After sailing a number of fjords, we decided to go visit the city of Bergen. And the island of Fedje. Because we were advised a month ago by a fellow-sailor to ‘absolutely visit the gin distillery in Fedje! It’s a 100% female owned company. Aks for their guided tour with tastings!’. Being a big fan of gin-tonics, we immediately were interested and gave this distillery a phonecall.
‘You want to come over tomorrow to our Gin Distellery for a guided tour?’ I heard a hesitation on the other side of the phoneline in the voice of the employee of ‘Ocean Distillery Feddie’. Yes, we want to stop by. Because this company started only 3 years ago, is already successful, unique because all owners are female and according to their joyful website, they offer a guided tour. ‘Only in July and August, we are now fully in production again, but I think it is nice that you want to come here especially for us, with your sailboat, let’s do this!’. In 4 hours we sail happily to the island of Fedje, which is beautiful, by the way! We spend the afternoon cycling around on the island, a lot of wind and sea spray on this exposed island in the North Sea. We see the Fedje light house and the houses where the 550 inhabitants in total live. The next day we are shown around in the gin distillery by the Masterbrewer, responsible for the taste and production of the 200.000 bottles of gin per year. We see the process of making gin before our very eyes: the kettles, the specific amount of time and temperature it takes, the large number of ingredients that go into a gin including berries from the island of Fedje. We are invited to taste their ‘Nine Sisters Ocean Gin’, taste the awardwinning Summergin 2021 and ‘Oh, we are busy with a few whiskeys in these wooden barrels, like to taste those as well?’. As you can imagine, it turned out to be a happy afternoon (and spending the rest of the day knock-out on the catamaran 😊). At the end of the tour, we informed about buying a bottle of the Summergin, also as a nice memory/souvenir. That was not possible, all liquor is Norway is sold only through the shops called ‘Vinmonopolet’ (what’s in a name!). And we knew this already, because we tried to buy wine in the supermarket, and were informed you could only buy liquor in the Vinmonopoletshops. You have to be 25 years or older to buy liquor and no liquor is sold on Sundays in Norway. So, no Ocean Distillery Summergin to buy on location (for the record, alcohol is very expensive in Norway: this bottle of gin, 700 ml, is priced € 87).
When we read about the city of Bergen, the first sentence we read was: ‘Bergen is the city in the Europe with the most rain, 250 days per year’. That was not very encouraging….. But we also knew, so far, it had been a great summer for Norwegians, almost only sunny days and the weatherforcast looked promising coming weekend in Bergen, so we tried our luck. And we were lucky: we had 3 fantastic warm days in this beautiful city! We had a nice spot in the middle of the city harbour which looked upon the 7 hills in between Bergen was founded. It’s the second largest city of Norway, and you can tell by the big ships and many shopping streets, but it has also a nostalgic charm, because of the well-preserved old wooden storage sheds on the quays, from the time that Bergen was a rich commercial city in the Hanze period, with many boats visiting each day with fish, spices and other goods. We visited the fishmarket at the harbour, where we saw fresh lobsters, king crabs and many fish being sold. We saw a booth in the citycenter which sold Moose Burgers and Reindeer Hotdogs, so we tried that. We cycled up one of the hills to see the sunset over the city. And also cycled in the morning to a famous Stave church in the woods nearby. A Stave church is an old wooden church, build around the year 1200, with a combination of Viking and Christian symbols. The churches are impressive, darkbrown, and mysterious looking between the green trees. On the last day of our visit to Bergen, at 7.00h in the morning we woke up by a loud happy voice over the microphones in the streets: ‘Goodmorning everyone, the Bergen City Marathon will start in 2 hours, with 12.000 participants, we now like to introduce the traffic rules, the volunteers and some practical advice for today!’. Sure, no problem, we are already awake 😊! The marathon was passing the harbour and our boat literally by 5 meters! It was a joy to see all the runners passing by (respect!) and their proud family and supporters cheering for them.
The Hardanger fjord was a pleasure to sail through! We never expected to see vineyards on the steep hills of a fjord! It was mentioned in the Fjord Guide, that the Hardanger fjord is also called ‘the fruitgarden of Norway’. We decided to examine that upclose, so we cycled from the harbour through the little villages in the fjord and we saw apple orchards, pears, plums and also the vines and fields with strawberries. At the entrance of the Hardangerfjord you can visit the charming village of Rosendal with the smallest castle of Scandinavia ‘Baronie Rosendal’ with gardens packed with roses. At the end of Hardangerfjord is the city of Odda, famous for the Glacier National Park Folgefonna. We saw the glacier with eternal snow and also the twin waterfall Låtefossen in the valley with a height of 165 meters. We were actually most impressed in the Hardangerfjord by the Tyssedal Hydro electric Power Station (1906 – 1989) which is now a museum. We ‘parked’ our boat in the small harbour nearby and walked to the beautiful building in Art Deco style. The tour and especially the film about engineering this smart plant and the hard life of the Norwegian workers made a big impression on us.