July 28, 2014

Bergen, Norway: "It's Only a 10-Minute Walk." Yeah, Right.

In the past, I'd land in a new city and charge around trying to fill the day with as many new sights and experiences as possible. That was then.

My day last week in Bergen, Norway -- where the ship docked for ten hours -- showed me just how things have changed... and how this 85-year-old has adapted.

Avoiding my typical long list of must-do's, I narrowed the agenda this time to a stroll through the popular harbor Fish Market, and the funicular ride to the top of Fløyen mountain, one of Norway's most popular attractions. By 10:30am -- after a leisurely breakfast -- I was ready to go.

My two travel mates, concerned about my touring alone, said they'd be happy to accompany me, and at my own pace. I appreciated the offer, but knew I'd hold them back. I also knew I'd end up hurrying and pushing myself, not wanting to slow them down too much. It was a discussion we had quite a few times through the trip.

So, off I went on my own.

The First "Ten-Minute" Walk
Before I disembarked, I asked a ship staffer how long it would take to walk to the waterfront. The answer: "Just about ten minutes."

Here's the view as I left the ship and headed for town: shade on the left, sun on the right. I chose the the shady side of the street.

Why the shady side? Recently, when I've exerted myself in midday heat and humidity, I've often experienced a reaction not uncommon among Parkinsonians: orthostatic hypotension, a sudden drop in blood pressure typically caused by standing up. During these scary events, my systolic number often drops below 100.

I was happy to learn that our day in Bergen coincided with a celebration of tall ships. I found a place to sit -- notice the shade -- and listened to a chorus perform on one of the stages. You can see our ship in the background:

Here's one of those tall ships:

As I walked toward town, I followed a path into a small park that paralleled the street. There, I found a spot to sit and relax in this patch of shade:

Comfortably settled, I read my book and watched a few locals in the park:

Soon, my travel mates found me relaxing in the park:

They offered two bits of info: 1) there was a long line for funicular tickets and 2) the famous harbor Fish Market was mobbed with tourists. I scratched both from my to-do list.

In the park, I felt the rising midday heat and worried that my blood pressure might drop. I'd been experimenting recently with an orthostatic hypotension prevention technique: eating the contents of one of those small packages of salt you find in cheap restaurants. I ripped one open, downed the salt, and felt the threat disappear. Placebo effect? Maybe, but I'll take it. 

As I left the park, I saw this restaurant packed with locals AND in the shade:

A kind Norwegian couple shared their table as I ate my delicious seafood risotto:

The Second "Ten-Minute" Walk
After lunch, I went to the Raddisson Hotel next door and asked how long it would take to walk through town to the large pond I noticed on my map. Guess what I was told? Yep. "It's just a ten-minute walk."

I got to the waterfront, two blocks from the restaurant. Here, most people would turn right onto the main street that ran along the waterfront by the popular Fish Market. But I could see it was exactly the mob scene my travel mates had described. A different street ahead looked attractive, so I headed in that direction:

I stayed on side streets that paralleled the crowded waterfront. These streets were much more quiet, and only a few locals were out and about:

By the time I reached the large pond, I was really dragging. So I stopped in a small hotel and asked an employee to call a cab to take me back to the ship.

The moral of this story: At this stage in my life, no city's major tourist sites -- unless they're akin to Rome's Sistine Chapel or Florence's David -- are worth standing in line for tickets or fighting through mobs of tourists.

Easy does it.

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