Monday, 9 July 2012

Bergen - Norway

Day 1. Bergen was established by King Olav Kyrre in 1070. Trade was concentrated around the Vagen area and the town grew from there. It grew through the Middle Ages and was a trading centre for much of northern and central Europe and England.
Bryggen - Bergen
From our hotel in the centre of town we walked in the direction of the harbour. The famous fish market was in full swing, all types of seafood on display from giant crab claws to whale meat which looked a distinctly unappetizing black. Next to the fish market a number of stalls were selling a variety of salami made from reindeer, elk and whale, they were offering samples for tasting. I tried the whale but it was not tasty, or maybe I was being prejudice as I’m not in favour of whaling. The promenade between these two markets was full of tourists. Across the road in the square were more stalls selling scarves, beanies, mittens in Nordic patterns and the never ending variety of souvenir t-shirts.
We continued on our way down to the Bryggen, where historic wooden buildings line the shore. Most of the buildings now house cafes and souvenir shops. The souvenir shops all sell much the same merchandise, elks, elks and more elks in any form you like followed by trolls. Though to be fair it is no different from souvenir shops in Australia being replete with kangaroos and koalas in all forms possible.  There were also varying forms of knitwear in Nordic designs, however though the quality is good it would be the case of ‘Would I love it in the morning?’ when looking at them.
Even though we didn’t drive the train from Oslo to Bergen we were feeling rather tired after exploring the town and decided to find a place nearby along the waterfront. We found a restaurant called ‘Zupperia’ which had a menu that tempted us. It was a little busy but even accounting for that the service was extremely slow, though the meal when we eventually got it was good.

View of Bergen from Floien Mountain

Day 2.  We headed straight to the funicular this morning and already there was a long line which quickly got much longer after we arrived. The line moved steadily and it wasn’t long before we had bought our ticket and was on our way up to the Fløien one of the seven mountains that surrounded the town. At the summit we had a great view of the town and the harbour. The day was cool and especially so on the summit so a nice hot coffee was in order. We then walked around and then we walked back down to the town.
We decided to go to the Art Gallery but on our way there was a very good street performer in the square and we stopped and watched for a while and before we knew it the time had got away from us. Still we continued to the gallery thinking we would find a place for a quick lunch on the way. We decided to have a quick lunch at the museum. We then went to buy the ticket and it was quite expensive but would be valid for the next day also as it was entry into the four Art Museums. There was only two we were interested in which was not the place we had lunch. We walked around and eventually found the entrance, it was not obvious, and by this time we would have just over an hour to view anything. We decided we would wait until the next day to make a decision.
I felt there must be some small interesting museum that we could get value out of the short time available as most places close at 4.00pm. First we went to Bergen’s Cathedral. For more than 900 years people have worshipped here. The first church was dedicated to ‘Olav the Holy’ Norway’s patron saint and according to records a church had been built here by 1150. It had been damaged by fire twice in the 13th century and King Magnus had donated money which enabled the Franciscan friars to build a beautiful church.  When the Lutheran Reformation was introduced in Norway the old cathedral was in ruins. The first Lutheran bishop of the area claimed the Franciscan church as the Cathedral.   
We managed to get a very quick look inside as the doors were closed at 4.00pm.  We were able to see the wonderful stonemasonry in the entrance, beautiful windows and portraits of almost all the bishops of Bjørgvin since the Reformation hang there. Aspects of the church were restored in the 1880’s but the Vestry and The Chapter House were completed at the same time as the Cathedral in 1301.
I looked at our information wondering if anything else would be open after 4 o’clock when I saw a museum had an open sign displayed outside. I popped my head in to enquire and found they were open until 5 o’clock.  This was the Hanseatic Museum.
The Hanseatic League originated in Germany. They traded throughout Europe with bases in Bruges, London, Novgorod and Bergen. The Hanseatics were the German merchants in Bergen from 1360-1754. They laid down regulations for their offices internal activities. Its religious needs were met at St Mary’s Church in Bergen. Office staff was required to remain unmarried and celibate. They worked and lived on the premises in rather Spartan conditions. Their living quarters were unheated due to risk of fire. Meals and socializing were in assembly halls with kitchens. The museum was very interesting giving an insight into trade of this area as well as the merchants involved.

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