this city is not for people into animal rights. I’m a vegetarian, but only because i don’t like the taste or texture. And i know animals are farmed and genetically modified and it’s all rather rank, but, people want their KFC’s so that’s just life. But in Norway, they eat whale. I love – LOVE whales, they are incredible, but here, like in Alaska, they eat them. I’m sure if there was a short supply they wouldn’t be doing it, and I’d hope they use everything of the animal, and make the winter Olympic team outfits from the skin. Signs at the market stalls advertised whale meat, and they had child sized crabs in big water tanks. I asked a seller what type of whale it was “Minke, it’s the smallest type of whale, only 10 meters long” – ‘only’ wow.
There was a salami stall which had free tasters, Craig tried them all, and I tried a bit of the whale salami. When I say a bit, I mean a speck of gristle, it was not pleasant and I regretted eating my bounty bar at lunch and not saving it to get rid of the foul taste in my mouth.