In a region almost completely destroyed by the ravages of war, there is one place that survived. Hamningberg provides a look back into the world of old Finnmark, which is otherwise almost completely lost today. Your journey takes you through a geological textbook.
Hamningberg is located in the very north-east of Norway, on the shores of the Barents Sea and almost an hour by car from Vardø. What is special about Hamningberg is that this little fishing village was not destroyed in the razing of Finnmark in 1944–45. The German troops in the area heard rumours that the Russian forces were fast approaching, and fled before they had time to destroy the village. It is said that they ran and left food cooking on the stoves. As a result, this is one of the few places in Finnmark where you can still encounter old-fashioned houses and traditional coastal culture.
Hamningberg was a bustling fishing community
Around 1900, Hamningberg was one of the largest fishing villages in Finnmark and home to approximately 250 people. They primarily sold the fish they caught to the Pomors – the Russian traders who travelled to the region from Kvitsjøen every summer to buy fish and sell grain and timber. Many of the notched-join timber houses in the village were prefabricated in Russia and re-assembled in Hamningberg, as evidenced by the join technique used. Today, around 65 buildings – warehouses, boathouses, the fishing station farm, the store and the church – form a traditional Finnmark environment. The fish factory dates back to the 1950s and constitutes an intact feature of industrial history from the re-construction period.
Practical information about Hamningberg
Hmaningberg lies at the very end of the Norwegian Scenic Route of Varanger.
The only way to get to Hamningberg is in your own car. And it’s good to remember the road is closed during the winter months. You can check the Norwegian Scenic Routes webpage for route planning.
A cafe is open during the summer months however there is no overnight accommodation in Hamningberg. Most visit the community as a day trip from Vardø.
After World War Two the settlement was given the kiss of death
The first mention of Hamningberg can be traced back to the 1500s, and the location of the village on the very edge of the Varanger peninsula, close to the fishing grounds, was extremely favourable at the time when boats were still beached on the shore. After World War II, however, vessels became bigger and a more sheltered harbour was required. The people of Hamningberg therefore demanded a pier, which was never delivered. In 1965, it was decided to abandon the village, and the population were paid resettlement grants. In the same way as in all the other villages along the coast that received “the kiss of death”, all that remained for the locals was to pack up their belongings and start again somewhere new and bigger.
Hamningberg is open only in summer time
Nevertheless, Hamningberg comes to life again for a few weeks every summer, when the road opens and the original residents and their descendants return. The little shop, which also serves coffee and waffles, is closed for the time being, but hopes to open soon. The day-trippers stroll around between the houses, and take a walk along the shoreline, looking for reindeer, eagles and whales. Or they simply enjoy the tranquillity in a place where a hectic programme is an unknown concept.
The landscape around Hamningberg is moon like
After Leaving Vardø, the four mile journey to Hamningberg takes you through a golden moonlike landscape of weathered rocks and storm swept coastline. Here the geology has been so eroded you can read it like an open book with rocks dating back to as old as 541 million years!