Bergen is a treasure trove of quaint outings, spectacular landscapes, and forests teeming with life, if you know where to look. One particularly popular excursion amongst tourists and natives alike is to hike or take the Fløibanen funicular up to the viewing platform of Fløyen, one of Bergen’s seven mountains. As we have mentioned previously, Bergen is nestled in a valley surrounded by seven mountains, and Fløyen is perhaps the most famous because of its outstanding views of the city and its hiking trails.
One recent afternoon, we joined Mi’s uncle Stephen, aunt Gerd, and cousin Valdemar on a funicular ride to the viewing platform- the top of the mountain is actually farther up but the platform affords the best views. Valdemar, a precocious almost-three-year-old aspiring fire-fighter, is currently fascinated with machines, particularly big trucks and tractors, so this seemed like the perfect way to spend the afternoon. The funicular, which is like a light train, travels on a single steep track from the city center to a height of 320 meters in just 8 minutes. Interestingly, this, Bergen’s most famous tourist attraction, has been shuttling people up the mountain since January of 1918.
Gerd and Valdemar meet a troll, one of the many mischievous mountain dwellers from Scandinavian folklore that can be found around Bergen.
Whilst Stephen and Valdemar stayed behind at the playground, Gerd escorted us up a path into the forest to teach us about mushrooms.
This is one of the varieties that we have learned the best and have found in the greatest abundance. It is a kind of chanterelle called the yellowfoot or the funnel chanterelle. Although it is not as well known, and some say not as tasty, as its bright yellow cousin the golden chanterelle, we enjoy their flavor. Most of all, we enjoy trekking out into the forest to forage for them, chatting amongst ourselves or just listening to the creaking, rustling exhalations of the forest. The joy is as much in the finding as in the eating.
This type of mushroom is often found in pine forests amongst the moss. It is a yellowish mushroom with a hollow stem and a hole in its cap. The underside of the cap has veins rather than gills. They can be found in groups so when one stumbles upon a few, it is likely to find many more nearby. Amusingly, the mushroom book that we borrowed from Gerd describes this variety as “gregarious.” Each of these characteristics distinguish it from less palatable and potentially dangerous mushrooms. Nevertheless, when we get home from “a hunt” we lay them all out on newspaper and spend hours meticulously cleaning off any remaining detritus, detaching the occasional hitchhiking slugs or worms, and inspecting each one to ensure that it is safe to eat.
Our “prey” likes to grow on small hills, especially near boulders, so Kelly carefully climbed up the slick rocks to investigate.
This was Kelly’s first mushroom trip (Mi’s second) and she grinned the entire time, so pleased with every discovery. When we had finished, our bags were about 1/3 full; not bad for a few hours work but definitely far from our most prolific finds. We made our way back to the playground to find Valdemar happily splashing knee deep through a creek that runs along the side of the playground. Soaked to the waist and laughing, this true water baby didn’t seem to mind the chill. He even ate an ice cream after Kelly was able to coax him out of the water.
This picture pretty much speaks for itself.
Besides mushroom picking, another of our favorite activities is to take long walks around the lake near our apartment. We loop around the lake a few times a day, catching up, watching the ducks, and admiring the greenery.
On one of our walks, we were surprised to see these two riders on our familiar path: one on a big horse and one on a small horse.
Once we had been instructed by Gerd about a few common and easy to determine varieties, we felt confident enough to go on a trip of our own up Fløyen. This time, we hiked up. There are quite a few lovely varieties of mushrooms that are nice to look at but not to eat.
We walked farther along the path and found a lake, beside which we ate the homemade sushi lunch that we brought. This persistent duck wanted to share.
Star Wars makes for great entertainment for the otherwise tedious task of sorting mushrooms. As you can see, our second trip to Fløyen yielded a meagre amount. It seems as though that is a popular spot.
On yet another excursion, Stephen and Gerd showed us this gorgeous forest, which was a little drive away from Bergen in Os. Everything was green in every direction; even the tree trunks and mostly-leafless branches were wearing moss-sweaters.
This is Lyse Abbey, a Cistercian monastery founded in 1146. The monks, whose religion dictated that they eschew possessions and live a life of poverty, became successful farmers and the surrounding land is still devoted to farming today. The ruins stand at the edge of the forest we explored.
Our findings from that day made for our biggest collection yet! If you can see the little tupperware container in the middle, that one has some different varieties in it that are better eaten fresh than dried. Look carefully and you will see that the mushrooms in the container are a brighter yellow-orange color because they are golden chanterelles. There are also a few piggsopp, or hedgehog mushrooms, in there too. Those are pale white and their undersides are covered with little spikes which give them their name.
On another trip to the Milde arboretum we discovered some new spots.
That white bag hanging from Mi’s backpack is for trash that we find along the way. We are dedicated to not only reducing our own impact on the environment but also to cleaning up after other, less thoughtful forest visitors.
Mi is sad about how much trash we found, which was mostly plastic. We were surprised by how many yogurt cups, candy wrappers, and soda bottles we found considering that Norwegians are typically more nature-oriented than other people we’ve encountered on our travels.
Unfortunately, we didn’t time our departure very well and had to wait for the bus back to town for almost an hour. The art on the bus shelter behind us says LOVE, which we thought was appropriate. Kelly was pleased by how full our mushroom bag was. It is best to use a mesh bag because it keeps the mushrooms from getting soggy and lets some of the spores and dirt fall out.
A week or two later, this is what all our hard work looks like. As they dry, the mushrooms shrink to roughly a quarter of their original size, making our hours of work look meager and shriveled. After a few trips, the surfaces of our living room were covered with mushrooms laid out on newspaper and the air was filled with their unique smell. First, the room smelled damp and earthy. As the mushrooms dried they smelled like dog feet.
The funnel chanterelles become even more tasty once they are dried because the flavor is concentrated and intensified. Plus, they can be stored in airtight jars to be enjoyed throughout the year. To eat them, they just have to be rehydrated and cooked however you like.
Now that the weather is getting colder and wetter, this variety of mushrooms is just about finished for the year. It’s a good thing that we have 8 jars full!