By Corey Sandler
Bergen is a modern city set in an ancient town, the one-time capital of Norway and a place with a broken link to England.
The beautiful horseshoe harbor, framed by a handsome bowl of seven hills, has a bustling commercial center, an active fishery with a great public fish market, and a laid-back Scandinavian culture that meets up with a lively university and student culture.
Across its history, thought, Bergen has had its tough times. Plague and war, fire and ice.
Skies today began gray and threatening, with no fire or ice expected. Sun broke through at midday…forestalling a return to gray.
Bergen is said to have been founded by Olav Kyrre, also known as Olaf III. Olaf, the King of Norway from 1067 to 1093, was present at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in England.
That battle is considered the end of the Viking Age, or at least the beginning of the end. It pitted an invading Norwegian force led by King Harald Hardrada against an Anglo-Saxon army led by King Harold Godwinson.
King Hardrada and most of the other Norwegians were killed in a bloody battle. Olaf—the son of King Hardrada—survived and returned to Norway, where he founded the city of Bergen in 1070.
There are many intriguing alternate endings to that story:
London as a Viking capital?
Bergen as home of the occupiers of England?
Bangers and mash as the national dish of Norway?
Lutefisk in the pubs of Camden Town?
We’ll never know.
Bergen served as the capital of Norway in the 13th century, and late in that century it was a Kontor, a trading post, of the Hanseatic League. Some of the homes and warehouses of the traders, Bryggen, still stand along one side of the harbor.
In truth, what we see in Bryggen has been rebuilt numerous times. Many fires and a disastrous explosion in the harbor during German occupation of Bergen during World War II destroyed much of what was original. But the Norwegians mostly rebuilt, as built.
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