An industrial port (shipbuilding, engineering, fishing), in south-west Norway. It was the capital of Norway during the 12th and 13th Centuries, and in the early 17th century had the distinction of being Scandinavia's largest city with a population of 15,000.

Founded in 1070, Bergen was a member of the Hanseatic League. The city is set on a peninsula, surrounded by seven mountains; consequently, Bergen's history is closely linked to the sea. The Hanseatic influence is still visible in the sharply gabled row of houses that line Bergen's picturuesque harbour front. Even though it's Norway's second-largest city, Bergen has a pleasant, slow pace. A university town and the cultural centre of western Norway, it has theatres, good museums and a noted philarmonic orchestra.

Though it rains 275 days a year in Bergen, it's not as dismal as it sounds. The rain keeps the city green and flowery, and the low skyline of red-tiled roofs manages to look cheery even on dampy, drizzly days. Bergen is the main jumping off point for journeys into the western fjords; numerous buses, trains, passenger ferries, and express boats set off daily.

Population (1991): 213,300

Also the potentially confusing name in Dutch of the city of Mons in francophone Belgium (qv). This can be an important thing to know if you are trying to navigate through Flanders, not least round the Brussels Ring motorway, where all the signs are in Dutch. The Dutch name is a literal translations of the Latin Mons, meaning "hills".

See Belgian toponymy.

Tourists will usually get to Bergen by plane, or by rail from Oslo. The trains are excellent in Norway, and the trip from Oslo is a comfortable seven hours. But there's a more interesting way for those with the cash: take the train as far as Myrdal, then take the famous and overrated Flam railway down to Flåm on the Sognefjord. From here you can get a fast ferry all the way down the fjord to Bergen. The ferry takes about five hours and gives breathtaking scenery all the way.

If you can't afford that, you probably shouldn't be in Norway in the first place, and you won't be able to eat! We (two) had a (poor) pizza and a (bad) Caesar salad, and two beers, at a resaurant in Bergen, and the bill came to NK300 -- about $75 Australian.

If you are on a budget, you can do worse than eat at Burger King. It will cost three times as much as home, but at least you won't use all your money in one night, and it will taste OK, whereas restaurants will probably disappoint unless you are Bill Gates and can afford the best.

There's a great hotel in Bergen, in the "middle" range: the Victoria. It's really central, five minutes walk to the railway station, five from the docks, and really comfortable. The walls are crowded with interesting art, and the breakfasts are great. (Eat big and you'll save on lunch.) But stay away from the attached restaurant.

Highlights of Bergen include the Fløybanen cable railway which runs up the hill, with great views from the top; also the quaint wooden houses which crowd the hillside, and other parts of Begen.

If you are there on a Sunday, go walking -- everything will be shut, so that's about all you can do anyway!

Oh yes, and it didn't rain at all for the three days we were there.

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