Bergen

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The city of many nicknames

Bergen, Norway's second largest city, is the gateway to the fjords on Norway's west coast.  Its mayor has called it "the Fjord Capital." It's a beautiful city, nestled within seven mountains. The mayor also has called it "the city between the seven hills." The mayor didn't mention that the annual precipitation is 2250 mm (88 inches) on average, and that its other nickname is "the city of rain." Bergen served as the capital of the country in the 12th and 13th centuries and was Norway's largest city until the 1830s.We were there on Norway's national day, Constitution Day, on May 17.

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Bryggen
The harborside area of Bryggen was once the center of the thriving dried-cod (stockfish) industry in Bergen. Bergen was part of the Hanseatic League trade association, and many German merchants took up residence in the buildings of Bryggen. It's the only preserved business district from the Hanseatic era, and it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hanseatic office
Life in Bergen as a Hanseatic merchant wasn't easy. First, because of the fire hazard, there was neither light nor heat in the building where the men lived and worked. They were required to be celibate, and weren't permitted to marry or mix with the local people. They slept in tiny cubbies with closing doors for heat as if they were sleeping in cabinets. And the manager's unheated corner office, shown here, doesn't look like a great perk either.
Bunad
The first thing that you notice on National Day is that many people dress in the traditional clothing of their ancestors. It's called a bunad. There are about 200 regional variations of the costume. The pants on the man's version of the bunad end at the knees and look a lot like lederhosen.
Parade
The highlight of National Day is the parade. It snakes around the town and contains many, many marchers and bands. The military was represented, including a float from a military school that included a small cardboard tank. Sporting clubs, humanitarian organizations, schools, and trade groups all marched.
Children
For children, May 17 is probably almost as magical as Christmas. It creates their national identity, it's festive, and they can even march in the parade with their parents.
Statsraad Lehmkuhl
The tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl is based in Bergen. We arrived in town only two days before the National Day, and there was no room for us on the guest docks at the head of the harbor. The harbormaster directed us to a little-used quay near the cruise ship dock, where the Statsraad Lehmkuhl was our neighbor. If you see a tiny toothpick in the photo behind the center of the tall ship, that's our eighty-foot (25-meter) mast.