søndag 23. mars 2014

From a Haggered City Mum to a Bergen Billy Goat in 3 days....

For et par uker siden var min venninne Ann-Iren på besøk i Bergen. Med seg hadde hun fire venninner fra London. Her er Londongeiten Sarah sine inntrykk av Bergen, byen og fjellene: 

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Ann-Iren visited Bergen along with four London friends. This is the Londongoat Sarahs descriptions of Bergen, the city and the mountains:

From a Haggered City Mum to a Bergen Billy Goat in 3 days.....

When heading away from the London grind with 4 girlfriends on a weekend away – many people were surprised by our choice of destination. We clambered our way onto the plane at Gatwick, trying not to bash people with our overstuffed hand luggage crammed with as much duty free wine and chocolate as customs would allow, for Norway and it’s extortionate alcohol price was to be the centre of our girls retreat.

Not quite sure what Bergen had in store, we simply giggled our way through the bus journey into town in a way that only 40 year old mothers who have “freed” themselves from their normal life can. First impression was that it was cold and rainy. Weather we could relate to. Being British we knew exactly how you combat this; tea, coffee, cakes and wine (if it is evening). To our delight we were to discover that Norway is particularly good at accommodating this requirement and their “Success Cake” and Cinnamon Buns are tastes that will stay with me for a long time (in fact the surplus amounts of it will remain on my hips and thighs for many weeks to come). 

Bergen is picture perfect, beautiful shop fronts on the harbour, bustling fish market, modern shopping centres and crooked architecture that makes you wonder whether you have possibly had a few too many pre-dinner drinks…..(pre-dinner drinks in the comfort of your apartment we learn are an essential part of nightlife in Bergen, as we recoiled in shock on our first meal out and a wine list offering its cheapest bottle at £50 GBP). The restaurants gave a lovely taste of Norwegian cuisine, which on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed…..although Elk Carpaccio and an amuse bouchet of cured reindeer heart won’t be on my bucket list for trying again.

The absolute icing on the cake for all of us though was the stunning mountain scenery. I am a keen runner and run 5/6 times a week for more than an hour at a time. I was not expecting the total joy I experienced on our first day when our wonderful Norwegian host, Anni, said, “pop on your trainers – we’re going up the mountain and you can run if you like”. We all set out prepared for a little hike up the Fløyen Mountain. I peeled off and ran ahead, trying to convince a couple of the others to join me (one of which did - but on the downhill stretch!). It was a beautiful climb, winding paths, lush trees and greeted by signage about witches and wooden trolls as you get to an impressive restaurant at the top. 

Witches on a broomstick (Mount Fløyen)

The view over Bergen is breathtaking.  My instant response to my friend was “oh my god, I want to do that everyday”. She told me that many people who live in Bergen do. I couldn’t think of a better way to set you up for the day………….until we went for our adventure on day 2! 

Anni had spoken a lot about the “race up the steps”. There was a large amount of banter as to whether we would make it, which of us would make it, how fast we could do it and how far it was. These are the steps of Stolzekleiven. The track has a climb of 315 metres and consists of 801 steps. The challenge of climbing this sheer mountain face has become so appealing that since 1979 it has become an annual event in Bergen attracting thousands from around the world. 

Now, at this stage I should make it very clear that the 5 of us have very differing levels of fitness – we are essentially city dwellers, who try to fit fitness into our crazy child focused/work dominated lives, so a 315 metre climb was not what you would envisage us doing when told we had a weekend free of parental/ life juggling..….…Hanging upside down in a bar, dancing to Abba would have been the best educated guess. However, all of us were excited and refreshed with the mountain air as we headed to the start of the steps. Anni thankfully picked up 2 of her lovely friends, Miriam and Linda, to accompany us and prep us for the “race". 

Mel, Anni, Mandy, Sarah & Amanda

We headed out. Miriam lead the charge and I scampered after her like a small over-enthusiastic puppy. Linda said she would “carry” us from behind – and that indeed she nearly did! “Don’t speak”, says Miriam, “you will need your breath” – what wise words these turned out to be. It was a cross between a mountain climb, a cross country race, jumping and some intensive step machine action. Scrambling over rocks, staggering up uneven stoned steps, gasping for breath and trying my hardest to bounce my way on the tiny bit of flat - 18 minutes later I reached the top. I had lost the ability to speak – but what an amazing, utterly exhilarating 18 minutes that was. 

Panting like a goat, but grinning inanely I greeted Anni - who was next up, followed by the others popping their heads up in a semi stagger/ walk. Not able to breath or red faced and utterly burnt out in our own individual ways - we all shared‎ one thing - an enormous smile.All of us loved it and felt immensely chuffed about our new found route to experiencing some of Norway's best scenery.

We stopped, signed the book and Anni said we'd take a scenic path down the mountain. Attempting a half walk/half jog at this stage it started to snow. We upped the pace to keep warm and were in struck by the magical scene. A snowy mountain path round a lake with woodland either side. I don't think I have found many better running routes in the world. Again I was left saying "I just wish I could do this everyday" and Linda told me of even more beautiful paths round the mountain that people run 2/3 times a week and in the summer jump into the lake to cool off! Whilst in envied the summer fun, I genuinely didn't think it could get much better that the snow capped enchanted woodland that we were running through at that time.

Running in the snow, just running in the snow......

I would recommend Stoltzekleiven and its 801 steps to anyone - beginner to advanced - it caters for all. 

As 5 British mothers (well, 1 Norwegian!) away for a weekend - we obviously did end up upside down in a bar at some stage - although it was Billy Idol we danced to and a pool table we ended up on (I will leave that there for now).

Travelling back on the plane, extolling the virtues of Norway; its cakes, its people, its picturesque nature (its dodgy pool bars) - we all agreed the highlight was ‎gasping our way up mountains and dashing through a semi-wonderland.

On top of Stoltzekleiven, with a view to Bergen

Sarah Kern

(Journalist, Mother, Runner and Cake Eater…)

PS! Jeg satser på å lokke dem tilbake til neste år. Kanskje til selveste Stoltzekleiven opp, eller 7-fjellsturen? (PS! I'll try to get them back here next year. Maybe for the race or for the 7 mountain hike?)

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