bryggen bergen

In December last year I was able to visit the beautiful, rainy city of Bergen for a few days. It was actually my first time travelling on my own, but the nerves and various moments of panic were definitely worth it in order to visit this incredibly pretty place! Here are some of my favourite parts.

I arrived in Bergen on Thursday evening and, of course, it was already dark. The bus to Bryggen where my Airbnb host was going to pick me up was a bit of blur, as all I could think about was that I was actually in Norway surrounded by actual Norwegian people (this became a recurring theme during the trip)!

The next day was a lot more eventful! After a quick look around Julehuset (year-round christmas shop), I realised how extremely hungry I was and (to my shame) found a Starbucks to sit in and survey the area. I would have preferred a more Norwegian coffee shop, but I was feeling rather nervous about my Norwegian and just really wanted my coffee. One of the more useful things about Scandinavia is that almost everyone is fluent in English, which sometimes makes it difficult for us language learners, but other times is a lifesaver! 

One of my primary travel missions was to buy Norwegian books and Christmas decorations, so I then spent a long time looking around the bookshop Norli and the Kløverhuset shopping centre for some quintessentially Scandinavian bargains. This was actually a great place for language practice, and I’m sure I fooled a few shop assistants (though they may have just been being polite)!

The Bergen Card I bought earlier in the day gave me free access to the KODE art museums next to Byparken (you can see KODE 4 in the first picture, it’s the white building on the right of the christmas tree). The kind of art I find most interesting are more traditional paintings, so I visited KODE 3, home of Rasmus Myer’s collection. It was a Friday, so the museum was fairly empty and I spent a fascinating hour or two walking around in blissful silence. Afterwards I visited a more Norwegian coffee shop nearby called Brunello, which I won’t say much about except that I highly recommend it for tasty, wintery tea and cake.

I also couldn’t visit Bergen in December without visiting the world’s largest gingerbread town. It was a little walk from the main street Torgalmenningen, in what I think is a swimming pool during the year, and was a huge display of gingerbread houses, landmarks and even a quidditch pitch! It took about half an hour to walk around it, and at the end there was a little shop selling sweets and julebrus, which is a kind of christmas soda. Very cute!

On Saturday, I took the light rail to Fantoft to visit the stave church, which is only sparsely signposted, making for an interesting and longer than expected walk! Unfortunately I’m very dumb and forgot to charge my camera, so this is the best photo I got of it. Also, they close the actual church during the winter, so I could only walk around the outside, but it was still a lovely winter walk. You can also walk further down and see the fjord near Paradis.

I did plan to go on the Fløibanen up to Mount Fløyen on Sunday, but Bergen decided to impress me with some incredibly heavy and stormy rain. I suppose it had to happen at some point, and on the plus side I caught up with some prime Norwegian Netflix. I don’t mind too much, because I definitely want to go back!

I’m pretty sure I’m a little biased, as I love Norway endlessly and I could probably stay in a cardboard box and still have the time of my life there. But all the same, Bergen is a really welcoming and chilled out city, and the ‘kos’ (special Norwegian cosiness) is almost tangible. 

Have you been somewhere that inspired you recently?

// Rachel //

After the end of the Viking period the runes became more and more in common use by ordinary people. A lot of rune inscriptions from the end of 1100’s, 1200’s and 1300’s, the so-called town runes, show that it was not only the professional scribes who wrote runes. Even the ordinary people had learned the art of reading and writing runes because runes were the most accessible tool for them and were useful in their mercantile trading.
“Training sticks” have been found which were used to learn runes, showing that more people could write and read than one had previously believed. It is interesting that knowledge of runes was not taught in the schools of the time which were run by the Christian church and clergy. Church and clergy schools were limited to those who could raise money for the fees. Therefore it appears that common man’s knowledge of reading and writing runes was passed down from person to person.

Numerous runic inscriptions from the later years found in archeological diggings in towns, for example Bryggen in Bergen, not only open a new world of thought and ideas, but have brought us in contact with the small merchants and small scale occupations or trades.

Runic inscriptions enter into a regular part of trades and made contributions both in efficiency and specialization. The old brands or trademarks (made of runes) could replace writing out a whole name. Third parties could effectively be brought into trading transactions, debts recorded, or to deputize another to do business for one.

Short inscriptions were used daily about grain, fish, cod, salt, beer, mead, yarn, homespun, cloth, weapons etc. For example:

“Ragnar owns this fishnet.”
“Torkjell Coinmaker sends you pepper.”
“Bård has paid one and a half øre*, but with scanty weight.”
“Henrik has paid two ertog*, but probably with bad silver.”
“Ingemund Sheep has paid two and a half ertog*” etc.

The runic trading inscriptions show that this was hardly daily shopping as we know it, because the consignment and the accounts point to much larger purchases of butter, milk, fish, grain, cod, salt, beer etc. But this is an old and well known fact of life of the Norwegian agricultural population.

A “félag”, a partnership or company, is what we encounter in a letter written with runes from Tore Fager to Havgrim around 1300. Tore had been on a trading consignment in which he had bad luck. He wrote to Havgrim of the company:

“Tore Fager sends God’s and his own greetings, in fellowship and friendship. I lost some of the goods for the company in the trading. I have not gotten the beer or the fish. I want you to know this so that you do not call me to account for this. Ask the farmer to come south and visit us and see how it is. Urge him to it, and do not call me to account for anything; and do not tell Torstein Lang anything. Send me some gloves. If Sigrid needs anything, ask her to come to you. Promise me that I will not get any difficulties because of this lack.”

The runic inscriptions lead us into a milieu in which both men and women took an active part in trade. There is mention of Lucia Grimsdatter, Vemund, Eirik, and other common Norwegian names. These people were an important group of traders in the cities. Later the German traders gained the right to also conduct small scale trading, which became a big problem for the local traders.

There is never found any runic inscription with numbers, the accounts is all ways spelled with runes.