Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series.
A friend in Oslo told me that the word Norway meant heading toward the north from Sweden and the name stuck to the entire country. Norway is similar to Sweden in many ways. They share the same Scandinavian heritage and their languages are similar enough that each can understand the other. They share the same border. Unfortunately, both are also very expensive places to visit and, in fact, it seemed Norway was even more expensive than Sweden. One U.S. dollar equals 6.70 Swedish kronas, whereas $1 will only get 5.67 Norwegian kroner. When we were flying into Bergen on SAS, I asked the flight attendant who was serving liquid refreshments, for a Coke. What a shock to learn that it cost $5.
In preparation for this visit, I read www.visitBergen.com/en. It is an excellent and concise source for all the information one might need. Upon enquiry to the Bergen Tourist Board, Linn Kjos Falkenberg, their information and marketing coordinator, wrote to me and provided me with the Bergen card (a VIP card that is issued to journalists) which provides free public transportation and free or discounted admission to most museums and attractions. The card is valid for 24 or 48 hours and can be obtained at their huge Tourist Information Office close to the UNESCO World Heritage site area of old Bergen along the harbor. One can also visit www.about.com and type Bergen in the search box for additional interesting travel tips.
Ms. Falkenberg also arranged a discounted stay at Augustin Hotel, the oldest family-run full service hotel. Their Altona Winebar was seeped with history about the traders who gathered here for drinks and food. After dining there, one can understand why it has prospered all these years. It is also within walking distance to Old Bergen.
There are some bed and breakfasts such as Skuteviken Guest House that had room rates below $100 and earned high marks on tripadvisor.com, but there was no time during my short visit to inspect it. This information is provided mainly to illustrate that through careful searching on the Internet, one may discover bargains in accommodations.
Bergen is an absolutely delightful, colorful city to visit. The picturesque Old Bergen Hanseatic buildings are reminiscent of houses in Amsterdam; the fish market is like visiting Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco or Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. Another advantage is that the city’s interesting sites are located in a compact area.
A dinner at Cornelius Restaurant, located about a half hour free boat ride from Bergen on the island of Bjoroy, is noted for having the freshest possible seafood since the owner goes scuba diving that morning to gather scallops, lobsters and other prey and puts them into holding tanks at his restaurant. A scallop appetizer, redfish entrée and raspberry sorbet dessert exceeded $200! I received a 50 percent discount with my Bergen card, but would not repeat for this price.
Another day of strolling through the fish market for lunch brought more sticker shock to see: fish and chips costing $20, a small basket of berries for $25, pizza for $40, two pieces of maguro in a sushi restaurant menu for $16 and even a McDonald’s hamburger for $16. The same high price extended to clothing. Norwegian knitted sweaters were being sold for $400 to 600. One store had some in the $200 range and the sales associate confided to me they were made in China, but could say made in Norway because the clasps were added there. Breakfasts are frequently free with hotel stays and if the one at the Augustin is representative, they are bountiful affairs with many varieties of pickled herring, lox, egg dishes, cold cuts, cereals and fruits. Eat hearty.
Hop on hop off buses may be ridden for a discount with the Bergen pass and included the standard double decker buses and a motorized “train” on wheels that toured different areas of the town. A popular funicular to the top of Bergen had long lines, but those who took the trip were rewarded with magnificent views of Bergen city and its harbor.
Another not to be missed visit is the famous Norwegian fjords and the many waterfalls along their sheer walls. A visit to the town of Balestrand via a smooth, fast catamaran and then a transfer to a ferry to visit the glacier museum in Fajaerland and a nearby glacier make for a pleasant day trip from Bergen. The glacier is retreating as evidence of global warming.
Edvard Grieg, the beloved and famous Norwegian composer had his home here in an area called Troll Hill. It is a scenic, serene spot overlooking a lake. A small concert hall and museum has been added. I was fortunate to be there when Taiwanese pianist Ivan Lin (professionally known as Ivan L.), winner of the 2010 Grieg Concours, played a concert. Music lovers should check the tourist office for a schedule of frequent free concerts there that may even include transportation from that office and back.
There are some art museums here, but nothing exceptional. If time and interest permits, a Leprosy Museum here honors Dr. Gerhard Hansen, who discovered the bacillus that causes the disease. He went so far as to try to infect himself, a colleague and nurses, but was finally fired when he tried to infect a patient.
Las Vegas Tidbits
Champion bowler Nori Sugita nee Shiozaki, a longtime Las Vegas resident originally from the Montebello/East Los Angeles area, asked why I only write about newer Japanese restaurants. One of her favorites is Fuji Restaurant, 3430 E. Tropicana Ave., Ste. 30, Las Vegas, Nev. (702) 435-8838. (It is closed on Mondays, and only open for dinner on Sundays.)
I tried it and it was like hitting the jackpot. They serve the usual Japanese dishes and nothing fancy like Raku, but the selections are all tasty and incredibly reasonable. Owner/chef Ken Tsuji is originally from Fukuoka, Japan and has been here since 1986. The only downside is that it is located far back in the north part of a huge shopping center at the northeast corner of Tropicana and Pecos and is not easy to see. Also, the décor is plain. It is definitely worth a detour. Did I mention the extremely low prices for delicious food?
If readers have other suggestions, please write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Kaeru Kid lives in Las Vegas and hopes readers will send him comments at KaeruKid@yahoo.com.
Accuracy is fundamental in journalism. In the Nov. 3 – 9, 2011 issue of the Nichi Bei Weekly, the article entitled “Norway” erroneously stated that Fuji Restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays. It is only closed on Mondays, and only open for dinner on Sundays. Furthermore, the Bergen Card that was issued to the Kaeru Kid is a VIP card for journalists. Tourists will not receive a 50 percent discount at Cornelius Restaurant. Hop on hop off buses may be ridden for a discount; they are not complimentary. The Nichi Bei Weekly regrets the errors.