Finally, the face-lift

Anyone reading this blog through a web browser over the last four months will have observed a distinct mis-match of Norwegian posting content versus Azerbaijani headers and photographs.  Welcome to Version 1.1 – a light but hopefully useful make-over that finally redresses the balance.

All Hands…

Life in Oslo is coming into good shape; so much so that we managed to grab time for a quick trip to an other city last weekend and visited Bergen.  There were two good reasons to do so.  Natural curiosity about Norway’s former capital city was always one.  The other was the fortunate coincidence of a marvellous event coming to town this year: the Tall Ships Race.

Last seen in Bergen seven years ago, the Tall Ships Race is a very good-humoured and leisurely event contested by a wide selection of sail-driven vessels, ranging from a handful modern fibreglass sloops through to hundred-plus metre long square-riggers after which the race is named.

Most if not all of the vessels are crewed by young trainees and are funded by government and/or charities, plus a contributions from paying crew members judging by the advertising we saw next to some of the moorings.  There is evidently enough interest and enough money in this to make it very much a living enterprise as many of the oldest style ships were actually some of the youngest, only having been constructed within the last twenty years.

Bergen’s old waterfront with fish market was chock-full of people and a-buzz with party atmosphere as we enjoyed the blue skies and sunshine from late morning ‘til sunset.  The smells of fresh cooked foods mingled with the constant sight of brightly coloured signal flags in rigging and were punctuated by the reverberating bang of the signal cannon as each vessel entered the harbour.

Prize for most theatrical entrance had to go to the Mexican crew.  They sailed their huge square-rigger into port with the crew standing in perfect formation along the yards and a PA system on deck pumping out mariachi music at party volume.  They also win the prize for biggest boast, claiming that their ship would do twenty-five to thirty-five knots in good conditions (more than slightly unlikely!).  To be fair though, they also win my prize for best turned-out vessel.  Of the dozen or so that I visited who were offering ‘open ship’ (a tour of the upper decks), they had the cleanest wood and brass and the tidiest lines and sheets to be seen.  Boasting and theatricals aside, this was clearly a crew that took pride in what it did.

Saturday night officially rounded off with an impressive firework display after which revels probably carried on well into the wee hours in certain quarters.  Sunday alas soon descended into heavy rain but this did not dissuade the competitors in the inter-vessel tug-of-war and did not distract too much from the vista at the top of the funicular railway which gives a terrific view over the city.

Clearly a condensed trip during an unnaturally busy weekend but a very fun one and enough of a flavour of Bergen to warrant a second, more relaxed visit.  Later.