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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Pay a quick stop to Sandsfossen and Høsebrua to admire the waterfall and walk over the bridge.
- Definitely stop by Svandalsfossen waterfall. It’s incredible. Be sure to bring a waterproof jacket though.
- If you have the time, continue past Ogna towards Egersund, since the surrounding scenery is gorgeous.
- Check out the quaint church at Varhaug old cemetery.
- 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.
- 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.
I don’t think I’ll be going back to Bergen before the end of my Fulbright so I thought I’d go ahead and summarize what I’ve learned about Bergen thus far:
- An umbrella is crucial. Also, be prepared to encounter multiple types of weather.
- Most things in Bergen and in the wider Bergen area shut down after August/September or have reduced hours. So, if you’re planning a trip to either Bergen or the surrounding area make sure that everything you want to see is actually open.
- If you plan on doing any driving check the road conditions. If you cross over Bergen’s mountains you’ll encounter a significant temperature drop and, depending on the time of year, snow and icy conditions.
- As for things to do in Bergen, I highly enjoyed Pepperkakebyen (which runs from the end of November to the end of December), Bryggen is nice to walk around, the funicular provides a great view of the city on a clear day, and I’ve heard that the Kode is an amazing art museum.
The next morning started with us experiencing some of Bergen’s infamous rain. Because we had been repeatedly warned about Bergen’s weather, the three of us had packed umbrellas that managed to protect us from the worst of it.
Before the trip started, the three of us had agreed to rent a car for two days. Thankfully Chris knows how to drive in snow. Alix and I are both from California, so the extent of our knowledge when it comes to driving in winter conditions is minimal. In fact, it pretty much consists of what we researched on a maine.gov website when we were trying to figure out how to drive on black ice in the Lofotens.
So, once we sorted things out with the rental car company we left Bergen behind. Alix and I both wanted to see stave churches so I thought we should drive up to the Borgund Stave Church and visit some of the stave churches in Vik if we had time. However, we soon ran into our first logistical difficulty: snow. It hadn’t occurred to any of us just how much snow would be beyond Bergen. Bergen has a pretty mild climate, but as soon as you cross the mountains you enter a completely different world. Snow was absolutely everywhere. For safety reasons, we didn’t drive particularly fast, and to Chris’s credit he did a great job driving. To give you an idea of how treacherous the roads were, we saw one car that had slid off the road and a big rig that overturned. In fact, there was so much snow that the big rig couldn’t even lay on the ground properly. It had slid partially off the road and was at about a 30 degree angle propped up by a snow drift.
Because the Borgund church was just over a three hour drive from Bergen I initially intended for us to make a pitstop at the Stalheim Hotel. The Stalheim has a fantastic view, as you can see from the Google Images picture below.
Unfortunately, the snow was making it look like the hotel might be the only destination that we would be able to make it to before dark. When we were on about hour three, Alix asked if I could look up the opening hours for the churches and for the hotel. This was where I encountered my second logistical error. All of these things closed around August/September. Turns out most attractions in the wider Bergen area close after the summer holiday season. Whoops.
Thankfully Alix and Chris weren’t too upset about this. Even though we never made it to the churches or the hotel (the driveway was completely blocked with snow) we all enjoyed the beautiful scenery that we saw along the way.