Thursday 3 May 2012

Wood, Fish and Music

It never rains in California, but it always does in Bergen...
This is proof that misjudgments have a long lifespan. A maybe not deep blue but still blueish sky welcomes us to the "Paris of the North". A long history is visible in this place, we are reaching back to King Olaf the Calm in the Viking times. Only a few hundred years later the Hanseatic League installed here one of the most important gateways to the northern waters. At this time, there was only one dirt road, "stretet" - the street. Today the wooden buildings of the Bryggen-Quarter are peacefully gathered together like a herd of friendly houses, some positively cuddling up to each other. Of course they are a main attraction for tourists from all nations, as well as the fish market (where you get so much more than fish fingers and custard) in the harbor, the beautiful architecture, the parklike ambience of the city center, the old fortress, and, and, and...
While the excursions are being sent on their way, the ship is busier than usual: Bergen is one of the main ports for taking provisions, spare parts, equipment, and today - furniture.
All the heavy, really heavy leather armchairs from deck 7 are considered past their prime, so they were replaced by other heavy, really heavy armchairs. No wonder the crew is sweating, getting longer arms by the minute. A lot of activity also on the other decks, but nowhere as much as on the "car"-deck, which is not for cars but for practically everything else. Several teams are scuttling around in order to heave things here, shift other things there, and most of the time all the things are in the way of forklifts, people or - more things... What looks like chaos is actually planned long time ahead, there is not much time to lose.
But that's work, so rather turn your head and focus on the nicer things of life. As for example the lofty heights of Fløien, over the rooftops of Bergen. You can combine this with a city tour or with a healthy walk, up to you. Or you go on the long afternoon excursion, combining two fantastic places: The unique Stave Church of Fantoft, and the place which is the origin of some of the most beautiful piano music ever written - Troldhaugen, home of Edvard Grieg, Norwegian national hero and icon of the Romantic Era.
The Stave church is old, looming and a wonder of intricate woodworks. In its yard a stone cross from the beginning of Christianity, origin unknown. The church had to be rebuilt after a lunatic burnt it down in the 90s. And the stunning fact: They still know how to do it.
Troldhaugen is a paradise, even if your ties to classical music are rather loose. The gnarly, troll-like trees along the alley gave the place the name, and the house is a utterly charming wooden refuge on a promontory overlooking the prettiest part of the Bergen Fjord. Among many others in the old, honorable rooms, there is certainly one central object - Edvard Griegs piano. An old Steinway&Sons, placed close to a cast-iron stove, so the great man wouldn't suffer from chill while playing. Here it is, in this very room these unforgettable, unbelievable compositions were heard for the first time, these wooden walls have witnessed the genius at work. It seems that the room still breathes the harmony Edvard an Nina Grieg had together, him playing, her listening, a scene of great content.
At a slower pace we return to the bus and finally to the ship, images and melodies in mind. As the FRAM sails into the orange light of dusk, the fabulous Crew Show gives the final touch to the day. And - by the way - now it rains, even in Bergen.