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Bergen: Gateway to the Fjords of Norway

As a fourth grade student teacher at Sallie Humble Elementary, Virginia Kincaid (now Eddleman) had no inkling I'd be looking her up on Facebook this morning specifically to thank her for making geography jump out of a book and into my heart. Opulentus NorwayNo, I didn't like the smell of canned Norwegian herring she opened in class, but I bit the cracker anyway. Yes, I liked the music of Edvard Grieg, which Miss Kincaid eked out on a school record player. The happy tune evoked such imagery in my imagination, I begged my piano teacher to include "Wedding Day at Troldhaugen" in my repertoire that year. At this moment, I'm watching the sun whisper good morning to Bergen, where Grieg lived for 22 years. His 1907 house is now a museum filled with mementos of his life. Outside, his lakeside grave lies near the composer's garden hut. And every day during the summer, half-hour lunchtime concerts fill Norway's most beautiful chamber music hall — also on the grounds. In 2000, Bergen was designated a European City of Culture. Here, you'll find one of the world's oldest symphony orchestras as well as trendy bands, the country's first national theater, a host of international festivals and a whole range of museums — including Hadon's Hall, a large and imposing residency built in the mid-1200s when Bergen was the political center of Norway. Ever since the intrepid King Olave Kyrre sailed into the harbor and founded the city in 1070, Bergen has attracted people from all over the world. Some came and went; others, like Grieg, decided to make it their home. Today, Bergen is a melting pot of cultures, and is considered Norway's most international city. My hotel, the Radisson Blu Royal, is only a block from the wharf where a German medieval guild of merchants called Hansas opened one of their four European offices in the 13th century. This area, known as Bryggen, symbolizes the city's cultural heritage and has gained a place on UNESCO's World Heritage List. The Bryggens Museum is considered the best place stating place to explore more than 20 attractions in the historic area. This cultural history museum houses finds from nearly three decades of archaeological excavations at Byrggen, beginning in 1955. Throughout the city, small wooden houses dating to the 18th and 19th centuries have been respectfully restored. Narrow alleyways and cobbled streets connect these "higgledly-piggledy" structures, most of which are accessed by stone steps cradled with flowers in season. Not far from the city center, seven mountains form a stunning backdrop to Bergen. From here, you can explore the Norwegian fjords, voted by National Geographical readers as the world's most unspoiled tourist destination. Some folks explore this region by car and ferry. Others choose river or ocean rafting. Some scuba dive, paraglide, kayak or sail. Still others cycle, climb or golf their way through the fantastic coastline and thousands of islands. Later today, I'll board the Hurtigruten MS Trollfjord to make good on a fourth-grade promise I made to tour the coast of Norway and to see the Northern Lights. "Hunting the Light" is one of Hurtigruten's signature winter voyages, offering passengers the opportunity to experience the Arctic sky's natural fireworks, ranging from light green to deep purple. Along the way, I'll be posting pictures to Facebook and Twitter. And when I return, I'll fill you in on each of the port cities we visit along the way. Until then, bon voyage. Source: http://www.thenewsstar.com/article/20130331/LIFESTYLE/303290308/Bergen-Gateway-Fjords-Norway?nclick_check=1

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