Last weekend, I finally checked hiking the Norwegian Fjords off of my bucket list. It’s a trip that’s been on my radar for quite some time now – I tried to get Amie to go with me last fall but we ended up in Istanbul instead! Truth is, I’d been charmed by Norway on Pinterest. Photos of lush Norwegian Fjords and Pins of Bergen and Ålesund dominated my European travel boards. Luckily, I recently acquired some super outdoorsy (awesome) American friends, who were more than willing to climb jagged cliffs and camp on 3,000ft mountaintops. As we began looking into Norway backpacking trips, we realized that both Preikestolen and Kjeragbolten were closer to Stavanger, a small city by the Lysefjord in Southwest Norway. We really, really wanted to make it up to Kjeragbolten for the photo opportunity of a lifetime (more to come on this adventure later!) and so we booked tickets from Amsterdam to Stavanger (another time, Ålesund), and began planning our camping weekend in the Norwegian Fjords. Anthony and I arrived in Stavanger on Thursday evening, which meant that we had a good 15 hours to explore the city before our two other adventure friends, Kira and Elliot, arrived.Our airport antics were cheeky – I went to Anthony’s house to help him pack, and we had a cold beer (as you do after work, right before a long holiday weekend!) We then had another on our walk to Amsterdam Centraal, and then picked up some Heineken tallboys once we were though airport security. We were the last ones on the plane, and cruised through casually, beer in hand. Only in Europe my friends, only in Europe.By the time we arrived in Stavanger, it was late and we were tipsy. We checked into our accommodation, the Myhregaarden Hotel, which was cute and central but by far featured the smallest hotel room I have ever stayed in (and I live in and regularly travel around Europe, so that’s saying a lot!!) And so instead of hanging in the minuscule hotel room, we hit the town, walking along the harbor and eventually stopping for a bite in the city centre. Now, I have to tell you about the best best pizza I’ve ever consumed (somewhere on the top of the list with Mystic and my favorite spot in Cannes). As it was late, most of the restaurants in Stavanger city centre had stopped serving dinner and only offered bar bites. We were a bit dismayed at the lack of options, until a kind waiter pointed us in the direction of Happy Time Pizza, right down the street, which was still hopping well after midnight. We had no idea what to order (and didn’t speak Norwegian to boot) and so Anthony asked the kid at the counter to serve us his two favorite dishes. We ended up with a large kebab pizza, swirled with garlic sauce, and a huge pita, stuffed with various rotisserie meats, crispy vegetables, and hot sauce. We took our fare to go, sitting on the edge of the harbor, and in a very un-sexy fashion, we consumed enough calories to fuel a small family for days, licking stray garlic sauce off of our fingers. Seriously, if you’re in Stavanger, forget fine dinning and give Happy Time a visit.
The next day, we woke up to bright blue skies and a horizon of red roofs. We had a complimentary breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant, which was delicious and featured outdoor seating, before hitting the town to explore for a bit.Our first stop was a playground outside of the Norwegian Petroleum Museum. The playground is comprised of stray parts from old ships and oil rigs, all of which are splashed with colorful graffiti. Let’s hope the Norwegian children playing here don’t understand English . . . Next we walked down the Ovre Holmegate, a cute cobblestone road lined with bright rainbow houses. At this point, we realized that the graffiti game Stavanger was strong, spotting work by David Choe and ROA (whose art I’d admired a few months ago on Brick Lane). Following our colorful art walk, we strolled up into Old Stavanger, the city’s well-persevered and incredibly lovely historic heart. Apologies in advance, as I think I took about 12,903,843 photos of Old Stavanger ;)
The charming red roofs, winding cobble stone streets, colorful doors, and well-groomed botanics made Old Stavanger a picture-perfect scene. In the distance, you could just make out the huge Norwegian mountains. We wandered around Old Stavanger for an hour or so, before popping back down to the harbor and the city’s centre. The harbor was absolutely swarming with jellyfish! A market with local goods was set up in the square, and so I bought some wool Norwegian socks, and Anthony strongly debated getting a reindeer hide. In the end, he settled for a Norwegian flag, which would mark our campsite and now has a prominent home in his living room.Later in the afternoon, we swung by the airport to pick up Elliot and Kira, before driving up to the fjords. I have two more Norway posts to share – one on camping in the fjords and a second on the hike up to Preikestolen. Here’s a little teaser on what’s to come – Until then :)