Beautiful Bergen – Part 2

While staying in Bergen we managed to see quite a lot of sites in the few days that we stayed there, and tried to make the most of the long days and various attractions. One of the things which really struck my husband and myself was how well-spoken the Norwegian citizens are, and also how healthy and fit they seem – we spoke to several inhabitants who told us about regular walks up and down the mountain, the beautiful fresh air and various fresh fish they had for meals which was caught by the wharf.

There’s quite a few things which stood out for me in Bergen, so I’ll list some of my favourite below – let me know what you think of these!

Bergenhus Fortress, Rosenkrantz Tower & Haakon’s Hall
One of the things I was looking forward to seeing in Bergen was the historical sites, which were medieval buildings which go back as far as the 13th century. Begenhus Fortress is mainly the hall (Haakon’s Hall) and the Rosenkrant Tower (which is an old keep which used to have dungeons), which ares apparently a throwback to the Viking days, although the Hall was properly used for weddings and feasts from the 13th century. We didn’t get to see inside the Hall because we arrived too late, but we did get to wander around the grounds which we loved (and you can see the inside of the Hall here), where there were plenty of old structures, statues and large walkways to explore.

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Statues
There are several statues around the city of Bergen, which can be found in various spots, some of which are a commentary on society, with a certain message from the artist. The most memorable one was this hidden away, nameless statue of a homeless person below, which is apparently the most photographed statue in the city – it is meant to make the viewer think about why it is there and what it means. There are also several statue tributes to Norwegian historical figures – generals, presidents and well-loved figures whose images are around the city with plaques and scripts. There was one which always made me jump every time I saw it, because I kept thinking it was a real person – it was a statue of a young girl (below) at the corner of a doorway to a McDonalds restaurant – it catches your attention from the corner of your eye and makes you think there is someone standing there waiting for a friend!

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The Bookcafe
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know how much I love quirky libraries and bookshops – I make it a point to look out for beautiful bookstores while abroad and haven’t been disappointed yet! It took me a while to find a pretty bookstore like this one, as I saw a few scattered in different areas but some were shut, and the others were not very memorable. I found this one the day before we left Bergen, with beautiful decoration, hanging books, scripts on walls and seating inside which showed it was a cafe for people to read and relax.

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Town square
I’ve already written about the town square, which is surrounded by colourful hotels and restaurants, and further along the high street you come to the more modern part of the street, which is a street lined with designer shops, and has a giant water-feature with a sort of stone obelisk in the middle, with carvings and statues on it. I loved the carvings along the stone faces of this landmark, it seems to show the story of settlers and Viking boats travelling to new places, as well as various religious pictures which seem to be a big feature with Norwegian history. Similarly, the statues were all dressed in different eras to reflect the different centuries, which looked great.

Anne Madam
One of the biggest problems my husband and I found was the expense of the food – a lot of the normal restaurants ended up costing around £30-40 per person for a normal meal, and even the usual burger-chains like Burger King and McDonalds were pricier than we expected – more than they cost in the UK! Luckily, we managed to find a new restaurant which had opened a few days after our arrival, and which was offering traditional Norwegian food at a discounted price. The traditional food in Bergen is mainly various types of fish, since it is a fishing town, so naturally we wanted to try some, and managed to get some at Anne Madame, which is in the heart of the city opposite the wharf. This plate is a traditional hake and potato pieces which were given with a light tartar sauce and coleslaw, and which was delicious – we loved it enough to come back here again before we left!

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Things to look out for
We went to Bergen in the first week of May, which is  one of the warmest months to visit, and the start of the tourist season – so there is plenty of things happening for tourists to see. We were lucky enough to see a drummer’s parade going through the town (I love the sound of loud drums, it always makes me want to dance!), and found plenty of quirky shops like a moose shop (below), a troll shop (the trolls are not the cute 90s kind but uglier ones!) and shops with beautiful hand-crafted goods and clothes. We also saw a lot of beautiful buildings, mixed against a backdrop of green mountains and beautiful lakes, which made it a really peaceful place to spend the day.

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All in all, my husband and I loved the beauty of Bergen – it is one of those places where you feel like there is every natural beautiful landscape to be found. A friend of mine visited Oslo recently, and complained that it was less beautiful than Bergen – there are most commercial buildings, more lights and less colour, and I certainly agree – there is a lot of beautiful colour and nature to be found in this city.

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Beautiful Bergen – Part 1

Bergen, Norway is one of those places which seems to have everything – beautiful architecture, the sea, mountains, forests and plenty of history. We landed (after a quick 1.5 hour flight!) in Bergen and took a bus to the city centre, where there was plenty of hustle and bustle, among colourful houses, a beautiful harbour and plenty of street art everywhere.

Below are just a few memorable places in the city, we had a few days to explore and pretty much did everything on my itinery (and more!), and loved how colourful everything look.

Bryggen
‘Bryggen’ litterally means ‘wharf’ in Norwegian, and is one of the most iconic places in Bergen – a row of colourful houses along the harbour where plenty of boats and ships dock. Most of these buildings along here are museums and shops, but they are a great place to sit and relax, and look amazing at night. I didn’t manage to get a decent picture of the lights in Bryggen at night because the first few nights we stayed they weren’t switched on (and it poured with rain all night) and the next few nights we didn’t go out late enough – sunsets were around 10.30pm and it wasn’t properly dark until after 11pm!

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You can walk around inside the harbour as well – there’s plenty of old buildings and staircases to explore, with shops, restaurants and museums hidden away. We had great fun exploring these, it was nice to see such old buildings still being maintained – Bergen itself is nearly a millenium in age, and the buildings have been there for about four centuries and more.

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And there’s also a wishing well to look out for, although this is mainly gated off (probably a good thing too, I remember the well in my grandparent’s house in Pakistan having to be barricaded off after a few people fell in the dark without looking where they were going!)

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The Town Square
The town square is a busy meeting place, often filled with market stalls, stops for buses and coaches and surrounded by colourful buildings and restaurants. While staying here we often came to this point to get to other parts of the city, meeting plenty of other tourists, as well as stopping for lunch, dinner or a quick cup of coffee (the Starbucks is in a huge Gothic-style building). This is also at the foot of one mountain (there’s seven mountains in the city altogether) as well at the edge of the high street, which felt like a fun mix of history versus modern, old city and the new.

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Fishmarket
Pretty much self-explanatory, this was a market to buy fresh fish and also get it cooked to eat if you wished to sit down and enjoy a meal. Bergen being a fishing-town, there’s a big demand for fish and a big range of sea-food, as well as tanks of live lobsters, crabs and fish to boggle at!

St Marys Church
I was pretty keen to visit this place, as it is Bergen’s oldest building. We didn’t get a chance to catch a service inside as we arrived too late, but I was amazed at how well-maintained this building is for a building which was built around 1130s. Of course it has been renovated a few times since then, but it’s still a very striking looking building which looks very impressive.

Things to look out for
There’s a lot to see in this city, and a lot of it can be found simply by wandering around Bergen and exploring. I loved this pavilion below, situated opposite an old government building which both looked very striking. We also saw plenty of beautiful flower shops which made me want to buy some to take home (I didn’t because they’d probably be shrivelled by the time I got on our plane!) and also quirky junk shops which were worth exploring. I also loved the fact that from wherever you stand you can see the beautiful houses on the hill, the huge mountains and plenty of art and decor everywhere.

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There’s so many memorable things about this country (apart from the gorgeous colourful houses!) – one things which really struck me was how fresh and clean the air felt – you don’t appreciate it until you get away from a smog-polluted city like London, away from congestion and busy skyscrapers and go to a beautiful place like Bergen. There’s an abundance of greenery, the water feels unbelievably clean, and there’s beauty in almost building, from beautiful arches and doors to the street art lining the street.

More to come, but one of my favourite lines from my husband about this holiday was “the WiFi here is amazing!” – and it really is!

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My Local Lane: Street of High Fashion

I thought I’d try a writing challenge this week, which is about ‘blogging your block‘, that is, about the area we all in live in. I don’t often spend a lot of time wandering around my neighbourhood, especially because I tend to rush home from work, or jump on buses and trains all the way home.

Every now and the20140402_201545n I’ll stop to dawdle in the local shops, particularly the ones which display and sell beautiful Pakistani and Indian style outfits – beautifully draped saris, elegant maxi dresses, blingy abayahs and lovely embroidered shirts which come down to your ankles.

I’ll admit it, I’ve always been a bit of a diva when it comes to clothes. I like having a wardrobe of beautiful things, and I especially love my ‘desi’ wardrobe, that is, my clothes which are more on the Asian-influenced. And I also reluctantly will admit that I probably have too many clothes (somewhere in the world, a Bollywood star is crying and doesn’t know why).

Nevertheless, the Lane that I live near is chock-full of Asian shops with Indian and Pakistani style outfits which are always worth an ogle (and perhaps stepping into the shop for a moment or two doesn’t always hurt either!)

And there’s the flashes of jewellery displayed carelessly all over the display cabinets, draped along luxurious velvet and self-printed silk, beautiful gold-plated rings, jewelled necklaces and stone-embedded purses.

These days, there’s a veritable land of fashion shops lining almost every other doorway, all with  beautiful clothes, blingy jewellery and pretty scarves which all have their own styles and influences. It’s lovely looking through the window glass at the beautiful things (although these days, the more beautiful they are, the less I can afford them) and seeing the vibrant colours.

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I suppose it’s important to me because when I was a child, these shops weren’t there, and the fashions and styles were completely different. When I was a child, my mum used to take myself and my sisters to the local fabric shops to buy several yards of cloth to stitch herself on her sewing machine (which she still has!) and we’d always have the same generic style of stitched kameez (or shirt) with a salwar pyjama (the bottom, pants). Mind you, we still loved it, it was an adventure going to see all the rolls of fabrics lining the shelves while my mum dreamed up our outfits.

These days there are styles which I never imagined wearing – I’ve always worn traditional Pakistani clothes, and I’m always  trying new styles and cuts – but there’s always something else new to look at. I was 22 when I wore my first sari, which was to a close friend’s wedding, and I went for something simple and vibrant (in purple!) These days, there’s every style of sari imaginable, various colours, cuts, embroidery and influences – be it Indian, Pakistani, Bengali or even Western-influenced. When I walk along my local lane of fashion, I’m always getting inspiration, and not just for my wardrobe (although that bulging thing will always keep growing) – it’s a place of art, of beauty, of culture and when you’re fed up of shopping…of food food : )

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Pretty pretty things.