You never know what dark secrets and delightful surprises lie around the next corner when strolling through Bergen with key Nordic noir writer Gunnar Staalesen.
Come along and check out one of the world's most beautiful fictional crime scenes.
"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 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.
The Cultural Triangle is a series where renowned Norwegian cultural personalities show you their favourite spots in Norway's biggest cities, and give you their best local tips on where to eat and sleep, and what to see.
Nordic noir, or Scandinavian noir, is a genre of crime fiction that is usually written from a police point of view, set in moody northern locations in Scandinavia. The works are characterised by social criticism and a sense of despair, and the plots often centre on brutal crimes of shocking violence, often with multiple threads and a few twists. Many successful novels in the genre have also been made into films and television series.
Bergen has become home to many immigrants from Germany, the Netherlands, and the British Isles. This has given the city a continental feel that it still retains today.
We leave these old wooden houses behind and stroll over to Fisketorget, the fish market by the harbour.
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.
Little do we suspect that Staalesen is about to be served a dish to die for ...
For this unique Bergen dish, the cod is first marinated in a mixture that's both sweet and salty, before being pressed together to release some of the liquid. This makes the filet a little firmer than fresh cod. It's precisely this firmness that is so characteristic of persetorsk.
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.
Staalesen´s latest book is the stand-alone novel 2020. Post festum. It deals with the major events of the last twenty years seen from the perspective of the capital of Fjord Norway. This time, Varg Veum has to solve the mystery of the Isdal woman,an unidentified female who was found dead in the woods in Isdal, or Ice Valley. The mystery has become known internationally through a podcast series made by the BBC and Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
If you want to read the rest of 1950. High Noon, you now know where to find the book.
Gunnar Staalesen was born in 1947 in Bergen, where he still lives today. He holds a master's degree in philology. He published his first novel, Innocence Times, in 1969, when he was just 22 years old. Although he has written both novels, plays, and children's books, Gunnar Staalesen's name is first and foremost associated with crime fiction. His books about private detective Varg Veum have been published in 23 countries, including France, England, Germany, Italy, Russia and Poland, and several of them have been adapted for cinema and television. Between 1997 and 2000, he published a trilogy about Bergen, in which the story takes place over the course the last century. Staalesen has won multiple awards for his writing.
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