Monday, June 18, 2007

Nonneseter Convent

Two old houses are what is left

As I left the railway station, I spotted this small, insignificant building. It used to be a part of a Cistercian Nun convent, that dates back to 1148.

This small building, with its romanesque gate and another very similar building nearby are what is left of this once so powerful convent. The nuns from this convent may have founded Saint Jørgens Hospital that cared for the many suffering from leprosy in Bergen. This Hospital existed until the mid 20th Century and is today a leprosy museum.

The last nuns left the convent in 1507, supposedly due to bad and sinful behaviour. In 1528 what was left of it were given to the nobleman Vincents Lunge as his private property. His built his private residence here and named it Lungegaarden. Much of his residence stood until 1890, when they were demolished leaving this small building. Today it is used as memorial hall for those sacrificing their lives during World War II.

Read more on Nonneseter convent on

Stadsporten - a 17th Century defence post

I lived at Forskjønnelsen, an address on the steep hill overlooking Bergen Railway station and Bus Station. On our way up the hill we passed Stadsporten, once a gate into the city of Bergen.

When it was built in 1628 by Oluf Parsberg, it was a part of the defence system that protected the city. Today it stands in the middle of Kalfaret, a busy road leading into Bergen.

It slowly fell into disrepair, but was totally renovated in 1740, and was listed in 1927. From 1792-1971 it housed parts of the city's archives.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hóla, Catalunya!!

In a few days, I will leave for Barcelona, once again!! This time I will stay in the Catalan capital a whole week during summer.

We have booked a room at Sunotel Aston in Eixample, a hotel with swimming pool in the garden, which may come in handy in the Spanish heat.

We are planning a trip to the Monastery of Montserrat, the home of the Black Virgin, the patron saint of Catalunya, and a trip to Sitges - the Gay haven by the sea. And we will eat and drink, covering the tastes and sights of Barcelona.

And by the way - did you know that the Eixample quarter has its own Gaixample? We will also explore this part of town.

So Hóla Catalunya - here we come!!

Susi's souvenirs on the Big Apple

Impressions from Manhattan

I recently visited New York City. It was both exciting and exhausting. NYC has more inhabitants than all of my home country, Norway, crammed into skyscrapers, it seems, or fighting to get into one of the ubiquitous yellow cabs.

Read more on her blog and see her video from the Big Apple here

Proving Wessel wrong - sandwiches at Wesselstuen, Bergen

........that is all I know at present, on Sandwiches and Love

"At smørrebrød er ikke mad, og kærlighed er ikke had, det er for tiden alt jeg ved, om smørrebrød og kærlighed"
(That sandwiches is not food, and love is not hate, that is all I know at present, on sandwiches and love")

Johan Herman Wessel (1742-1785)

The poet Johan Herman Wessel produced this late 18th century verse on the Sandwiches he probably enjoyed with his beer through his short and bohemian life in Copenhagen. In Bergen they have named a nice, traditional restaurant after him - Wesselstuen. Traditional, in almost a 18th century sense of the word, as you feel you enter a Danish "kro" or restaurant from that time.

In fact I loved Wesselstuen so much I went their twice, for lunch. Just to prove Johan Herman Wessel wrong, I ordered what he did not consider food, i.e. open sandwiches.

As some of you may have discovered, I have strong passions for this Scandinavian culinary tradition, particularly the Danish smørrebrød, that excel the Norwegian smørbrød or Swedish smörgås. My happiest moments are when I may sit down with a large Sandwich with an abundance of shrimps or liver-paté, and drink a freezing cold beer and an akevitt.

Thursday, May 31st. Entered Wesselstuen for the first time. Liked it. Ordered a traditional fried plaice sandwich. Discovered to my greatest satisfaction that I could not see the slice of bread underneath it. Wesselstuen has really understood rule number 1 on how prepare it the Danish way. Rule number 2 - the plaice is hot and and with crispy crust. Chrunch! Yum! Rule number 3 - "pillede friske rejer" (peeled, fresh shrimps). Very much so, and with one warm asparagus and a large portion of remoulade or tartar sauce. Bullseye! This is how a plaice sandwich is supposed to taste!!

Saturday, June 2nd. Back with my nephew Knut. Ordered a warm liver-paté sandwich with crispy bacon and fried mushrooms.

This is a Danish classic, and will be on my plate every time I visit Denmark, and at Wesselstuen I got that reassuring Danish feeling. Well, you could see the slice of bread all right, and serving it on rye bread may have been the correct way. But there was a generous amount of paté on slices of crispy bacon, served with tomatoes and pickled cucumber.


So - Johan Herman - if you had eaten these sandwiches, you may have had to reconsider the proclaimed truth - Sandwiches are food, whereas I agree with you that Love is not Hate, or......?

And, Wessel, you will get the latest word with one of your verses:

"Du lille vakre Karen Bach
For hvert et mødigt Sting du stak
Paa mig en høist nødvendig Frak
Som sprak, Tak!

PS Lyksaligt Nyt Aar"

(Little, beautiful Karen Bach
For each stitch you made
on one for me a very useful coat
that bursted - Thank you!

PS Happy New Year!!)

Øvre Ole Bulls pl 6
Phone: 55 55 49 49
Fax: 55 55 49 50

Visiting the old city of Tallinn, Estonia.

By guest writer Per Koch

I had the pleasure of visiting the old city district of the capital of Estonia last week. It is a beautiful city, with well kept houses from the Middle Ages and upwards into the late 19th century.

Estonia has come a loooong way since the breakdown of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's. Tallinn is now a modern European city, and there is nothing here that reminds you of the hard times Estonia faced only 15 years ago.

That does not mean that Estonia has lost all its post-Soviet trauma. The Estonians are still struggling, but they are very good at it, and the country is now one of the most dynamic of the "catching-up economies."

Estonia is well worth a visit. It is a small country with a small capital, and if you focus on Tallinn you can actually see a lot in one day -- at least if you stay in the old city.

Where to eat

Tallinn is still a reasonably priced city, and compared to Norwegian prices you will get a good meal for some 10 to 20 EUR.

My new Estonian friends recommended three restaurants, which we duly visited.

Balthasar is a high quality restaurant at the very center of the old town (by the Raekoja Square) that serves garlic dishes in a medieval atmosphere. With the exception of the coffee, every dish has garlic in it. I ate an excellent garlic creme brulee!

Moskva (meaning Moscow) is not a Russian restaurant -- not really. It is now a very trendy place where even the plates carries a modern design. You apparently have to be a teenage girl to get a job as a waiter here.

is even trendier. The furniture seems to be taken out of a sci fi movie and the dishes are fusion cuisine of the extreme kind.

I had a wonderful Thai style coconut soup followed by a Pakistani dish with elk! The atmosphere might feel a little cold for some, but the food is tasty.

People looking for a local atmosphere apparently go to the Olde Hansa, where you can eat bear meat medieval style. My Estonian friends said that the atmosphere is great, but that the food isn't. I took their word for it.

There are direct flights to Tallinn from many European capitals. People visiting Helsinki, Finland, often take the ferry over to Tallinn.

More pictures can be found at Per Koch's own blog.

Tallinn restaurants reviews.
Tallinn hotels.

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