Stavanger Area Wrap Up

Although I didn’t spend a large amount of time in Stavanger itself, I really loved what I saw and also really enjoyed the nearby area. Here are my tips:

  1. If you want to look around the nearby area (which you should) I would highly recommend getting a car and driving around. I would particularly recommend driving the two nearby national tourist routes, Ryfylke and Jæren.
  2. Ryfylke
    1. Definitely make a trip to Pulpit Rock, though be aware that it’ll be a hike to get there and that it’s mountainous. Go early in the morning to avoid crowds and check with the local tourist office to make sure that it’s open. The other famous rock formation in this area is Kjerag, which Abby and I didn’t make it to since it was still buried in snow even at the end of May.
    2. Pay a quick stop to Sandsfossen and Høsebrua to admire the waterfall and walk over the bridge.
    3. Definitely stop by Svandalsfossen waterfall. It’s incredible. Be sure to bring a waterproof jacket though.
  3. Jæren
    1. If you have the time, continue past Ogna towards Egersund, since the surrounding scenery is gorgeous.
    2. Check out the quaint church at Varhaug old cemetery.
  4. Stavanger is pretty small and easy to walk around so I would recommend doing that. It’s vibrant colors and street art also set it apart from most Norwegian towns.
  5. Check out the Norwegian Petroleum Museum to learn more about Norway’s relationship with oil. Also stop by the next door playground and see how they’re repurposed old shipping parts.

Winding Roads, Flat Lands, and Dreary Skies

The next day we decided to tackle the second national tourist route, Jæren. While Ryfylke had directed us North, with Jæren we were headed South into Norway’s agricultural area. Now I’m used to seeing soaring mountains and towering peaks in Norway, so it was pretty strange to drive through the Norwegian heartland and not see a single mountain (granted it was raining so poor visibility might have had something to do with that). The sheep that we had seen on our Northern drive were replaced with fields, and, in one case, small trees that marked the beginning of a Christmas tree farm. Both Abby and I suspect that planting and harvesting happen later in Norway than in other countries, since it didn’t look like there was anything even beginning to sprout.

Not only does Jæren pass through one of the flatest parts of the country, it also passes by some of Norway’s most dangerous coast. The area is highly treacherous for ships, so while there are a number of beaches along the coast, there are also quite a few lighthouses. Although Abby and I did try and visit one of the lighthouses, it, as well as most of the sights along Jæren, was closed. Additionally, the weather was simply too miserable and rainy to really warrant getting out of the car and going for a quick adventure.

But we still managed to have a good time. We even managed to see one of the sights, Hitler’s teeth, largely from the warmth of our car. The “teeth” are cement blocks that were made during World War II to prevent the Allied forces from making landfall (see the second row of pictures).

IMG_3232  IMG_3231  IMG_3221IMG_3208  IMG_3210  IMG_3212Another stop at MingarWalker Glassblowing studio was actually a huge success. Abby was able to buy a wedding gift, and the local glassblower was incredibly helpful. We had originally planned to stop our drive at Ogna, the end of the tourist road; however, the glassblower advised us to continue past Ogna and on towards Tengs and Egersund. This ended up being great advice. The terrain slowly started to change and became more rocky and hilly, and of course was beautiful. To top things off, we even passed one old place that was modeled after an old American saloon.

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Our last notable stop was at Varhaug old cemetery. Our glassblower had told us that it was worth a stop since it has an incredibly quaint church on the premises. To give you a better idea of how small it is, it’s about 15 m² (161 ft²) and fits only 14 chairs. Lucky for us, we were the only visitors, so it wasn’t too cramped when we went. We even got to have some fun ringing the church bells.

IMG_3242  IMG_3236  IMG_3246IMG_3248  IMG_3241  IMG_3243After that we slowly made our way back to Stavanger. Thanks to the generosity of Heather, one of the Roving Scholars, we were able to use some of her accumulated hotel points to stay the night in Stavanger.

Once we arrived, our first task was to find the parking garage. We got directions from the hotel and then parked the car in what is by far one of the strangest car parks I’ve ever been to. The parking lot was solidly underground, and it also came with handy things like sinks. We speculated that it used to be a bunker, and sure enough after inquiring at the front desk we had our suspicions confirmed. Compared to most European countries, Norway doesn’t have many visible reminders of World War II, so it’s always a bit shocking to stumble upon something that shows the impact that it had on the country.
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The weather continued to be a bit dreary, and because it was a Sunday most things were closed when we walked around town. That being said, we still really enjoyed looking around. Compared to most Norwegian towns, Stavanger is filled with vibrant colors and quirky parks. Abby and I had a lot of fun playing in a playground next to the Norwegian Petroleum Museum. The park is made out of repurposed shipping tools, so we had fun bouncing along on buoys and crawling along old shipping pipes. One of the things we also enjoyed seeing was a memorial “DEDICATED TO THE MEN AND WOMEN OF NORWEGIAN BLOOD WHO HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO THE BUILDING OF AMERICA.” Stavanger even has a Norwegian Emigration Center that has an exhibit on Norwegian emigration to the United States.

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After that, we gratefully returned to our hotel and put our feet up. We felt like we were living the life of luxury by being in a hotel and having access to a TV. Neither Abby nor I has a TV in our student housing, so we had a lot of fun channel surfing and trying to decipher some of the Norwegian ads between our combined (and limited) Norwegian vocabularies. If you’d like to try it out, I’ve included the link to the one commercial that we did manage to figure out.

What we deduced is that this is an advertisement for Jarlsberg, one of the two big cheese brands in Norway (the other being Gulost). Things come to a head when the guy asks for Jarlsberg and is told that Gulost is fine since cheese is cheese. For the rest of the advertisement, the woman essentially says that “x is x” (even though it’s clearly not the case) and that her significant other should be satisfied. So for example, she says “hjem er hjem” or “home is home” when he’s being admitted to a mental institution. Basically the point of the advertisement is that cheese is not in fact cheese and that only Jarlsberg is Jarlsberg. Screw Gulost! Basically Abby and I spent a significant amount of mental energy deducing a Norwegian commercial for a cheese that neither of us particularly likes, but hey we felt somewhat accomplished by the end of it.

Off to Salzburg

We left Vienna early in the morning to catch a train to Salzburg. Now considering that we had taken 26 hours worth of trains just a few days before, I was pretty indifferent to the countryside, which meant that instead of looking out the window I decided to finish reading Their Eyes Were Watching God, which I would recommend if you are in need of a good book.

We arrived in Salzburg in the afternoon and after grabbing a small lunch at the hotel headed out into the snow to see what we could before sunset. We passed the Mirabell Gardens, Mozarteum, which is more or less Salzburg’s music university, and the Marionette Theatre (which is paid homage to in The Sound of Music) before crossing a bridge into town.

IMG_7439  IMG_7442  IMG_7443IMG_2148Overall it didn’t take us too long to walk into Old Salzburg. To be honest, I never thought that there would really be much to do in Salzburg, but Lonely Planet proved me wrong. Unfortunately, due to the way we had arranged our travel plans, we just weren’t going to be able to see much of it. This was really our only shot at seeing anything in town.

Our first stop was to Mozarts Geburtshaus, the house where Mozart was born and raised. While the museum taught me a few things about Mozart, I wouldn’t have said that it was anything very special. One thing that I did find interesting was how Salzburg has really tried to take ownership of Mozart. Mozart is depicted everywhere in the city, which makes it a bit ironic that Mozart himself was not a huge fan of the city and experienced his greatest success when he left.

Once we were through with the museum, we walked through the old town square. I have to hand it to Salzburg, even in the darkness and the snow the city was really quaint and beautiful.

IMG_7453  IMG_7459  IMG_7456We also stopped by Stiftskirche Sankt Peter, or St. Peter’s Church. We started out by wandering around the cemetery and the catacombs. The catacombs gave us a fairly good view over the church and the city so it’s something that I’d recommend if you don’t have the time to climb one of Salzburg’s mountains.

IMG_7470  IMG_7478  IMG_7479By the time we climbed down from the catacombs it was more or less dark. This also meant that most things were closed. Because we were pretty limited in what we could do, we stopped by the church (one of the few sights that was still open) before slowly making our way back to our hotel.

IMG_7499  IMG_7494  IMG_7497IMG_7506  IMG_7501  IMG_7507IMG_7520  IMG_7527  IMG_7525Even though we weren’t able to see much, it was nice to get a small sense of the city. I will also say that the day’s biggest success arguably happened over dinner. When my dad and I had eaten lunch at the hotel we spotted a group of four devouring a humongous dessert (it was about three times as large as the amount in the picture). So of course my Dad and I had to ask our waiter what this dessert was and then order it over dinner. It turns out with was salzburger nockerl, a Salzburg specialty, and was quite delicious. So we managed to end the day on both a sweet and high note.

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