Hello there! Hope summer is treating you well? Here in Bergen we have had the city pretty much to ourselves, with hardly any people coming in from abroad. It´s a strange experience to have, used as we are, to all you beautiful people visiting every year. While this year´s vacation may not take us very far from our own little corner of the world, it doesn´t mean that we should stop daydreaming of travels further afield. And what with the authorities gradually opening up borders for travellers, who knows – perhaps we will be seeing each other sooner than expected?
Here at Susan Fosse we are so privileged to have our beautiful shop in the most historical part of town, Bryggen, looking straight out of a postcard. We would like to keep your wanderlust alive with these five fun facts about Bryggen – the third most visited attraction in Norway. Some, you may have heard before, while others may not be so obvious – so make yourself comfortable and read on!
FIVE FUN FACTS ABOUT BRYGGEN
1. Bryggen and Bergen used to be one and the same
That's right! We're talking about the period when Bergen had just been founded, in the 1070s. At the time, most of the population was concentrated by the waterfront on the northern side of the bay, roughly covering the area where Bryggen stands today. It took centuries before the population gradually grew to today's size, making Bergen the second largest city in Norway (~280 000 inhabitants).
2. Bryggen has been an international hub since the 1200s
Bergen was a crucial commercial harbour for Northern Europe in the Middle Ages and merchants and seafarers from all over Europe came here to work and trade – from Great Britain, to the Netherlands, but mostly from Germany. The German merchants from the Hanseatic League eventually took over Bryggen, while the Bergeners took to the southern end of the bay. This foreign presence is reflected in today's international nature of the city, and we can't wait for you to be back!
3. Bryggen's foundations are surprisingly well preserved...
... and this is partially due to the fact that some of the tenements (the long wooden buildings that make up Bryggen) were used to store salt bags which sometimes had holes in them, so the salt spilled through the cracks. A very efficient, and organic no less, way of preserving materials.
4. Bryggen today is around 140 metres closer to the water than it was in the Middle Ages.
The Vågen Bay was much wider in the past than it is today. As the city grew, one of the methods devised to create more space was to reclaim the sea. Wooden frames were placed in the water and filled with organic waste. Once layer upon layer of these frames were filled, they could then be built on. You could say Bryggen is built on a pile of rubbish, but such precious rubbish!
5. Come on baby light my fire...
One may think big city fires are a thing of the past. And oh boy, does Bergen have a history of fires! Bryggen has been ravaged by fires many times throughout history. The last significant fire took place in 1955; at the time, the locals were so frustrated with this fragile area that kept burning down, they even considered tearing the whole thing down to build a huge parking lot instead! Thankfully better ideas arose. Excavations started after the 1955 fire, lay the foundations for today's Bryggens Museum. Combine a visit to the museum with a walk through Bryggen's charming alleyways to soak up its past and present.
I hope you learned something new and fun! Leave us a comment with your favourite fun fact about Bryggen, or what you would like to read about next.
Have a great summer!