I’m currently in Oslo for a Nordic experimental conference. It’s my third time, second city in Norway. And without me even noticing it, Norway is quickly becoming my favorite Scandinavian country. Everything is just so beautiful. I like how the Norwegians have incorporated cities in nature, I am fascinated by Norwegian architecture and how they utilize space, and I like the fact that diversity is tangible in its capital city.
Today, after the last parallel session, I took a walk around the city center. I sat down and watched ducks paddle on a pond near the royal palace. I was even lucky enough to witness a change in palace guards. It was thoroughly enjoyable, what with their synchronized marching and funky hats. It was also quite funny how tourists would rush to have their pictures taken with the marching guards in the background. Maybe if I was with Andrew, I’d dare to have my photo taken with the same marching guards background as well. :p
The Royal Palace
Where the ducks where, at the palace gardens
I walked along the shoreline, saw a presentation detailing the various architectural buildings in Norway, went in a small grocery store and found that it had a greater product variety that many bigger grocery stores in Copenhagen, and dropped by an Asian food festival. One day, when the cost of spending so much on food and accommodations in Norway is no longer so painful, I would like to come back and play tourist. I think I will like that very much. I think Andrew will too.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Highway to the conference venue
Charming Bergen houses
Nature on the highway
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.
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.
Rainy Bergen day. But OMG, look at the mountains!
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. 😉