Are you going to the moon or to Hamningberg?
We already feel a bit like that in Finnmark at the end of the world, but as soon as we have made our way from Vardø to Hamningberg, which is about 40 kilometers away, we already feel detached from the world – rather on the way on the moon. Hardly anything grows here visibly, the climate has formed a bizarrely simple and barren landscape with cold, snow and strong storms.
This path can only be crossed in the summer months, in winter there is white hell in all darkness. And even there the way to Hamningberg is not for the faint of heart.
Shortly before the fishing village of Hamningberg, the landscape shows itself in furrowed slate figures before the small town with its tourist charm opens up to us nostalgics and dreamers.
Hamningberg – the last witness
There is no more northeastern part of Norway than we have reached Hamningberg. In winter it will be almost impossible to get to this place, at least by car. In front of us is the Barents Sea, which stretches far to Russia and is home to whales, polar bears and walruses.
There were German occupiers here in Hamningberg as well as everywhere in Finnmark. The clear mandate in the event of withdrawal was to destroy and burn everything that was left behind. Whole villages and settlements were burned down here in the far north of Norway, no matter how remote they were.
But here in Hamningberg the German soldiers believed the rumors that the Russians were close and so they left everything behind in a hurry and forgot to set fire to the buildings. Rumor has it that they left the hot pots on the herds.
And so it is probably this fact that we can still look into a time window in Hamningberg, which gives us insight into the everyday and cultural life of the fishermen around 1900.
Hamningberg – Russian architecture against Norwegian fish
The Russian border is not far, you share the sea. Due to the close trade with Russia, the fish from the coastal region was sold to the dealers and the prefabricated Russian-made houses that were assembled on site. Of course, Norway itself has a lot of wood available, but not in the polar region. And so the route via Russia was much more economical, because around 1900 there were neither today’s road connections nor a railroad. The exchange takes place mainly via the Barents Sea.
Most of the 65 houses preserved in Hamningberg today come from Russia. In addition to the wood for the houses, grain was also bought from the Russian traders, the Pomors. Hamningberg was only built around 1900 and, with its approximately 250 inhabitants, was the largest fishing settlement in the region. The hamningberg settlement includes some boathouses with an apartment above, some simple boathouses, the church, the small villa of the owner of Hamningberg and a small shop.
A small fish processing plant was added in the 1950s, and the buildings are still preserved today.
When the people left Hamningberg, time stopped
Today there are no more inhabitants. At least not all year round. But in the summer months there is increasing life again in the houses. In the 1960s, it was too difficult for the government to take care of the remote places and settlements. From 1965, people were motivated with a bonus to leave Hamningberg. They would have preferred to get a new pier for their boats, but it was never approved.
Hamningberg’s history dates back to the 16th century. The abundance of fish was already legendary at that time and the landing opportunities on the beach, which ran quite flat into the sea, were ideal with the small boats.
Today, this place is a relic of memory, waffles and drinks are offered in the small shop, while we let the wind of the surroundings and the history of Hamningberg blow our noses. With luck, a few reindeer run along the beach or a whale swims in the visible vicinity of this bay.