At a stark-but-charming restaurant called Jacob's, I had my very first taste of Norway: freshly caught mackerel, thinly sliced radish, sweet roasted cauliflower, sharp spring onion in a browned butter sauce. It was a beautiful dish that was at the same time unassuming and bold...simple but so complex. It's a theme that repeated itself in the food I ate in Bergen. In fact, the same could be said about the city itself and the magnificent days we spent there.
If you thought our trip to Stockholm was random, I'm sure you're wondering how we came to spend time in Bergen, Norway. Sandy, a dear friend of Mike's, married a wonderful (and insanely talented) man named Tomas from Bergen and now happily lives there. Under the guise of obtaining this beauty, we headed there after our days in Stockholm. Flying into Bergen, you're left mostly breathless. The beautiful terrain, the mix of water and mountains, the gorgeous blue-ish cast that every view has. It's quite something...and certainly like nothing I have ever seen before.
For those who don't know, I am (not quite but almost deathly) scared of unsupported heights. In a gesture of international goodwill and my desire to not be left behind, I went up not one...but TWO mountains in Bergen in one day. The first trip was in a tram called the Floibanen, which was quite a view. Clearly not satisfied with being 1000 feet up, we made our way to the Ulriksbanen. The cable car trip to the top was, in all honesty, one of the scariest thing I've ever convinced myself to do. I felt a little woozy and suddenly had to look into my purse for something way down at the bottom that wasn't even in there for the 6 or so (bazillion) minutes it took to get back down...but at least I didn't throw up or have to sit on the floor of the cable car. Despite my anxiety, the view was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. At a height that is twice as tall as the Eiffel Tower, you can see over the fjords and onto what seems like the top of the world. It's absolutely breathtaking & something I will remember for the rest of my life.
Back on firmer ground, we spent the next day wandering around Bergen with Sandy. I'd been hearing rumblings from Mike about the fish market in town and how spectacular it was. A market like this is something that maybe folks in the Pacific Northwest know about...but us landlocked Southerners can barely get our heads around having such a wide variety of insanely fresh seafood right at our fingertips. It was positively bustling and it was eye opening to see the freshest salmon I've ever seen, the biggest stone crab claws on the planet, and the huge seafood lunch plates that so many of the stands were selling. Caviar was wicked inexpensive and I'm kicking myself for not tucking some in the bags to take home.
Being a devout worshiper at the altar of all things soup, it didn't take much to get me to try a dish that's native to Bergen: fiskesuppe. It's just what you think it is: a fish based chowder. Instead of chunks of fish or seafood, the whitefish is formed into fish balls that were very reminiscent of scallops. Floating in a rich, creamy broth...I can see why this is one of the most beloved foods of Bergen. It was so incredibly delicious in that simple-but-complex way I mentioned earlier. Along with a couple fish cakes, our fiskesuppe from Söstrene Hagelin hit the spot big-time.
Despite the blue haze over everything in Bergen, there is so much beauty and brightness. It's an interesting thing when you go halfway across the world and, well, you blossom. You find roots in places you never thought you would. I get the impression - the wonderful impression - that that's what Sandy has done. She's so vivacious, warm, colorful - people take to her immediately. I know I did...and I'm glad that I got to put down a few roots there by meeting her and her family, experiencing those days in her home, and being honored to call her my friend now, too.
Left to our own devices as Sandy had to get back to her daily routine, Mike and I tried to experience Bergen as a local. We skipped doing the museum/tourist thing in favor of walking the streets of town, taking photos, stopping for a beer at an outdoor cafe. Back to the soup thing, we had lunch outside at this wonderful spot called Zupperia. Yes, you guessed it: a soup restaurant. My bowl of saffron chicken soup was so incredible but Mike's was definitely the conversation piece. His Rudolfsuppe was essentially a bowl of rich gravy-like soup with reindeer bits in it. Alongside some paté and bread, it was so hearty and fabulous.
Here's where the fairy-tale story of our Scandinavian vacation hit a snag: I got sick. Real sick. I spent the last 24 hours or so of our trip in bed while Mike roamed around Bergen with the camera. I'm glad he did - we missed out on touring the fjords and knowing he got to experience even a little more of Norway was comforting. I rallied on our last night to go have one last great meal (one element of Norway that needs improvement: ramen noodles. Oy. Don't even get me started). We ended up where our trip began - at Jacob's. We drank some wine, had another incredible meal (pictured is my dish: saithe with risotto, chanterelles, herbs and toasted nuts) and laughed a ton. We couldn't have asked for a better ending to this trip. A place so simple but so multifaceted. I know our trip changed me in many, many ways. Thank you, Norway.
You can view the full set of Bergen, Norway photos here on Flickr. I have one more post to share with you about our time in Bergen...and possibly the best (and most influential) meal I've ever had in my life. I'm so glad I've been able to share these memories of our trip with you - thank you for stopping by!