Monday, December 2, 2013
Bergen is a beautiful seaside town with an impossibly picturesque and wobbly waterfront. It served as Norway's capital in the 12th and 13th centuries thanks to wealth accumulated from oodles of dried cod flooding in from the north and its membership in the Hanseatic League that distributed the cod all over Europe. The colorful wharf, the Bryggen, survives from the 1700's only due to a strict enforcement of fire-free living quarters brought on by the city's experience with ten horrific fires in the past. Candles and fires were only allowed in a separate building behind the larger warehouses and living spaces. The men would warm themselves and cook in these assembly rooms before heading back to their lightless, frigid rooms. We spent our time in Bergen wandering through the creaky quarters of the medieval Bryggen. Built on the burnt remains of wooden buildings from the past, the walls lean at crazy angles and wooden planks moaned under our feet. We expected the walls to collapse at any moment. In the depths of the narrow alleyways, we stumbled upon a Viking store. We checked out its Viking weaponry, helmets and clothing. When we struck up a conversation with the owner, I couldn't help but to ask if he knew our Viking taxi driver. He did. Apparently Georg is famous in Norway and even has a Viking doll that was made in his likeness. We took a break to eat some lunch at a lovely cafe where a Portuguese barista brought back all kinds of warm and fuzzy feelings for the Portuguese people. We spent an afternoon checking out a 13th century fortress left over from Bergen's days as capital. We checked out the Hanseatic Museum where we saw the well preserved and still frigid living quarters from the 1700's, including authentic 100 year old dried cod. We ate an amazing dinner within the back alleyways of the Bryggen where the cobbled floor sloped downward and the building positively reeked of magical medieval atmosphere. And cod. Here we ordered a wide array of Norwegian Christmas dishes including roasted reindeer (sorry Santa), smoked salmon, meatballs and lutefisk wrapped in lefsa. We were all surprised that we liked the lutefisk and ordered more. For dessert we ate krumkaka (a traditional Christmas cookie in Norway and beloved memory from my childhood) with cream and berries.