Day 220. Haoya in Meland to Bergen

Posted by: James on August 8, 2009

Distance 19km | Time 3.5hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 0m

Day 220.1 Approaching the old Hanseatic town of  BergenIt was raining heavily when I woke. People in Bergen sometimes complain about the weather but it only has 3 metres of rain a year compared to 4 metres on the West of Scotland. By the time I got up at 0700 the rain had stopped. I was in the kayak at for 0830. I only had about 4 hours paddling to Bergen to pick up the spraydeck from Platou Sports before they closed for the weekend. It would be an easy journey down wider fjords to the city centre

The area I had been paddling through yesterday and today’s paddle to Bergen, and for a good 40 km south of Bergen was a geologically unique area. It was known as the Bergen Arcs. If you look at the map you will see the land curving round with Bergen at the centre. This was caused during the Caledonian collision some 400 million years ago when the tectonic plates of Baltica (Scandinavia) and Laurentia (Greenland and North America) collided.

In this violent collision huge mountains were created some 10000 metres high which have since been eroded down to their stumps. Huge chucks of rock were thrust up onto the gneiss platform of Baltica. In a few places Baltica was pressed under Laurentia, or subducted. The area around Bergen was one. It was pressed deep into the earth and parts of this chunk got bent as the centre snagged relative to the rest. Deep down in the earth’s crust this rock got baked and transformed into the Lindas nappe. Then this nappe was exhumed as the rocks above it slid off and were then eroded as the continents drifted apart again. Glacial erosion happened along the weaker lines of this Lindas nappe to carve out the channels I had paddled through yesterday and today.

As I approached Bergen it became more and more populated. Houses were perched on every buttress overlooking the fjord. Many of these house owners seemed to have an obsession to build a boat shed despite the difficult terrain. Therefore there were many buildings on waterside shelves at the foot of crags. Here there was an almost inaccessible shed and a winch to hoist small unkempt boats onto the damp concrete platforms. Access to these sheds was down precarious steps and even ladders bolted onto the cliff face.

The rain and sun swapped the whole time I paddled down the craggy sided Osterfjord past the residential suburbs of Salhus, Tertnes and Brevika until I approached the centre. I was still undecided what to do when I entered Bergen. In the end I paddled right into the central harbour in the middle of town and was lucky in finding a floating jetty where I could lift the boat onto in a reasonably secure place next to a major hotel. It was pouring rain now.

I then vaulted a fence and was in the middle of a large city. I felt a bit bewildered. I had not seen anything like this for over half a year. I was still in my wet kayaking cloths and faded jacket, totally unkempt and unshaved, pretty wet and smelling like a dead animal. Like this I wandered through a sophisticated city of well groomed beautiful people. Even at Platou Sports they gave me a second look. The spraydeck as predicted had not arrived although it had apparently cleared customs and was en route. It would have to be forwarded I thought.

Bergen as a city is very old at about 1000 years. It vied with Trondheim at the time to be the most important city on the coast of Norway, which at the time was a largely coastal country. Oslo was at the time was not that important. Bergen was built on cod, more specifically dried cod. It managed to establish a monopoly on the dried cod trade from northern Norway to mainland Europe. Mainland Europe was largely Catholic at the time and the whole population needed fish every Friday and a major source of this fish was dried cod from Norway.

Bergen also became an enclave of the powerful Hansa group based in Lubeck in Northern Germany. These Saxon merchants established a near monopolistic trading network across northern Europe and the Baltic region in the 13th Century and kept their position for a couple of hundred years. The Hansa merchants had their own enclave in the town and had the exclusive rights to trade cod with northern Norway. In return they traded flour from Europe.

Day 220.2. Looking across the harbour to the old Brygge which is perhaps the star of Bergens many old buildingsBergen remained stable throughout this time with a steady population but in 1702 nearly the entire city of tar covered wooden houses burnt down. Much of the present city was built after that, including the famous Brygge. Like all cities it expanded rapidly in the 19th century and today has a population of around 250,000.

It is situated in a pleasant setting beside fjords and among the 7 hills of Bergen. It was European city of the year in 2000 and this legacy lives on as Bergen punches well above its weight on the cultural scene, with many musical bands and innovative theater groups emerging from a cultural surge called the ‘Bergen Wave’

As I could not contact a friend, Tone, I checked in at the youth hostel and revisited the boat to bring a few handfuls of stuff back to the hostel. After I had sorted myself out but before a shower, shave and cloths change another friend Arne arrived from the mountains. We went out for a coffee and bumped into Tone who was on babysitting duty over the weekend with nephews and nieces. I was good to see them both. We had spent many happy summers walking and climbing in the Jotunheimen while I was doing the 2000 metres summits here some 8-4 years ago.

Tone left to take the brood back to the brood’s home outside town and I chatted with Arne for another few hours until I had to leave to do the writing and other pressing office work. I tried to finish that evening but by midnight I still had a day to go and postponed it until tomorrow.

It had been a wet day with a fair bit of stress finding a place to moor the kayak and finding somewhere to stay in the pouring rain. There was the inevitable disappointment about the lack of spraydeck and how to forward it for the next stage in this saga to minimize and further hassle and detour. In the afternoon however it was great to catch up with Arne and Tone before I returned to try and clear the office work.

2 Responses to “Day 220. Haoya in Meland to Bergen”

  1. e.c.baxter Says:

    Many thanks to Bruce family for best ever photo of James, worth printing. email received from Bergen ok. Love Mum & dad

  2. Camilla Wikström Says:

    Hi James,
    Back from a weekend paddling thursday to sunday in southern Sweden. We had a lovely high pressure weather with wind still, sun and 25 degrees. Water temperature about 20. All at the same time as you are struggling with wind and water in Norway, not so far from here. When I read how much you like areas with small islets and skerries and channels, I must urge you to really consider going into the Baltic sea. You can keep some vacation from Norway here. I hope you enjoy your stay in Bergen, now you are soon heading against Telemark with the big outlet of oil which now threats the coast of Norway and Sweden. I hope they will be able to clean it up very soon! We have now updated our website with pictures from paddling in Uummannak, Greenland.
    Best wishes