Kiss the Bergen Rain

Here now in Bergen, where rain is rumored to fall 200 days a year. I arrived today from Copenhagen for an experimental conference that will run from tonight until Saturday night and currently staying at one of the cheaper conference hotel options; although most fellow participants I’ve talked to at the reception earlier have decided to stay at AirBNB places. THAT – ladies and gentlemen – is how pricey Norway is. It costs an arm and a leg!

This is my second time in Bergen. The first time I was here for a job interview. I flew from Hawai’i to Los Angeles to Copenhagen to Bergen, arrived at night, woke up early in the morning for a faculty meet-and-greet, presented my research after lunch, had dinner with the faculty after, went back to my hotel to sleep, woke up very early in the morning to fly to Copenhagen to Los Angeles to Hawai’i. I was exhaustipated! And I felt really bad that I did not get to see and explore the city. So now that I am back, I cannot wait to see where my feet will lead me; and which charming alleys I will get a chance to discover. But oh… if only the rain would stop!!!

Despite the heavy rains today, I did get to experience a bit of Bergen history. Our opening reception was at Håkon’s Hall, a 750 year-old medieval stone hall in Bergen. It was built by King Håkon Håkonssøn and was first used during Håkon’s son, Magnus, marriage on September 11 (yes, it’s really 9/11!), 1261. Reception drinks and a bit of finger food were served inside the hall. Acoustics were not as good as a I thought. In fact, I had trouble hearing what the person from a small table across me was saying. But it was a wonderful feeling to be in the presence of such history, to walk the same halls that royalty walked. It was surreal.

Tomorrow, the nerdy part of the conference commences, after a light lunch. I look forward to more interesting Bergen history, and to having more to say about the place in the future blog posts! And definitely, definitely looking forward to kissing the Bergen rain. 😉

August 31, 2016 | Bergen, Norway

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From Hven

I wrote in an earlier post that I was going to Hven (see here). Well, I’ve been there. Just arrived actually. Sweaty, tired and extremely satisfied. So… before my short term memory gets replaced by “things of importance”, let me write about my experience. Ahora mismo.

There are many ways to get to Hven from Copenhagen. Google maps recommend traveling up to Helsingor, crossing to Helsingborg, traveling down to Landskronna and then taking the ferry to Hven. An easier alternative – which is what my department and I did – is to take M/S Jeppe from Havnegade 39. M/S Jeppe leaves Copenhagen at 9:15 am every day in the summer and sails back back from Hven to Copenhagen at 4:30 pm. They serve breakfast going to Hven and Danish pastries coming back. Since one-way travel time is around an hour and 30 minutes, that leaves 5  hours of galavanting.

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M/S Jeppe at Havnegade 39

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Abroad M/S Jeppe to Hven, and having brunch

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Limestone cliffs, as seen during our approach of Hven

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Bäckviken

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Boats docked at Bäckviken

Upon arriving at Hven, we walked up a hill to claim our yellow bicycles. The yellow bicycles that Hven is famous for is the cheapest among the available bikes. It costs 90 SKK and only has 1 gear. There are, of course, other types of bikes available (click here for more info on bikes in Hven and their corresponding prices); but since we were in Hven, why not. To be perfectly honest though, it was a pain biking with just one gear and my pride suffered a blow each time I pushed my bike uphill.

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Yellow bicycles for rent

We biked from the bike rental place to the Tycho Brahe Museum. There, we had an hour long guided tour on the life and works of Tycho Brahe, followed by a champagne on the lawn right beside Stjerneborg. Lunch was less than a 10-minute bike ride away, at the Spirit of Wine. We had a buffet lunch with a salad bar, herring, pork and a bottle of local lager. After lunch, we took our bicycles and rode it along the island’s coast. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of that, but I have for everything else. I guess, on that last leg on the island, we had too much fun to stop for photos.

I really, really wanted to take photos of the fields and the scenic views we saw while biking. But time did not permit. Neither did taking advantage of the downhill speed to make the uphill easier.

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Tycho Brahe’s measuring instruments

Bottomline, Hven was an amazing experience. If you haven’t been there, I would most definitely recommend it for a day trip. The island is very small. Some colleagues of mine were able to bike around the island in less than 2 hours. I would definitely love to visit Hven again. Maybe, next time, for some much needed rest and relaxation.

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The port at Kyrkbacken

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Gorgeous views at Kyrkbacken

August 26, 2016 | Copenhagen, Denmark

To Hven

I’m going to Hven for a faculty excursion in a few days; and other than the information provided by the excursion organizers in my department, I have absolutely no idea what to expect from this little island off the coast of Denmark, right on the Øresund Strait. Hven is a contested territory (still is, according to my Danish colleagues), despite legally belonging to Sweden. The Swedes took control of the island in 1658 when Scania was ceded to Sweden under the Treaty of Roskilde. However, many Danes at that time claim that Hven was in fact not part of Scania but of Zealand and therefore, was still under Danish rule. On May 6, 1658, Swedish troops were sent to the island to defend it against the Danes and on 1660,  the official transfer of Hven to Sweden was made under the Treaty of Copenhagen. My Danish colleagues seem to enjoy calling Hven “technically” a Swedish territory.

According to Google Maps, this small, 7.5 square km island with just 715 inhabitants is closer to Denmark than to Sweden. Other than national pride, I cannot think of any other reason why Sweden wanted it enough to send troops. Neither can I think of any other reason why Denmark wanted it enough to reject Sweden’s ownership of it after signing the Treaty of Roskilde. It makes for a good historical site though. Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe, built two observatories here – Uraniborg and Stjerneborg. Many also think that Johannes Kepler spent time on the island.

SO. Being the mastermind planner that I am, I have made a list of interesting things to see and do in Hven. There won’t much personal time during this trip, but we do get a few hours in the afternoon to do whatever it is that we want to do. So, while my colleagues go for a swim on warm summer waters [ahem!], maybe I can do a mini-historical/cultural tour of my own. Here’s my list:

  1. Tycho Brahe Museum which houses a Rennaisance garden where Brahe’s reconstructing the garden at Brahe’s Uraniborg Castle, the Stjerneborg Observatory, and an interactive weather station from the 16th century.
  2. Church of Saint Ibb, a 13th century church whose front altar was designed by Tobias Gemperlin and donated by Tycho Brahe
  3. Spirit of Hven Backafallsbyn for food and drinks 🙂
  4. Beaches and the yellowish limestone cliffs the island is famous for.

I also created a Pinterest board for Hven (click here). We shall see how much I can see and do from this list, shall we? It’s not a long list, but I don’t have enough time either. And it’s a small island. I must remember though to bring sun block and withdraw a couple of Swedish crowns. Until the next update. 🙂

August 24, 2016 | Copenhagen, Denmark