Hiking around Bergen, Norway
From street level, Bergen is clearly a beautiful city. The old castle and fortifications at one end connect water with land and history with modern day. From there, you can almost trace the passage of time – past the old wooden wharf buildings at Bryggen, through the old town, past the modern shopping centres, and out to the sprawling suburbs.
But it’s the environment Bergen is set in – not simply the typical Scandinavian development – that makes it so pleasing to the eye. Looking down from almost every perspective are green mountains with white clouds as crowns. Sometimes I think they look like they are protecting the city, steep and impenetrable. Other times I think it’s more like they are embracing the houses below, the green trees like the soft fur of a loving pet.
I am spending a few days in Bergen and the thing I learn quickly is that you can’t really get a sense of the city without also going up to the mountains. It’s not only about the view you get from the top (which is fantastic and worth the journey alone) but because nature and urbanity are connected here in Bergen. Physically, the houses rise up the mountain slopes and it’s not clear where the suburbs end and the forest begins. Culturally, the residents see the mountains as their backyards so weekends and sunny evenings are often spent here doing some kind of outdoor activity.
The most popular mountains to explore are to the northeast of the old town of Bergen and are accessible with a funicular right from the centre of the main tourist area up to Mount Fløyen. A one way ticket costs 43 NOK (US$5) and the ride up takes about 5 minutes. It is also possible to walk up the road from this point to the main viewing platform area and that would probably take about 30 minutes.
It’s busy when I get to the top. There are plenty of tourists taking photos of the city below from the edge. There are also a couple of shops and a restaurant that people are having a look at. Most people are not venturing much further from here, though. They’re making a mistake.
I can understand why a group of tourists would not want to go wandering off into the forest on their own – but there is a hidden beauty here that is so easily accessible from a big city. Just minutes from the centre of Bergen, you can be hiking past lakes, through trees, and towards scenic lookouts.
It’s what I do – for several hours, in fact. With no set plan, I set off with several friends to explore the nature of the mountains that lies beyond the funicular station where too many people have remained. We start in one direction and come to a small lake where you can hire canoes at certain times of the day. From there, we choose a random direction and start to go cross-country up a hill that brings us to a larger path. We take this in one direction and choose a new direction each time there is a fork.
Here is a map of the route we ended up hiking above Bergen:
My feeling is that most of the other people along the way are locals. There are some who are jogging, some walking their dogs, some having loud and animated conversations with friends. If this is the backyard of the city’s residents, they are clearly making the most of it.
I would like to now share with you some more photos from this walk through the nature on the edge of Bergen. As you can see, there are slightly different landscapes along the route that I took. If you are ever in town, I would recommend taking some time to do a walk up here. You can make it as short or as long, and as easy or as difficult, as you like. Either way, the crisp clean air and the stunning surroundings will make it worth the trip up the slopes.