Bike Tracks

bicycle around the world

Bike Tracks random header image

Forde to Sogndal

July 15th, 2000 · No Comments

Forde to Sogndal (I’m still off route)

Day 197

Still in Bergen, Jane and I decided to take a walking tour of the historic district. The area has a very old and interesting history, dating back 900 years to medieval times. In one of Bergen’s many museums we were able to see the remains of wooden buildings, unearthed from an archeological dig in the 1970’s. The buildings were housed in the museums, giving us a very good insight as to how it looked, way back when.

Bergen became a port of great importance in the 13th century when it became a link in the Hanseatic League (a chain of European and Baltic cities with shared trading agreements). We toured the tenements, buildings where apprentice traders lived and learned the trading trade. Some of the buildings standing today are were replacements of originals, having been rebuilt in the 1700’s after being destroyed by fire.

P0002802 Highlighted in the tour were the living quarters and lifestyle of the apprentices. They came as young boys aged 15 to Bergen, from the lower classes families of Germany. In Bergen they worked in an all male society for 6 years, until they passed the exam and became a journeyman. Their life was hard, long hours filled with work in cold, dark rooms. They were fed twice a day in a large assembly room, the only heated area in the community. If they disobeyed they were pointed out and their name was written on a blackboard for annual discipline.

As newbies they were tested by a form of hazing that bordered on downright cruelty. One form was called the smoke game. They were hung from a pole in the kitchen, while a smoky fire was built underneath. As the smoke filled the rooms, they were required to answer questions, keeping their mouths open. Naturally this caused difficulty in breathing and probably resulted in a lot of coughing. It was an awful form of discipline. These games were played with the apprentices on a scheduled basis, guess it was a character building exercise!

At night the apprentices slept, two to a berth in a very small area, with the doors shut. This routine kept them in line and warm. The house manager would supervise, making sure they were not getting out at night to run around the town. The beds were similar to cabinets one on top of the other. The house manager would shut the door from the outside, those inside could not reopen it. Claustrophobia was a way of life. I can’t help but think of the awful smell, sleeping two to a bed with no ventilation!

It was illegal for any apprentice, journeyman or manager to socialize with the local woman. However the street behind the tenements was well known for being and area of prostitution. When a young man was “caught in fatherhood,” he was required to pay for a barrel of beer for all his housemates. It was punishment to the man in that the cost was expensive. The rule helped the manager get leads from the housemates as to who was running around!

P0002803 The wooden houses at Brygan (the harbor) stand, today, at all tilted, bowing away from the water. This happened in 1944 when a German arsenal ship docked in the harbor blew up. It destroyed all the buildings close by, the ones further away now slope away from the blast. The Norwegians still believe it was sabotage as retaliation for there part in the resistance.

P0002799 The tour guide was a young women, Camilia who did an excellent job of fielding questions with pose and thoughtfulness. I would recommend this walking tour as a must when visiting Bergen.

Tags: Finland · Norway