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What to do in Norway - from a local

By Gard Karlsen, Norway

I have a confession to make: I have not travelled to Stavanger in Norway...I live here.

But I hope that I can contribute with information that will help you if you come to visit.

Stavanger is located in the area Rogaland in the south-west coast of Norway. The people that live here are still debating wether we belong to the south of the country or if we can regard ourselves as true westeners. SO far we have not been able to reach a conclusion. The history of the city is long…the cathedral in the middle of Stavanger (Domkirken) dates back to 1125 if I’m not mistaken. The cathedral today is one of the sights in Stavanger. No, it is not as BIG as Notre Dame or other cathedrals in the big European cities. It is a small intimate cathedral and the most unique thing is that it is bulit in both roman and gothic style. 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. But today it is located in the middle of town and lots of people get married here every summer.

My wife is from South Africa and the first time she came to Norway she came in July. She was very surprised to find that Norway was green and warm. It has to be said that the summer she came here was an unusual warm summer. 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 winter here anyway. 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 trekking. There are two sites that are great: Kjerag and Prekestolen (Pulpit rock). Let’s start with Kjerag.

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. One you get to the eagle’s nest you have to get out of the car and put on your hiking boots. The trail to Kjerag will take about 2 hours (depending on how fit you are J) and the trail goes up and down, up and down. But in the end you reach a plateau and you 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 that has been wedged in the crack in the mountain. It is possible to walk out on the rock and from one angle in becomes one of the most spectacluar natural motives. But some choose to not walk out on the rock of course. It is pretty scary the first time because it is 1000 meters 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) and it is breathtaking to see them jump of the mountain.

The other place I mentioned was Prekestolen. This is also located in Lysefjord but it is on the opposite side of Kjerag and it is only 600 meters above the fjord. But it is a easier walk compared to Kjerag and it offers the same great view.

If you don’t like walking at all you can take a 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 here. 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 offers long sandy beaches with clear 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 Celcius. But it is more realistic to say that you have 16-17 degrees. But it is sufficient (especially when the sun has heated you for some time).

There are some museums in Stavanger and I would like to say a few words about the Oil museum. I know that it sounds strange but Stavanger is the oil capital in Norway. The oil industy has meant a lot to the development of Stavanger and Norway in general and this is an industry that has been going on for about 40 years now. In this museum you can learn about the history of the oil exploration, how the 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 :-)

If you want to learn something about the Norwegian history you can check out Stavanger archaeological museum. This can be combined with Jernaldergården (the iron age farm). This is a recontruction of a farm bulit in the iron age. If you go there it is worth bringing a guide so that he/she can talk you through it. This farm was rebuilt in the 70s based on findings that dates back to 300-500 AD. The place is located on Ullandhaug not far out of town.

Another place of interest is something called Flor og Fjære. This is more or less a botanical garden that is located on an island called Hidle (just outside Stavanger). In this pretty harsh environment you come to the "Garden of Eden" and I guess I can understand their slogan “a break from reality”. Out on these small islands you don't see much plants and stuff but here you will find all sorts of plants that you don't normally see in Norway. The even have palm trees, pumpkins, chilis, a lemon tree and so on. And there is a tour and you can get excellent food.

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 periode I get a bit carried away and I eat it all the time :-)

Well, I hope that this has 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.

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