A damp day to go troll hunting in Bergen…
After our 12 hour adventure yesterday we wanted to spend today chilling out here in Bergen, checking out the local sights and soaking in some Norwegian ambience. So we had a sleep-in then set out with all our wet weather gear (it’s been cloudy, drizzling or all out raining all day!) to check out more of Bergen’s Old Town. First though we caught the funicular railway up to the top of My Floyen to get some views of Bergen and go troll hunting.
A Note on Trolls
Trolls are an intrinsic part of Scandinavian mythology. These gigantic, cave-dwelling creatures reportedly live in rocky, mountainous places (i.e. most of Norway, from what we’ve seen!), and are just one type of Jötunn – the ancient race of “hidden people”. Though descriptions vary somewhat from country to country, Norwegian trolls resemble giant humans. They are extremely tall (i.e. 50m+ tall) and their bodies are covered in fur and tangled matted hair. Often they have exaggerated and deformed facial features such as jutting lower jaws, protruding brows, long bulbous noses and up to 3 heads. Trolls also have claws and fangs, and eat humans if hungry. They don’t talk or wear clothes, and can live for 1000 years. We’ve been quite intrigued by the whole troll thing for a while now; a few years ago we saw an awesome Norwegian movie called “The Troll Hunter” which sparked our interest (you should check the movies out if you’re keen to have a laugh). We didn’t find any of the real, giant trolls, but there are funny troll statues all over place here. They almost make trolls look cute!
After our trip up Mt Floyen we went down to check out Bryggen, Bergen’s old port. Bryggen is the oldest part of Bergen, famous for the multi-coloured 14th century Hanseatic warehouses that line the waterfront there. Bergen was part of the Hanseatic League* for almost 400 years and has been an important trade town for at least a millennia. Today Bryggen is a major tourist attraction and all the old warehouses have been restored and turned into souvenir shops and restaurants. There is also a market set up on the waterfront, which made for a perfect place to grab a coffee and watch tourists go past. We spent the rest of our morning wandering through the streets of Bryggen, sampling raspberries, blueberries and strawberries at the markets and peering at the giant King Crabs in the tanks at the fish market. They had whale meat for sale at the markets too, as well as cloudberry jam, reindeer leather and moose prosciutto.
*The Hanseatic League was a confederation of trading towns in Northern Europe that existed from the 13th to 17th centuries. The League was created to protect the economic interests of its member cities; it had its own legal system and member cities had their own armies that could be deployed to other member cities for mutual protection and aid. Cities that were part of the League flourished under this protective banner and were often very wealthy.
From Bryggen we continued on to Bergenhus Fortress. This defensive structure, built in 1240, is one of the oldest and best preserved castles in Norway. This medieval building is constructed form local stone, which makes for a grey and rather imposing structure. In its time it has been used as a fort, a monastery, and as the German navy headquarters during the WWII Nazi occupation of Norway.
It was an interesting enough building, but we didn’t get to hang around and see much of the fortress or gardens because at this point the heavens opened up and it started to pour. So we quickly headed home and have been tucked up warm and dry for the afternoon, waiting for the rain to ease up so we can see a bit more of Bergen. Tonight’s our last chance too because tomorrow we’re off to Oslo, Norway’s capital city and our last stop in this country.