Witness the Christmas magic.
The populace of Bergen are surely some of Norway’s fiercest local patriots. When combined with the Christmas holidays, this love for their home town tends to spark some extraordinary ideas.
Like, for instance, building the world’s largest gingerbread city, Pepperkakebyen.
Every year since 1991, kindergarteners, schoolchildren, local businesses and thousands of other volunteers have participated in the construction of everything from tiny homes to local landmarks, trains, cars, boats and international signature buildings.
Here’s some behind-the-scenes footage of the city that was built back in 2012.
The gingerbread city is not the only one in Norway. They’re also buing built in places like Finnsnes, Stavanger, Hammerfest, Hamar and Bodø.
Americans with Norwegian roots living in Duluth, Minnesota have also started their own gingerbread city tradition, inspired by Bergen.
Still, Pepperkakebyen in Bergen is in a league of its own. To illustrate just how much it means to the people of Bergen, it’s enough to look at the one time the gingerbread city was attacked.
Back in 2009, a drunk young man gained entry into Pepperkakebyen shortly before it was due to open and broke most of the tiny houses kids and other volunteers had painstakingly built. Only 14 houses remained.
The shock and anger at the news was enormous, and a reward of 100,000 Norwegian kroner was put up for any information that could resolve the case.
The grand opening was postponed by a week, allowing for an intense volunteer effort in rebuilding Pepperkakebyen. Thus, the people of Bergen were spared facing a Christmas looking out on a gingerbread wasteland.
When the culprit was arrested, he wrote a long and heartfelt letter apologizing for his behaviour. After meeting the committee overseeing Pepperkakebyen, they forgave him.
“Before we met him the first time, our initial idea was to protect him. We believe there’s usually more good to be gained from help and protection than traditional ‘punishment’”, Pepperkakebyen mayor Steinar Kristoffersen told the Norwegian newspaper VG.
The Christmas spirit seemed to inspire the rest of Bergen’s populace as well.
“It seems people are in a holiday spirit and ready to forgive. We have 20,000 members on Facebook, and many of them have already messaged us saying they forgive him”, Kristoffersen said.
The years since have gone by with little in the way of gingerbread drama. After seeing how Bergen reacted back in 2009, perhaps it’s no wonder that vandals now think twice about going near Pepperkakebyen.
This year’s grand opening was on the 19th of November, and Pepperkakebyen is now open to the public throughout December. Which means it could easily be combined with a trip to one of Bergen’s Christmas markets.
Bergen is Norway's second largest city, and lies clambering up the mountain sides, overlooking the sea, embracing you. You can roam through living history in this modern city, before continuing on to explore the wildest and loveliest fjords of Norway.
Soak up the atmosphere at one of Norway’s many Christmas fairs.