Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ladies Who Dine

View from Mount Floyen over Bergen
Originally uploaded by photojenni

This week I flew up to Bergen for the day. I had a meeting at the university, a modern carbuncle of grey concrete in a city which is mainly an attractive collage of colourful houses, patched around an expansive harbour and surrounding grey, rocky mountains, their peaks lightly covered with snow.

Bergen has a more cultivated feel than Stavanger. I was able to buy a copy of the TLS in the airport and, on a short walk through the town, passed a large natural history museum and a theatre which dominates the main square. Bergen is famous for its high precipitation rates, which result in an average of 20 rainy days a month. Despite this pluviosity, a recent attempt to introduce umbrella vending machines was not a success. Of course, nobody in Bergen ever leaves home without an umberella. There is a joke about a visitor to Bergen who asks a little boy whether it always rains in Bergen. I don't know, says the little boy, I'm only eight years old.

After the meeting at the university, I walked with two colleagues down to the centre and had a cup of coffee in a cafe restaurant. It was 4.00 pm when we sat down at a table and ordered a coffee, so we were surprised to be told by the waitress that we would have to move to the bar because these tables were for the use of diners.

Sure enough, by 4.30 pm, the restaurant was full of diners and we sat on high stools sipping beer or coffee at the bar. I would love to have had a beer, but knowing I had driven to the airport in Stavanger, I was unable to. There is a zero alcohol limit for anyone driving in Norway. Even a small amount of alcohol in the blood can result in a jail sentence.

As we left the restaurant, I noticed that apart from us, there was only one other man in the whole establishment, about fifteen or so tables being taken up by lady diners of all ages, some in pairs, others in small groups. It was 5 pm, and they had all nearly finished dinner.

As we drove back through the dusk towards the airport, not a drop of rain all day long. But the weather forecast announces storms on the way.

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