The City Break - Bergen and Discovering the Norwegian "Banksy", Dolk

After the beautiful Hordaland region and our cycling and hikes through spectacular territories, we were looking forward to hit Bergen. We both longed for the buzz and feel of the city reminding us of our old life in London.

We managed to find a car park next to a raised sort of highway (E39), but Jamie was slightly freaking out about the van’s security. It does have all our worldly possessions in so he was right to be cautious. Looking on Google maps and Wikitravel to try and get a feel of the area, we were about to leave our van when he realised we were next to a bar called Bien Bar which, according to the reviews on Google Maps, was the best place to eat and drink in Bergen and luckily, “didn’t cost the earth” as per one of the quotes. We had to try it! We left the van, put on our best clothes (first time for a while) and headed out.

Bien Bar.
After only a couple of mins crossing the highway, we found ourselves in almost a different world or dimension, back in time in an awesomely retro apoticarian decor. The incredibly lovely and friendly owner/manager, Petter had built this cool bar out of an old 19th century chemist shop managing to keep most of the original feature. Petter came over and told us what was on offer. Unfortunately the mains Jamie and I fancied; T-bone steak with potato dauphinoises and fish for me were almost £30 each so we both went for the locally-made sausages and lentils instead. Rounded by with a couple of drinks. It was just what we needed and the start of a lovely evening.

Jamie with Petter, owner/manager of Bien Bar.
Later on, we got chatting with Petter and, to our amazement, he told us we could camp behind Bien bar, in its private car park. We were a bit too tipsy to move the van at that point so we said we would come and see him the next morning. We headed out into the Bergen night to find another bar.

The next morning we woke up right next to this massive highway, hungover as a bastard in a rain storm. Oh if only we could have a shower! We took up Petter on his offer and moved the van to his private car park at the back of the bar. Much safer! We couldn’t believe it, but he gave us a free coffee and told us some wicked stuff to do in the rain, the first of which was the first exhibition by the Norwegian ‘Banksy’, Dolk: "Dolk Wildlife Installations, Paintings & Paperwork". Perfect.

One of Dolk's paintings at Gallery S.E.
We continued on to the centre where I got a ticket to Bergen’s incredible modern art museum, Kode and Jamie headed out to explore the city, including Bryggen and Bergen’s famous fish market. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed catching the last day of "Kode On Paper - From Rembrandt to Cezanne" exhibition and discovering some of Norway’s most celebrated post-impressionists painters, Jamie got soaking wet walking through the non-stop rain! Our guide book did mention the fact that it was the wettest city in the country, but it hadn’t really clicked until then.

Woodcut from Kode On Paper: Henrik Finne (1898-1992), Resistance (1944)
We soon found refuge in another little gem of a restaurant/cafe/bar, Pingvinen as recommended in our Lonely Planet (LP) Norway and by one of the actual writers of the guide, Simon whom we accidently met in Bien bar and got chatted with for a bit. A friendly and eccentric Chicagoan who used to work for LP San Francisco, he had played at a concert with friends that evening and was staying in Bergen for a week. He actually walked in with his friends whilst we were having our late lunch/early dinner – how funny! We said hi – for a short spell, it felt like we were part of the locals.

Inside Pingvinen.