Clay and I have found the people of Bergen, Norway to be very warm and “mighty neighborly” as we say in the South. In fact, we have found that just like back home, you have the remarkably good people, as well as the godawful types. But, more often than not, it is the good guys that we manage to meet that make such an positive impact on us. Bergen was no exception to that rule.
We started our lust for travel years ago though our jobs which took us all over the world. But, what we found was that work related travel wasn’t the meaningful travel that both of us yearned for. (Weirdly, our companies wanted us to work – not play tourist – imagine that!) We found our travel cravings satisfied only after we retired and opened ourselves to home exchanging, and now Airbnb apartment rentals where we could stay for longer periods of time to get to know the city, country, and especially the people better. We have met the most amazing people that we now call friends from those stays. People like Ellen in California that we have home exchanged with so many time that we have lost count; the lovely couple from Australia (Molly and Tony) that we exchanged homes & cars for an entire month, and of course the Walking Tours of England which introduced us to Odette, Ron, Patti, and Kathy; and of course more recently the lovely couple, Andras and Timea (now married) that we met in France, but caught up with again when we visited “their” Budapest last year.
Here in Bergen we accidentally ran into a wonderful man who was a sailor in the Norway equivalent of the Merchant Marines who walked us to our destination instead of just giving us pathetically lost tourists directions. In the process we learned about his past and his many adventures. We also met two interesting men at a local pub that invited us to join them at the permanently reserved table for the locals. They captivated us with the stories of their lives, and facts about Bergen and Norwegians in general that we had not observed or read about in any tour books. One of the men had been to Houston and Galveston when is he was working on ships. When he learned we were from Austin, he talked about his love for music, SXSW, and Austin musicians. He appeared to know a lot more than some Austinites know about the live music capital of the world. He scored some real points with us when he mentioned his love of Stevie Ray Vaughn! He had actually hung out with Jimmie and the Fabulous Thunderbirds on one of their tours.
It would not be fair to share only the good stories, but we have had a few negative experiences, but ironically it is with tourists – not the locals. On the train yesterday to Flåm, we met four obviously wealthy, large, and rude Russian tourists. Unfortunately, we kept running across them during the rest of the day. During our stop in Flåm, we ate at this lovely restaurant, and of course, here they come with no reservations demanding a table (which they got 😦 ), and then proceeded to be very rude to the waitress. She was almost in tears several times and we could see her quietly telling the other staff members how rude they were. They ordered the most expensive item on the menu, and later we saw it being delivered to their table. Hope they left her a good tip because she deserved it. Later, getting on the boat back to Bergen, they were rudely breaking in line, but stopped just behind us. Clay and I were holding our ground, and they must have sensed that I would have called them out for cutting in line.
Of course, we had to run into a rude American tourist at a local 7/11. She got up to the counter where you pay with nothing to buy, but plenty to say – loudly of course. She kept insisting she wanted a diet coke – not what they had in the store. Some lovely local woman tried to convince her to buy Coke Zero, but “no!” she wanted a regular Diet Coke – not Coke or Coke Zero. Finally when she gave up on a Diet Coke, she left in a huff, leaving me there as the lone representative of America – embarrassed for her and my country.
I don’t want to leave this blog on a negative note, so I will continue on briefly to say the following. We love the differences in our cultures, the languages, the foods, and the interesting quirks of the multi-national people that we meet. Lord knows – the world would be a much more boring place if only people like Clay or me were in it. Thank you to all the lovely people we have met along our adventure. You have been the “super stars” of our vacation time. Yes, your museums are beautiful, your scenery is breathtaking, but you are the perfect examples of humanity that makes earth such a wonderful place to visit and explore, and that, my friend, is exactly why we travel.