We took a risk fifteen years ago, one that some thought was crazy, but it led to this completely happy story. As we planned a nearly three-week trip to Scandinavia, we deliberately planned to make no hotel reservations, none, to allow freedom of movement from one city and country to another without the encumbrance of a schedule.
We roughly divided our time by thirds, so that we would spend about one-third of our time in Sweden, one-third in Norway, and one-third in Denmark. This post is focused on one breakfast in Bergen, Norway, one of the most appealing and colorful seaports we have ever seen.
Our method was to go to the train station in each of the cities we visited to use a quick and easy reservation service for finding a local hotel for the number of nights we wanted to be there. For example, when our flight from New York landed in Stockholm, we took the train from the airport to downtown. When we arrived at the station, we first walked to the booth for making hotel reservations. As I recall we reserved a room for four nights in a nice hotel in the heart of Stockholm.
At the end of our Stockholm visit, we took the train to Oslo for a few days. Next we took the train on a spectacular ride over the mountains—one of the ten most beautiful train rides in the world according to our travel guide—from Oslo to the beautiful seaport town I mentioned, Bergen, Norway.
The only hitch in getting a nice downtown hotel on the entire trip occurred in Bergen. Nothing was available downtown. However, there was a room available in a recommended hotel about two miles away, so we, with some disappointment, took it and hopped on a bus to our hotel for the night. We made the reservation for one night only because the following afternoon we were to take a boat, the Hurtigruten, from Bergen on a fjord cruise to Trondheim.
Our remote hotel that night was clean and well appointed, the typical Scandinavian way, as was the case in the other hotels we stayed in on the entire trip. The desk clerk explained where we could find the also typical sumptuous buffet breakfast the following morning. He mentioned something about an adjoining medical center, but we had no need for that and didn’t pay much attention to the information about it.
Breakfast the next morning was unlike any breakfast we have had anywhere else. To say the experience was unique would be a gross understatement.
We went through the buffet line as usual to get our breakfast, but something was different about this place. Very different.
As we sat with our breakfasts, we noticed a number of newborn babies with their mothers at various tables in the dining area. This is what the hotel desk clerk was trying to tell us the night before when we showed so little interest in what he was saying.
The number of newborns was a dozen or more, and it is highly likely that some of the mothers who had given birth in the last forty-eight hours or so were new to the world of motherhood themselves. Hospital employees or volunteers brought trays of food to the mothers, apparently feeling it was not a good idea for those nursing mothers to help themselves at the buffet.
The dining area was surprisingly quiet with the young mothers and newborns having their breakfasts outside the maternity ward. Maybe that’s not too different from a group of chatty adults who fall silent when they sit down to eat. Satiating hunger trumps the need to be heard.
Now those newborns back in 1999 are almost fifteen years old. Most if not all of them are Norwegians making their way through high school on the path to adulthood. Most of them probably live in or near Bergen.
Neither the young mothers nor their babies we had breakfast with that morning know or remember us. But we know a few things about them, and we will never forget them. That travel experience was like none other, a side benefit now that came from taking a bit of a risk, allowing for serendipity, and seeing what happens.