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Few locals are as well versed in Bergen's streets and narrow alleyways as Gunnar Staalesen. His books about tough, hard-nosed private detective Varg Veum have been translated into 20 languages and made into 12 films.

"I have written 19 novels and a handful of short stories about Varg Veum and have covered every nook and cranny of Bergen in the series. For example, in Wolves in the Dark, a man dies in the house behind us," he says.

Staalesen's cultural triangle

Staalesen has taken us to Nordnes, the first of his three cultural highlights. This is the neighbourhood where he was born in the 1940s, just a few years after his fictional hero Varg Veum.

"Varg actually grew up in the same street as myself, but he is five years older. I thought of him as one of the older boys in the street," he tells us.

A lot has changed since then. Back then, multiple families often shared space in these small wooden houses, and the streets were full of children playing.

“We are now entering Trangesmauet (Narrow Alley). Its name is self-explanatory. Maren Kristine Pedersen, the femme fatale in my series about Bergen, lives in one of these houses," says Staalesen, gesturing with his hand.

“One dark New Year's night, Maren Kristine is visited in her attic by Consul Frimann. On the way home from the visit, the Consul is brutally murdered by a person, whose identity remains unknown until the last pages of the third volume. So, lots of things have happened here in Trangesmauet," says the author.

Bergen is inextricably linked to Gunnar Staalesen and his long running series of books that have a devoted following. Staalesen is also an excellent and engaging guide who talks with warmth, pride, and passion as he shows us through the old alleyways and wooden treehouses that characterize the Nordnes neighbourhood in the old Hansa city of Bergen, that used to be one of the most important trading cities in Europe.

He takes us around the corner to Skottegaten, where several unsolved crimes are committed in the Varg Veum series.

But even crime heroes and writers get hungry. And that brings us to Staalesen's second cultural highlight, restaurant Bien Basar.

It's located in the heart of Kjøttbasaren, an old meat market that's been converted to house modern restaurants and cafes. The stately building was erected after the cholera epidemic, which ravaged Bergen and Europe in the 1840s.

“There were once 40-45 market stalls crammed together in here. As befits the premises, Bien Basar serves classic and traditional Norwegian food,” says Staalesen.

Even here, you can find traces of the author's private detective character.

After praising both chef and dish, it's time for some literary refreshment. 

The third and final stop on Staalesen's cultural triangle in Bergen is the historic wooden hotel Villa Terminus, just a few steps from the train station in Bergen. The building dates back to the 1770s, and is dedicated to Fjord Norway's many writers. 
Eighteen of its rooms are named after authors, and the rooms contain books by local writers you can borrow. The hotel also has a cosy library with deep chairs where you can curl up and read.

Gunnar Staalesen has of course been honoured with his own room. Amalie Skram, Jon Fosse, Ludvig Holberg, Frode Grytten and Olav H. Hauge, are also among the authors who have had rooms dedicated to them.

Cultural itinerary

Explore Staalesen's culture spots.

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