Whilst in Bergen and particularly the World Heritage Site area of Bryggen, which once was the wharf's trading centre and is now a tourist shop and cafe area showcasing the sloping, 18th century buildings, I made a point of nosing around wool and knitted garment shops to see what's on offer. What struck me was the similarity between the thick, fair isle jumpers for sale and those that stem from the northern Scottish tradition.
This led me back to a history book. Due to Viking expansionism Norway and the northern isles of Scotland had a shared history and culture until the middle of the 15th century when King Christian I of Denmark and Norway pawned Orkney and Shetland to the Scottish King. Yet Norwegians and northern Scots carried on living similar lives until well into the 20th century. Theirs was a hard existence farming and fishing to make a poverty-level living.
Doing manual labour outdoors in frequently cold and wet conditions meant that warm jumpers were a must and for material the Scots and Norwegians could make use of the byproducts of their sheep farming. As knitters know, wool keeps you cool in the Summer and warm in the Winter, perfect for the northern Scottish and Norwegian climates.
The picture on the left shows a jumper and hat I spotted in one Bryggen knitwear shop. The pattern reminds me of Kate Davies' Paper Dolls pattern.
Just outside Bergen is a fascinating museum dedicated to the Norwegian knitting heritage, based in an old knitwear factory. The Museum of Norwegian Knitting Industry explains the craft's importance to the local economy and the reasons for its decline in the 20th century.
For knitters, Bergen is well worth a visit.