Jun 2, 2004

My date with Bergen

I watch the TV-show "Sex and the City" and am catching up on older episodes. In one I saw this weekend, Carrie says no single person is alone in New York City; the whole city's your date. I thought of that today as I walked around in Bergen, alone. Thinking it as a date with the city, rather than being alone in the city, changed my perspective of my day ahead to a much more positive view.

I may have mentioned before that I have every second Wednesday off from work. This time, in brilliant summer weather, I had an appointment to get my hair cut (finally!). That nice short cut you see on my main page has grown out a bit, to tuck-behind-the-ears length. And I like it that way. (Also practical for the sunglasses-on-top-of-head look.) Today my hairdresser's was a cheerful, joking place and so was a great start to my day in the city. The coffee was just right, too; not so strong I missed having milk in it.

After getting my usual great haircut (Trond is a genius), I took "Beffen" across the bay. It's an old, diesel-driven passengerboat, and when you sit in it, you're about 2 feet above the water surface. Today, the boat had to manouver around a barge being towed into place, no. 3 of 4 (I think) being placed in the innermost bay to become a stage Friday for A-ha, David Bowie and some local bands.

At the other side, I ran an errand for my grandma, and then decided to head for the bookstore. Grandma wanted short stories to read; she can no longer concentrate long enough to read a whole novel. I struck paydirt: Three short story collections, two featuring several current and/or famous crime writers, and a third featuring only Ruth Rendell stories. And all cheap! Both Grandma and I will have plenty of good reading ahead.

My next stop was the tourist information office, located in what was originally Bergen's stock exchange, and still decorated with the huge frescos on three walls. I picked up this year's Bergen Guide, which is just as useful for us locals as it is for tourists. One thing I want to do, is take the old boat "Bruvik" around the gorgeous inland island of Osterøy. I haven't taken that trip since I was 12 years old. "Bruvik" sails every Sunday in the summer, the guide says.

Next stop: My favorite coffee shop, right on the wharf, next to the fishmarket. En route, I got peckish and found a stand selling openfaced, simple sandwiches with salmon. I ate it by the quayside, watching them shove the third barge into place. Not much manouvering room!

At the coffee shop, Lille Zachen, the customers were sitting outside, by the sidewalk. The coffee shop sells only liquid refreshment: Coffee and booze. Today's special was Ethiopian coffee. Another customer asked what it was called. "Ethiopian coffee," was the answer. Sometimes life is that simple. And the coffee was good! Another cup of just right strength. I listened to German-speaking tourists as I sipped.

Then it was time to finish my last errand and get home in time to enjoy the sun on my balcony (starts to arrive around 2:30 pm this time of year). I dropped off a present for a friend at the café I used to give readings at and bought one of their home-made brownies. I then had a little wait for the bus next to some gorgeous rhododendrons and a lot of people sun-worshiping on the lawn (you never see "Keep Off Grass" signs in Norway; you do, however, see garbage, not coins, tossed in the fountains).

The bus driver was a bit distracted (possibly) because he turned down the wrong street after we left the bus station. He had enough humor to announce over the loudspeaker that we would be having a bit of sightseeing – and since we were already at it, why not the rest of the city? He did get the pasengers to laugh, and after driving around the block, got on the right track.

He continued to announce the stops over the loudspeaker and I got a good laugh when he started to announce one, then realized he didn't know the name of it. "And the next stop is...uh...the next stop is a bus stop!"

Nice save!

And a nice end to my date with Bergen.

Back at home, I met the neighbor's pie tom, who was feeling very friendly today, so he got a lot of head scritches. (Right now he's wondering about a kid and his dog. A minute ago, it was magpies.) I picked some grass for my cat Sammy (she appreciated that), and now I am out here on my balcony, listening to the sounds of the baby great tits in the bird box only a few feet away from me. Directly next to me is a window box with sprouting geraniums that I sowed over two weeks ago.

The good weather brings out the best in people here in Bergen, including me.

Right now I feel peace. And the signs of new life, of young life, give me hope for the future.