Located in the south west of the country, Hordaland in Vestlandet, Bergen is the second city of Norway after Oslo, in terms of economic and political importance. The traditional port was at Vågen. The centre is on a promontory on By Fjord, but the town itself has expanded miles beyond this site.
Almost equidistant from Tórshavn in Faroe and Aberdeen in Scotland. Aberdeen is currently the most important part of this triangle, although historically most of Shetland’s connections have been with Bergen. Aberdeen and Bergen both have similar populations, at around two hundred thousand people, with Bergen being slightly larger. The physical closeness of Bergen to Shetland can sometimes exaggerated; even though Aberdeen and Bergen are almost equidistant, it is still the best part of two hundred miles away, across open ocean.
The city was founded in 1070, by King Olaf III Haraldsson. It is probably fair enough to say that its development was at least partly in response to the North Atlantic territories, such as Shetland, Faroe, Orkney and Iceland. At this time, Norway was consolidating its grip upon these areas and trying to absorb them. With the Kalmar Union, the power moved more towards Denmark, but Bergen still remained an important port for all these places, and a link to other parts of continental Europe and the Baltic.
The city’s large amount of wooden housing has led to several major fires in the past. Some of these colourfully painted houses make a cheerful counterpoint to the solemn granite of Aberdeen, or even Shetland’s all too common tawdry browns, whites and greys.
Bergen was also a key port in the Hanseatic Trade which also took in Shetland to some degree. Shipbuilding and fishing are major local industries. The city is reasonably diverse, not as much as some English cities, but there are notable German and Pakistani minorities. Some Shetlanders may experience surprise at Norwegian attitudes towards sex and pornography, which are somewhat different from the Anglo-Saxon ones. Explicit material is displayed in shops or aired on mainstream TV in a way that we are not used to. On the other hand, the arts (especially literature) are much better funded here than anywhere in the UK, something which puts it to shame.
The city retains a few connections with Shetland. Hjalt is a local surname, and there is also a Shetland Channel going out of the harbour. However, the demise of Norn has created something of a language barrier – Norwegians may often be fluent English speakers, but it is neither their native language, nor their official language. For these reasons, Shetland has become more orientated towards Scotland and England.
One of the major sea routes into Bergen is the Hjeltefjorden, which translates literally as "Shetland Fjord".