Bergen – Scandinavian Travel

It was near midnight before we got within the suburbs of Bergen. Here is undulating ground, with more wood, and villas shaded with trees. As we approached the city we met parties of men and women, some in carrioles and carts, others walking, coming out to spend the Sunday with their friends in the country; several of the young men had fiddles, others were singing, all very joyous and happy. It gave one a pleasant antici pation of the place; nor were we disappointed,

We found the streets quiet, and the watchmen reposing on painted garden chairs; the shop-windows, many of them without shutters, and the goods exposed and seen through the glass; but I was told robberies are very rare. Every house is built of wood, painted white, and covered with red tiles : by each is fixt a water-butt in case of fire. Drove to the hotel, but found it full; and also another; had we not met with a roving young mate of a vessel, we should have had to sleep in the streets. By his friendly assistance we got taken in at a restaurant and billiard-room, and passed the remainder of the night on two shake-downs in a loft; and the next day we got rooms at one of the hotels, with a beautiful view, over gardens, to a branch of the fjord, which runs upon two sides of a promontory, on which a portion of the town is built. The other branch forms the harbor, flanked on the northwest side by the old castle, the Marie kircha, and the long row of gabled warehouses, the relics of those times when Bergen was a Hanseatic town.

There are no great riches in Bergen, and but little want. The people are a contented race; the merchants devote their mornings to the counting-house; but after their twelve o’clock dinner, there is little business for the rest of the day. During the summer, they take short rest at night. Children are seen running about the streets till 10 r. it.; repose is taken after dinner; the pipe never fails, and a large proportion of the peasants and fishermen chew tobacco. It was pleasant to see the population enjoying themselves on the beautiful walks overlooking the sea, the horizon of which is concealed by rocky islands and mountains; every one seemed to be on a good understanding with his neighbor; the children were playing and tumbling on the new-mown hay, and the elderly people, in groups, smoking their pipes, or en-gaged in quiet gossip. The nurses in their high, black caps, and the gay ribbons and lace of the maid servants which smack of Copenhagen, and the red bodices of the country-women, add gaiety to the scene. There is a tea-garden at the back of the old castle, in a grove on a hill, where an old king is said to be buried; it is called Sverrersberg. The people are more primitive than the inhabitants of Christiania, more isolated, from their position, and satisfied with less exciting amusements.

The fish-market down at the quays is curious to see, and still more to hear. Billingsgate can hardly give forth shriller sounds, than the matrons and maidens of Bergen bargaining with the fishermen who sit in their boats, with the salmon and other fish exposed to view, while the women bid against each other, shrieking at the top of their lungs; the men wait with the utmost coolness, till it suits them to close their bargain. Near the fish-market are moored the “jagts,” fishing-boats peculiar to Nordland, said to be of the same build as the ancient vessels in which the Norse Vikings used to sail, and their lofty prows to be the remnant of the snake’s head which adorned them. These vessels were called sea-orms, and drages, or dragons, doubtless with reference to their figure-head.

It is interesting to trace this relic that that great verity—the fall of man by the serpent—surviving through ages of idolatry and heathenism, and perpetuated after the introduction of Christianity down to the present time; for the dragons’ heads on the roof of the church of Borgund, the interlacing of serpents and dragons with the foliage in the carved work, and the snakes heads on the hames of the harness, and on rings and silver ornaments, are evidently derived from the same source. As a proof how long patterns will last, the shape and details of the embossed shields of the bronze age are closely adhered to, in the present silver brooches of Telemarken, and the carving on the wooden spoons and beakers now, is almost identical with the flowing patterns of the third and fourth centuries..

We saw the castle. The tower is a curious structure, supposed to have been built originally by Haco Haconson, about the time of our Athel stan; but I should doubt it being nearly so old. It has been altered by one of the Rosencrantz family, who was governor of Bergen during the time of the Danish Dynasty.