BRUNOST IN BERGEN
Pit pat! Pit pat! The rain falls gently upon my umbrella. Crunch! I feel the uneven gravel underfoot as I trudge through the tranquil avenue. Earlier this morning, I had been looking out from the ship at a dusky blue sky over a dusky blue ocean, a scene devoid of all warmth, yet still welcoming; icy, yet enticing. I am in Bergen.
After walking a short distance from the car park, I arrive at the Edvard Grieg museum, where I learn about arguable Norway’s most well-known composer. During the tour, I am astonished to hear that Grieg was in fact very sickly, even contracting tuberculosis, which caused one of his lungs to collapse. Such suffering seems to stand as a stark contrast to the creativity of his compositions. As I amble through the house Grieg spent his summers in, I am surprised to see how sparsely furnished it is. I can’t quite explain why, but somehow I expected more extravagance. Maybe this is due to the opulence now associated with classical music. Kings would have their courts laced with the beautiful notes of this art form, yet the artists themselves were often mere paupers. With that said, there are touches of beauty, in particular, the magnificent Steinway piano, received by Grieg as a gift in 1892.
After exiting the pale-yellow Villa, I make my way towards the deep red Composing Shed, in which Grieg would, I am guessing, compose. The scent of the surrounding forest is pleasing, which is more than I can say for the slippery, staggered steps down to the shed. Gripping the cold, wet rail, thoughts race through my mind. What if I slip? Are my finances in order? Most importantly, if I fall, who will care for my beloved soft toys? I reach the bottom without incident. Well, that’s anticlimactic. Snapping some selfies beside the building from which creative brilliance burst forth, I begin the deadly climb back up. I live.
The finale to this tour is an incredible concert, held in a grassy-roofed hall looking out over the lake. The first song, a lyric piece called “To Spring” is as unpredictable and changeable as the Norwegian weather, while the last, “Tempest”, is a roaring, chaotic dance of notes, its melody lost in the whirling winds of noise. I love this nature-evoking style of music. Alas, it is now time to depart. Rather reluctantly, I leave Grieg’s holiday home and meander back through Bergen.
Whoosh! Water is unleashed from silver skies and I run almost by instinct to the nearest coffee shop. Browsing through the delicious goodies, I settle on some bread and cheese. I should very much like to inform my readers that I proceed to make the purchase in fluent Norwegian. But I can’t, because I don’t speak Norwegian. Instead, I resort to the universal language of taking a photo of the food, showing the barista and smiling desperately. Thankfully, she understands and I am soon eating my bread and “brunost”. This champion of cheeses is brown in colour, sweet in taste and soft in texture. The bread, in contrast, is chewy, stuffed with raisins and lavished with butter. I don’t know what heaven is like, but it must surely contain this delicious duo.
Later, I walk briskly up the gangway back to the ship while from above, rain pelts down upon the walkway awning. Pit pat! Pit pat!
Safely on board, my thoughts turn back to Grieg, whose life of sickness and success stirs something in me. Though we may suffer, our suffering does not define us. Rather, trials can spark flames of determination that, by the breath of God, may burn brightly for eons to come.