M. A Wyllie.

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Follow the road back from the museum, downhill till
you reach the Hotel Metropole. Walk along the road
that faces it, past small houses on your left, and big
grey lodging-houses on your right. On your left you
will see the walls and trees of the graveyard, the rest is
easy. Pass through the little iron gate and you find
yourself in God's acre, so still, so green, so damp. The
smell of box pervades the air, and the music of a noisy
little bubbling stream is the only sound. Each nation
has its own style of graves, and here they are mostly
covered with cast-iron boxes, with sides some 18 inches
high. They are not pretty to look at, the rust creeps
through, and all are overshadowed by the weeping
ash. Towards the middle the ground is more open, and
the family graves are small gardens neatly kept, and evi-
dently tended by loving hands. The small rake and
water-pot testify to the care lavished upon them, and
there is a seat whereon the worker may rest or read.
The headstone is a scroll lifted on a marble cushion. In
the centre, where four water-worn paths meet, rises the


small ivy-covered mound that enshrines the remains of the
great master, and on the great urn that surmounts the
whole, the two words " Ole Bull."

Till I passed the quarters by the cemetery I had
thought that Bergen had no poor, but this idea was put
to flight on passing the great grey blocks of tenements.
Broken windows, and dirty babies played in the dust,
and the ever-familiar figure predominated of a little
girl carrying a baby nearly as big as herself At the
fish-market, too, poverty was apparent. Pale-faced
children, shoeless, hatless, and ragged, waited to grab
and quarrel over any small fish or morsel that might
fall perchance on the paving-stones.

To lean for a while on the railings, that are placed
along the Vaagen Quay, where the boats all come in with
their loads of fish, is most interesting. It is one of the
shows of the town, more especially on market-days, which
are Wednesday and Saturday. The smaller boats lie
side by side, as many as can possibly squeeze together,
bow on to the wall, the larger fishing-boats lying tier
upon tier along the quays. Men, women, and children,
with every kind of bag, basket, tin-pot, newspaper, and
nets, haggle and barter for the fish. They stand on the
steps that lead down to the water, and along the
railings. It is a good spot to study human nature in all
its varieties. From the lady who leaves her carriage to
do her own marketing, to the miserably poor woman who
looks long and carefully at the small fish held up to
her in the wooden shovel, the small coin she is about
to part with held tightly in her hand. The fish was
cheap, and the variety that the boats contained very

In the market square the tables were laid out with
some of the larger kinds of fish, of which only a portion


could be sold at a time. Alongside each one was a big
tub, with the far-famed klip fish, and round fish, soaking
in water, looking plump and full, a wonderful contrast
to the dried husks stacked like hay in the boats. The
country folk had all driven in with farm produce, and
now, before returning home, came down to the quay.
Their carts were left with the horse in the shafts, one
hoof securely fastened to the wheel. Some of the milk-
tins were brought down, the last drain of milk turned
out, and the tin (most reprehensible habit I thought)
filled with fish. But as in Norway the cows in some
places are fed on fish, the flavour in the milk might pass
unnoticed by the consumer.

The women who came to do the bargaining were ugly,
and the mere fact of haggling made them uglier still.
We never saw such a crowd ; they surged and pushed,
hands were thrust through the bars to receive the fish,
and the fishermen held up their fish-scoops for the money,
handing back change in the same way. Every time the
fisherman handled his fish he washed his hands and scoop ;
most of their hands were painful to look upon, swollen
and white.

Opposite the Tydskebryggen or German Quay, which
faces the old wooden "gaards" or houses in which the
clerks of the Hanseatic League lived, stand great square
wooden tanks on a jetty. These are kept filled with salt
water for the live fish. This jetty on market-days is
neither savoury nor clean. The fishermen stand behind
the tanks in complete suits of yellow oil-skins and sea-
boots. Most of them are fair, flaxen, or red-headed.
Standing as they do, with the mast spars and cordage
of their square-rigged ships as a background, they re-
mind one more of the Vikings than any picture, saga,
or tale that I have ever seen or heaid. Place a pair



of wings on the fisherman's sou'wester, and he might be
Eric the red, Harald blue tooth, or Olaf Tryggvason

Personally, I would much rather buy my fish dead,
but the good wives of Bergen think otherwise. They
pass from tank to tank, watching the fish swim, and
point to the one that takes their fancy. In goes the
fisherman's spoon - shaped net, and in a moment the
fish lies flapping and splashing the water in a floating
wooden tray. If approved, sudden death overtakes
it ; a knife-slit at the back of the head, a slit across
the neck, then a piece off the tail, and the fish is
placed in the basket or pail in a very much quicker
time than it takes to write. Should the fish not be
approved, the Viking sends it back into the tank with
a splash, that covers the bystanders with water, and
turns on his heel. The men were splendid, but having
seen the tanks and their occupants once, I should never
care to see them again.

The pier on which we stand is but a stone's throw
from the fine open quay, with its long row of old timber
houses that once belonged to the all-powerful Hanseatic
League. The older houses still retain the signs of their
bygone owners, such as a cod-fish crowned, the three-
faced king, with four eyes and but three noses, a quaint
carved unicorn, the head of Medusa, and a man's head
with a fur cap, that might have come from Nishni
Novgorod. Each front is a gable covered with lovely
coloured dull red tiles from above, and when approaching
the town from the fjord, it is these fine red roofs clustered
together on the peninsula, and along the water-edge of the
Vaagen, that give the touch of warmth and colour so
valuable to this town which is more or less in tears the
whole year through. Unfortunately, the inhabitants do not


recognise the value of the red roofs. The newer buildings
are being covered with cold-coloured slates, and the walls
stuccoed. Soon these old wooden " gaards,"" in which the
merchants of Bremen and Lubeck lived and kept their
stores of dried fish, will be demolished.

One alone, known as Finnegaarden, the one nearest to
the market, has been kept as a museum by the energy
and generosity of Mr. I. W. Olsen. He not only gave
the houses, but collected all the curious old objects of
the period, with which it is furnished. The coat-of-
arms of the League was the half-eagle and the crowned
cod-fish, with a larger crown covering both. This hangs
on the walls close to the fire-boxes with flint and steel.
A beautiful brass kettle suspended over a big brass basin,
in which the manager was wont to wash, stands in the
room. Tankards and plates, weights for selling and
buying, testify to this day to the unfair dealing between
the League and its victims. Light weights for buying,
heavy weights for selling, the farce played out to the
end. Each great ledger begins " In the name of Jesu,
Amen," followed by the Christian names of the fishermen —

Jurgen . . .

who, poor souls, were ever kept in debt by the manager,
who bought their fish cheap, and with leaded weights
in exchange for goods, sold at full value and short
measure. The League''s belief in its manager's honesty
is also exemplified by the money-box. This has three
different keys, which necessitated the presence of the
three managers before it could be opened.

A lamp held me fascinated for some time by its


ingenuity. Imagine three black iron developing dishes
of different sizes suspended one above the other, with
a square black piece of iron at the top to prevent the
smoke from blackening the rafters. A wick was placed
in a lip at each corner of the dishes, and fed with cod-
liver oil. The whole when hanging had the appearance
of a Chinese pagoda with twelve lights. Fine old carved
chairs upholstered in painted leather, and a quaint table
with heavy ball and pillar legs, help to furnish an oak-
panelled room. In this room is the merchanfs office,
enclosed in glass Avindows, where like a spider he sat
awaiting his prey.

Each " gaard "" was presided over by a " Bygherre," and
was divided into " staver " or offices, belonging to different
owners, each owner having a clerk and one or more servants.
On the ground-floor were the warehouses, each with its
little sliding shutter close to the ground for the ingress
and egress of the cat that caught the rats. On the first
floor is the outer room leading to the manager's office,
with his dining-room and bedroom behind. On the
second floor are the rooms for the clerks and servants.
Strict rules, precautions, and fines were made to prevent
the Germans from intermaiTying with the Norwegians.
No maid was allowed to enter the men's room on pain
of death, but this was seldom if ever enforced, a fine
sufficing. In an old print hanging in one of the rooms,
this German quay is shown surrounded by walls with a
gate at either end. These gates were kept locked at
night by the authorities of Bergen, as the two thousand
Germans in residence were considered a distinct menace
to the town. The guns, too, of the Rosenkrantz Tower
were kept trained so as to enfilade the Tydskebryggen.

Mr. Richard Lodge tells us that the Hanseatic
league took its name from the word " Hansa,"" which


at first signified a troop, or military muster. From
this came the general sense of union, and, in the Middle
Ages, a union for mercantile purposes. Later, the word
came to have another meaning, that of a tax, paid by
traders for the right of forming such a union.

Germans were always great at business, and in very
old days the traders of some of the northern towns —
Cologne, Dortmund, Bremen, and Hamburg — joined
together in a guild. They had mercantile settlements
in Wisby, London, Novgorod, Bergen, and Bruges. Even
so far back as the reign of Saxon Edgar, we find the
Germans prominent in London trade and joining in a
league. In 1260 a charter of Henry iit. gave protection
to all German merchants. Liibeck joined Hamburg in
the Hansa Alumanniae, which soon after rose to great
importance, and gradually from a league of merchants
abroad became a union of towns at home. In 1330
mention is first made of a Hanse Town ; and in 1343 Magnus
of Norway designated the League as the Hansa, thus
giving it a diplomatic position. Denmark was always
more or less opposed to German interest. In 1361,
Waldemar iii. captured Wisby, and the Hansa in the
following year took Copenhagen, for the allied towns
were quite able to make war on their own account.
Denmark fell entirely into the hands of the League, and
it was stipulated that henceforth no king should reign
in the country without the consent of the Hanse towns.
Now they appear to have reached the zenith of their

Aristocratic in character, the yearly assemblies busied
themselves with all the details of foreign policy. But
there were many dissensions, for the towns lay scattered
over a large temtory extending from Russia to the low
countries, and their interests often clashed. During


the fifteenth century there was plenty of fighting, and
the Hansa held its own.

However, English and Dutch now began to rival the
trade of the League. The herrings made a change, too,
in their habits, and came now to the coasts of Holland,
instead of the fjords of Norway, where the merchants of
Germany had for long held a practical monopoly of the
fisheries. Then the discoverers of the New World, and
the road to India by the Cape, came, and the League
began to decline, for the Hanse towns were far away from
the trade routes. Gradually the more distant towns
began to fall away. The Reformation only strengthened
the hands of the lay princes, and in the reign of
Elizabeth the privileges which had been granted in
London to the Hanse merchants from the time of
Henry iii. were taken from them. The Thirty Years'
War gave yet another stroke at the power of the League,
and in 1669 the last general assembly was held. The
trade with Norway in salt cod still went on for nearly
one hundred years, but in 1764 their last store or office
was sold to a Norseman. From these comptoir the
German merchants got the name of " Kontorske."
They had forcibly excluded the traders of all other
nations ; even the Norwegians themselves were not
alloAved to participate until the time of Christopher
Valkendorf, who opposed their oppressive sway.

The nearest corner of the haven seemed to be the
wood market. The townspeople came down with carts
and hand-barrows and bargained for as much firewood
as they could load. Two upright posts painted with
divisions stood on the quay, and between these the
short lengths of birch and fir were built up to make
a sort of wall ; the price of the firewood depending
on the height of the division on the posts. There was


no middleman, and during the slack times, when
customers were few and far between, the crews loafed
and spat.

The craft were wonderfully primitive, clinker-built
of soft wood, and of about sixty tons, each had but one
tall tapering mast, stepped right amidships, generally
scarfed and fished one-third up. The rigging was of
hemp, set up with wooden dead eyes, and worn lanyards.
There was a forlorn look about the great square sail, as
though it might be conscious of being hopelessly out of
date. There were no reef points, for nearly half the
area of the sail was made up of narrow bonnets laced
together one under the other, so that in strong winds it
was only necessary to unlace one or more bonnets to be
under snug canvas at once — a survival this from the
Middle Ages. The strange old craft had bluff',
flaring bows, with stems standing some 7 or 8 feet
above the gunwale, like those of the Maltese Dysos.
The great square transoms had windows similar to the
gun-room ports of an old three-decker, and all round the
poops soft wood timberheads stood up. The only
new-fangled object on board was the winch, for hoisting
the great square sail. This was right aft, close to the
helmsman, and when the yard was mastheaded the whole
of the greasy wire whip was wound up on the barrel
of the winch just like black cotton on a bobbin, and
when the pawls were lifted, and the band-brake
eased, the likeness to the cotton reel was still more
marked ; and aloft there were Irish pennants in pro-

An affable stranger seeing our interest in the timber
jagter began to explain their characteristics. "These
ships very national. Very old : ever since the time of
ancient Vikings. Very good with wind behind; but


with head-wind no good. How many ? Three men
dey work em from the Nordfjord, sometimes three
days, sometimes three weeks. No hurry .? yes, but dey
want to get home to cut hay, these men farmers. No ;
dey never carry cod-fish, always timber. Fine trees up
dare, quite as good as American pitch pine. Steamers 't
No ; but some has petrol engines."

I once watched one of these beating to windward ;
and as the skipper put his helm hard down, the sail
falling aback, not only stopped the old craft dead, but
pushed her back stern first, and the helm had to be
reversed before she would fall off. At last, when nearly
round on the other tack, the crew swung the yard, but
just at that moment the wind unfortunately came round
too, and away went the poor old ship stern first, and
again the yard had to be braced on the old tack.
Fancy beating up a narrow channel with fluky winds
striking off from the lofty cliffs, in an antiquated old
packet, rigged for all the world like the galley of
Ulysses or the ships that brought Solomon his gold
from Tarshish. Straightway we are carried back two
hundred and fifty years into the reign of the merry
monarch, and of King Frederick iii. — the days of the
Hanseatic League, with all its oppressive monopolies and

The jagter piled high with their great stacks of dried
stock-fish, and the wooden, barn-like storehouses where
the evil-smelling cargoes are piled, are but modern
representations of the great trade which has gone on
steadily and, as far as outward appearance is concerned,
without change for almost a thousand years. For the
greater part of this long time the German merchants
kept everything in their own hands.

Very interesting was a drawing of Van de Velde's


that we came across in the museum, depicting a battle
that was fought in 1665, when the EngHsh fleet tried
to capture the Dutch fleet that had taken refuge in
the harbour. If one may judge from Van de Velde's
drawing of the battle, the English must have got quite
as much as they bargained for. The Dutch, both
Indiamen and men-o'-war, are represented moored stem
to stem in a line which stretches right across the mouth
of the haven, so that all their broadsides bear on the
British fleet. These are shown in the forefront of
the picture, anchored in more or less confusion, with
their topsail-yards on the caps, heading all ways at
once. A heavy fire is being kept up, not only by the
Hollanders, but by the Rosenkrantz Tower, which flies
the Danish flag, and, indeed, the whole front of the
fortress of Bergenhus is bristling with cannon, all trained
upon the intruding English. The round shot our fleet
fired back are still to be seen in the castle walls, gilded,
to make them the more conspicuous.

Besides the Van de Velde drawing, there is an English
print of the same period. Here we have a bird's-eye
view of old Bergen, and the two fleets are shown closely

If one walks down to the end of the jetty to the
west of Faestningsbrygge, and looks up the Vaagen
towards the red-roofed town, one can in fancy picture
the old sea-fight. The castle walls still stand just
as they did in the time of Van de Velde. The rig of
the jagter has not altered in any way. We have
but to shut out one or two of the ugly new houses,
and try to believe that the clouds of steam which rise
from countless steam-winches all along the busy quay
is smoke from the guns, which still grin from the
batteries under the Tower of Rosenkrantz, Just at


this moment the cannon really begin to fire, for this
is the birthday of the little Prince Olaf. As the gi-eat
cloud of vapour rolls over us, we catch the unmistakable
savour of villainous saltpetre ; and whilst the Royal
salute lasts, one has but to twist the forms of the tramp
steamers, so that lofty poops rise, all carved and gilded,
and the derricks are changed to lateen mizzens and
spritsail masts.

Samuel Pepys, in 1665, the year of the plague, relates
in his Diary : " How my lord, having commanded Teddiman,
with twenty-two ships, of which but fifteen could get
thither, and of those fifteen but eight or nine could
come up to play, to go to Bergen ; where, after several
messages to and from the governor of the castle urging
that Teddiman ought not to come thither with more
than five ships, and desiring time to think of it, all
the while he suffering the Dutch ships to land their
guns to the best advantage, Teddiman, on the second
pretence, began to play on the Dutch ships, whereof
ten East Indiamen, and in three hours' time, the town
and castle without any provocation, playing on our
ships, they did cut all our cables, so the wind being
off the land did force us to go out and rendered our
few ships useless, without doing anything, but what
hurt, of course, our guns must have done them : we
having lost five commanders, besides Mr. Edward
Montague and Mr. Windham, Our fleet is come home,
to our great grief, with not above five weeks' dry and
six days' wet provisions."

A little farther on we come to an interview with
Lord Sandwich himself, newly up, and still in his night-
dress. " He did inform us, in the business of Bergen,
so as to let us see how the judgment of the world is
not to be depended on in things they know not ; it


being a place just wide enough and so much hardly,
for ships to go through to it, the yard-arms sticking in
the very rocks. He do not upon his best enquiry, find
reason to except against any part of the business by
Teddiman ; he having staid treating no longer than
during the night while he was fitting himself to fight,
bringing his ship abreast and not a quarter of an hour
longer, as it is said ; nor could more ships have been
brought to play, as it is thought. Nor could men be
landed, there being 10,000 men effectively always
in arms of the Danes ; nor, says he, could we expect
more from the Danes than he did, it being impossible
to set fire on the ships but it must burn the towne.
But that whereon the Dane did amisse is that he did
assist them, the Dutch all the time, while he was
treating with us when he should have been neutrall
to us both. But, however, he did demand but the
treaty of us ; which is that we should not come with
more than five ships."

In front of the Exchange stands the statue of Ludvig
Holberg, in periwig and full-skirted coat — another gi-eat
man that first saw the light in Bergen. According to
Mr. E. W. Gosse, no author who ever lived has had
so vast an influence as Holberg had over his Scandinavian
countrymen, an influence that is still at work after two
hundred years. He it was who founded Danish literature,
and who, with the exception of Voltaire, was the first
wi'iter in Europe during his own generation. He found
Denmark unprovided with books, and wrote a library
for her. Holberg filled the shelves of the citizens with
works in their own tongue, on history, law, politics,
science, philology, and philosophy. He stands another
instance of a man fighting his way to the top of his
profession, through bitter privations, illness, and starva-


tion. He earned what money he could by teaching,
and for some time was a poor tutor in the house of a
rural dean at Voss. Later, after taking his degree, he
w^as again obliged to earn his living teaching in the
house of Dr. Smidt, vice-bishop of Bergen, who had
travelled much. The reading of Dr. Smidt's note-
books awakened such a longing to travel in young
Holberg, that at last, in 1706, having scraped together
sixty dollars, he started, and during the next few
years visited a great portion of Europe, chiefly on

He travelled through London to Oxford, where he
studied for two years, gaining his livelihood by giving
lessons on the violin and flute. It was here that it
first occurred to him "how splendid and glorious a
thing it would be to take a place among the authors."
It was not till 1718 that his talents were recognised
by his appointment as Professor of Metaphysics at the
University of Copenhagen. In 1720 he was promoted
to the lucrative chair of public eloquence, which gave
him a seat in the Consistory, and brought his pecuniary
troubles to an end.

Holberg distinctly marks an epoch. He overthrew
the trivialities of the German stage, which he satirised
without mercy. He set an example, never surpassed,
of a series of comedies, taking his types from popular
life, and ridiculing with healthy directness those vices
and follies which were the theme of the comic drama
of the time. The marvellous rapidity with which he
wrote can be judged by the record of the plays written
by him between the years 1722 and 1724 at the time
that he took up the direction of the first Danish theatre
built in Copenhagen.

In 1747 he was made Baron of Holberg, and lived


on for seven years longer, dying at the age of seventy,
and was buried at Soro. Holberg''s published works are
leffion. But the best edition of his comedies is con-
sidered to be the one brought out in three volumes by
F. L. Lichtenberg in 1870.



BERGEN had shown us what it really could do in the

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Online LibraryM. A WyllieNorway and its fjords → online text (page 9 of 23)