Paved versus cobblestoned

The charm of Bergen is its old streets and equally old houses. The classic tourist photos look something like this:

An old residential street

An old residential street

So I thought I'd show you the less charming, more modern side. The side of the city I usually see. Honestly, I like this part, too. It's just not the most photographed.

Bergen is a constantly growing city. The population has doubled to 250  000 in the last 40 years. As for most cities, at some point you can't expand out; you have to start expanding up. So we've been seeing more and more taller buildings, although not in the city center itself (regulation rules and stuff).

I live in one of the suburbs, Fyllingsdalen, a mere 10-20 minute bus ride into town, depending on time and route. It's a trip I take a lot because I love going to "the city".

Mt Løvstakken, watching over Fyllingsdalen, one morning. In front, the local mall on the left and an apartment building on the right. This is what I see on my walk to work.

Mt Løvstakken, watching over Fyllingsdalen, one morning. In front, the local mall on the left and an apartment building on the right. This is what I see on my walk to work.

Downtown Bergen is the big draw for me: Tradition, cobblestones, bars and restaurants and the easiest place to meet friends from other suburbs. But before you get to that medieval city center, there are the more modern edges. Two of them—a 2 km tunnel (Løvstakktunnelen) and a bridge (Puddefjordsbroen)—are the first ones I constantly encounter going to town.

So on a lovely late autumn afternoon two months ago, I got off the bus right after the tunnel. First thing you see starting up the bridge that goes across the Puddefjord is one our newest apartment buildings, and is (as of this writing) the tallest modern structure made out of wood, named Treet (The Tree or The Wood as in what a tree is made of; wood for burning is "ved"). All I can think is that there's not much privacy on those balconies; you can see everything, including the beginnings of hoarding.

Heading to town; "Treet"

Heading to town; "Treet"

Behind me, the tunnel home

Behind me, the tunnel home

They do have an awesome view of Damsgårdssundet, Damsgård sound. On Treet's side of the sound (south side) is a neighborhood built mostly after WWI in one of the city's earlier suburban sprawls. Across from Treet is a mix of newish and not so new apartment buildings, several built by union members for union members, also from a good 100 years ago. Hence the little neighborhood called Trikkebyen, "Street Car Town" on the north side of Damsgårdsundet. The fjord continues to Solheimsviken, an old industrial area, now all modern office buildings. And of course, off in the distance, our tallest mountain, Ulriken (642 m).

West, Treet

West, Treet

South, Mt. Ulriken

South, Mt. Ulriken

East, Trikkebyen

East, Trikkebyen

"Trikkebyen" is a nickname for a few blocks within a larger and much older neighborhood, Møhlenpris, named after a guy with a mill. When I was studying insurance a couple of autumns ago, I walked through this neighborhood to one of the most modern buildings on Damsgårdsund. Rather charming area and I want to go back and walk the new pedestrian bridge across the sound. Møhlenpris itself was the Jewish neighborhood of Bergen, back when we had Jews. There are memorial stones commemorating the lives lost during WWII. Today's population tends to be ethnically mixed, too, but everyone is proud of their neighborhood and it shows in their creativity:

As you approach Møhlenpris bus stop towards downtown Bergen

As you approach Møhlenpris bus stop towards downtown Bergen

Mural in Møhlenpris, depicting children from different eras

Mural in Møhlenpris, depicting children from different eras

From here, I go up the stairs from the bus stop at Møhlenpris (optionally, up the hill under the cultural history museum). At the top of the stairs is our Human Rights Square, next to the human rights organization the Rafto Foundation. And now we get into what is now considered downtown Bergen, but even this area is a relatively new development, not being part of the original downtown area, but one of the first extensions of the city. We are now near the university, museums and where the rich first built modern (for that era) homes on this side of the city bay. The original botanical gardens are also here, currently in hibernation.

Human Rights Square

Human Rights Square

Fish(less) pond; former fancy homes in background

Fish(less) pond; former fancy homes in background

Our museum of natural history backs onto the gardens

Our museum of natural history backs onto the gardens

From here, the neighborhood consists of a lot of late 1800's buildings. Norway, and Bergen, were experiencing a population explosion, and were also trying to keep the number of city fires down, so larger, stucco buildings became the norm, then. Seen with today's eyes, the neighborhoods are still charming. Here are a few examples as I leave the university area:

Sydneshaugen (South Point Hill)

Sydneshaugen (South Point Hill)

Roadworks and streetcar tracks

Roadworks and streetcar tracks

It isn’t just dogs that use lampposts for messages

It isn’t just dogs that use lampposts for messages

And then we get back down into one of the older parts of town again. The neighborhood between the university and back towards Puddefjorden is called Sydnes (South Point). This is one neighborhood that still has the charming jumble of small wooden houses and cobblestoned streets that Bergen is known for.

Sydnes neighborhood

Sydnes neighborhood

A map of my walk - sort of. Tunnels confuse teh Google. :-)

A map of my walk - sort of. Tunnels confuse teh Google. :-)

Fjord flashback

Here's a blast from the past (September 13 2008). I love the play of shadows and the blue reflecting in the water.

Somewhere-north-of-here fjord

Somewhere-north-of-here fjord

I actually did not recognize where the above was until I looked at some of the other photos from the same day: This was from an overnight trip with my then-department. We went to Flåm and Nærøyfjord. The latter is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The former is the destination for the "Norway in a Nutshell" trip that combines bus, train and bus—not necessarily in that order. The photo above is as we sailed out the Aurlandsfjord from Flåm.

Below the highway headed to Aurland, decoration made out of rocks and plants mimic Viking hieroglyphs. Or maybe it's just modern art deer. 

Or maybe it's cows… Skinny, skinny, cows.

Or maybe it's cows… Skinny, skinny, cows.

Nærøyfjord has tall mountains on either side, and in the winter only the midday sun manages to shed any light there. The rest of the time it is in deep shadow. In September the sun was making its way down one side.

I love how the shadows create a second row of mountain tops here.

I love how the shadows create a second row of mountain tops here.

Entering Nærøyfjord: Such drama. Such contrast.

Entering Nærøyfjord: Such drama. Such contrast.

A more classic view from Nærøyfjord (pronounced NAIR-oy-fiord)

A more classic view from Nærøyfjord (pronounced NAIR-oy-fiord)

Oh, hey, we've got company!

Oh, hey, we've got company!

There's a reason why tourists love this fjord. So do I.

There's a reason why tourists love this fjord. So do I.

Looking behind us in Nærøyfjord

Looking behind us in Nærøyfjord

In the old days (like, when I was a kid and a good while after), ferry service connected Gudvangen with Flåm. Then two longish tunnels gave the two towns a land connection. Tunnels, because it's way harder to build a road on the outside of the mountains. Gudvangen and Flåm both live off tourism.

Main street, Gudvangen

Main street, Gudvangen

Obligatory waterfall picture

Obligatory waterfall picture

Bybanen

I am in love with the city light rail in Bergen, Norway, called "bybanen" (BEE-bah-nen). It took five years after it was built for me to actually ride the darned thing, but after that, it has become my most popular modern addition to this old medieval town. And now they're building a line to my neck of the woods!

I am excited about getting the light rail in 2022! Yeah, that is a long way off. They started digging in February of this year. I walk past the construction site for the station in Fyllingsdalen (the suburb where I live and work) nearly daily. I've been trying to document (sort of) the changes construction is creating in my neighborhood. 

The start of construction of bybanen in Fyllingsdalen, March 2018.

The start of construction of bybanen in Fyllingsdalen, March 2018.

5 months later and all those pipes on the first picture are underground - August 2018

5 months later and all those pipes on the first picture are underground - August 2018

Bergen being Bergen, there are strong opinions for and against the light rail. A lot of people think it's a waste of space and money, inferior to better bus routes, and ohmygawd it takes a full 45 minutes from downtown to the airport!!! 

Look, I've taken the light rail all the way from Byparken (the downtown stop right next to the city park) to the airport. It takes a predictable amount of time (but the hard seats are not kind to aching hips). It also costs the exact same as the city bus (NOK 37 if you prepay an adult ticket). As a comparison, our nice airport bus costs NOK 115 for a prepaid one-way ticket from downtown.

Anyway, today I got to ride the light rail again. My psychologist's office is one stop away from the airport, so I ride the rail one stop from the bus terminal. Today I didn't have to go back to work afterward, so decided to ride to the airport to get a better picture of the "Bergen?" signage—the artwork at the airport that I discovered you can see from the air! (Another version is in the rotating header pics, but has construction equipment in the foreground.)

This sign gets people, especially the locals, talking.

This sign gets people, especially the locals, talking.

Water and habits

As a native Californian, I still feel a bit of worry when I let the water run, like I see so many Norwegians do. It's standard: They let it run to get it nice and cold. They well afford to: The one place that never seems to run out of fresh water is Norway. The never-ending supply of that most vital of fluids can lead to some bad habits and disappointments. Norwegians are always faced with culture shock when they leave their country, because the moment you set foot in Denmark, you get recycled water. Norwegians always complain about how tap water tastes elsewhere. They also complain about being told not to waste the water, especially when they want to shower every day just like they do at home.

Norwegians are encouraged to take shorter showers at home, but this has nothing to do with water and everything to do with the price of electricity—used to heat up the water.

During lunch at my first job in California, the discussion turned to personal hygiene. The showers-every-day woman chewed out the showers-every-two-days woman. As the discussion went on, it became clear that showering every two days was the norm around the table. I still have that habit.

Californians don't shower as much as Norwegians (or that one co-worker) do because we, a) have dry heat so we don't sweat much, and b) are always told to save water. Since I don't have a job that makes me sweat and I don't live in a hot climate, there's no reason to shower more often.

Also as a Californian, I have so wished that the record-breaking rains Bergen, Norway, had last year could have been sent to my home state. It has felt almost unfair that there is so much water falling from the sky in a place that doesn't need it, while completely bypassing a place that desperately does.

I'll keep my California habits. They serve me well the moment I go traveling. I will drink recycled tap water in Germany and I will limit my showering in Spain. After all, it is Norway's fresh and clean wetness that is the exception.

Trinity College Library

I have been in the Trinity College library. I entered the 300-year-old building and walked into heaven. I stood still, in awe, instantly in love with three [sic] stories of books stretching above and before me, completely captured and delighted by the idea that everything I would ever want to know was at my fingertips in that vast rooms. Thanks to books. Glorious, glorious books. Containers of all human knowledge, experience, beliefs and imagination. A religious moment for me.
(Brought on by a friend posting a link about Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland. It's two soaring stories, but feels like three.)

Since last we spoke 5 months ago and what's next

So, I dropped off the face of the Earth—no, I didn't, just dropped off my blogging. The autumn got rough. Maybe a lot of bad weather during the summer was a part of it. Maybe it was astrological.

I had a stressful fall. Maybe I gave myself a stressful fall. Seriously, I drive myself nuts sometimes. I had a trip to Oslo in October, to attend some lectures for a college course (studying insurance), and instead of enjoying traveling (because I do), I gave myself three nights of sleepnessness and "stage-fright" bowels and why did I do that to myself? I know how to travel alone. I know how to be in a hotel room. I know how to take public transportation. But I found myself totally fixated on that last, as if I would miss my train/bus/metro whatever even though the stop was around the corner from the hotel and the metro ran all the time. Sheesh.

I did have nice weather, had some great meals out (a waiter at Bacchus by the cathedral conspiratorialy told me the day's specials in my ear and I was rather charmed by that; also fell in love with Max, a Swedish chain of healthy burger joints, also right around the corner from my hotel) and enjoyed the huge, modern buildings that make up the business school campus I visited each day.

But I think I have to see my anxiety (?—not really familiar with that sort of thing) in October as related to my stress levels in September, where some aspects of work had me, after the wonderful slowness of summer where we got all caught up and lived stress-free, feeling like nothing I did was good enough. One morning, as I went to open my front door to go to work, I started to cry.

Huge warning signal. So I called in sick, I called my boss, and she was absolutely lovely and supportive. She let me do other things in September and in October sent me to an IT department to help do beta testing.

So that's what I've been doing for the past nearly 4 months. Helping my company troubleshoot changes in our systems to accommodate new legal requirements.

The days and weeks have flown by. That's the good part about it. My energy and desire for working overtime a lot has not been so good. So I don't know if this is something I'd want on a permanent basis but it has made me realize that I have to start making changes. I need to find a better way to handle my stress and I need to find a different way to approach my job—or even get another job.

I am feeling more energized again. More willing and able to actually give all this some thought, to start to put together some future plans. I could feel a definite psychological change when Saturn moved from Sagittarius (where it does not feel at home, at all) into its own sign of Capricorn. And for me, personally, that meant it finally left the part of my horoscope where it was creating all kinds of hidden stressors, and internal conflicts. I remember 29 years ago, the last time, and it wasn't that bad this time, but it was there. Oh, yes. Saturn speaks loudly to me.

Weirdly, I took an exam (in said insurance course) and felt so on top of things that day. I was actually proud of myself. I did things I don't normally do, like read all the questions first, to see if any were the kind I knew I'd need time for, then started. I felt really grown-up right then.

I also attended a ceremony for new Norwegian citizens. The county I live in hosts these ceremonies in beautiful Håkonshallen twice a year. I was moved by the occasion—and proud.

Now I'm in for a lot of Capricorn but out in the open. About me, myself and I but consciously, rather than subconsciously. Saturn will be joining Pluto as they both travel through the sign, hitting my own planets in Capricorn.

So far, it's all good. I've started doing a wee more exercise (working on Sagittarian things like butt and muscles, using Capricorn things like knees and bones), and I've started doing a wee more housekeeping. I finally found someone (else) who speaks my language, even though Capricornian FlyLady also helped. So combining that with an app that simply lets me mark of an X each day, Seinfeld-don't-break-the-chain style, and my home is tidier and more under control, but it still needs a good spring cleaning. Later.

Next on my agenda is a day off from work, in spite of a looming deadline with the beta testing, to renunciate my US citizenship. I am required to show up in person and the US embassy gave me an appointment for this Tuesday. There will be butterflies, since I'm going to a US embassy I have never been to before (partly because they built a new one a couple of years ago, and partly because I've never needed to go). It'll take all day because that's just the nature of things: Getting to and from airports, to and from the embassy, and allowing time for a one-hour appointment that might be two.

And that will be another blog post, I'm sure.