We got a call from the shore excursion office letting us know that the tour we had booked for today was cancelled due to low enrollment. Guess our tastes are weirder than we thought. They offered to rebook us on other tours that still had space. We did some research on the web; the wifi hasn’t been too bad on board. And we read the pertinent information on Bergen in the travel book we had downloaded, we concluded that the things we wanted to see in town were doable on our own. We could see where the Serenade would be docked and it all looked walkable.
The Fløibanen Funicular Railway won high praise and was included in many shore excursions, but riding to the top of a mountain for views of the city below would only be worth doing on a sunny day. Judging by our experiences yesterday and the forecast, we didn’t feel optimistic, but when we threw open the curtains this morning, the sky was blue. As the guide book advised we walked to the railway ticket booth as soon as they let us off the ship. Even then we had a 45 minute wait before we got to the top of the mountain. People like us without reservations were intermingled with tour groups. I would have been annoyed if I had paid the big bucks for a tour and had to stand in line as long as walk ups like we were, but we played our cards right today. The views from the mountain top were fabulous and we could see the second largest city in Norway crawling up the steep mountain sides and hugging the winding shore.
In town the farmer’s market sold delectable produce and fresh fish. We could have purchased salamis made out of whale, reindeer or elk. I’m not sure how interested well fed cruisers are in buying more to eat, but it all looked delicious. The tented tourist vendors market was not as large as it looked from above. Norwegians love to dine al fresco and many of the tented areas we could see from the mountain top were outdoor eating venues attached to restaurants.
We walked through Bryggen an area of medieval merchants’ houses from the Hanseatic period, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Many of the buildings are now shops selling everything from amazing sweaters, hats and gloves to souvenirs made out of elk. (For those of you who are not history buffs, the Hanseatic League was a major trading force in the North and Baltic seas for 150 years. They operated like guilds, looking out for each other’s interests, arming their own ships. At their height 170 towns and cities from London to to Moscow were in this trading alliance.)
In the large park right next to where our ship was docked, we walked past Rosenkrantz Tower and Håkon’s Tower. These medieval buildings are being restored so you had to use your imagination to see their previous grandeur.
So, we didn’t learn anything new today, but had a fun time traveling at our own pace and staying in interesting spots as long as they were interesting. This is always a cruise conundrum. Do you take a tour traveling in herds at a pace not your own, learning about an area and its people or do you let serendipity rule the day?