Slow Tourism in Bergen, Norway

Easter in Bergen yielded dark windows and locked doors, but a little creativity wrought answers to what good coffee truly tastes like, how relentless the appetites of sea gulls are, and how Superman in flight sees the world.

For most, the Easter holiday (påske in Norwegian) begins on the Wednesday prior to Maundy Thursday. Owners shut up their businesses in favor of spreading out the Yahtzee board with family and friends or dusting off the skis for a weekend cruising the snowy slopes of Geilo or Lillehammer. For visitors landing in Bergen during this time, such translates to fewer entertainment options and more moments quelling the grumbles of the kids proclaiming that they’re bored and hungry and wanting to swoop back to their Playstations at home.

Successful travelers have vision stronger than the perfect 20/20 score on the eye charts. They can dig into their mental filing cabinets of magic tricks and pull out a card containing the secrets to making any trip worthwhile, even if the shopping bags they toted to town remain relatively empty aside from souvenir shop finds.

The limitations of Easter opened the windows to a zephyr of creativity in my April expedition. Walking down the sleepy streets afforded me plenty of time to consider how much of society expects the universe to hand us a golden ticket containing the perfect amusement itinerary. Bus times, museum opening hours, all laid out in swirling font with suggested time slots inked on the righthand margin. Sometimes, though, life hauls it’s paper shredder from the closet, blows dust off the blades, and instead hands you a quickly scribbled note proclaiming Good Luck and leaving you to your own devices.

A trip need not be devoid of worthiness just because of this little trick. The traveler must sometimes exchange his stiff coat for more flexible attire, so to speak, when hoisting his suitcase into Norway over a sacred holiday weekend or if he simply wants some time to frolic in the meadows of thought and keeping busy without exhausting himself.

I did what I figured was most logical considering my trip’s timing. I pulled my gloves over frosty fingers, lifted my head above my normal line of vision, and painted my own arrows in the sidewalk. Here’s a taste of what I found when I wiped the fog from my glasses.

1. Fløibanen Funicular

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One of Bergen’s prime attractions and opened even during Easter, the Funicular deposits you at the peak of Mount Fløyen after a short crawl up the face of the hills. Sweep your vision from right to left and you’ll spot azure fjords brushing lush pine islands hedged with buildings, the sharp roofs of Bryggen standing guard over ships gently bobbing in the water, the black triangular lid of the Fisketorget (Fish Market), and tiny vehicles pushing along the black yarn streets between anthill homes.

Behind the small gift shop and the quaint white Folkerestaurant, one can tie up his shoes and go for a hike down the hillside. Be mindful: the paths may be light dips in the Earth, or as squiggly and uneven as a tilde. You may also find evidence of witch hunters who clear the forests of unsavory spellweavers – don’t worry, they hide from human eyes and are harmless.

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The sign attached to the tree says “Please don’t disturb the invisible witch hunters.”

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Forego the return ticket on the Funicular and walk your way to even ground. Closer to the base, rows of quaint houses salute your passing and flaunt their pretty faces for your applause.

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2. Kaffemisjonen

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Beneath a simple blue sign lies this espresso-scented gem on Øvre Korskirkealmenning. Bite into a buttery croissant while eyeing the colorful labels stuck to bags of premier Tim Wendelboe coffee and sipping a strong latte to rewarm after a bout atop the mountain.You can choose to sit in one of the plush chairs lined along the left wall, but watching the street and the waving tree branches outside provides a hint of everyday whimsy.

Solo adventurers with books in their backpacks are encouraged to settle back and flip through the crinkly pages of their choice read. Parents with children can lay out coloring pages and quiet the young ones for an hour while engaging one another in peaceful talk. Toes screaming with callouses are often unintended souvenirs of a successful vacation, yet soft skin and warm hearts are less painful markers of the tourist experience, and Kaffemisjonen provides such an experience.

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3. Lille Lungegårdsvannet

IMG_8834Sea gulls caw at and flock around crumbs of bread offered by visitors of this lake, so be careful if you haul your dinner to the benches in front of Lille Lungegårdsvannet’s fountain. Pull out your journal or sketchbook and warm your artistic fingers beneath a glowing sunset: rushing water awakens the poet’s heart and the painter’s internal camera. Brush words or pictures onto a blank surface. Shake off drops of apprehension whenever they slide onto the pages, then continue working until your masterpiece is done. Listen to the spray of water and the laugh of children chasing the flocks of birds, and the high-pitched yells of annoyance from the gulls as they flap indignantly away. Eat a sandwich, throw the crusts to the gulls. Watch as they nosedive with unrestrained delight. Remember that some of the greatest pleasures in life roll up from unexpected places, and apply that to the remainder of your trip, whether you continue to embrace other slow moments of tourism which you find on your own accords, or opt to search for roads with higher speed limits.

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A note on my Instagram: I have now moved to @venturingeast! Follow this page for updates regarding the blog and glimpses into everyday life of Venturing East’s writer, Kellie.

Email: venturingeastblog@gmail.com

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