500 m2. 2,000 structures. 600 kg doug. Obscene quantities of glaze and literally hundreds of thousands of visitors. This gingerbread village in Bergen, Norway is pretty much one of the most impressive feats we’ve ever seen. It also happens to be the world’s biggest gingerbread village and it’s cute as heck. We spoke to Steinar Kristoffersen, who manages the annual masterpiece.
From a small village to being presented in the Guinness Record Book, Kristofferesen’s adventure began in 1991. At that point, he was an exhibition manager at a shopping mall. He was about to open a Christmas-themed exhibition, and decided to do organise a ‘farm-based’ Christmas, which sounds legit. part of the set up included a gingerbread town, which he constructed with the help of a few Kindergartens. The gingerbread feature gained a bigger crowd than the animals (we’ve all seen farm animals before) and Steinar had hit the goldmine.
“The amount of kindergartens that wanted to contribute grew every year, along with the amount of visitors. At some point, the village became so huge that we decided only switch our attention to that aspect and after a little time, the village was in the Guinness Record Book as the world’s biggest of its kind.”
Kindergartens are the main contributors towards the village build, but it’s become something of a Bergen tradition to deliver houses. Schools, businesses and residents all deliver a little piece of the town and as the word spreads internationally, Steinar’s also been surprised to see the quantity of contributions send from outside Norway.
“It’s wonderful to see how committed people are with their contributions. There’s no doubt that the gingerbread town has become an important Christmas tradition in Bergen.”
Just how committed Bergen’s inhabitants are to the tradition, became evident in November 2009, when the gingerbread town was demolished by vandals.
“We couldn’t believe it when we discovered that the entire town had been completely destroyed from one day to the next. It was all over the news and the entire city of Bergen was devastated.”
But the sorrows lasted shortly. In only one week the entire city, amazingly, managed to rebuild the gingerbread village.
from castles to oil rigs
The gingerbread town consists of everything from homemade houses to boats, and famous landmarks as the Eiffel Tower and even Bergen’s own funicular railway. There’s so much cuteness is almost too hard to pick a favourite construction.
“We have received everything from beautiful cathedrals and castles to airport terminals and oil rigs. It’s impossible to choose the best — the joy is in the collaboration.”
Every year, after collecting all the structures, one month of intensive assembling begins.
“Rebuilding each year is a laborious puzzle, building the landscapes and putting the structures into place. The location of every house and every boat follows a thorough plan.”
competing with new york
Even though the gingerbread village in Bergen is known to be the world’s largest, the Gingerbread Lane by Jon Lovitch in New York actually is listed as the largest one today. The reason is that Bergen’s village includes a couple of non-edible structures. The towns are also very different, the one in Bergen is made by contributors while the one in New York is made by Lovitch himself. Steinar denys any rivalry.
“We have a good dialog with Lovitch. Actually the gingerbread villages in Bergen and New York are friendly with one another. Also the most important part is not being the largest one, but creating a wonderful Christmas experience for everybody.”