Our return to Bergen was greeted with the first really cold and fine day for some time. Clutching our Bergen card, we set off on public transport to find the Hordamuseet, a traditional folk museum out in the suburbs. The helpful woman at the tourist information recommended this museum as a way to understand life in Hordaland, which surrounds Bergen. We were not disappointed.
The first exhibition in the museum which is nestled into a hillside – and thus a little difficult to find – was about the Spaesal sheep and their fabulous wool. Spaesal or Old Norwegian Short Tail Landrace sheep are thought to be the original Norwegian sheep.
They are extremely hardy, will eat anything including thistles and have two layers of wool. The outer layer moults and just falls or is pulled off. The wool fibres are short and particularly good for spinning and making fine garments. This wool was even spun into sails for local fishing vessels. The wool fell out of favour when industrial knitting machines were introduced because the burrs and thistles, easily removed by hand, jammed up the knitting machines. The exhibition showed beautiful handcrafted garment knitted and embroidered in the traditional Hordaland style, which is now making a resurgence. As a long standing knitter myself, this exhibition really appealed to me.
There is also an exhibition of 10 tapestries, which tell the story of Asmund Fraegdagjeva, a medieval knight who was sent to Trollebotn to rescue an Irish princess, Imeln from the trolls. The wool for the tapestries was spun, dyed and woven on a hand loom by Ragna Breivik based on aquarelles drawn by Gerhard Munthe. The work took Breivik more than 25 years to complete and the skill required is quite extraordinary.
Even though the traditional houses which surround the exhibition hall were closed we did get to the Boat Hall, which houses the most extensive collection of wooden sailing vessels in this area. Pine and oak were the woods used and the craftsmanship was beautiful.
On our last day, we joined our tour group of 22 and had a city sightseeing tour by bus, guided by Andrea. For us, the best part was at Troldhaugen, trolls hill, the summer home of Edvard and Nina Greig. The Greigs were quite small only 1.5 metres tall, so the name of their home was a kind of joke, according to Andrea.
Here overlooking the small fjord Greig composed his distinctive Norwegian music, influenced by folkloric themes, captured in Peer Gynt. His famous piano concerto in A minor was composed when he was only 25 years old. Nina was a fine operatic singer as well as a pianist and they often performed together. The house is a museum but still holds a Steinway piano, gifted to the Griegs on their 25th wedding anniversary. Concerts and recordings are held regularly here.
Finally as the dusk fell, we arrived at the dock and boarded our Hurtigruten vessel, Finnmarken and sailed out of the Bergen harbour to the north.