Norway – The greatest fish market of Norway

This pier, shaped like a blunt arrow-head, is a famous old center for retail sales of fish. Almost every tourist who ever visited Norway has been here. The people leaning over the rail at this side of the triangle are looking down into the boat of a fisher-man and listening while somebody tries to make a shrewd bargain. The rule is never to give what the fisherman first asks, but to beat clown his price. This is partly because the average housewife really has a very small income, a good mechanic earning perhaps not more than $3 weekly, and partly because that is the way to play the game, chaffering, holding back, refusing and relenting by turns. Many of the fish are alive, swimming in water in the bottom of the boat or in tanks of water along the edge of the pier. Every sort of fish can be had here, from salmon of the most expensive quality down to the cheapest kinds of fish costing a cent or less. Dried, salted and smoked fish are also for sale.

These city people are too sophisticated to carry wooden tiner for their purchases. Baskets are more in favor.

Now that we are so near the water we can see quite plainly the style of boat used by the fishermen, almost without exception high and pointed at both ends, like the old Viking ship that we saw at Christiania (Position 7). By the way, the Norwegian name for one of those sail boats— jaegte, is the same word as the English word “yacht.” Those staunch little craft can stand an almost incredible amount of knocking about in rough weather—the Norsemen have been boatbuilders from time immemorial. They know their business. Immense quantities of cod and herring are brought in here every season direct from the fishing banks among islands farther north. Valuable cargoes of cured fish, cod liver oil and whale oil are brought in here from Aalesund, Svolvaer, Hammerfest and other fishing stations at the north, and re-shipped to European buyers. Six million dollars worth or thereabouts leave this harbor every year for foreign ports.

That tall stone building in the distance, at the north side of the harbor, known as Valkendorf’s Tower, has stood there almost seven hundred years. King Haakon Haakonson built it after the civil wars were ended in the thirteenth century, and a national convention held here in Bergen had confirmed his right to the throne of Norway. Of course, it is not just as it was in Haakon’s time ; it was enlarged in the sixteenth century and repaired sixty years ago. It is now used as an arsenal and military museum.

Consult the city map and we find it shows a long quay, bordering the north side of the harbor, around a turn of the shore from the market-place. On the land side there are evidently buildings of some sort facing the quay. It is the old Tyskebrygge (German Quay)—a place widely celebrated and one which every tourist takes pains to see, because of its curious history. We shall stand where the number 51 is printed, and look off alongside the harbor as the red lines indicate.