Bergen Survival Tips

Late last month to early this month, I went on a trip to Bergen, Noway for a conference (you can check out my posts on Bergen here, here and here). And here are some of the things I learned from my recent trip to Bergen:

  1. It pays to do research before boarding a plane to a city you are not familiar with. A lot of people, myself included, put too much trust on Google Maps and smart phone data to help me find the way. Traveling from Bergen Airport to wherever your Bergen hotel is, however, one of the instances where the smart phone data/Google Maps fail. According to Google Maps, there are no public transportation available; so it recommends taking a renting a car, taking a cab, or walking. Online research, however, shows that an airport shuttle exists. And, if you flew SAS, an SAS shuttle for cheaper is also available. You can check out details for Flybussen here. If you download the Flybussen app, you can get your tickets for cheaper. Round trip tickets are also cheaper than one way tickets. If you have an international student card or a senior citizen card, you can get a discount.
  2. In fact, unless you’re driving or walking, skip Google Maps altogether. A guide to Bergen’s public transportation can be found here. When you click on “Timetables and Maps”, you can input your origin and destination and find the timetables for busses.
  3. IT RAINS IN BERGEN! 200 days in a year, according to rumors. And when it rains, it pours. So bring a sturdy rain jacket. Bring umbrellas too (even when Norwegians in Bergen do not use umbrellas!). And make sure you packed your rain boots. Bergen is pretty up north; wind-chill factor + getting rained on is definitely, definitely, definitely not ideal.
  4. According to Trip Advisor, there are only 5 cheap awesome places to eat in Bergen. I’ve checked out three of these places and two of the three I checked out were not cheap at all! So if you’re on a budget, I recommend going to Inside Burger Rock Café (@ Vaskerelvsmauet 7, 5014 Bergen). It’s average Scandinavian food price, at least for someone who has lived in Copenhagen for 11 months.
  5. If you’re from Scandinavia, this last tip will not work for you; but if you’re not, hooray! Non-Scandinavian citizens can get tax rebates. So if by any chance you buy yourself a Norwegian rain jacket or a woolen blanket, fear not and ask the the saleslady if you can get tax rebates. You’ll have to hand-carry your item (or have them checked before checking them in; the person checking in should make some sort of mark on your receipt that the item has been checked in) because they usually look for it before giving you the rebate. I got a $22.41 rebate from a woolen Norwegian blanket. It helps make the shopping spree less guilt-inducing.

September 25, 2016 | Copenhagen, Denmark

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Visit ONLY Once

Yesterday, while having lunch at Artie, the waiter asked me if I was visiting for the first time. I answered in the positive and he replied by excitedly telling me that I was going to have a good time. He said, “The first time you visit Bruges, it will be fantastic. The second time, not so fantastic anymore. So no point visit for the second, third, or fourth time.” I was surprised. What an interesting way of marketing a city!

But he wasn’t marketing the city. He was simply telling the truth. Today is my second day in Bruges; and I was more excited window shopping that seeing the sites I have already seen during my less than half a day DIY walking tour of the city. It is truly a small city, and many of the must-do and must-see things can be done in a day. In fact, if did not have to spend 2 hours traveling from Charleroi yesterday, I would have gone on a short day trip to Ghent today.

One thing I like about Bruges though is how friendly and accommodating the locals are. There are only 20,000 of them in the city, and I read from the hotel guide that during the peak months, there are more tourists than locals in Bruges. The locals like the tourists (which is nothing short of amazing!), so much so that while taking photos on one of the bridges yesterday, a car stopped so I could frame my shot better.

I don’t think I’ll return to Bruges as a tourist. The waiter was right, the city is too small to have anything more to offer after having visited once. But I think I will return to hang out. The locals are awesome, the food is good, and I like the city’s atmosphere. Next time I visit, maybe I’ll book at room closer to the city center and spend my days writing and editing article drafts. That would be an amazing life, I think. 🙂

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Bruges is one of the most charming places I’ve ever been

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The water makes everything so extra romantic!

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And the foliage is beautiful!

August 09, 2016 | Bruges, Belgium

Took a Plane. Off To Bruges.

Hooray to Ryanair. I am in one of my spur-of-the-moment-buy-a-Ryanair-ticket-to-somewhere moments again. It hasn’t been a week since I arrived from an exhausting trip to Bergen. I haven’t really fully recovered yet and I’ve really only begun to slowly get back into my Copenhagen rhythm. Yet here I am out of the country again.

I am now in Belgium. My husband and I arrived today from an 8:40 am Ryanair flight out of Copenhagen to Charleroi and waited an hour for a 2-hour bus ride from the Charleroi airport to Bruges (see Fibco here, if you are thinking of following in our footsteps). Both the flight and the bus ride were uneventful (which is a good thing!). The bus had a toilet stall, which, for the duration of the entire ride, was kept locked. Hence, the recommendation (emphasis included!) to use the toilet before boarding the bus.

Like my so far gone teenage years, I am currently staying a hostel. Having lived and grown close to home, Andrew has never stayed in a hostel (there was never a need for one) and I wanted to give him that experience. Hostels are also a great way to save money on non-conference trips that are not funded by grant money (*cheeky grin*). We’re currently staying in an 8-bed dorm at  St. Christopher’s Bauhaus Hostel. The walls are thin and people from the bar below can be heard from the room, but the place is clean, breakfast is free, there are lockers to safe keep belongings, a magnetic key is available for each hostel resident, and toilets are stuffed with toilet paper and hand towels. I can totally live here for a few days. Our roommate experience has also been good so far.

We didn’t really get to do much today since we arrived later afternoon. We had late lunch at Artie: Andrew had Fleming beef stew and a dark dead skull beer (Artie’s local beer) while I had ragout chicken and a blonde dead skull beer. Portions were ginormous! I was so full, I wanted to roll back to the hostel. But the food was definitely worth it and the server was courteous and friendly. If you’re in Bruges, I definitely recommend having one of your meals here.

After a very late lunch, we went on a 30-minute canal tour. It was nice to see the city from the water for 8 EUR. Our our guide spoke in three different languages while driving the boat. The views were fantastic, but, to be perfectly honest, I did not find the verbal part of the tour satisfying. I hardly got anything from our tour guide. He spoke fast, mumbled a lot, and it definitely did not help that his speakers were creaky. Too bad for us. Especially  for me, since I was very eager to listen and learn from a local.

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View during the canal tour

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What a charming little door by the waterfront!

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I could stare at this forever! So pretty!!!

Our canal tour was followed by a short walk to the Brug Square and the Grote Markt. We saw the the gothic town hall, the belfry of Bruges, and the Sint-Salvatorskathedraal, among many other things. We had dinner at a cozy restaurant called One, which seem to be owned by a genuinely friendly couple. I had Flemish beef stew and a dark Trappist beer while Andrew had meatballs and a blonde Trappist beer. Now, the husband is unconscious (and possibly snoring) on Bed 3 and I will soon be unconscious on Bed 4. So far so good.

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Old buildings at the Market Square

 September 8, 2016 | Bruges, Belgium

A Mood to Match

My mood has finally succumbed to the dreary Bergen weather. I cannot wait to be back in Copenhagen – I miss my bike, my husband, and the people and places I am familiar with. Doesn’t that just sound so Danish? I have, unknowingly, begun my transition to becoming more Dane; something I would definitely welcome with open arms if it were certain that I would spend the rest of my career and living days in Denmark. A disaster is imminent if I don’t end up staying. Imagine employing the Danish work-life balance in a place like New York. DOOM.

To be perfectly honest, I slept at 4 am today and woke up at 8 am. I finally presented my research project – terribly, if I may say so, because of lack of sleep (alibi, yes!). I was also made to realize that I’ve done the analysis of my results wrongly. My throat was parched for 2 hours because I forgot to get myself a glass of water before a session and I couldn’t stand up and leave to do so since I was the session’s timer and moderator. After lunch, I absentmindedly walked inside the male restroom. When my Danish officemates left for the airport, people started mistaking me as a saleslady. I went in a restaurant to get dinner, waited for 5 minutes and then, left – white people cut in line and I guess I was too short to be noticed by the lady at the counter (I’m 5’2″/156 cm). I also accidentally crushed an orange, male ladybug with my bag. I guess things just started down in the morning and continued downhill (if that was even possible!). And now, despite slightly better city weather, I’m staying indoors. I had lasagne and chips with salsa and guacamole delivered to my hotel room. I truly feel like a sad person.

But maybe it’s just lack of sleep, or lack of familiar company. Being a Filipino, it has always been relatively easier and more enjoyable for me to find my way in Spanish cities. Scandinavia has been tough. It is so different from many of the things I am familiar with, and it is not exactly the world’s most open and accepting of other cultures.

I guess, when it rains, it really pours. I’ve had such a terrible day today that I cannot wait for it to already be tomorrow. I will be in Copenhagen then. Back in familiar territory. Until then, I will stare at you coldly if you so much ask me to process a sale for you.

September 3, 2016 | Bergen, Norway

Dreamy Bergen

Today is the start of the conference parallel sessions. No, I did not present today. I have, unfortunately, been assigned to be one of the last to present. I mean, somebody has got to be last, so why not Anna. :p

There were two highlights of my day today: the 50-minute walk from my hotel to the conference venue and the plenary speaker who spoke about gender and competition. The idea of the plenary talk was basically how men are more competitive than women, perhaps because of belief or of risk attitudes (among many other things) and how, instead of finding ways to make women more competitive, we should find ways to have a culture that is more female-inclusive. Perhaps competition should not be used to measure  success in certain fields. Maybe there is another benchmark where women do not shy away from. The plenary talk ended with ideas that tickled the mind for future projects, which I found instantly gratifying given that mine has not been tickled for some time there.

My 50-minute walk (It was only supposed to be 45 minutes, according to Google Maps!) has also not been anything short of pleasant, despite the gloomy weather. I took several pictures on the way – of the fjords, of the houses and of the greeneries growing on the side of the road. Bergen reminds me of Tagaytay Highlands in the Philippines or a very rainy day in some super remote town in Hilo. It’s charming, even when it’s cold and rainy.

I wish one day I would have a house at a place like this – a place of refuge when I want to run away from the world. I would like to come up here for a retreat: to read my book near a fireplace beside a furry sleepy dog and a warm cup of chocolate. That would be the life. Until then, it’s nice to be here for a visit.

September 1, 2016 | Bergen, Norway