Our last port of call on our Norway fjord cruise was Bergen Norway. This city of 277,000 people was established in 1070 just four years after the Viking age ended. Thought to have been an established trading post by 1020, the city came into itself around 1100 as a flourishing trade in cod which was fished from the North Atlantic and dried for easy transport.
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By the mid 14th century the Hanseatic League, made up of German merchants, had made Bergen Northern Europe's largest trading centre. For a while Bergen was the country's capital until Oslo gained that title in the mid 1300's during the reign of King Haakon V
From the 14th century to mid 1700's the Hanseatic League dominated trade in Northern Europe through the town of Bergen. Gradually Norway business man, many of German descent, grew in dominance of the trading of goods in and out of the city.
Bergen is a town spread out over many islands where much of the land is steep terrain and the town is disjointed due to the ocean separating the citizens. In recent years Norway has constructed a series of tunnels connecting traffic island to island which has energized the city and it's growth.
Today Bergen is a modern city and one of Norway's largest with a population on the move. Modern trams shuffle the streets in the main part of town; the centre of town has a picturesque plaza with a scenic mountain backdrop reminds me of something I would expect to see in Switzerland.
It was still only May and winter was late leaving..which meant it was still cool and unsettled weather. The beaming sun was replaced 10 minutes later with a rain that soaked us in just a few minutes and cooled our bones.....just like back home in Vancouver Canada.
We didn't know it at the time, but from our ship we had a good view of the oldest part of town which was were the historical German merchant stores were located.
Within minutes a steady rain was making the walking part of our tour not fun so we hopped the Hop On - Hop Off bus for a tour of the city while we got a quick view of where to go and tried to stay dry. The part about the "staying dry" didn't work very well as we were on the upper deck with only a canvas roof to keep the rain off. The wind was pushing the rain sideways into the bus with the stiff accompanying wind, so staying dry was not an option.
As the saying goes, "if you don't like the weather wait ten minutes" and sure enough the rain went away and the sun tried to poke it's nose through the clouds. Ahh, that's more like it...
The bus chugged along the city roads through the shopping district and past City Hall and the other local highlights giving us a perfect vantage point to see the fair city's lovely streets and homes.
This is the part of travelling in Europe I love...old brick buildings with the occasional street's cobblestone surface still intact never fails to bring visions of an older time to mind. Men and women strolling down the street in period garments enjoying the weekend sunshine after a long winter. Or business men walking briskly, with that no nonsense Germanic influence about them, on their way to make another deal before the end of the day.
We hopped off the bus at a likely place which turned out to be the centre of town with the lovely fountain and what surely is a favourite gathering place for the city folk during the nice weather. The view sure couldn't be beat....I know I would hang out here on a warm summer night drinking in life's small pleasures and being thankful for what I had.
Look, we're smiling! Being dry and not cold can do that for you...... :)
We thought about taking the tram for another trip or catching the Hop On - Hop Off bus again but as the sun was trying to warm up the city we decided to take stock of where we were and where we wanted to go.
We all agreed that the funicular (tramway) that went up the side of Mt. Floyen was high on our lists of things to do.... so, after a quick check of the map, we realized that we were not that far way.. so off we went for a walk.
This turned out well for us as it not only brought us back to the edge of the harbour close to where the old German Town was, it also provided a walking tour through the older section of town. At some point we realized we were in the the "avant garde" part of town judging by the funky little shops and murals on the buildings.One piece of whimsical art we enjoyed was the shoes affixed to the side of a building..now that was unique!
A few short blocks of walking brought us to the city's highlight and a first for me - the funicular up to the top of Mt. Floyen. As this was a major tourist attraction we had to wait about 45 minutes before we had a chance to board - but that was to be expected for an attraction such as this.
Apparently you can take walking trails up the mountain to reach the observation area as well....hmmm, no thanks......that doesn't sound like my cup of tea.....I don't do hills well... :)
Click on any picture to see all the pictures full size.....these pictures taken from the mountain are great! If I do say so myself...
Here are a few closeups of the areas seen in the pictures above. I look at this pictures and see the heart of old Bergen on the water front....ocean going ships still come into the harbour for loading and off-loading goods like they have for hundreds of years.
The centre picture is a celebration of life....the fountain and it's surrounding walk ways and plaza provide a meeting place for the city's residents to come and enjoy each other's company and to smile at life for a while.
The third picture is best described as modern....it shows that the city is alive and thriving in this current age even though it's geographical location pinpoints the city as "remote". This city is anything but "remote" in life...
We took the obligatory photo that says "we were here"! and then it was time to go back down the mountain...perfect timing as another tram was heading up and another rain squall was coming our way.
First picture above.....No matter were you go....McDoanlds has been their first..
Wait a minute, McDonalds has free WIFI and Ed remembers that there is a geocache right around this street corner somewhere. (Ed was smart enough to pre-scout locations where we would visit and keep them in the back of his mind for future reference).
So Ed walks over to McDonalds, takes his IPad out of his back pack and gets onto the Internet and then goes to GeoCaching.com to check it out. Sure enough, right across the street is the Hanseatic League Museum and there is a geocache right outside. A couple of minutes looking by Ken and Ed and we have the geocache in hand - YAY! One more country I have geocached in....only a few hundred or more to go. :)
We had walked ourselves right into the heart of the original German Town area of Bergen - this is where the Hanseatic League had their original merchant shops. Some of the buildings in the picture are the originals from way back in the day when the area was the centre of trade in Northern Europe. In behind the shops are a warren of alleys and passage ways that lead to other shops hidden behind the street facing shops. See how the buildings are so old they are leaning on one another for support...
This was a wonderful place to explore both from a historic point of view and a personal point of view. It's so wonderful to see a town take pride in it's heritage and take the effort to keep their history intact for all to see and enjoy. Many years ago when I was a wee lad in Vancouver Canada learning about the Hanseatic Leagure that existed hundreds of years ago in far away Europe I never thought that I would have the live experience of wandering around the buildings those same people did.
And it was awesome.....as fantastic as Mt.Floyen was to visit and be on top of the world....this was far more impressive. Good on Bergen for saving this for the world to enjoy.
This original German town areas was the last of the Unesco World Heritage sights that we would visit on our trip...I think we visited 5 altogether which is pretty amazing. To travel and visit one is hard to arrange and spectacular when you do....to visit 5 in one week is phenomenal.
We were only 3-4 blocks away from our ship and the day was getting to an end so we walked away from history and back towards our present day reality with a couple of more views of old Bergen along the way.
The first picture is of the Rosenkrantz Tower built in the 1560's by the governor of Bergen Castle as a combination family residence and fortified tower. The Rosenkrantz Tower is considered to be one of the most important Renaissance monuments in Norway.
I do not know what the buildings in the second picture are....they remind me of a army barracks high up on the hill keeping guard over the city.
That's it folks, back on the ship and next stop is home port of Copenhagen...it feels very much like home to us now. Over the past two visits we have spent probably a week's worth of time in Copenhagen and have become very familiar with the city.
We had one more day in Copenhagen before Ed and Annette had to head home to Vancouver Canada. As Ken and Linda had come over a week later than us they were to fly out the same day and head for London and then onto a bus tour of south-east Britain...lucky them....
Thank you for reading this blog post and if you read all the ones that made up this trip to Europe then thank you very much for taking the time to come along with us on our journey.
These pictures and more not shown on this blog posting can be seen on my Flickr photo site here