Here the rarity of the sun’s visits
Is like a miracle,
Coloring shores and harbors bright blue,
And that Summer sea seems to turn
Us cold-beaten Northerners back into ourselves
Making us yearn for human companionship.
White-painted wooden houses stand on gentle slopes on the green, wildflower hills of the southern coastscape of Norway. We locals call it simply «Sørlandet» meaning “Southland”.
All around, in every nook and cranny, the greenest grass you have ever seen creep up; emerald and windswept for the three months of summer.
June brings a flush of warmth and there are daisies in every possible patch of green; beside brooks, trails and roads.
Then, later in the summer, the trees ripen and spread their leafy branches up to the doorsteps of the white houses and the villages become lighthouses in a sea of green.
Two miles down the narrow road, just out of sight of the village, lays the sea. Here the scene changes. Large, open cliffs give way to little beaches and Sea Pinks and tiny streams looking for home.
Little lost islands, much smaller than they look, without shops or schools, dot the horizon. The only thing you might find here is a mooring pole crouched behind a cluster of Sea Pinks. Centuries of use has worn it down to a rusted sunset, yet it still clings fast to the land.
Next comes the farms, buried so deep in wheat fields and strawberry patches you can only see the rooftops from the road. Surrounded by open oldtime iron gates, these farms greet you with signs of self-picking strawberries and a rusted box for change.
This, with the schools, Farmers Markets and white wooden churches surrounded by windy birches, make up the Southland. Even with a few towns strung out by the seaside, it is still a land sunk in greenery and wildflowers, spun by its inhabitants, of love and unfailing kinship.
Bergen is the second largest city in Norway. It is located on the West coast and is popularly known as “The gateway to the fjords” as it is situated in the heart of Fjord county. This means that Bergen is, especially in Summer, bustling with tourists from all over the world. Cruise ships are always docked in the harbor during the Summer months and you will almost be lucky if you hear Norwegian being spoken in the streets! 😄
Bergen is known as a university city and this was also the city where I went to university to study psychology. This was a very challenging time in my life. I had just come back from working as a volunteer in the slums and villages of India and I was mentally exhausted. I was very young and needed to be around friends, family and feel loved and safe after the challenges of being in India for so long. But I chose instead to move to a city where I had never been, all by myself without knowing anyone there.
I have always felt like going back to Bergen because I felt that I couldn’t really appreciate the city when I lived there. I was too absorbed in my own challenges and homesickness to actually see the beauty of Bergen and truly experience the city.
So this summer I made the decision to actually go through with my long awaited plans and jumped on a bus from Stavanger to the city of my college days. And I am so happy I did!
Bergen is a stunning city! Perhaps even the most exciting city in Norway. It is a lot smaller than the capital city, Oslo, but big enough to feel like you are actually in a metropolitan city with an urban culture. Yet, you will still feel its soul right away.
Bergen has a long and exciting history which you can see proof of in the beautiful architecture. It is also the home to some of Norway’s most famous cultural personalities like the composer Edvard Grieg. His house has been turned into a museum and is popular with tourists from all over the world.
Bergen is a cozy city with lot of parks scattered all over town. There is the famous City Park and the lesser known University Park. Here you will find locals soaking up the sun whenever it is out. Bergen is known by Norwegians as being the rainiest city in Norway so the sun is a very rare but welcome guest here.
Cafes, restaurants and pubs fill the streets and dot the entire harbor line. Norwegians prefer doing everything outside in summer as the weather is just too cold the rest of the year, so you will not find many people sitting inside the different eateries in the summer months.
When I lived in Bergen I loved walking around a very particular neighborhood called “Fjellveien” meaning “Mountain Street”. It is a cluster of houses hanging tight to the steep hillside from the mountain called “Fløyen” down to the harbor. This neighborhood is known for its small wooden houses painted in white, red, yellow and blue. The little lanes are always cobbled and narrow, often with stone staircases taking you to the next terrace of homes.
I love hiding away here just watching life go by. Most tourists are attracted to the famous warf and city park and few find their way to the more hidden gems of Bergen where you can breathe and really feel the soul of the city.
In Summer there are flowers everywhere in Norway. When Norwegians want to beautify a city they use flowers. And Bergen is a perfect example of this. Everything is in full bloom. It is lovely to just sit down on a park bench and smell the roses 😊.
The University Park is a lot less crowded than the City Park. It is a little oasis where you can sit by the water lily pond and rest and dream. I can’t believe this magical place is just next door to my college! And I never saw it. It says a lot about my mental state at the time.
The area around the university is filled with the colorful trace of Bergen’s rich history. Mansions from the 1800s dominate this part of the city. I can never have enough of these gorgeous houses and quiet, often empty streets, just right next to the bustling city.
I can walk here for hours just imagining life as it once was. Children of rich prominent shipping lords playing in their Sunday best while suited men smoke cigars in their luxurious sitting rooms and ladies in white dresses and parasols strolling up and down the street.
Bergen is really a magical city and it has now lent its magic to me too. I no longer get a slight cringe inside when I think of this beautiful city. It rather makes me smile! I will never forget this time in my life and how I felt because it helped make me who I am today, but now I will no longer associate that pain with Bergen, and I can rather say: I ❤️ Bergen!