I have a few days to delight in this city before it is off to cabins somewhere unknown...
... a few days in which to try to know this place. It feels small enough to know and walk. I’ve learned to not complain about the weather—of course it rains on the west coast of Norway! The Afghan taxi driver loves it! “When it’s wet tourists want a taxi. When it’s sunny, I take a day off.”
The city teems with history.
It’s best to ignore the cruise ship and tourist crowds and shops and just explore the museums. A walking tour guide helps me understand how after the plague destabilized the structure of Norway, German merchants could monopolize the fish industry with the Hanseatic League. How the reformation tore down monasteries and Catholic churches. How fires ripped through the old lovely buildings on the wharf of Bryggen and how they are continually being restored now as a UNESCO world Heritage site.
Here are pictures from the Bergenhus Fortress and the Rosenkrantz Tower where an exhibition on King Magnus tells of the 1279 law of piteable persons – that everyone is to have food.
Hakon’s Hall of 1247.
The famous leprosy hospital (Dr. Hansen of Bergen studied the disease—in fact, it is named Hansen’s disease.) where the court-yard make me feel safe.
It’s a great walking city.
Start at the Fish Market with your over-whelming choice of seafood delights.
Then up the hill behind it for vibrantly colored houses that don’t have to match each other, just a row of pretties.
Then find the surprises of sculptures, and fountains. They depict the dichotomy that I find in Norway – of the pure elements of rock and ice and water...
...and then the celebration of sun and flowers and dance and family.
In them I look for the Norwegian character.
Strong enough to survive the tough winter, short growing season and little horizontal land for cultivation. Profoundly egalitarian in its social democracy and commitment to food, shelter, good pensions and healthcare for all. Originally poor with dramatic immigration to the US and now the eighth richest country in the world with state-owned oil resources that are used to help fund national pension funds.
When I find another sculpture in a little park and ask these happy neighborhood girls if they are really supposed to be leaping from rock to rock, they gleefully yell, “Yes!” Happy children with antics tolerated by adults, they are the mountain goats who use the challenges of the elements for athletic prowess!
No need to beg -- healthcare, education and jobs for all.
I’m told by a guard at KODE art galleries that there is no need for anyone to beg in Norway anymore, that the rare beggar is shipped in from Eastern Europe and takes the money back home. I only see one man that I can pity – he has made his own galoshes!
And even though Norway is not part of the EU, it is doing a wonderful job taking in politcal refugees and doing its best to integrate them - no small task.
And even though taxes are high, from all I've observed so far, it appears to be a very sane society and a gorgeous country!
Keep wandering the city and you’ll find wall art and more places to love.
The more I explore the longer I want to stay.
But, upward and onward to a ferry and a waiting friend and an island cabin somewhere.