Sept. 8, 2017:
Apologies for our sloth in the much-delayed posting of this day in Bergen, Norway. Fortunately for us, today is a much less arduous day after our mammoth bus tour of yesterday. Jim and I were able to eat a leisurely breakfast aboard ship before setting off on foot to explore Bergen.
As with all these western Norwegian towns, the bay here is beautiful, and the sail into port was eye-catching with all the low islands in a very secluded bay carved by the glaciers’ retreat several millennia ago.
Bergen was founded in 1070 by King Olav Kirre. Over the centuries, it grew great in commercial clout. For a time during the Middle Ages, Bergen was the largest city in all the Nordic countries. In the 1400s, because of the strength of its fish and grain exports, it became one of the German Hanseatic League’s four great trading centers. The old town port area of Bergen known as the Bryggen was the center of this activity, so it was there we headed to check out Bergen’s maritime history and architecture.
If you have seen any photos of Norway, chances are that at least one of them was of the darling Bryggen area. The old wooden trading houses in beautiful bright colors are amazingly photogenic! Jim and I had a blast wandering through the narrow alleyways that snake between the buildings. Like Ålesund, Bergen has a long history of fires destroying its central core, particularly in the heavily-trafficked Hanseatic wharf area. The last major fire took place in 1702, so most of the buildings only date back that far, even though the town’s history dates back much further.
In addition to its shipping past, Bergen is well known for two other contributions to world culture. It was the home of pianist/conductor Edvard Grieg, and is also home to the fashion houses of Dale of Norway (think iconic Norwegian knit sweaters) and the Ileana knitwear company, which has brought a much more contemporary floral motif and color palette to the huge Norwegian wool industry.
Our first stop was to wander through the grounds of the Bergen Castle (Bergenhus Festning) , which is a huge fortress built right on the water. It dates back to the 13th Century, when it was built by King Håkon Håkonssen. From the ramparts high above the town, there were beautiful views over the harbor.
Then we walked on through the Bryggen area and on to the central fish market, which is outdoors right at the harbor mouth.
Our major activity of the day was a ride up the funicular to Mount Floyen, which overlooks the harbor of Bergen. We were scheduled to take a hike around the top of the mountain, but the combination of rain beginning to fall, and my lingering cold meant that Jim and I took the trip up, took the requisite photos, admired the ubiquitous Norwegian sheep and went back down the hill, the better to have a warm drinkie on board the ship. That’s it folks; nothing more to see here!