By Shereen Shabnam
Exploring the area of the Northern lights and the midnight sun is on the bucket list of every traveler and Norway is home to this and some of mother nature’s most scenic landscapes of towering mountains, rolling green hills and dark cobalt waters.
Bergen is possibly my favourite area – On reaching Norway, get to the Oslo railway station and board the train for about 300km to Bergen, the gateway to the fjords. The ride is one of the most scenic train journeys in the world with mountain ranges where abundant snowfall feeds the glaciers.
In the distance, the icy summits of the mountains show the phenomenal melting of glaciers to remove ice load, cutting a U-shaped valley and like most of nature’s show pieces, the formation of fjords is a continuous work in progress.
There is so much joy in wandering the tangled maze of streets through several quarters clinging to the hillside on the Nordnes peninsula – Head to the World Heritage Site by the old Bryggen wharf and enjoy the fjords and islands surrounded by seven mountains with Mount Ulriken as the highest point at 700m above the sea level.
The vibrance of this tourist area, the sounds of the seagulls and water birds hovering above the quay add vigour to the atmosphere and the area near the fish market affords easy access to Mount Floyen for a spectacular view of the city.
Bergen is a city of culture and a 1,000-year-old history of harmonious living with the sea, fjords and mountains. It was founded by King Olav Kyrre and become the medieval centre of Norway from 1217 to 1299, when Oslo was oriented the country’s modern capital. By the end of the 13thcentury, Bergen became one of the Hanseatic League’s most important cities to the house state officials.
Bergen was established late 1300 as the centre of trading activity in Norway. The Saxon Hanseatic merchants lived in their own separate quarters in the town and enjoyed exclusive right of trade with the fisherman in the north that sailed to Bergen each summer.
The interesting Hanseatic Museum, located close to the fish market, shows how the German merchants used to live and work. Today, the soul of Bergen, the Bryggen is a jumbled labyrinth of narrow streets with shops and houses in pastel colors of the old part quayside.
It is great to explore deeper into the fjords to experience a total scene of adventure in a surprisingly stunning and intact natural ecosystem. The fjords offer a full range of tourist’s activities: trekking, hiking, biking, caving, canoeing, angling and an encounter with local cultures to boot.
You can also head to Flam, which literally means “little place between steep mountains”, nestled in the innermost part of the Aurlandsfjord. The harbor district offers nature-based activities with nearby attractions, charming culture, historic traditions and is lined with low-rise hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops.
After Flam, cruising through Godvangenfjord, past several villages, enjoy the landscape with hillsides and blooming wild flowers. Next stop is stunning Hardangerfjord. Here, visitors can hire boats to visit nearby villages and explore the farming culture. The local tribes, their lifestyle, clothing, cuisine and dance are one of the great attractions in Hardangerfjord as well as landscapes like fjords, glaciers, waterfalls and lush mountains.
Also known as fruit bowls of Norway; the region produces some of the world’s most delicious apples, plums, apricots, cherries and a wide variety of berries. Take an excursion to Hardaner Vidda Natursenterat Eidfjord. Housing a museum, restaurant and souvenir shop, this complex is a must visit.
Revitilised, return to Bergen, home of the regional music genius: Edvard Grieg who lived in the locality of the picturesque Nordaas Lake. His works are commonly performed in the theaters in town.
The best way to end the journey is by watching the sun slowly cooling down at the dusk, lighting the facade of heritage buildings and transforming Bergen into a fairy-tale town at sunset.