Bergen. 1702. A fire started in one of the old timber buildings, and quickly spread to 90% of the town. Bergen was in ashes. Almost everything was gone. The Bergensers did not lose hope. It was not the first fire to destroy their city, and it wouldn’t be the last. They re-built. Following old plans they reconstructed the old Norwegian capital to it’s former glory.
The townspeople swapped the tar covered roofs for brightly painted timber. They took precautions in winter such as communal cafeterias to avoid lighting open fires unnecessarily in their homes. Sixty-two of these original buildings remain today, giving visitors a unique opportunity to walk the streets of Bergen and easily imagine what it must have been like over three hundred years ago.
Bergen’s Hanseatic Musuem lies on the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bryggen Wharf. A fascinating remnant of one of the world’s oldest trading ports. Since Bryggen achieved World Heritage Site status in 1979, further precautions have been put in place to protect the Hanseatic heritage of the city and this important cultural and historical piece of Bergen’s past.
The Hanseastic Musuem stands at the end of Bryggen Wharf. The museum is set in one of Bergen’s old trading houses, which was built after the fire in 1702. Hanseatic merchants would have lived in the rooms, all unmarried, and under strict rules of celibacy when in the area. They would eat in assembly halls, much like today’s cafeterias which would be heated and separate from the living quarters. The Hanseatic Museum is the only building in the area in which the interiors of this time have been preserved.
The museum features several rooms which show different aspects of life during the Hanseatic period. There is an office that would have belonged to the merchant. Here, he would have received his visitors and kept his ledger.
There is also a wonderful store room which shows how the traders would have dried their fish, the tools they would have used in their daily work.
My personal favorite was the living quarters, where you can see the beds that the traders would have slept in. Two men would have shared a bed, I assume partly because of space issues but it also likely came in handy to have the body warmth in the colder winter months.
There are still cabinets and walls that feature original 18th century landscape paintings and designs which are just beautiful to see. If you look closely around the walls, furniture, and doors you can discover these artistic impressions from long ago.
Bergen’s Hanseatic Museum is one of the most fascinating cultural museums I have ever visited. The rooms feel untouched through time and connect visitors to Bergen’s fascinating past as a trading port. I would highly recommend visiting the museum before you walk along the Bryggen Wharf. Once you have connected with the history and people of Bergen’s past, the Bryggen World Heritage Site will take on new life.
Admission costs for 2014 are as follows.
Adults: NOK 70 (£7, $12)
Children (0-16 years): free
Unfortunately, the Hanseatic Museum is not included in the Bergen Card attractions. Do pay extra, you won’t be disappointed.
Have you been to a cultural museum like the Hanseatic Museum? Which one would you recommend?