Thursday, 8 November 2018

Bergen old City and the Hanseatic league

In 2 days in Bergen we walked around the town, saw the leprosy museum, eat fish, learnt about the Hanseatic league, heard marching bands and a polish string quartet.

We walked round the city with a German guide, Martin who liked the space in Norway.  Bergen has architecture from medieval times to the 21st century including art deco theatres and art galleries.  The city was repeatedly burnt down until the houses were built of stone.  Our best views of the city, harbour and islands were on Sunday from the top of Mt Floyen which we ascended by funicular.

The Hanseatic League was a German trading empire in the 12-16 centuries with a major outpost in Bergen, giving the town trading status. Germans lived and worked in Brygeen an area of houses by the harbour, and only Germans could worship in the German church. An old Breggen houses is now a beautiful museum depicting the cod industry, merchant and trading life. The fire risk was so ever-present in these houses they had no fires, and must have been bitterly cold in winter. Cod were caught in February off the Lofoten islands, dried and exported to Europe, Africa and Brazil for fish soup and baclau. The cod fish was so thick on the harbor that people could walk across it on cod.

The fisheries museum has an excellent graphic of the towns population and housing over the centuries with the regular fires destroying 90% of the city and interesting displays about modern fishing.  We had an enjoyable Sunday morning stroll along quiet streets back to the old town. We saw electric cars, popular because of subsidized electric fuel.

We feasted on fish; mussels and chips in the Fish hall, spicy fish in a in a renovated hall with Stanley Spencer like murals and then a quick fish salad picnic lunch on paper plates in the sunshine but costing £20 in Norway.

On Saturday morning we heard marching bands practicing for a national competition, in the evening in St Georg’s church we heard a Polish string quartet play Brahms, Grieg and Schubert with a beautiful rendition by cello and violin of the Brahms slow movement. 

We had a second visit to the leprosy museum to absorb the atmosphere better.

Bergen is a lovely city, small and compact, with many attractions, art and history museums. I was sorry to miss the Greig museum. It feels well run with good public services especially good public transport including the airport bus.  One can visit the fjords from there so I hope I return soon.

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