Bergen In Norway
The Johansen family originated in Bergen and migrated in the mid nineteenth century. There are still lots of Johansen family members who live and work in Bergen. I have discovered from someone I am not related to, but who comes from Bergen, that we share certain physical characteristics such as the shape of feet and toes and ribcage that suggests a long heritage sharing this place. It is a beautiful city to be very proud of. Here are a few facts and views of Bergen.
Bergen is one of just a few historic cities in the world with a World Heritage listing. It is the birthplace of Edvard Grieg and it is in Bergen that Grieg learned the Scandinavian folk traditions that would inform his greatest music.
Bergen is the largest port in Scandinavia and one of the largest in Europe. It is also one of the few ports anywhere in the world that has been a significant port continuously for a thousand years. In 2004 Time magazine named Bergen a "secret capital" of Europe in maritime affairs due to maritime business and research, its naval base, and its role as the supply center for the oil fields of the North Sea.
The name Bergen means "The meadows on the mountains". The city has two nicknames, one of which is "The City Of The Seven Mountains". From the earliest times the seven mountains provided a natural barrier to invading armies.
Tradition always said that Bergen was founded by King Olav Kyrre in 1070 and consequently Bergen celebrated its 900th birthday in 1970. The problem with tradition is that it is often wrong and archaeological digs since 1970 have uncovered significant wharves and port facilities from at least a hundred years before the time of Olav. While Olav got the credit it appears the combination of one of the finest natural deep water harbor's in the world, easily defensible mountainous location for the town, and a rich hinterland made Bergen a logical choice for a major port from early in the Viking period. What Olav probably did do is make the harbor an "official" port and invest public money into port facilities. Security would have been enhanced by the presence of Olav's army.
Bergen grew rapidly and became the center of the trade in dried cod from northern waters. By the thirteenth century it was one of the most important city's in the Hanseatic League. It also became the capital of Norway until 1299. Significant events have included the Battle of Vågen in 1665 between the British and the Dutch. During the Second World War the Nazi's established naval facilities at Bergen and as a consequence there were several instances of attacks on ships and aerial bombardment.
Bergen has historically been built of wooden buildings tightly packed between the mountains and so there have been several fires that have devastated the city center. The last of these occurred in 1916, although another smaller fire happened in 1955. The most famous one, however was called the Great Fire and occurred in 1702. Only stone buildings in Bergen are older than this fire. The oldest is the 11th century Saint Mary's Church and the Håkon's Hall built in 1261. The imposing Rozenkrantz Tower was started in 1270 and added to in the 1560's.
Bryggen is the old wharf district on the eastern side of the harbor that attracts tourists from all over the world to its museums and restaurants but originally it was a primarily German speaking warehouse district at the center of the cod industry.
About 250,000 people call Bergen home. It was the largest city in Norway for most of its history and it is only in the 1850's that Oslo grew to be larger. Bergen remains the second largest city in Norway.
Geography and Climate
Bergen is situated on a series of inlets in the bay of Vågen between several mountains giving it its first nickname - The City Of The Seven Mountains. Cable cars take tourists to the tops of the mountains for some of the most beautiful views in Europe. The combination of natural beauty with the historic portions of the city mean the city os often described as one of the most beautiful city's in Northern Europe.
Its second nickname is due the the climate - The City Of The Rains. There is a famous Bergen joke - a boy in the street is asked by a visitor if it ever stops raining in Bergen. The boy replies "I don't know - I am only twelve". The longest recorded period without the rain stopping is 98 days. This is very interesting to me due to my love of rain. Perhaps all those hundreds of years of my family living in Bergen has made me genetically conditioned to the rain.
Grieg is only one of a long list of famous musicians from Bergen. Ole Bull, the nineteenth century violinist and composer is honored with a square in the city center named after him. The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1765, is one of the oldest orchestra's in the world. The Conservatorium of Music was founded in 1905.
The Buekorps is an old tradition peculiar to Bergen. The name means "The Archery Brigade (Bow Corps) It consists of boys (and since 1991, girls) who parade in the streets with wooden "guns", "halberds", and "saber's" surrounded by drummers. There is an annual Buekorps season with many performances culminating in the Constitution Day parade. There are many different brigades who are competitive.
Bergen is the home of many Black Metal bands who have become famous since the 1990's such as The Kings of Convenience, Enslaved, and Immortal.
Education And Research
The Institute of Marine Research was founded in 1900 is one of the most famous marine research facility's in the world. Economics too is a Bergen specialty with the Norwegian School of Economics producing the 2004 Nobel Laureate for economics, Finn Kydland. The University of bergen (17,000 students) specializes in climate research, petroleum research and medieval studies, while the Bergen University College, with 6,000 students has faculties of education, health, and engineering.
Other important educational institutions include the Naval Academy, and the Chr. Michelsen Institute (human rights and development).
Industry And Commerce
Fishing remains important but has been eclipsed by modern industries such as petroleum, banking, television, and tourism. Bergen is the largest cruise ship harbor in northern Europe and the main port handles 50% of Norway's trade. Although normally considered an educational issue, higher education and research are major components of the Bergen economy. The naval base is the largest in the region and is also a significant factor in the local economy.
Bergen is the hub of a major ferry network with passenger and car ferries to the rest of Norway, particularly the fiords of the north, and across the North Sea to Denmark, UK, Faroe Islands, Shetland Islands, and Iceland.
The airport has connections to major European cities and is the main supply center for the vast network of oil platforms in the North Sea. In Bergen there is a well developed network of trolley buses, funicular rail, light rail, cable cars, and rod transport to deal with the varied and challenging topography.
Near Bergen on the road to Oslo is the worlds longest road tunnel. It is so long (24.5 km, 15.2 miles) that engineers built 4 great caverns along the route as places for drivers to rest and be able to see something other than the normal tunnel walls. It was opened in 2000.
Bergen continues to grow as can be expected in a city of great oil wealth. But Bergen prospered for hundreds of years before oil and will continue to do so long after the oil is gone. The city is proud of its long heritage and tends to view life in terms of long spans of time. Economic optimism combines with a cultural awareness that makes Bergen a vibrant and exciting city for its citizens.