As far as coastal towns go, Bergen is notorious amongst Norwegians. Renowned for excessive amounts of rain, wind and other unforgiving weather conditions, it’s coastal location has for centuries made it a strong trade point for the fishing industry. During the 13th century, Bergen’s trade was expanded exponentially by the Hanseatic League’s presence; a European trading association with strong ties to Germany. This continued until 1541, when local traders demanded a new location for the fish market, outside of Hanseatic control. The relocation of what was soon to become a main commercial district lead to a building boom, and the construction of a new town hall.
The fish market, Bergen
Today, Bergen’s fish market is split up into two sections on the docks: one of open stalls where foods, goods, souvenirs and the likes can be found. As a marketplace it’s a lovely break from the otherwise often introverted and sheltered Norwegian social street culture. I thoroughly enjoyed wandering through the stalls, inspecting and sampling goods, hearing noise and bargaining and social commerce as it should be all around me.
The second half of the fish market is an in-door structure placed almost immediately at the edge of the docks. Modern architecture with large glass doors and walls gives a lovely sense of openness, with the bay literally a stone’s throw from where you’re perusing the lobsters. The noise and smells and impressions of all sorts of marine critters alive and dead. It’s one of the few places where locals and tourists alike are snapping photos; for the first time on my trip I felt no shame in keeping a tight grip on my mobile, camera at the ready.
On my way out I swung through the exterior open market area one last time – I do love a good marketplace! It was time to press on; I’d been promised the smallest café in Bergen, if not Norway – something that didn’t sit entirely right with my 6’3 and disproportionately long legs, but I was nevertheless intrigued. The café was called Det Lille Kaffekompaniet – The Little Coffee Company – I mean how can one not be charmed by that?
Det Lille Kaffekompaniet, Bergen
Det Lille Kaffekompaniet was indeed small; I don’t know about the smallest, but regardless it was a lovely day and we stayed outside for the most part. At this point I was feeling mildly queasy from all the coffee and settled for a chai latte – I was particularly intrigued by the range of preservatives they had on display, and even noticed the honey in my chai latte coming from one of them. I took a closer look. Turns out they’re imported by Nicolas Vahé, a French pastry chef with his own production line of preservatives, oils, chocolates and more. His products are sold in shops all over Europe, including this one.
The chai latte was indeed quite good, and the surroundings charming. The Little Coffee Company have achieved what they set out to do, as far as I’m concerned.
My final café of the day was Krok og Krinkel (Nook and Cranny) – it had been described to me as Bergen’s answer to the previously mentioned Bøker og Børst. The comparison is fair, however I try to avoid such critical comparison. In it’s own right, Krok og Krinkel follows the Nordic café tradition to perfection: extremely comfortable (to the point that you forget you’re in a café; it could just as easily be one’s living room), brimming with strange, decorative odds and ends, games, books and more.
Krok og Krinkel, Bergen
Yes, one can easily spend the better part of a day in such a place without ever noticing. I met my Captain Mysgrabben, a fellow I was introduced to at a new year’s eve party years ago and who’s currently working in the Norwegian Navy’s submarine Corp – how can I pass up the opportunity to hear those stories? We had ourselves several hours of rapturous laughter at Krok og Krinkel, however halfway through my cortado I began to feel the shakes and a cold sweat spreading down my back. Oh, lord, I thought – I know what this is. As my captain looked like he was fearing a 21-year old cardiac arrest case, I excused myself to the bathroom and thought of what an old raver once told me: when losing control, cold water to the back of the neck! Oh, well, I had nothing to loose – and it worked like a charm. Now, Baltzersen’s Ltd. in no way recommends a caffeine overdose, but we can confirm that cold water is good for more than washing down espressos.
The lethal cortado
Back at my table fresh and functional, I spent the rest of my time with my Captain catching up, browsing books and messing with the in-house vinyl player – a particularly nice touch, I might add.
I’d agreed to meet my old friend Hassan that evening. At this point, despite the pleasantries of the day, I didn’t want to see the interior of another food & beverage establishment for some time. Hassan happily obliged by taking me for a long walk on the outer-city edges of Bergen. For the first time that day I had a chance to look up from my iPhone and credit card, and simply breathe in the glory around me.
Pretentious perhaps, but well worth it – it is a truly beautiful city; the surrounding Seven Sisters keeping the industry old and new in its curved place, the lights of homes diversifying and spreading out in scarcity the further up the mountainside one looks, sunlight, moonlight, ship lights shining on the deep black waters that make up the bay.
Hassan and I had a lovely catch-up on life, the universe & everything while taking in the local views, until we realised it was well after dark – I immediately got worried about a mugging as we walked through a dimly lit park, until I recalled that we were two fully grown men and the simple fact that this was Norway, not Leeds.
Ole Bull’s statue, Bergen
I spent a few final hours at the local student bar, being reminded of everything I hate about my own demographic. All the more reason to call it an early night; a roaster’s tasting awaited me in the morning – I was excited to say the least.