26 June 2017:
Bergen, Norway:
Mood Swings

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Bergen is the last major port call on this cruise, a charming and sometimes moody place in the southern part of Norway.

Why moody? Well, the people here are almost always unfailingly pleasant and accommodating.

The weather: not so much.

Bergen is a place where you can experience all four seasons. All in one day, that is.

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Moody weather in Bergen. Photos by Corey Sandler

In the morning I walked with Silversea chef David Bilsland and a group of guests from our ship to the Bergen Fish Market on an educational and shopping tour.

Below, Rudolph the Red-nosed Hot Dog

BRYGGEN

Bryggen, on the north side of the bay, was used as a dock and warehouse area by the Hansa between 1350 and 1750.

Here are some photos from today:

Photos by Corey Sandler

AN ANTIQUE MUSEUM

I am a big fan of the Natural History Museum at the University of Bergen. Alas, it is under renovation until 2019. I look forward to returning…but i hope they don’t overdo the renewal.

It was a very old-fashioned museum—think wooden cabinets with specimens pinned in place, stuffed animals of all sort, and huge whale and other skeletons hanging overhead.

Some of the creatures—and the design of the museum—are extinct.

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Bergen Natural History Museum. Photos by Corey Sandler

ABOUT BERGEN

Bergen is home to about 268,000 people in the city itself and 394,000 in the surrounding area.

It is thus the second-largest city in Norway, behind only Oslo, although the capital city is much more populous: 1.4 million.

Oh, and a whole bunch of fish.

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FISH MARKET

The great fish market occupies the center of the horseshoe-shaped harbor; in modern times the market has been extended from outdoor stalls to a handsome indoor building.

The fish is about as fresh and tasty as you’ll find anywhere, and all you need to do is look hungry to be offered a sample of smoked salmon or boiled crab or fish chowder.

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King Crab at the Bergen Fish Market

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This guy looks quite surprised at the situation he has found himself in. It’s an Ure fish, which means red fish, similar to red snapper.

MY GUILTY SNACK

One other point worth noting: Norway is one of the few countries that still hunts whales for meat. (The others include Iceland, Japan, and a few tiny island nations.)

Norway catches a few hundred Minke whales, mostly in waters at the northern end of the nation.

Minke whales are not considered an endangered species, although their numbers—like all other varieties of whales—are greatly reduced.

My wife and I live on Nantucket Island, which for a period of time in the 19th century was the whaling capital of the world. It was the Saudi Arabia of whale oil.

But the whalers who left from our island on voyages of as much as three or four years did not eat the whale meat. All they wanted was the oil as well as baleen and whale bone.

And today, although Nantucket celebrates its heritage as a whaling port (including the fine Nantucket Whaling Museum), it is at the forefront of a nearly-universal boycott against the harvesting of whale for meat today.

Although I have been to Norway, Iceland, Japan, and Arctic Canada many times, until a few years ago I had never tried whale meat.

Reason 1: Political correctness.

Reason 2: Have you ever seen whale meat? It is enough to make you seriously consider vegetarianism.

But on a tour of the fish market, we were offered samples of king crab and gravlax and codfish caviar and fish chowder.

And then, a platter of small pieces of smoked whale.

I hesitated…and then took a bite.

It tasted a bit like beef or caribou. Not bad.

But I felt guilty about it. And I promise never to do it again.

There are other foods to explore without the worry of losing my credentials in the upright citizens brigade.

All photos and text Copyright 2017 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

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