On this homepage you will find lots of trip reports and pictures from places that I have traveled to. But I have not traveled to Stavanger in Norway...I live here :-) I hope that this little trip report can give you some indication of what to expect if you visit this area.
Stavanger is located in Rogaland county, on the south-west coast of Norway. The people that live here are still debating whether we belong to the south of the country or if we can regard ourselves as true westerners. So far we have not been able to reach a conclusion :-) The history of the city is long…the cathedral in the middle of down town Stavanger (Domkirken) dates back to 1125 AD. The cathedral today is one of the main sights in Stavanger. No, it is not as BIG as St. Peter’s basilica in Rome, Notre Dame in Paris, the Duomo in Milan or other cathedrals in the big European cities. It is a small intimate cathedral and the most unique thing is that it is built in both roman and gothic styles. The reason for this is of course that the church was exposed to fire and it took quite a long time to finish the project. Today, lots of people get married here every summer. It is open to the public more or less every day and be sure to take a closer look at the feet of the pillars as you enter.
My wife, Nikki, is from South Africa and the first time she came to Norway was in July 1997. She was very surprised to find that Norway was green and warm. It has to be said that the summer she came here was unusually warm :-) One of the great disadvantages of living in Stavanger is the unpredictable weather. It has been said that we can have 4 seasons in one day. Well, I don’t know about that….I can agree to 3 seasons in one day because we don’t have much of a traditional “white winter” here. But when the weather is great in July and August that is when I love Stavanger the most. So what is there to see here? Well, first of all I would recommend a bit of hiking/trekking. There are two sites that are great: Kjerag (or Kjeragbolten) and Preikestolen (Pulpit rock).
Kjerag is located on the edge of the Lysefjord. To get there you have to take a two-hour drive through Sirdalen/Hunnedalen and go towards Lysebotn. There’s a parking area, at a minimal cost where you can change into your hiking boots. The trail to Kjerag will take about 2 hours (depending on how fit you are) and the trail yo-yo’s through valleys. In the end you reach a plateau where you can walk along the Lysefjord and the view is GREAT on a nice summer day. Remember that even if you come here in the middle of summer this is 1000 meters above sea level and don’t be surprised if you have to walk through a bit of snow on your way. In the end you reach Kjerag. The best thing about Kjerag is Kjerag bolten. This is a big rock, wedged into a crack in the mountain . It is possible to walk out on the rock and from one angle it becomes one of the most spectacular natural motives - walking out onto the rock is not compulsory !-) It is pretty scary the first time because you know it’s a long way down to the fjord below. If you are lucky you might even see some Base jumpers. Kjerag has become one of the most popular sites in the world for Base jumping (skydiving from an elevated position - not a plane) and it is breathtaking to see them jump off the mountain. The other place I mentioned was Preikestolen (Pulpit rock). This is also located in Lysefjord but it is on the opposite side of Kjerag and it is only 600 meters above the fjord. This is an easier hike compared to Kjerag and it offers the same great view. If you don’t like hiking, or walking for that matter, you can take a tourist boat into Lysefjord and see the mountains from below but I can promise you that you get a different perspective when you see it from the top :-)
If you come here in the summer and the weather is nice you can even take a swim in this area. Some of Norway’s most beautiful beaches are located just outside Stavanger. I prefer to go to the beach Hellestø but you can also go to Sola (closest to Stavanger), Ølberg, Vigdel, Bore and Orre. All these places offer long sandy beaches with clean and refreshing water. I say refreshing even if my wife claims that it is just another word for “very cold water”. If you are lucky the water will reach about 20 degrees Celsius. But it is more realistic to say that you have 14-17 degrees. But it is sufficient especially when you’ve been toasting in the sun. The only thing that you might want to keep an eye on are the stinging jelly fish that you might encounter. No, they are not very dangerous and the sting itself doesn't cause that much pain. But it can be a bit uncomfortable - with a bit of adull throb and some itching.
Like most cities, Stavanger has a few museums of note. I know that it sounds strange but Stavanger is the oil capital of Norway. The oil industry has meant a lot to the development of Stavanger and Norway in general and this is a key national industry that has been going for about 40 years now. In Stavanger’s Oil Museum you can learn about the history of oil exploration, how oil is formed, how it is produced and what the life is like for an offshore worker here in Norway. I found it interesting but that might have something to do with the fact that I’m a petroleum engineer :-) You should be able to find more information about the museum on the official homepage www.norskolje.museum.no. But there are also other museums in Stavanger such as the archaeological museum, a museum related to the canning industry, children’s museum etc.
If you want to learn something about Norwegian history you can check out Stavanger’s archaeological museum. This can be combined with Jernaldergården (the Iron Age farm). This is a reconstruction of a farm built in the Iron Age. If you go there it is worth contacting a guide so that he/she can talk you through it. This farm was rebuilt in the 70s based on findings that date back to 300-500 AD. The place is located on Ullandhaug not far out of town. At Ullandhaug you will have a great view of Hafrsfjord. This is actually the place where Harald Hårfagre fought the battle in 872 AD to make Norway into one kingdom. A monument called "Sverd i fjell" has been erected at the shores of Hafrsfjord in memory of the unification. "Sverd i fjell", roughly translated, means "Swords in mountain"
Another “exotic” place of interest is a place called Flor og Fjære (www.florogfjare.no).This is more or less a botanical garden that is located on an island called Sør-Hidle (just outside Stavanger). In this pretty harsh environment of coastal weather, you come to a "Garden of Eden"-like island and I guess I can understand their slogan “a break from reality”. Out on these small islands you don't see much plants and life but here you will find all sorts of plants that you don't normally see in Norway. They even have palm trees, pumpkins, chilies, a lemon tree and so on. Take a look at their website for more information. They sell package deals where you get the boatride out to the island, a tour around the garden (maybe a few good tips on how to keep your lawns green) and in the end you get a great buffet dinner. Unfortunately, they’re not open all year round. Here is a "trip report" from a visit in July 2008.
Talking about food...if you stroll around in town on a nice summer day it is great to sit down on the stairs next to the town square and just relax and have a bag of shrimp to eat. And for dessert: strawberries of course :-) I love strawberries and I guess it is because the strawberry season is so short. Only for a few hectic weeks in the middle of summer can you get the sweet Norwegian strawberries and in this period I get a bit carried away and I eat them all the time :-) . If you want to have something to eat at night I recommend that you check out the article that I have written about eating and drinking in Stavanger.
Well, I hope that this will encourage some of you to stop by Stavanger. If you do come here please don't hesitate to get in touch with me if you want more information about the area. I can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org. Below you can find some more images from Stavanger.
Here are some links that might be of some use if you are planning a trip to Stavanger: