Bryggen (Norwegian for the Wharf), also known as Tyskebryggen (the German Wharf) is a series of Hanseatic commercial buildings lining the eastern side of the fjord coming into Bergen, Norway. Bryggen has since 1979 been on the UNESCO list for World Cultural Heritage sites. The name has the same origin as the Flemish city of Brugge.

The city of Bergen was founded in 1070. In 1360 a Kontor of the Hanseatic League was established there, and as the town developed into an important trading centre, the wharfs were improved. The administrative buildings of Bryggen housed clerks from many areas, especially Germany. The warehouses were filled with goods, particularly fish from northern Norway, and cereal from Europe.

Throughout history, Bergen has experienced many fires, since, traditionally, most houses were made from wood. This was also the case for Bryggen, and as of today, around a quarter dates back to the time after 1702, when the older wharfside warehouses and administrative buildings burned down. The rest predominantly consists of younger structures, although there are some stone cellars that date back to the 15th century.

Parts of Bryggen were destroyed in a fire in 1955. This area was used for the construction of Bryggen museum containing archeological remains, plus some old-style wooden houses, these being the six leftmost houses on the panoramic picture below. Controversially, a brick hotel was also raised on the premises, which is seen behind these six houses.

Today, Bryggen houses tourist, souvenir, and gift shops, in addition to restaurants, pubs and museums.

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The Hanseatic League

The Hanseatic League (also known as the Hansa) was an alliance of trading cities and their guilds that established and maintained a trade monopoly along the coast of Northern Europe, from the Baltic to the North Sea and inland, during the Late Middle Ages and Early modern period (c.13th–17th centuries). The Hanseatic cities had their own law system and furnished their own protection and mutual aid.

Historians generally trace the origins of the League to the rebuilding of the North German town of Lübeck in 1159 by Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony, after Henry had captured the area from Count Adolf II of Holstein.

Exploratory trading adventures, raids and piracy had happened earlier throughout the Baltic (see Vikings) — the sailors of Gotland sailed up rivers as far away as Novgorod, for example — but the scale of international trade economy in the Baltic area remained insignificant before the growth of the Hanseatic League.

German cities achieved domination of trade in the Baltic with striking speed over the next century, and Lübeck became a central node in all the seaborne trade that linked the areas around the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The 15th century saw the climax of Lübeck's hegemony.

Hanseatic League's formation in Hamburg, Germany (circa 1241)

Lübeck became a base for merchants from Saxony and Westphalia to spread east and north. Well before the term Hanse appeared in a document (1267), merchants in a given city began to form guilds or Hansa with the intention of trading with towns overseas, especially in the less-developed eastern Baltic area, a source of timber, wax, amber, resins, furs, even rye and wheat brought down on barges from the hinterland to port markets. The towns furnished their own protection armies and each guild had to furnish a number of members into service, when needed. The trade ships often had to be used to carry soldiers and their arms. The Hanseatic cities came to each other's aid.

Visby functioned as the leading centre in the Baltic before the Hansa. For 100 years the Germans sailed under the Gotlandic flag to Novgorod. Sailing east, Visby merchants established a branch at Novgorod. To begin with the Germans used the Gotlandic Gutagard. With the influx of too many merchants the Gotlanders arranged their own trading stations for the German Petershof further up from the river — see a translation of the grant of privileges to merchants in 1229. Before the foundation of the Hanseatic league in 1358 the word Hanse did not occur in the Baltic. The Gotlanders used the word varjag.

Hansa societies worked to remove restrictions to trade for their members. For example, the merchants of the Cologne Hansa in 1157 convinced Henry II of England to free them from all tolls in London and allowed them to trade at fairs throughout England. The ‘Queen of the Hansa’, Lübeck, where traders trans-shipped goods between the North Sea and the Baltic, gained the Imperial privilege of becoming an Imperial city in 1227, the only such city east of the River Elbe.

Lübeck, which had access to the Baltic and North Sea fishing grounds, formed an alliance in 1241 with Hamburg, another trading city, which controlled access to salt-trade routes from Lüneburg. The allied cities gained control over most of the salt-fish trade, especially the Scania Market; and Cologne joined them in the Diet of 1260. In 1266 Henry III of England granted the Lübeck and Hamburg Hansa a charter for operations in England, and the Cologne Hansa joined them in 1282 to form the most powerful Hanseatic colony in London. Much of the drive for this co-operation came from the fragmented nature of existing territorial government, which failed to provide security for trade. Over the next 50 years the Hansa itself emerged with formal agreements for confederation and co-operation covering the west and east trade routes. The chief city and linchpin remained Lübeck; with the first general Diet of the Hansa held there in 1356, the Hanseatic League acquired an official structure and could date its official founding.

Lübeck's location on the Baltic provided access for trade with Scandinavia and Kiev Rus, putting it in direct competition with the Scandinavians who had previously controlled most of the Baltic trade routes. A treaty with the Visby Hansa put an end to competition: through this treaty the Lübeck merchants also gained access to the inland Russian port of Novgorod, where they built a trading post or Kontor. Other such alliances formed throughout the Holy Roman Empire. The League never became a closely-managed formal organisation. Assemblies of the Hanseatic towns met irregularly in Lübeck for a Hansetag (‘Hanseatic Diet’), from 1356 onwards, but many towns chose not to send representatives and decisions were not binding on individual cities. Over time, the network of alliances grew to include a flexible roster of 70 to 170 cities.

The league succeeded in establishing additional Kontors in Bruges (Flanders), Bergen (Norway), and London (England). These trading posts became significant enclaves. The London Kontor, established in 1320, stood west of London Bridge near Upper Thames Street. (Cannon Street station occupies the site now.) It grew significantly over time into a walled community with its own warehouses, weighhouse, church, offices and houses, reflecting the importance and scale of the activity carried on. The first reference to it as the Steelyard (der Stahlhof) occurs in 1422.

In addition to the major Kontors, individual Hanseatic ports had a representative merchant and warehouse. In England this happened in Boston, Bristol, Bishop's Lynn (now King's Lynn), which features the sole remaining Hanseatic warehouse in England, Hull, Ipswich, Norwich, Yarmouth (now Great Yarmouth), and York.

The League primarily traded timber, furs, resin (or tar), flax, honey, wheat, and rye from the east to Flanders and England with cloth (and, increasingly, manufactured goods) going in the other direction. Metal ore (principally copper and iron) and herring came southwards from Sweden.

German colonists under strict Hansa supervision built numerous Hansa cities on and near the east Baltic coast, such as Danzig (Gdańsk), Elbing (Elbląg), Thorn (Toruń), Reval (Tallinn), Riga, and Dorpat (Tartu), some of which still retain many Hansa buildings and bear the style of their Hanseatic days. Most were founded under Lübeck law (Lübisches Recht), which provided that they had to appeal in all legal matters to Lübeck's city council. The Livonian Confederation incorporated parts of modern-day Estonia and Latvia and had its own Hanseatic parliament (diet); all of its major towns became members of the Hanseatic League. The dominant language of trade was Middle Low German, a dialect with significant impact for countries involved in the trade, particularly the larger Scandinavian languages.

The League had a fluid structure, but its members shared some characteristics. First, most of the Hansa cities either started as independent cities or gained independence through the collective bargaining power of the League, such independence remained limited, however. The Hanseatic free imperial cities owed allegiance directly to the Holy Roman Emperor, without any intermediate tie to the local nobility.

Another similarity involved the cities' strategic locations along trade routes. In fact, at the height of its power in the late 1300s, the merchants of the Hanseatic League succeeded in using their economic clout and sometimes their military might - trade routes needed protecting and the League's ships sailed well-armed - to influence imperial policy.

The League also wielded power abroad. Between 1361 and 1370, the League waged war against Denmark. Initially unsuccessful, Hanseatic towns in 1368 allied in the Confederation of Cologne, sacked Copenhagen and Helsingborg, and forced King Valdemar IV of Denmark and his son-in-law Hakon VI of Norway to grant the League 15 percent of the profits from Danish trade in the subsequent peace-treaty of Stralsund in 1370, thus gaining an effective trade and political monopoly in Scandinavia. This favourable treaty marked the high-water mark of Hanseatic power. The commercial privileges were renewed in the Treaty of Vordingborg, 1435.

The Hansa also waged a vigorous campaign against pirates. Between 1392 and 1440, maritime trade of the League faced danger from raids of the Victual Brothers and their descendants, privateers hired in 1392 by Albert of Mecklenburg against the Queen Margaret I of Denmark. In the Dutch-Hanseatic War (1438—41), the merchants of Amsterdam sought and eventually won free access to the Baltic and broke the Hansa monopoly. As an essential part of protecting their investment in trade and ships, the League trained pilots and erected lighthouses.

Exclusive trade routes often came at a high price. Most foreign cities confined the Hansa traders to certain trading areas and to their own trading posts. They could seldom, if ever, interact with the local inhabitants, except in the matter of actual negotiation. Moreover, many people, merchant and noble alike, envied the power of the League. For example, in London the local merchants exerted continuing pressure for the revocation of the privileges of the League. The refusal of the Hansa to offer reciprocal arrangements to their English counterparts exacerbated the tension. King Edward IV of England reconfirmed the league's privileges in the Treaty of Utrecht (1474) despite this hostility, in part thanks to the significant financial contribution the League made to the Yorkist side during The Wars of the Roses. A century later, in 1597, Queen Elizabeth I of England expelled the League from London and the Steelyard closed the following year. The very existence of the League and its privileges and monopolies created economic and social tensions that often crept over into rivalry between League members.

Rise of rival powers
The economic crises of the late 14th century did not spare the Hansa. Nevertheless, its eventual rivals emerged in the form of the territorial states, whether new or revived, and not just in the west: Poland triumphed over the Teutonic Knights in 1466; Ivan III of Russia ended the entrepreneurial independence of Novgorod in 1478. New vehicles of credit imported from Italy outpaced the Hansa economy, in which silver coin changed hands rather than bills of exchange.

In the 14th century, tensions between Prussian region and the ‘Wendish’ cities (Lübeck and eastern neighbours) rose. Lübeck was dependent on its role as centre of the Hansa, being on the shore of the sea without a major river. Lübeck was on the entrance of the land route to Hamburg, but this land route could be circumvented by the sea travel around Denmark and through the Sound. Prussia's main interest, on the other hand, was primarily the export of bulk products like grain and timber, which were very important for England, the Low Countries, and later on also for Spain and Italy.

In 1454, year of Elisabeth Habsburg's marriage to the Jagiellonian king the towns of the Prussian Confederation rose against the dominance of the Teutonic Order and asked for help from King Casimir IV of Poland. Danzig, Thorn, and Elbing came under the protection of the Kingdom of Poland, (1466 - 1569 referred to as Royal Prussia) by the Second Peace of Thorn (1466). Polish-Lithuania in turn was heavily supported by the Holy Roman Empire through family connections and by military assistance under the Habsburgs. Kraków, then the capital of Poland, was also a Hansa city with German burghers around 1500. The lack of customs borders on the River Vistula after 1466 helped to gradually increase Polish grain export, transported to the sea down the Vistula, from 10,000 t per year in the late 15th century to over 200,000 t in the 17th century. The Hansa-dominated maritime grain trade made Poland one of the main areas of its activity, helping Danzig to become the Hansa's largest city due to its control of Polish grain exports.

The member cities took responsibility for their own protecting. Polish attempts at subjugating Danzig had to be fought off repeatedly. In 1567 a Hanseatic League Agreement reconfirms previous obligations and rights of League members, such as common protection and defense against enemies. It begins Wir Burgermeister und Rethe der Teutschenn Hanse Stett Lubegk, Collen, Braunschweig und Dantzigk als Haupt und Quartier Stett tun kund. The Prussian Quartier cities of Thorn, Elbing, Koenigsberg and Riga and Dorpat also signed. When pressed by the king of Poland-Lithuania, Danzig remained neutral and would not allow ships running for Poland into its territory. They had to anchor somewhere else, such as at Putzig or Pautzke as it was named then.

A major benefit for the Hansa was its domination of the shipbuilding market, mainly in Lübeck and in Danzig. The Hansa sold ships everywhere in Europe, including Italy. The Hansa had excluded the Hollanders, because it wanted to favour Bruges as a huge staple market at the end of a trade route. When the Hollanders started to become competitors of the Hansa in shipbuilding, the Hansa tried to stop the flow of shipbuilding technology from Hansa towns to Holland. Danzig, a trading partner of Amsterdam, tried to stall the decision. Dutch ships sailed to Danzig to take grain from the Prussians directly, to the dismay of Lübeck. Hollanders also circumvented the Hansa towns by trading directly with North German princes in non-Hansa towns. Dutch freight costs were much lower than those of the Hansa, and the Hansa were excluded as middlemen.

Bruges, Antwerp and Holland all became part of the same country, the Duchy of Burgundy, which actively tried to take over the monopoly of trade from the Hansa, and the staple market from Bruges was moved to Amsterdam. The Dutch merchants aggressively challenged the Hansa and met with much success. Hanseatic cities in Prussia, Livonia supported the Dutch against the core cities of the Hansa in northern Germany. After several naval wars between Burgundy and the Hanseatic fleets, Amsterdam gained the position of leading port for Polish and Baltic grain from the late 15th century onwards. The Dutch regarded Amsterdam's grain trade as the mother of all trades (Moedernegotie). Denmark and England tried to destroy the Netherlands in the early 16th century, but failed.

Nuremberg in Franconia developed an overland route to sell formerly Hansa monopolized products from Frankfurt via Nuremberg and Leipzig to Poland and Russia, trading Flemish cloth and French wine in exchange for grain and furs from the east. The Hansa profited from the Nuremberg trade by allowing Nurembergers to settle in Hansa towns, which the Franconians exploited by taking over trade with Sweden as well. The Nuremberger merchant Albrecht Moldenhauer was influential in developing the trade with Sweden and Norway, and his sons Wolf and Burghard established themselves in Bergen and Stockholm, becoming leaders of the Hanseatic activities locally.

End of the Hansa
At the start of the 16th century the League found itself in a weaker position than it had known for many years. The rising Swedish Empire had taken control of much of the Baltic. Denmark had regained control over its own trade, the Kontor in Novgorod had closed, and the Kontor in Bruges had become effectively defunct. The individual cities which made up the League had also started to put self-interest before their common Hansa interests. Finally the political authority of the German princes had started to grow — and so to constrain the independence of action which the merchants and Hanseatic towns had enjoyed.

The League attempted to deal with some of these issues. It created the post of Syndic in 1556 and elected Heinrich Sudermann as permanent official with legal training who worked to protect and extend the diplomatic agreements of the member towns. In 1557 and 1579 revised agreements spelled out the duties of towns and some progress was made. The Bruges Kontor moved to Antwerp and the Hansa attempted to pioneer new routes. However, the League proved unable to halt the progress around it and so a long decline commenced. The Antwerp Kontor closed in 1593, followed by the London Kontor in 1598. The Bergen Kontor continued until 1754; its buildings alone of all the Kontoren survive (see Bryggen).

The gigantic Adler von Lübeck, which was constructed for military use against Sweden during the Northern Seven Years' War (1567-70), but never put to action, epitomizes the vain attempts of the League's leading city Lübeck to uphold its long privileged commercial position in a changed economic and political climate.

By the late 16th century, the League imploded and could no longer deal with its own internal struggles, the social and political changes that accompanied the Protestant Reformation, the rise of Dutch and English merchants, and the incursion of the Ottoman Empire upon its trade routes and upon the Holy Roman Empire itself. Only nine members attended the last formal meeting in 1669 and only three (Lübeck, Hamburg and Bremen) remained as members until its final demise in 1862.

Despite its collapse, several cities still maintain the link to the Hanseatic League today. The Dutch cities of Deventer, Kampen, Zutphen, and the nine German cities Bremen, Demmin, Greifswald, Hamburg, Lübeck, Lüneburg, Rostock, Stralsund and Wismar still call themselves Hanse cities. Lübeck, Hamburg, and Bremen continue to style themselves officially as ‘Free and Hanseatic Cities.’ (Rostock's football team is named F.C. Hansa Rostock in memory of the city's trading past.) For Lübeck in particular, this anachronistic tie to a glorious past remained especially important in the 20th century. In 1937 the Nazis removed this privilege through the Greater Hamburg Act after the Senat of Lübeck did not permit Adolf Hitler to speak in Lübeck during his election campaign. He held the speech in Bad Schwartau, a small village on the outskirts of Lübeck. Subsequently, he referred to Lübeck as ‘the small city close to Bad Schwartau.’ Three years ago King's Lynn became the only English member of the newly formed modern Hanseatic League, whose members include Hamburg and Lubeck. The ‘new’ HANSE hopes to foster and develop business links and tourism within towns and cities as well as promote cultural exchange .

Lists of former Hansa cities:
Members of the Hanseatic League
Cities of the Wendish and Pommeranian Circle.

Wendish Circle:
Lübeck (chief city); Greifswald; Hamburg; Kiel; Lüneburg; Rostock; Stade; Stettin (Szczecin); Stralsund; Wismar

Saxony, Thuringia, Brandenburg Circle:
Alfeld; Aschersleben; Berlin; Bockenem; Brandenburg; Braunschweig (chief city); Bremen; Einbeck; Erfurt; Frankfurt (Oder); Gardelegen; Goslar; Gronau; Halberstadt; Halle (Saale); Hameln; Hanover (Hannover); Havelberg; Helmstedt; Hildesheim; Kyritz; Lüneburg; Magdeburg (chief city); Merseburg; Mühlhausen; Naumburg; Nordhausen; Northeim; Osterburg; Osterode am Harz; Perleberg; Pritzwalk; Quedlinburg; Salzwedel; Seehausen; Stendal; Tangermünde; Uelzen; Uslar; Werben

Poland, Prussia, Livonia, Sweden Circle:
Breslau (Wrocław); Chełmno; Gdańsk (Gdańsk, chief city); Dorpat (Tartu); Elbing (Elbląg); Fellin (Viljandi); Kraków; Goldingen (Kuldīga); Kokenhusen (Koknese); Königsberg (now Kaliningrad); Lemsal (Limbaži); Pernau (Pärnu); Reval (Tallinn); Riga (Rīga, chief city); Roop (Straupe); Thorn (Toruń); Visby; Wenden (Cēsis); Windau (Ventspils); Wolmar (Valmiera)

Rhine, Westphalia, the Netherlands Circle:
Duisburg; Zwolle; Haltern am See; Hattem; Hasselt; Hattingen; Cologne; Dortmund (chief city); Soest; Geseke; Osnabrück; Münster; Coesfeld; Roermond; Nijmegen; Tiel; Deventer, with subsidiary cities: Ommen, Enschede, Oldenzaal, Hasselt, Gramsbergen; Groningen; Kampen; Bochum; Recklinghausen; Hamm; Unna; Werl; Zutphen; Breckerfeld; Minden

Counting houses

Principal Kontore Bryggen in Bergen, Norway:
Bergen - Bryggen (previously in Notow); Brugge (Bruges); Steelyard - district of London; Novgorod - Velikiy Novgorod, Russia

Subsidiary Kontore
The Hanseatic Warehouse in King's Lynn is the only surviving Hanseatic League building in England
Kontor in Antwerp.

Antwerp; Berwick upon Tweed; Boston; Damme; Edinburgh; Hull; Ipswich; King's Lynn; Kaunas; Newcastle; Polotsk; Pskov; Great Yarmouth; York

Other cities with a Hansa community:
Aberdeen; Anklam; Arnhem; Bolsward; Cesis (Wenden); Chełmno (Kulm); Doesburg; Göttingen; Goldingen (Kuldiga); Hafnarfjord (Hafnarfjörður); Harlingen; Herford; Hindeloopen; Kalmar; Kokenhusen (Koknese); Lemgo; Narwa (Narva);  Oldenzaal; Paderborn; Scalloway; Słupsk (Stolp); Smolensk; Stargard Szczeciński (Stargard); Turku (Åbo); Tver; Wolmar (Valmiera); Wesel; Wiburg (Vyborg); Windau (Ventspils)

Fictional references
* A Terran Hanseatic League exists in Kevin J. Anderson's science fiction series, Saga of Seven Suns. The political structure of this fictional interstellar version closely resembles that of the historical Hanseatic League.
* In the computer game series Patrician players begin as a trader and work their way to the head of the Hanseatic League.
* In the computer game Darklands players can accept smaller missions from Hanseatic traders.
* In the Perry Rhodan SF series, the trade organisation the Cosmic Hansa (Kosmische Hanse) covers the Galaxy. The English translation for this organisation is Cosmic House (see American issues 1800-1803) as it was felt that no one would understand the Hanseatic League reference.
* Midgard open source content management system has often been referred to as the Hanseatic League of Open Source.
* In the Battletech tabletop and roleplaying universe, there is a state in the Deep Periphery (towards the center of the Galaxy, measured from Earth) called the Hanseatic League, which is structured as a plutocratic trade empire, but which has considerably more primitive social and technological structures when compared to human societies closer to Earth.
* The PC game Patrician III: Rise of the Hanse is a simulation of trade amongst member cities of the Hanseatic League beginning in the 14th century.
* Hanseatic League merchant caravans are used as the backdrop for ‘living history’ groups in Florida and North Carolina. Hanseatic League Historical Re-enactors has two chapters, Bergens Kontor in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Voss Kontor in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Both groups portray merchants from a Hanseatic League merchant caravan originating from kontors and towns in Norway. They offer ‘in character’ lectures, skits and ‘theatre in the round’, based on the history of the Hanseatic League, for the education and entertainment of Renaissance Festival patrons and local schools.

* Robert Heinlein's novel, Citizen of the Galaxy, revolves around a loose league of trading spaceships of varying old Earth nationalities like the Finns aboard the ‘Sisu.’ Another ship is called ‘Hansea.’

* Arthur Rimbaud mentions the Hansa merchant ships in his poem, Le Bateau ivre:, bateau perdu sous les cheveux des anses,
Jeté par l'ouragan dans l'éther sans oiseau,
Moi dont les Monitors et les voiliers des Hanses
N'auraient pas repêché la carcasse ivre d'eau ;

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Bergen Coat of Arms

Bergen is the second largest city in Norway, with a population of 252 051 as of January 1, 2009. Bergen is the administrative centre of Hordaland county. Greater Bergen or Bergen Economic Region, as defined by Statistics Norway, had a population of 385 450 as of January 1, 2009.

Bergen is located in the county of Hordaland on the south-western coast of Norway. Its city centre is situated among a group of mountains known as ‘De syv fjell’ (lit. The Seven Mountains), although which mountains these are is a matter of definition. Bergen is an important cultural hub in its region and was one of nine European cities honored with the title of European Capital of Culture in 2000.

The city of Bergen, thought to have been founded by king Olav Kyrre, son of Harald Hardråde, in 1070 AD, celebrated its 900th anniversary in 1970. It is considered to have replaced Trondheim as Norway's capital in 1217, and that Oslo became the de jure capital in 1299. Towards the end of the 13th century, Bergen became one of the Hanseatic League's most important bureau cities.

The main reason for Bergen's importance was the trade with dried cod from the northern Norwegian coast, which started around 1100 CE. By the late 1300s, Bergen had established itself as the center of the trade in Norway. The Saxon Hanseatic merchants lived in their own separate quarter of town, where Middle Saxon (‘Middle Low German’) was used, enjoying exclusive rights to trade with the northern fishermen that each summer sailed to Bergen. Today, Bergen's old quayside, Bryggen is on UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites.

In 1349, the Black Death was inadvertently brought to Norway by the crew of an English ship arriving in Bergen. In the 15th century the city was several times attacked by the Victual Brothers, and in 1429 they succeeded in burning the royal castle and much of the city. In 1536, the King of the country was able to force the Saxon merchants to become Norwegian citizens, or else to return home, heralding a decline in the Saxon influence. In 1665, the city's harbor was the site of the Battle of Vågen, between English ships on the one side and Dutch ships supported by the city's garrison on the other.

Hieronymus Scholeus's impression of Bergen. The drawing was made in about 1580 and was published in an atlas with drawings of many different cities (Civitaes orbis terrarum).

Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, Bergen remained one of the largest cities in Scandinavia, and was Norway's biggest city until the 1830s, when the capital city of Oslo became the largest. Bergen retained its monopoly of trade with Northern Norway until 1789.

In 1916, parts of the city center were destroyed by a devastating fire, the last of many such fires throughout the city's history. During World War II, Bergen was occupied on the first day of the German invasion on 9 April 1940, after a brief fight between German ships and the Norwegian coastal artillery. On 20 April 1944, during the German occupation, the Dutch cargo ship Voorbode anchored off the Bergenhus Fortress, loaded with over 120 tons of explosives, blew up, killing at least 150 people and damaging historic buildings. The city was subject to some Allied bombing raids, aiming at German naval installations in the harbor. Some of these caused Norwegian civilian casualties numbering about 100.

Bergen was separated from Hordaland as a county of its own in 1831. It was established as a municipality on 1 January 1838 (see formannskapsdistrikt). The rural municipality of Bergen landdistrikt was merged with Bergen on 1 January 1877. The rural municipality of Årstad was merged with Bergen on 1 July 1915. The rural municipalities of Arna, Fana, Laksevåg, and Åsane were merged with Bergen on 1 January 1972. The city lost its status as a separate county on the same date. Bergen was Norway's largest city until the 1830s, when it was surpassed by the capital city of Oslo. Bergen is now a municipality in Norway, in the county of Hordaland.

In 1972, Bergen was unified with the neighboring municipalities, of Arna, Fana, Laksevåg, and Åsane, abolishing its county status and setting its present boundaries.

The Norse forms of the name were Bergvin and Bjørgvin. The first element is berg (n) or bjørg (f), which translates to mountain. The last element is vin (f), which means a new settlement where there used to be a pasture or meadow. The full meaning is then 'the meadow among the mountains'. A suitable name: Bergen is often called 'the city among the seven mountains'. It was the playwright Ludvig Holberg who felt so inspired by the seven hills of Rome, that he decided that his home town must be blessed with a corresponding seven mountains - and locals still argue which seven they are.

There are about one thousand names in Norway composed with the element -vin, which are pronounced with the second tone. The only exception is the name Bergen (which is pronounced with the first tone). The cause of this is probably the German influence in the city.

In 1918, there was a campaign to reintroduce the Norse form Bjørgvin as the name of the city. This was turned down - but as a compromise the name of the diocese was changed to Bjørgvin bispedømme.

Bergen municipality occupies the majority of the Bergen peninsula in mid-western Hordaland. It is sheltered from the North Sea by the islands Askøy, Holsnøy (municipality Meland) and Sotra (municipalities Fjell and Sund).

The municipality covers an area of 465 km². The population is 244,620, making the population density 534 people per km². The population of the main urban area is 220,418. The municipality also contains eight minor urban settlements with a total population of 17,213, with Indre Arna, situated in the borough Arna, being the largest with a population of 6,151 as of 1 January 2007. Although not being geographically distant from the city centre, Arna is separated from it by mount Ulriken. Arna and the city centre are connected by a railway line; driving around Ulriken by way of Åsane to the north or Nesttun in Fana to the south is required if travelling by car or bus.

Bergen's city centre is situated among a group of mountains known collectively as de syv fjell (the seven mountains), including the mountains Ulriken, Fløyen, Løvstakken and Damsgårdsfjellet, as well as three of the following: Lyderhorn, Sandviksfjellet, Blåmanen, Rundemanen, and Askøyfjellet. The first to name them ‘the seven mountains’ might have been Ludvig Holberg, inspired by the seven hills of Rome. These seven mountains are, however, only a few of the mountains located within the borders of the Bergen municipality. Gullfjellet is the highest mountain in Bergen, at 987 metres above sea level.

Bergen borders the municipalities Meland, Lindås and Osterøy to the north, Vaksdal and Samnanger to the east, Os and Austevoll to the south, and Sund, Fjell and Askøy to the west.

As of 2002, the average gross income for men above the age of 17 is 426,000 NOK, the average gross income for women above the age of 17 is 238,000 NOK, with the total average gross income being 330,000 NOK. In 2007, there were 104.6 men for every 100 women in the age group of 20-39. 22.8% of the population were under 17 years of age, while 4.5% were 80 and above. 2.1% were first or second generation immigrants with Western backgrounds and 6,6% were first or second generation immigrants with non-Western backgrounds. The largest immigrant groups in Bergen today are Iraqi (1,443), Vietnamese (1,217), Chilean (1,197), Polish (1,184) and Sri Lankan Tamil (1,050).

Historical population
Year      Innhabitants
1801     about 20,000
1951     112,910
2001     230,948
2008     247,746            

View of the city centre with Torgallmenningen.
The city centre of Bergen is located west in the municipality, facing the fjord of Byfjorden. It is situated among a group of mountains known as the Seven Mountains, although the number is a matter of definition. From here, the urban area of Bergen extends to the north, west and south, and to its east is a large mountain massif. Outside of the city centre and the surrounding neighbourhoods (i.e. Årstad, inner Laksevåg and Sandviken), the majority of the population lives in relatively sparsely populated residential areas that have been built since the 1950s. While some are dominated by apartment buildings and modern terraced houses (e.g. Fyllingsdalen), others are dominated by single-family homes.

The oldest part of Bergen is the area around the bay of Vågen in the city centre. Originally centered on the eastern side of the bay, Bergen eventually expanded west and southwards. Few buildings from the oldest period remain, the most significant being St Mary's Church from the 12th century. For several hundred years, the extent of the city remained almost constant. The population was stagnant, and the city limits were narrow. In 1702, 7/8 of the city burned. Most of the old buildings of Bergen, including Bryggen (which was rebuilt in a medieval style), were built after the fire. The fire marked a transition from tar covered houses, as well as the remaining log houses, to painted and some brick-covered wooden buildings.

Modern apartment buildings in Fyllingsdalen.

The last half of the 19th century was a period of rapid expansion and modernisation of the city. The fire of 1855 west of Torgallmenningen lead to the development of regularly sized city blocks in this area of the city centre. The city limits were expanded in 1876, and Nygård, Møhlenpris and Sandviken were urbanised with large-scale construction of city blocks housing both the poor and the wealthy. Their architecture is influenced by a variety of styles; historicism, classicism and Art Nouveau. The wealthy built villas between Møhlenpris and Nygård, and on the side of Fløyen, which had also been added to Bergen in 1876. Simultaneously, an urbanisation process was taking place in Solheimsviken in Årstad, at the time outside of Bergen municipality, centered around the large industrial activity in the area. The workers' homes in this area were poorly built, and little remains after large-scale redevelopment in the 1960s-1980s.
Narrow streets are a common sight in older parts of Bergen.

After Årstad became a part of Bergen in 1916, a development plan was applied to the new area. Few city blocks akin to those in Nygård and Møhlenpris were planned. Many of the worker class built their own homes, and many small, detached apartment buildings were built. After World War II, Bergen had again run short on land to build on, and, contrary to the original plans, many large apartment buildings were built in Landås in the 1950s and 1960s. Bergen acquired Fyllingsdalen from Fana municipality in 1955. Like similar areas in Oslo (e.g. Lambertseter), Fyllingsdalen was developed into a modern suburb with large apartment buildings, mid-rises, and some single-family homes, in the 1960s and 1970s. Similar developments took place outside of Bergen's city limits, for example in Loddefjord.

At the same time as planned city expansion took place inside Bergen, its extra-municipal suburbs too grew rapidly. Wealthy citizens of Bergen had been living in Fana since the 19th century, but as the city expanded it became more convenient to settle in the municipality. Similar processes took place in Åsane and Laksevåg. Most of the homes in these areas are detached row houses, single family homes or small apartment buildings. Since the surrounding municipalities were merged with Bergen in 1972, expansion has continued in largely the same manner, although the municipality encourages condensing near commercial centres, future Bergen Light Rail stations, and elsewhere.

As part of the modernisation wave of the 1950s and 1960s, and due to damages caused by World War II, the city government ambitiously developed redevelopment plans for many areas in central Bergen. The plans involved demolition of several neighbourhoods of wooden houses, namely Nordnes, Marken, and Stølen. None of the plans were carried out in their original form, the Marken and Stølen redevelopment plans discarded entirely and that of Nordnes only carried out in the area that had been most damaged by war. The city council of Bergen had in 1964 voted to demolish the enterity of Marken, however, the decision proved to be strongly controversial and the decision was reversed in 1974. Bryggen was under threat of being wholly or partly demolished after the fire of 1955, when over half of the buildings burned to the ground. Instead of being demolished, the remaining buildings were eventually restored and accompanied by reconstructions of some of the burned buildings. Demolition of old buildings and occasionally whole city blocks is still taking place, the most recent major example being the razing of Jonsvollskvartalet at Nøstet.

Panorama of the Hanseatic buildings of Bryggen

Since 2000, the city of Bergen is governed by a city government (byråd) based on the principle of parliamentarism. The government consists of 6 government members called commissioners, and is appointed by the city council, the supreme authority of the city. Since the local elections of 2007, the city has been ruled by a right-wing coalition of the Progress Party, the Christian Democratic Party and the Conservative Party, each with two commissioners. The Progress Party member Gunnar Bakke is mayor, while conservative Monica Mæland is the leader of the city government, the most powerful political position in Bergen.

The 2007 city council elections were held on 10 September. The Socialist Left Party (SV) and the Pensioners Party (PP) ended up as the losers of the election, SV going from 11.6% of the votes in the 2003 elections to 7.1%, and PP losing 2.9% ending up at 1.2%. The Liberal Party more than doubled, going from 2.7% to 5.8%. The Conservative Party lost 1.1% of the votes, ending up at 26.3%, while the Progress Party got 20.2% of the votes, a gain of 3% since the 2003 elections. The Christian Democratic Party gained 0.2%, ending up at 6.3%. The Red Electoral Alliance lost 1.4%, ending up at 4.5%, while the Centre Party gained 1.2%, ending up at 2.8%. Finally, the Labour Party continued being the second largest party in the city, gaining one percent and ending up at 23.9%.

Bergen is divided into 8 boroughs, as seen on the map to the left. Going clockwise, starting north, the boroughs are Åsane, Arna, Fana, Ytrebygda, Fyllingsdalen, Laksevåg, Årstad and Bergenhus. The city centre is located in Bergenhus. Parts of Fana (= the fens), Ytrebygda, Åsane (= the hills) and Arna are not part of the Bergen urban area, explaining why the municipality has approximately 20,000 more inhabitants than the urban area. The separate borough administrations were closed 30 June 2004, but were opened up again on 1 January 2008.

Bergen, like its sister-city Seattle, has been nicknamed The City of Rain for its plentiful rainfall - annual precipitation is 2250 mm (88 inches) on average. This is because the city is surrounded by mountains that cause moist North Atlantic air to undergo orographic lift, which yields abundant rainfall. Rain fell every day between 29 October 2006 and 21 January 2007, 85 consecutive days. In the winter, Bergen is one of the warmest cities in Norway, thanks to the Gulf Stream; 10 °C and rain can happen in both January and July. The highest temperature ever recorded was 31.8 °C, a record that dates back to 1947. The lowest ever recorded is minus 16.3 °C, in 1987.

The high precipitation is often used in the marketing of the city, and figures to a degree on postcards sold in the city. For a period of time there were umbrella vending machines in the city, but these did not turn out to be a success.

Climate change
In recent years, precipitation and winds have increased in the city. In late 2005, heavy rains caused floods and several landslides, the worst of which killed three people on 14 September. It is predicted by meteorologists that due to global warming, severe storms causing landslides and floods will become more powerful in the area and in surrounding counties in coming years. As a response, the municipality created a special 24-man rescue unit within the fire department in 2005, to respond to future slides and other natural disasters, and neighbourhoods considered at risk of slides were surveyed in 2006. As of October 2007, the prediction has been supported by over 480 landslides in Hordaland county from the spring of '06 to the summer of '07. Most of the slides hit roads none of them caused damage to cars, buildings, or people, until October 2007, when a large rock dislodged and killed the driver of a car. Another concern is the risk of rising sea levels. Already today, Bryggen is regularly flooded at extreme tide, and it is feared that as sea levels rise, floods will become a major problem in Bergen. Floods may in the future reach the old fire station in Olav Kyrres Gate, as well as the railroad tracks leading out of the city. It has therefore been suggested by among others Stiftelsen Bryggen, the foundation responsible for preserving the UNESCO site, that a sea wall, built so that it could be raised and lowered as demanded by the tides, be built outside the harbour to protect the city.

Another effect of recent years' weather conditions in the area is that Norwegians increasingly believe that climate change is a threat.


Higher education
Bergen has one university, the University of Bergen, and one university college, Bergen University College, with a total of 22,000 students and 3,600 staff. With approximately 16,000 students and 3,000 staff, the University of Bergen (Norwegian: Universitetet i Bergen) is the third largest university in Norway, after the University of Oslo and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Although it was founded as late as 1946, academic activity had been taking place at Bergen Museum since 1825. The university's academic profile focuses on marine research and co-operation with developing countries. In 2002, the university was awarded three national centres of excellence in climate research, petroleum research and medieval studies. In December 2004, billionaire Trond Mohn donated 250 million NOK to the University as research funding. In addition, he has given the university several individual gifts of 50 million NOK.

Bergen University College (Norwegian: Høgskolen i Bergen) is one of 24 state-owned university colleges in Norway. As of 2007, it has approximately 6,000 students and 600 staff. The university college offers studies directed towards specific professions. The college is organised in 3 faculties: the Faculty of Education, the Faculty of Engineering, and the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences.

The Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (Norwegian: Norges Handelshøyskole) is a leading school of business and economics in Norway. Finn E. Kydland, the most recent (2004) of three Norwegian laureates of the Economy Nobel Prize, has studied and lectured at the school. The school has approximately 2,700 students and 350 staff. As the result of a resolution passed by the Norwegian storting in 1917, the school was founded in 1936 as the first business school in Norway. As of 2007, the school's MSc programme is ranked by the Financial Times as the 36th best in Europe.

The Bergen School of Architecture (Bergen Arkitekt Skole), founded in 1986 by architect Svein Hatløy, has alternative programs, with graduants like 3RW arkitekter and Tommie Wilhemsen.

The Bergen National Academy of the Arts (Kunsthøgskolen i Bergen, approximately 300 students and 100 staff) is one of the two independent institutions of higher learning in the visual arts and design in Norway. Students can take a three-year Bachelor degree and a two-year Master degree in the following areas: Visual Art, Interior Architecture, Furniture Design, Room Design, Visual Communications, Photography, Printmaking, Ceramics and Textiles.

The Naval Academy (Sjøkrigsskolen) of the Royal Norwegian Navy is located at Laksevåg in Bergen.

Primary and secondary education
The former building of the Bergen Katedralskole, then known as Bergen Latinskole.

There are 64 elementary schools, 18 lower secondary schools and 20 upper secondary schools in Bergen, as well as 11 combined elementary/lower secondary schools.

Bergen Katedralskole (Latin: Scholae Bergensis Cathedralis) is believed to have been founded in 1153 by Pope Adrian IV (then known as Nicholas Breakspear), thus making it Bergen's oldest school and one of the oldest schools in Norway. The school moved to its present location in 1840, and the old building was left mostly unused until the School Museum of Bergen moved into the building in 2003. Since 1972 the school is a regular upper secondary school (similar to a high school in the United States and the United Kingdom).

In 2006, Bergen Handelsgymnasium, an upper secondary school in Bergen, was chosen as a finalist in the The Holberg Prize School Project.

The University of Bergen and Haukeland University Hospital are by far the largest research institutions in Bergen.

The Chr. Michelsen Institute (Christian Michelsens Institutt), founded in 1930, is located in Bergen. With an annual turnover of 56 million NOK, it is one of Scandinavia's largest independent research institutes on human rights and development issues. The aim of CMI is to inform and influence policy on international development issues.

The Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (Norwegian: Havforskningsinstituttet), formerly known as Norwegian Fisheries Investigations (Norwegian: Norske Fiskeriundersøgelser) has been located in Bergen since 1900. The primary responsibility of the institute is to provide advice to national authorities, society and industry regarding questions related to the ecosystems of the Barents Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the North Sea and the Norwegian coastal zone and in the field of aquaculture. The institute has a staff of 700, making it the largest marine research institution in Norway.

UNIFOB AS is a non-profit research organisation affiliated to the University of Bergen. Unifob conducts research and associated activities across all the scientific fields covered by the university departments, including Petroleum, Health, Computational Science, Marine Molecular Biology.

Strandgaten is an important shopping street in Bergen.

Bergen's inter-municipal harbour is by far Norway's largest port and one of Europe's largest ports, according to the inter-municipal company Port of Bergen.

In August 2004, Time magazine named the city one of Europe's 14 ‘secret capitals’ where Bergen's capital reign is acknowledged within maritime businesses and activities such as aquaculture and marine research, with the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) (the second-largest in Europe) as the leading institution. Bergen is the main base for the Royal Norwegian Navy (at Haakonsvern) and its international airport Flesland is the main heliport for the huge Norwegian North Sea oil and gas industry, from where thousands of offshore workers commute to their work places onboard oil and gas rigs and platforms.

The headquarters of TV 2 Norway's largest commercial television channel are located in Bergen.

One of Norway's largest shopping malls Lagunen Storsenter is located in Fana in Bergen, with a turnover of 2 540 billion Norwegian kroner, and 5.2 million visitors every year.

Tourism is an important income source for the city. The hotels in the city may be full at times, due to the increasing number of tourists and conferences. Prior to the Rolling Stones concert in September 2006, many hotels were already full-booked several months in advance. Bergen is recognised as the unofficial capital of the region known as West Norway, and recognised and marketed as the gateway city to the world famous fjords of Norway and for that reason it has become Norway's largest - and one of Europe's largest - cruise ship ports of call.

A light rail system (Bybanen) is currently under construction in Bergen.

Bergen has an international airport, Bergen Airport, Flesland, with direct flights to several European cities. The Bergensbanen railway line runs east to Voss, Geilo, Hønefoss and Oslo.

The E39 road passes through the city, connecting to Trondheim and Stavanger. The E16 road to Oslo passes through the Lærdalstunnelen, the longest road tunnel in the world. Bergen was the first city in Northern Europe to introduce a ring of toll roads entirely surrounding the city, making entering the city centre by car impossible without paying the toll. The toll road system, established to fund new roads and motorways, opened 2 January 1986.

The toll was collected by both toll plazas and an electronic toll collection system. In the early 2000s, the electronic toll collection system AutoPASS was introduced, replacing both the remaining toll plazas and the existing but dated electronic toll collection system.

Public transportation is provided by the transportation company Tide, the result of a merger between Gaia and HSD. Among the fleet of buses are 8 trolleybuses (two of which are dual-mode buses). Local train transport to Arna is provided by Norges Statsbaner. There is a funicular (Fløibanen) and an aerial tramway (Ulriksbanen). The city's tram system was closed in 1965, although a museum line still operates on Møhlenpris. The construction of a modern light rail line connecting the city centre with Nesttun and Bergen Airport has been approved by Stortinget and is underway. Express buses go to all larger destinations in Norway.

The Norwegian coastal steamer service Hurtigruten originates in Bergen, running north to Trondheim, Bodø, Tromsø and Kirkenes. Passenger catamarans run from Bergen south to Haugesund and Stavanger, and north to Sognefjorden and Nordfjord. Car ferries connect to Hanstholm, and Hirtshals in Denmark, Lerwick, Scrabster, Tórshavn on the Faroe Islands, and Seyðisfjörður in Iceland. The service from Newcastle in the United Kingdom was cancelled after September 1, 2008.

Culture and sports
Bergen is an important cultural centre in its region and in Norway, maybe best known for hosting the annual Bergen International Festival (Festspillene i Bergen). The city is home to the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, which was founded in 1765 and is one of the world's oldest orchestral institutions. The orchestra performs regularly at the 1,500 seatGrieg Hall. The city is also home of the Bergen Woodwind Quintet, which is made up primarily of principal winds of the Bergen Philharmonic. Bergen was a European Capital of Culture in 2000. Other main cultural events include Borealis, Nattjazz, Lost Weekend Festivalen and Bergenfest (formerly Ole Blues).

There are numerous amateur bands in Bergen and the surrounding communities, performing regularly throughout the city. They generally fall within two distinct categories: brass bands, following the British band tradition, and Janitsjar or wind bands, which include both woodwind and brass instruments. Both of these types of bands tend to be quite competitive, and the Grieg Hall in Bergen is home to the annual Norwegian Brass Band Championships, which takes place in late winter.

A third category, perhaps unique to Bergen, are the Buekorps, a prominent feature in the Constitution Day celebrations in the city. Buekorps parade in the streets with wooden sticks shaped as guns or crossbows, sabres and even halberds, to a military snare sounded by several drummers. The performers are usually boys between 7 and 21 years of age, but older veterans can be seen. In recent times there are buekorps for girls and for both girls and boys as well. Buekorps are regarded with warmth by some, whilst others dislike them due to their militarised appearance or the dominant sound of the drumming.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s several pop, rock and black metal artists from Bergen became famous, at home as well as abroad. Many of these were connected to the small record label Tellé Records. In the domestic press this became known as the Bergen Wave.

Bergen has a small but thriving scene for contemporary art, most notably centered around BIT Teatergarasjen, Bergen Kunsthall, United Sardines Factory (USF) and Bergen Center for Electronic Arts (BEK).

With circulations of 87,076 and 30,719 in 2006,) Bergens Tidende and Bergensavisen are the two largest newspapers in Bergen. Bergens Tidende has won three European Newspaper Awards, in 2006 for best designed regional newspaper, in 2004 for best designed weekly newspaper, and in 2002 for best designed regional newspaper. The city is also the home of several smaller newspapers and publications, including Fanaposten (circulation of 4,062), a local newspaper for Fana, Bygdanytt in Arna, and the Christian newspaper Dagen (circulation of 8,936).

Bergen has two professional football teams, Brann and Løv-Ham. Brann plays in the premier league, while Løv-Ham plays in the first division. Despite Løv-Ham playing in the 2nd highest level in Norwegian football, Brann is the only club to draw any considerable interest from the public. The first Løv-Ham supporter group, Selskapsløvene (English: The Party Lions) was created as recently as December 2005. Brann play their matches at Brann stadion, with a capacity of 17,824 as of June 2007, while Løv-Ham played their matches at Krohnsminde kunstgressbane until 2008, with a capacity of 3000, but an attendance record of 1051 in the league. They now play their games at Varden Amfi in Fyllingsdalen.

Although Brann is one of the largest teams in Norway, the team has had limited success in the Premier League and the cup. They have won the cup six times, most recently in 2004. Brann won the Premier League in 1961/62 and then in 1963. The 1963 title was directly followed by the relegation of the team into the Second Division (today known as Adeccoligaen, the second highest level of Norwegian football). The team has won several silver and bronze medals since, but didn't win the league again until the 2007 season. Despite, or perhaps because of the lack of league titles, the team is met with high expectations from the national and local press and the inhabitants of Bergen every year.

Bergensk, or the Bergen dialect, is the dialect of Norwegian spoken in Bergen. It is easy for Norwegians to recognise, as it is very easily distinguished from the other dialects in Hordaland. Like almost all Norwegian dialects, Bergensk cannot be said to be either Bokmål or Nynorsk. While the vocabulary shows many traits of both Bokmål and Nynorsk, it has many characteristics that are not covered by either of the two official written languages.

Foreigners, such as the Low German speaking merchants of the Hanseatic League who lived in Bergen in the period from about 1350 to 1750, have had a profound impact on the dialect. Bergen being the major Norwegian city during the Dano-Norwegian union from 1536 to 1814 led to Bergensk absorbing more of the Danish than other Norwegian dialects. Many, but not all, influences from these languages since spread from Bergen to parts of or the whole of Norway.

The female grammatical gender disappeared from Bergensk in the 16th century, probably as a result of influences from Danish, making the city's dialect one of the very few in Norway with only two grammatical genders. All others, excepting sociolects in other Norwegian cities, have three. The Rs are uvular trills, as in French, which probably spread to Bergen (and Kristiansand) some time in the 18th century, overtaking the alveolar trill in the time span of 2 to 3 generations. Owing to an improved literacy rate, Bergensk was influenced by riksmål and bokmål in the 19th and 20th centuries. This led to large parts of the German-inspired vocabulary disappearing and pronunciations shifting slightly towards East Norwegian.

International relations

Twin towns
Bergen is twinned with: Eritrea Asmara, Eritrea; Gothenburg, Sweden; Newcastle, United Kingdom. Each year Bergen donates the Christmas Tree seen in Newcastle's Haymarket as a sign of the ongoing friendship between the sister cities; Seattle, United States; Turku, Finland; Aarhus, Denmark; Quebec city, Canada

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Hordaland Coat of Arms

Hordaland is a county in Norway, bordering Sogn og Fjordane, Buskerud, Telemark, and Rogaland. Hordaland is the third largest county after Akershus and Oslo by population. The county administration is located in Bergen. Before 1972, the city of Bergen was its own separate county apart from Hordaland.

The name Hordaland
Hordaland (Old Norse: Hörðaland or Old Frisian: Hörnaland) is the old name of the region which was revived in modern times. The first element is the plural genitive case of hörðar, the name of an old Germanic tribe (see Charudes). The last element is land which means 'land' or 'region'.

Until 1919 the name of the county was Søndre Bergenhus amt which meant '(the) southern (part of) Bergenhus amt'. (The old Bergenhus amt was created in 1662 and was divided in 1763.)
See also: Rogaland and Sogn og Fjordane

The coat-of-arms were officially granted on 1 December 1961. They were designed by Magnus Hardeland, but the general design had been originally used in the Sunnhordland region during the 14th century. In the early 20th century, leaders of the county began using the old arms as a symbol for the county once again. The arms are on a red background and consist of two golden axes that are crossed with a golden crown above them.

Hordaland county has been around for more than one thousand years. Since the 7th century, the area was made up of many petty kingdoms under the Gulating and was known as Hordafylke since around the year 900. In the early 1500s, Norway was divided into four len. The Bergenhus len was headquartered in Bergen and encompassed much of western and northern Norway.

In 1662, the len were replaced by amts. Bergenhus amt consisted of Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane, Sunnmøre, Troms, and Nordland. In 1763, the amt was divided into northern and southern parts: Nordre Bergenhus amt and Søndre Bergenhus amt. Søndre Bergenhus amt was re-named Hordaland fylke in 1919.

The city of Bergen was classified as a city-county (byamt) from 1831-1972. During that time in 1915, the municipality of Årstad was annexed into Bergen. In 1972, the neighboring municipalities of Arna, Fana, Laksevåg, and Åsane were annexed into the city of Bergen. Also at that same time, the city of Bergen lost its county status, and became a part of Hordaland county.

A county (fylke) is the chief local administrative area in Norway. The whole country is divided into 19 counties. A county is also an election area, with popular votes taking place every 4 years. In Hordaland, 57 members are elected to form a county council (Fylkesting). Heading the Fylkesting is the county mayor (fylkesordførar). Since 2003, the Hordaland county municipality has been led by Torill Selsvold Nyborg, the county mayor.

The county also has a County Governor (fylkesmann) who is the representative of the King and Government of Norway. Svein Alsaker has been the County Governor of Hordaland since 1998.

The municipalities in Hordaland are divided among four district courts (tingrett): Nordhordland, Sunnhordland, Bergen, and Hardanger. Hordaland is also part of the Gulating Court of Appeal district based in Bergen.

* Nordhordland District Court: Askøy, Austevoll, Austrheim, Fedje, Fjell, Fusa, Lindås, Masfjorden, Meland, Modalen, Os, Osterøy, Radøy, Samnanger, Sund, Vaksdal, Voss, Øygarden and Gulen
* Sunnhordland District Court: Bømlo, Etne, Fitjar, Kvinnherad, Stord, Sveio, and Tysnes
* Bergen District Court: the city of Bergen
* Hardanger District Court: Eidfjord, Granvin, Jondal, Kvam, Odda, Ullensvang, and Ulvik

Most of the municipalities in Hordaland are part of the Hordaland police district. Gulen and Solund in Sogn og Fjordane county are also part of the Hordaland police district. Bømlo, Etne, Fitjar, Stord, and Sveio are a part of the 'Haugaland and Sunnhordland' police district, along with eight other municipalities in Rogaland county.

Hordaland is semi-circular in shape. It is located on the western coast of Norway, split from southwest to northeast by the long, deep Hardangerfjorden, one of Norway's main fjords and a great tourist attraction. About half of the National park of Hardangervidda is in this county. The county also includes many well-known waterfalls of Norway, such as Vøringsfossen and Stykkjedalsfossen. It also includes the Folgefonna and Hardangerjøkulen glaciers.

More than 60% of the inhabitants live in Bergen and the surrounding area. Other urban or semi-urban centres include Leirvik, Voss and Odda.

In 1837, the counties were divided into local administrative units each with their own governments. The number and borders of these municipalities have changed over time, and at present there are 33 municipalities in Hordaland.
Further information: A more detailed List of municipalities in Hordaland, Norway

Municipalities of Hordaland

1. Askøy 18. Meland Map Hordaland Municipalities
2. Austevoll 19. Modalen
3. Austrheim 20. Odda
4. Bergen 21. Os
5. Bømlo 22. Osterøy
6. Eidfjord 23. Øygarden
7. Etne 24. Radøy
8. Fedje 25. Samnanger
9. Fitjar 26. Stord
10. Fjell 27. Sund
11. Fusa 28. Sveio
12. Granvin 29. Tysnes
13. Jondal 30. Ullensvang
14. Kvam 31. Ulvik
15. Kvinnherad 32. Vaksdal
16. Lindås 33. Voss
17. Masfjorden

Location of Hordaland Districts:
Hardanger; Voss; Sunnhordland; Midhordland; Nordhordland.

Hordaland is conventionally divided into traditional districts. The inland districts are Hardanger and Voss and the coastal districts are Sunnhordland, Midhordland, and Nordhordland. Strilelandet is the name of a more informal region commonly held to encompass Midhordland and Nordhordland. Stril is a name the inhabitants of Bergen apply to the people living in the traditionally agricultural areas surrounding the city.

Famous people from Hordaland
* Ole Bull, composer and violinist from Bergen
* Herman Friele, mayor and coffee king
* Edvard Grieg, composer from Bergen
* Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen, doctor from Bergen, the one to discover the leprosy bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae
* Ludvig Holberg, playwright and author from Bergen
* Roald 'Kniksen' Jensen, soccer player from Bergen
* Sissel Kyrkjebø, singer
* Leif Andreas Larsen, naval officer from Bergen
* Christian Michelsen, politician from Bergen, Norway's first Prime Minister
* Kari Traa, skier from Voss
* Varg Vikernes, black metal musician from Bergen
* Kurt Nilsen, singer, winner Norwegian Idol season one, and World Idol.

Sister Regions
Hordaland county has the following official sister regions:

Basse-Normandie, France; Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom; Kaunas, Lithuania; Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom

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