36+ shades of Bergen

by Giang Nguyen (Safe & Sound 2023 alumna)

36+ shades of Bergen

It’s challenging to tell my Bergen experience in one blog post. So here I am, creating a checklist of the memories I hold dearest to me. Join me on this journey through the kaleidoscope called Bergen.

1. It was not Bergen’s fault but climbing that hill to our accommodation with a three-wheel suitcase did not make a good impression. I hope no one will have to tick this off though.

2. There is a common Norwegian saying: “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes!”. You will get used to the rain… I promise…

3. Broken umbrellas will become common sights too…

4. There was a hidden gem in Bergen that every time I came, I found something useful and/or interesting at super cheap prices. But it’s well-hidden, don’t ever doubt your sense of direction if you get lost the first time.

5. Those fat pigeons always remind me of those dishes in Vietnam…

6. Can you find all the novel yet majestic wall drawings in Bergen? I know for sure that I haven’t.

7. The rice cooker turned the hero and Thai hotpot seasonings made great wizards. This party would never fail on any rainy and cold days.

8. We learned to truly live in the moment in Bergen. If it was sunny, we went out. The deadline was not an excuse.

9. There are ferry trips included in the Skyss season ticket, so don’t forget to board a ferry to nearby islands. You may occupy a seat, but it would be much better to stand on the deck and enjoy the wind.

10. Bergen is also called the city of seven mountains. It was our great pride to conquer 7/7 mountain peaks and finish the popular Vidden hike from Mt. Ulriken to Mt. Fløyen via Mt. Rundemanen (more than 20km, 3 peaks). You can hike at your own pace, don’t compete with the locals (they outrun you in the blink of an eye), and enjoy the surge of dopamine you deserve at the end of the trip.

11. Check the schedule and enjoy free kayaking on Fløyen or pick up trash with GreenKayak. I dare you to find trash though.

12. We had a colorful team of students from Bangladesh, Norway, Nepal, Peru, Turkey, and Vietnam. Various reasons to join the program, distinct cultural identity, and different stories of “how I met your mother”.

13. Prudence, Unni, Ragnhild, and other lecturers were inspiring and gave us food for thought in every class. There were discussions among our group that sooner or later, we would find ways to apply those knowledge and lessons in Vietnam. “Eureka” popped up in my mind, but more importantly, I found resourceful mentors as well as trustworthy companions for any challenges ahead. The dark side – we had at least an assignment every week, but the good side – it never stopped us from living the Norwegian life, which our teachers supported dearly.  

14. It took us some time to get used to crossing the street by trusting the drivers to fully stop. Moreover, you can just sit on a light rail and bus without anyone checking the ticket. The level of trust was high as there were very few random inspections. At some point, I hoped to get my ticket checked before coming home. My wishes came true twice in three months.

15. Don’t expect to find ATMs on every corner of the street. Cashless is usually a good thing, but not when your cards don’t work.

16. Bergen has a board game club meeting every Wednesday. We took the chance to experience at least one new game every week. The membership fee was mostly for fun while we got free snacks throughout the evening and could borrow games back home.

17. Customize your hot chocolate… recommended for anyone, not just fans of chocolate.

18. When it was raining outside, what would be better than spending cozy time watching drama on the sofa? How many TV series and movies did we finish again?

19. An extracurricular activity while trekking… that promotes the coordination of different muscles in the body. The only downside is that you don’t know when you can reach the top if you can’t stop picking and eating berries.

20. Norway is expensive, so “Tilbud” was our lifesaver. Beware of these discount tags if you want to save money while trying as many new things as possible.

21. The moon seemed to be bigger in Bergen compared to Vietnam. Walking around the port in the evening will make a great combo.

22. Needless to say, sunsets are beautiful everywhere.

23. Wildflowers in the mountains are beautiful and last quite long. Most importantly, they are free.

24. Try salmon, cod, mackerel, sardine, crabs, blue mussels… If you’re a fan of seafood, take this chance!

25. There’s one thing that I can always proudly scream to the world: I love Vietnamese cuisine. So, take this chance to share our food with international friends.

26. Stuff yourself at the Bergen Food Festival at literally zero cost. How? Sample everything. Not full yet? Go the second round…

27. Check the schedule of Bergenshallen to find the time it’s open for free: free entrance, free rental of ice skating shoes. A simple tip to ice skating: To learn is to fall.

28. We sat on the left side of the train from Oslo to Bergen and it was worth the effort of checking where to sit in advance. Our only concern was trying to be awake!?!

29. I guess we made a corner of Bergen more colorful on that day with our traditional clothes.

30. Time flew beautifully fast.

31. A necessary for points 7 and 25.

32. Regarding swimming and sauna, you may or may not like those activities, but you should try them at least once.

33. Nonstop was truly a nonstop eating experience that Ragnhild introduced to us. It is not as sweet as M&M, which is an enormous plus.

34. Each visit to a contemporary art exhibition was always eccentrically rewarding to me.

35. Although the choice of movie was not my cup of tea, that day was such a “cozy” experience – “the cold never bothered me anyway”.

36. As a volunteer activity, we removed the invasive species to protect the native trees. It was tiring, but by the end of the day, we got more than what we offered: dinner, friends, time with doggie, a car ride back home, and a new umbrella to replace my broken one.

All in all, my experience in Bergen was not limited to these 36 points. There is more for you to discover in Bergen, and Norway even has more to offer: Oslo, Stavanger, Tromso, northern lights, museums, huskies, reindeer, whales, seals, trolls… to name a few.

Thank you, Bergen and everyone that I had the pleasure to meet and travel with.

Goodbye, may this not be the last time!

Giang Nguyen