For the ultimate in gingerbread architecture, the end-all and be-all is without a doubt the Gingerbread City of Bergen. While gingerbread is popular throughout Europe, and gingerbread construction projects a favorite activity for Christmas celebrants around the world, no one takes gingerbread more seriously than the good citizens of Bergen, Norway. Every year, they enthusiastically celebrate the holidays by constructing the world’s largest gingerbread city.
Back in 1991, the people of Bergen, a classic medieval Scandinavian city, decided to put their stamp on the holiday season by inaugurating a new tradition. They made an open invitation to anyone under the age of twelve, parental assistance allowed, to build a gingerbread house and present it to in the Bergen town center where it was added to the Pepperkakebyen, or Gingerbread City. From a few humble houses, this has grown into a major national festival in Norway.
The event takes place in and around the old town square in the heart of Bergen. Amidst splendid decorations the Gingerbread City is laid out in what can only be described as festive, delicious urban sprawl. Thousands of gingerbread buildings, many wired with lights, spread out among the peaks and valleys of a range of bedsheet-covered mountains. To add to the magic, electric trains worm their way amidst endless confectionary homes, churches, shops and castles. On an interesting historic note, in 2009 a vandal laid waste to the city a few nights before the grand opening. While this lead to much disappointment, the resulting publicity made the Gingerbread City famous around the world.
The Gingerbread City of Bergen (located approximately 180 miles west of Oslo) is erected every year in mid-late November, and is open to the public from the end of November through New Year’s Eve. Hours were not available as of this writing. The charge of admission is NOK60. Web: www.visitbergen.com (official tourism website of Bergen)