As any science PhD student can probably tell you, having things to look forward to at the weekends are what gets you through the days when science seems to be taking it all out on you.
So this past weekend I jetted off with my mum for a brief holiday away to Norway. The trip was a Christmas present to anywhere in Europe for a weekend so I chose Bergen, Norway. A 1.5hr plane trip from Gatwick took us straight to Bergen and 30 minutes later we were right in the middle of the city. Our lodging for the weekend was a hostel 5 minutes from the old fishing port. Hostelling is an amazing way to save money as well as meet other travellers and we managed to stay in the best hostel in Norway! In our room we had one Argentinian lady who had been travelling through Ireland, Scotland and now finishing her trip in Norway; we wouldn’t have met her in a hotel!
Bergen, previously known as Bjørgvin, is the second biggest city in Norway after Oslo and is also known as the ‘city among the seven mountains’ due to its surrounding hills. It was on Saturday we ventured up one of these hills, Fløyen. A 10 minute funicular ride can take you straight to the top, but we opted for the 3km hike to the top and were rewarded with amazing views across the city and sea below. A definite must visit spot in Bergen.
You can’t travel to Norway without visiting the fjords either, so on our second day we took a 3 hour boat trip up Osterfjorden to Mostraumen. The views were stunning with steep fjords surrounding the boat and waterfalls aplenty as the last of the snow was melting off the highest peaks. Full day trips up some of the bigger fjords were also available if you had a bit more time to spend but a half day trip was perfect for our weekend visit.
The old houses along the port, the tall ship in the harbour as well as wondering up and down some of the little alleyways between houses trying to pronounce the street names, were also a must do whilst in Bergen. With only 1,586 sunhours in 2016, Bergen has reputation for being a very wet city. Luckily we had clouds and only a few showers but definitely wrap up especially if you take the trip to the fjords. 300 ferries visit Bergen a year so you’ll need to pick your days well to not bump into the many passengers flooding the town. An evening stroll along the front, when the ferries have departed gives you a better impression of the calm-natured city.
Overall, Norway gave the impression of being a very calm-natured, healthy country, clean and ordered with friendly locals. They did seem to love a Mr Whippy covered in cocoa powder though, much like we would have sprinkles! Norway has a reputation for being expensive and certainly the restaurants and bars were expensive, particularly along the tourist main streets. But supermarket food was reasonably priced, so making meals in the hostel or having picnics sat by the port, was a great way to save a bit more money. As for the cuisine, they had the most amazing selection of homemade breads and pastries; cinnamon buns, fish and liquorice were all seen aplenty!
So on a budget, Norway can be done with relatively cheap flights, a hostel stay, supermarket lunches and dinners. We left on Saturday morning and arrived home Monday afternoon, having walked over 35km, eaten our fair share of flatbrød (think cardboard like wafer style bread) and thoroughly enjoyed an amazing weekend away. Now back to that thing called science again!