We pulled Messenger right up to the pier along the Bryggen wharf which has been a vibrant and important area of Bergen for many centuries. Bergen was a major European trading and seafaring port dominating trade starting in the late 1300’s for almost 400 years. The very first buildings in Bergen were situated at Bryggen which has been ravaged by many fires, the great fire of 1702 in particular reduced the whole city to ashes. It was rebuilt however on the foundations that had been there since the 12th century which makes Bryggen unchanged despite the passing of centuries. We explored Bergen by foot, strolling around old streets and alleyways with small wooden houses and cobbled streets with stone steps in the steepest parts, it felt surreal to be in a place where people have lived for centuries, especially for Jay who had never been to Europe. It reminded me of when we arrived to New York City a place which Jay had also never been to before and to which he also arrived by sail, a true modern sailor exploring the world “the good old fashioned way”.
When coming to Norway we were told to be prepared to live in our foul-weather (rain) gear, it is a place known to rain a lot but lucky for us Jay has become quite the weather man and timed it so that we would arrive right between 2 low pressures enjoying the calm of a high, 4 out of the 5 days we spent in Bergen were sunny warm days. On one of these days when we were stepping off of Messenger a news reporter approached us with their camera man asking if they could interview a meteorologist aboard our boat, which of course we consented to, everyone in Bergen seamed impressed by the good weather they were experiencing. To escape the city saturated with tourist we walked up from the city center to the top of the Fløyen mountain along a meandering dirt path covered in trees. After spending a year in tree barren places it was strange to be surrounded by tall trees, we were all looking up the entire walk, even Ártico was in awe, these were perhaps the first trees he ever saw in his half year life. At the top we had a picnic at a small lake called Skomakerdiket, it was a lovely time in nature and walking distance from the city center.
Around 5 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon we left Bryggen wharf, there was going to be an event the next day for which we needed to vacate the pier. We sailed for a few hours and found an anchorage right before sundown. The next day Jay and the girls went to explore on land, I decided to stay onboard with Ártico which I am glad I did because as they reached shore it began to pour down rain, they returned soaked since they hadn’t worn their foul-weather gear. Jay made a lovely dinner with lamb he had bought in Bergen and we hunkered down to watch a movie, Jay even made caramel popcorn.
The following morning after breakfast we pulled up anchor and sailed further on south. It is lovely to sail in flat protected waters around islands, something we have not enjoyed since the Caribbean. Our passages, since we left the Caribbean, have been long and in open ocean, therefore the change of anchor hoping was enjoyable. We picked another anchorage at sunset and stayed there for 2 nights.
We went on foraging expeditions on land and came back with wild mushrooms, mussels and periwinkles on which we feasted on for days.
Winds were defined by calms most of the days as we continued sailing south along the Norwegian coast. We pulled into Leirvík, a small town in the Stord municipality, to wait for more wind. Located between the two big cities of Bergen and Stavanger, Stord is in the centre of a powerful west coast making it a strong industrial community. There were no other sailboats at the guest docks but in the following days boats began to fill up the docks, they had come for the annual Windjammer race, a regatta that has been held there for 33 years and marks the end of their sailing season each year. Jay talked to the organizers and they welcomed us into the race even waiving the entry fee. So on Saturday October 3rd we woke up to a hustling harbor with everyone scrambling to get out to the start line. It was a beautiful sunny day but there was hardly any wind. Our neighboring boat Ventus gave us a tow out to the starting line, it was beautiful seeing about 50 boats with their sails up. I would say that 90% of the sailboats we encounter while sailing are actually motoring regardless of the wind conditions, we even see boats motoring in lovely downwind conditions, here in Norway this enthusiastic group of sailors calls them “stick motorboats”. The race was a blast, the girls sang their “Sponsorship Song”, Ártico slept through it and Jay toke first place in our class. Should I mention there were only 2 boats in our class?, forget it, it was our first race as a family and we won.
Our next stop was Haugesund, a charming coastal town with shops, cafés and bars but with a character that is an unmistakable reminder of the herring industry on which the town was built. For more than 3000 years vikings controlled the shipping traffic that sailed in and out of the channel known as “the way to the north” and which would later give its name to Norway. The region was the centre of power for princes and kings for thousands of years, it was easy for them to control marine traffic there. We strolled along Norway’s longest pedestrian street but weren’t there long enough to see much more.
Our final stop in Norway was Stavanger, an international town with a cozy atmosphere, a quaint downtown with small stone pedestrian roads meandering their way around town in an old European fashion. We also didn’t stay there long, just long enough to provision the boat with enough food for our 4 day passage to Germany. We arrived in Stavanger on the last day of the Nuart Festival celebrating their 15th anniversary, it’s an annual independent contemporary street and urban art festival which has achieved worldwide status. Walking around we got to see some of the artists works on the city’s walls.
The girls also got to play in a very unique public city playground constructed with recycled equipment such as large fenders, fish containers, trawl doors, satellite dishes, all put together in a very functional and playful way.
We enjoyed great weather in nature and lovely towns while in Norway for the two and a half weeks we were there but somehow we didn’t get a chance to know it’s people. People where always kind and helpful, we met a few interesting fellows but in general the Norwegians seamed shy and reserved. We never got to see how they live and experience “the locals” which is always our favorite part about visiting a new place on earth, to get to know it’s people.