old bergen

I found this amazing photo last night and the instant I saw it I knew it had to be a blog post. This photo of the Bergen, Norway fish market was taken sometime between 1890 and 1905. From the style of the women’s dresses and the suits on the men in the foreground my guess is it’s about 1895. This is a chromolithograph, an originally black-and-white photo that was hand-tinted to be in color. I’ve done another photo of this kind, and also about Norway, previously in my “Historic Photos” series. You can click the above photo for the full-size version and zoom in to see the amazing detail.

Bergen’s waterfront fish market was a staple of the town’s commercial life for centuries, beginning way back in the Middle Ages when (or possibly even before) the Hanseatic League set up shop there. Fishermen sold their wares right here on the dock, as fresh as possible, at least without catching it yourself. The tradition persisted for a long time. I was amazed by the Bergen fish market the first time I visited in the city in 2009. But since then, quite rapidly, it has declined. Now it’s a few seafood stalls in an enclosed building, and the variety of goods for sale is greatly diminished. Whether this is due to economic or (I suspect, more likely) environmental factors I do not know. But almost certainly in a few years the Bergen fish market will belong only to history, and to photos like this.

I visited Bergen again last month. After I found this 1890s photo I went back through the pictures I took to see if I happened to snap a shot on roughly the same spot. It turns out I did. The angle is lower and slightly different, but a lot of the same landscape visible in the historic photo you can see here, such as the top of the castle and fortress to the right. Bryggen–the old headquarters of the Hanseatic League–is several hundred yards to the right of both of where these photos were taken.

bergen fish market 2014

Old photos are some of the best way to experience history. I just love them, and when I find one as cool as this it’s like Christmas! Wait a minute…it is almost Christmas! Enjoy this visual slice of Norwegian history.