When in Bergen, experience Bryggen Wharf during the day and again, at night to note how the ambience entirely shifts. It’s a beautiful transformation.
Everything about Bergen transports you across 1070 AD, when king Olav Kyrre befell his discovery upon this port, following the end of the Viking age by the Stamford Bridge battle. At its foundation, Bergen was named Bjørgvin, meaning green meadow surrounded by the mountains. Thankfully that hasn’t changed, despite the modernisation having seeped in gradually. To date, the traditional trading settlement of Bergen clutches to its stippled fragments of the Viking era. Be it the large drinking “Royal Horn of Norway,” from the 14th century or the Bryggen (Tyskebryggen) besieged by the winding train of Hanseatic heritage buildings by the eastern side of the Vågen harbour.
In the early 13th century, Bergen was, crowned, the capital of Norway and in the early 1830, this title was bestowed upon Oslo. Good for me, I commenced my Norway in a nutshell journey from Norway’s second-largest city, Bergen, concluding it at the largest city, Oslo. For the large part of my stay in Bergen, I was instinctively motivated to explore the city on foot. In this city of seven mountains, distances are bones and the quality of air, too good! Besides, Bergen maintains moderate cold weather during the summer so which makes walking more enjoyable.
In the daytime, I would walk around the Byfjorden (the city fjord), comprising the city centre and northern neighbourhoods, and by the early evening, I would land at the Bryggen Wharf to grab a meal at the seafood market. The paella and the lobsters here are the best I have tasted so far! Off the Wharf I would sight, the winning remnants of the World Heritage Site Bryggen in its full glory. Later in the night, as the darkness ascends, the houses lit up like a necklace made of orange diamonds. Arriving during the day, shall you like to watch Norway’s busiest port in action.
Currently, the port harbours over 300 cruise ships annually that bring almost a million passengers to Bergen. Back in the 11th-century, dried cod from the northern Norwegian coast was the principal export traded from Bergen. The Hanseatic buildings on the eastern side of the Vågen Harbour are slender wooden residences aggrandising quayside. The earliest civilisation settled here in the 11th-century, including the oldest surviving house Schøtstuene. Taking a walk here is as good as stepping into an early-age village characterizing the Middle Ages. The ones near Julehuset are from the early seventeenth century.
Bergen had hit its pinnacle of the trading way back in the 12th-century when it was granted a monopoly for trade by King Håkon Håkonsson. In the 14th-century, North German merchants re-discovered the Bryggen Hanseatic League. By the end of the 14th-century, Bergen had authenticated itself as the hub of trade. The Hanseatic merchants resided in private quarters, enjoying preferential rights to deal with the northern fishermen each summer. What makes these houses exceptional, is that, despite their wooden structure, most sustained, the big 17th-century fire.
While rambling at the harbourside, I cut across Bellgården, Svensgården, Enhjørningsgården, Bredsgården, Bugården, Engelgården and St Mary’s Church, in one’s dotage. Taking a trip to the Hanseatic museum (a 3-minute walk from Bryggen) will reveal a lot about the early years of trading in Bergen. Here you can observe Hanseatic era archaeological excavations. In 1979, Bryggen, Bergen’s traditional quayside, was listed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. And so, a trip to Bergen is incomplete unless you have toured Bryggen Wharf, an absolute delight of a landmark.
Traditional Wooden Homes
I still remember how excited I was when I’d first set my eyes on this breathtaking Wharf from the Strandkaien road beside the seafood market. I was blown away by the colourful cordon of wooden houses dating back to the medieval era, casting reflections as pretty as a picture and lighting up the waters of the Askoyruten strait. Then, I traced the silhouette to the last house down the iconic Wharf and then back to the main street, now occupied by stores, currency exchange stations, museums alongside a remarkable harbour-side consorting voyagers in motion.
Travelling in August (2016) unquestionably allowed me to explore more! In winters, most of this Hanseatic beauty is, entombed beneath the snow. Summers are clear and dynamic, and you can obtain magazines and postcards from the stores, hotels and restaurants. Whether you are a backpackers, a flashpacker, a family or a solo traveller, these are the best location guides you can get your hands on!
When in Bergen, experience Bryggen Wharf during the day and again, at night to note how the ambience entirely shifts. It’s a beautiful transformation. In the evening, grab a pint or a cup of coffee at a wharf facing bar-restaurant and enjoy spectacular views with hi-speed Wi-Fi. Nearly all cafes, restaurants and bars in the neighbourhood provide free Wi-Fi.