Bergen Maritime Museum: a peek at medieval and Viking water transportation

Jan and I visited the Bergen Maritime Museum (Bergens Sjøfartsmuseum) a week ago — the first time for me, and something I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while now. It lived up to my expectations!

July 12, 2014 - Bergen Maritime Museum

The entrance to the museum, located in the heart of the University of Bergen.

Quoting from their brochure: It is the aim of Bergen Maritime Museum to provide a survey of the development of our shipping expertise from ancient times right up to the present day.

Covering two floors, it’s fairly extensive and quite interesting! We spent a lot of time looking over several specific eras in history, and with this post I thought I’d share a few images and words about the oldest vessels from Norway.


Rock carvings and Logboats

From their website: Our very oldest Scandinavian vessels are known to us from pictorial sources i.e. rock carvings, and from finds of boats and parts of boats.

July 12, 2014 - Bergen Maritime Museum

A recreation of a Bronze age rock carving from Skjeberg, in the southeastern part of Norway.

Quoting from the display: Logboats are vessels made of hollowed logs and have been used at all times world-wide in places like the Amazon, Nigeria and Scandinavia. In Nordic stone age, logboats were used as means of transportation and for fishing. The oldest proven logboat in Norway dates back to 200-100 B.C. … Logboats have been used in rivers and lakes in Norway as late as the 20th century.

The exhibited logboat was found in 1960 by the shallow lake Solsevaten … in Hardanger. The logboat is dated back to 1400 – 1430. It is flat-bottomed and probably made of a pine trunk. The boat may have been used in connection with fishing and mountain dairy.

July 12, 2014 - Bergen Maritime Museum

Logboat from the early 1400′s.


The Kvalsund boat

Quoting from the display: In 1920 two boats were found in a bog in the northwestern part of Norway. The largest, which was 18 meters long, is exhibited in model here. There is no trace of mast or mast step, so the boat probably had no sail. The vessel is precursor to the Viking-ship.

July 12, 2014 - Bergen Maritime Museum

Kvalsund boat, the precursor to the Viking ships.


Boathouse reconstruction

Quoting from the display: Reconstruction of the boathouse from ca. 500 A.D. on the basis of excavation at Stord shipyard property in winter 1956 … The ship is a replica of the Kvalsund boat.

July 12, 2014 - Bergen Maritime Museum

A boathouse reconstruction, with a replica of the Kvalsund boat.


The Oseberg Ship

Quoting from the display: The Oseberg ship was found in a large burial mound at the Slagen farm in Vestfold and excavated in 1904. The ship was built around 815 – 820 A.D. and had been used as a sailing vessel for many years before it was put to use as a burial ship for a prominent woman who died in 834. The woman was placed in a burial chamber in the aft section of the ship. Next to lay the body of another woman, possibly a servant, as well as her most valuable possessions.

The ship, built of oak, was 22 meters long and 5 meters wide. The 12 strakes were secured with iron nails. The ship was designed for both rowing and sailing. With a square sail of about 90 sq. meters it could reach speeds of over 10 knots. The top strake had 15 oar holes. A full set of oars was included in the grave furnishings. The crew probably sat on their ship’s chests. The Oseberg ship was in all probably intended to be used as a royal pleasure vessel for sailing along the coast. Both the prow and stern of the vessel are finely carved in the characteristic “Animal style”.

July 12, 2014 - Bergen Maritime Museum

A model of the Oseberg Viking Ship; the original is in the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo.
Visit their website to find out the intricate and complicated path of
discovery, excavation, and restoration of this unique piece of history.


Keel from a Viking ship

The keel from a Viking ship, found at Bremanger in Sogn og Fjord, Norway, is stretched out under the display case. It’s a unique piece and an interesting glimpse into the heart of a powerful ship.

July 12, 2014 - Bergen Maritime Museum

The keel from a Viking ship.



An amazing find — an anchor from ca. 800 A.D, found in Nordland, Norway. Can you image what it took for builders of that time to envision and create this?

July 12, 2014 - Bergen Maritime Museum

An anchor from the beginning of the 9th century.



The central mast support from a Viking ship; with primitive tools (to our 21st Century eyes), the mast was wedged firmly in place. I stood there and imagined the force of the wind, waves, and water … and it all held together.

July 12, 2014 - Bergen Maritime Museum

The central mast support from a Viking ship.


Frame timber reconstruction

Reconstructed frame timber section of a Nordic medieval ship, with an original 4.5 meter long deck-beam. The beam was excavated at Bryggen in Bergen.

July 12, 2014 - Bergen Maritime Museum

Reconstruction of a part of a Nordic medieval ship.


I found this map showing the locations of the major Viking ship finds interesting … and the graphic of Norway’s explorations by ship fascinating!

July 12, 2014 - Bergen Maritime Museum


I’ve enjoyed wandering through museums all over the world, but this is the first time I’ve been to a ship museum. Because of my joy in discovering aspects of history I’ve previously overlooked, plus living in an area where water dominates all aspects of life … well, this part of the Bergen Maritime Museum was an intriguing glimpse for me into the very beginnings of the ancient Norwegian’s adapting to their world. Over the next few weeks I’ll share other aspects of our time at the museum.

From my Archives: the weather

(I’ve lived in this amazing country for seven years. Buried in my blog’s Archives are many emotions and experiences from my first years as an expatriate. I’d like to let them see the light again! So, on occasional Fridays, I’ll share my favorites in a “Flashback Friday” type of reblog format.)

We’re expecting a gorgeous weekend in our part of the world. I’m headed out to wash off the outdoor furniture from the past few days’ weather mess so we can soak up the sunshine moments … but first, I thought I’d share an opposite (but still enjoyable, for me!) weather pattern.

I’d never lived near mountains before moving here, and the mountain-affected weather patterns fascinated me. My first four weeks in Norway are a distant memory, but rereading my thoughts reminds me of the wonder of it all!

the weather
Februrary 4, 2007

“You are moving WHERE? In January?? Are you crazy? It’s COLD there!”

“Yes, but I like it cold. I like snow. I have more energy during the winter. The shorter days don’t bother me. But of course, ask me again in a year and I’ll let you know how I feel after experiencing my first Norwegian winter!”

Versions of the conversation above happened between me and many of my family and friends in the months leading up to my move here to Bergen. I passed on my response in a light tone, but of course I have to be realistic and admit I’m a little curious, a little cautious, a little apprehensive about what a Norwegian winter will really be like.

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paintings and photographs — Norwegian sunset skies

OK, that title is a little misleading. I was looking through photos to find one that is similar to a Norwegian artist I’d like to showcase next, and decided that, this time, Mother Nature’s paintbrush needed to be featured in one huge gallery of glorious color.

Presenting: SUNSETS

I find the thumbnails of color intriguing. Most are from the past year, since our view looks south and west … but a couple winter views from our five years looking over the southern part of the Bergen valley are tucked in there too. The date and time each photo was taken is visible if you hover over an image, and clicking them will open up the slideshow gallery with larger images.

Thank you, Mother Nature, for your remarkable and intense hues! And those paint-brushed clouds? Exquisite!

Does one image in particular leap out at you? I’d enjoy reading your thoughts!

a seagull convention

Many people find seagulls intrusive, for many valid reasons. Those three links probably represent the feelings of 90% of the earth’s population (no scientific research there — just my observations).

I’m with the 10%. I find them entertaining. The sound of their cries and calls reminds me of vacations: Lying in the sun, no worries in the world, the sounds of the waves and surf and kids and families … pure bliss.

Seagulls have made an appearance in my blog before. And this past year, living 100 meters above the fjord, we have many that fly below us.

Early this month I was honored to catch a “seagull convention” of younger and older birds on a neighbor’s rooftop almost level with us. The lowering sun reflected off their feathers, the evening breeze ruffled those feathers, and their personalities and “flock hierarchy” were so evident in their interactions. Of course I tried to capture that through my camera lens.

The first convention attendees arrived and staked out their spot, arguing over who would ultimately stay there …


There was more fluttering and changing …


One was left standing …


But what’s this? This one discovers a HIGHER spot! Does that mean it’s the Top Gull?


Maybe not. This first one stayed right where it was … or maybe it just didn’t notice.

9:48 pm on July 1, 2014 - seagulls in Lysekloster, Norway


This represent five minutes around 9:45 pm on July 1st. It was fun — and funny — to watch. You can probably supply the soundtrack. :)

From my Archives: random thoughts

(I’ve lived in this amazing country for seven years. Buried in my blog’s Archives are many emotions and experiences from my first years as an expatriate. I’d like to let them see the light again! So, on occasional Fridays, I’ll share my favorites in a “Flashback Friday” type of reblog format.)

Just as with last week, this peek into my older posts isn’t exactly from my first years as an expatriate; it’s random thoughts from near the end of my first visit to Norway. Since the 2006 World Cup was going on during that visit, and we’re about to enjoy the finals of the 2014 World Cup this weekend (GO GERMANY), I thought today was an appropriate day to share it.

Eight years later, many of these random thoughts still apply to my emotions and experiences of visiting/living in Norway … except I’ve adjusted to not having a garbage disposal. :)

random thoughts
June 17, 2006

  • I have never seen sky the shade of Norway’s before. No pollution to add to the color, just the pure air. Not a deep blue, but more pale, almost transparent and translucent. Mix it with the fluffy clouds that form over the mountains and you see something very unique.
  • Yes, the World Cup is going on during the last weeks of my time here, but aside from that, football/soccer is everywhere. The energy from youth and young adults playing the game in every open space is infectious.

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Norwegian commercials: time for a clean rap!

(Commercials on TV can be considered a necessary evil. So many are annoying, but every now and then one comes along that is the perfect combination of product, marketing, humor, and local culture. In my seven years here in Norway there have been several that have captured my attention. I thought it would be fun to occasionally share some of my favorites.)

This week I decided to post one that I liked so much when it first aired that I downloaded the app to play it on my iPod. :) But first, a little background:

Lano is a long-established Norwegian soap company. For over 60 years it’s run an annual Lano Ungen (The Lano Kid) photo contest. People submit and vote for “kid of the year,” with the winner being awarded a cash prize and their photo on the Lano refill bottles for that year.

The commercial shows several young boys dancing and rapping in the bathroom, all decked out in …. soap bubbles and lather! The song lyrics are hilarious, but of course a lot of the humor is lost in the translation:

Vask de henda

Wash those hands

Norwegian English
Har du vært en tur på do
og trodde alt var smooth,
men glemte å ta såpe
på din møkkete hud, Dude!

Vask de henda, vask-vask de henda.
Vask de henda, vask-vask de henda.

Har du kosa en kamel
eller klappa en bisk?
Har du tatt en “high five”
med en som ikke var frisk? Uhhh!

Vask de henda, vask-vask de henda.
Vask de henda, vask-vask de henda.

For bakterier,
de tar ikke ferier
på hånda di så finns det
mange skumle mysterier.
Har du søla deg til,
så er det best at du husker
at du må bruke Lano
og bli kvitt noen basillusker**!!

Vask de henda, vask-vask de henda.
Vask — vask — vask.

Have you been to the bathroom
and thought everything was smooth,
but forgot to use soap
on your dirty skin, Dude!

Wash those hands, wash wash those hands.
Wash those hands, wash wash those hands.

Have you hugged a camel
or patted a dog?
Have you taken a “high five”
with one that was not clean? Uhhh!

Wash those hands, wash wash those hands.
Wash those hands, wash wash those hands.

For bacteria,
they take no holidays
on your hand there are
many creepy mysteries.
Have you rolled in the dirt,
so it is best that you remember
you must use Lano
and get rid of some germs**!

Wash those hands, wash wash those hands.
Wash – wash – wash.

Lano for liten. Lano for stor. Lano for little. Lano for big.

(**basillusker doesn’t really translate; it’s a kid’s expression for bacteria/germs …. similar to jentalus which means “girl lice” and is what my husband and his buddies called the girls almost sixty years ago, or cooties which is what my brothers said I had when we were squabbling siblings! :) )

I don’t know about you, but that yellow water balloon almost makes me duck … every time.