After the relative solitary and tranquility of Norway’s country side, I felt slightly overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of Bergen. The express boat disembarked us next to Bergen’s famous open air fish market around midday, and I was immediately engulfed by traffic. Norway’s second largest city with more than half a million visitors each year, sure is a busy, vibrant place albeit with a small-town charme.
I carefully navigated through leisurely and cheerful strolling pedestrians onto the road to my accomodation in Solheim Sør, a residential district a bit further inland.
I did not anticipate the elevation I had to master before reaching it, but not for nothing is Bergen called “the city among the seven mountains”, although which seven of the nine mountains are meant is an ongoing discussion among locas. Surrounded by fjords and nestled in between mountains, suburbs creeping up their slopes, or spread out on several islands, Bergen serves as a quick and easy gateway to nature.
During the Middle Ages, Bergen was an important and prosperous trading and seafaring port and one of the Hanseatic League’s main outpost offices. The Hanseatic merchants controlled most of the trade until the mid 16th century, enjoying exclusive trading rights with the northern fishermen. They lived and traded in their own town quarter, Tykse Brygge, built of rough-planked, gabled houses, serving as business premise, warehouse and living quarters alike. The old Hanseatic wharf has been preserved until today, and when strolling through the narrow rows of wooden houses with their overhanging balconies, makes one stepping back in time. Today Brygge houses tourists shops, boutiques and galleries as well as restaurants, of which not all blend too well into the historical surrounding. Meet a cruise ship or tour bus group, which basically is the steady-state (of course, I did not get lucky), and the enchanting atmosphere volatilises through the alleys’ roof openings.
While Bergen is still an important trade and seafaring centre today, due to its large student population and the council’s strong emphasis on art and culture, it is also considered to be the street art capital of Norway. Inspired by a visit from Banksy years back many took up spraying – establishing a lively street art scene. I truly enjoyed strolling through the streets and come across some amazing work at almost every turn.