Stavanger, Norway, Big City with a Small Town Heart

Our first port of call in Scandanavia was Stavanger, Norway.  Stavanger is the fourth most populous city in Norway and was founded in 1125.  It grew a lot in the 1990’s due to the oil industry.  Today Stavanger is known as the Oil Capital of Norway.  But most of the growth has been outside the city center.  Our ship docked in the heart of the city and it was an easy walk to all of the main sites downtown.

Stavanger from the ship

The thing that Tom and I most wanted to see in Stavanger was the Iron Age Farm.  Unfortunately, the farm is only open weekends until June 20, and we were in town on a Tuesday.  The Iron Age Farm is the reconstruction of a community from 350 to 550 C.E. and is the only one of its kind in Norway.  When it is open, it has living history demonstrations that we thought would be really interesting.  Oh well, on to the next thing.

Closed cathedral

The second thing that we were most interested in seeing was the Stavanger Cathedral.  The town dates from the building of the cathedral in 1125.  It is the oldest cathedral in Norway.  Although plain by some standards, it looked like it had a beautiful interior and stunning windows.  Unfortunately, the Cathedral is undergoing extensive restoration.  There were scaffolds all over the exterior and the interior was closed except for worship services.  Tom and I walked all the way around it, hoping there was a hidden entrance, but no such luck.

A street in Gamle By

The rest of the things that we wanted to see in Stavanger were open.  Whew!  So Tom and I took advantage of the nice day and walked all over the downtown area.  Next to our ship was the old town of Gamle By which was the core of the city beginning in the 1700’s.  The small wooden houses are protected and are part of the city’s cultural heritage.  People live in them and everyone has tiny gardens that make it a delight to walk through the cobblestone streets.

One of the shops

Once we came out of Gamle By, we walked around the large, pedestrian shopping area that comprises most of the rest of the downtown area.  Because everything is so walkable and accessible, it feels like a much smaller town.  We saw very few cars but lots of pedestrians.  Of course, most of the shoppers on this Tuesday morning were speaking English and from our cruise ship.

The Watchtower

Tom and I checked out the Watchtower, which turned out to be a highlight of the day.  It sits on top of one of the hills in the downtown area and is as easy landmark that kept us oriented on the narrow shopping streets.  The Watchtower was built in 1850 to replace a wooden watchtower in the same location.  The purpose of the Watchtower was to watch for fire, a constant threat to the wooden houses.  The Watchtower was used until 1920.

Our ship from the Watchtower

It cost 60 Norwegian Krone for Tom and I to walk up the Watchtower.  That might seem like a lot, but the easy way to think about Krone to dollars is to take away a zero.  It cost us about $6 to climb up the tower and check out the small firefighting museum.  Definitely worth the price of admission.  We were impressed with the views from the top and the museum had all their displays in English and Norwegian.

Tom found some cannons

After enjoying the Watchtower, we set about on Tom’s mission.  He has been researching the foods of each country we visit so we know what is special that we should try.  On our visit to Stavanger, his mission was for us to eat Norske Kanelsnurrer (Norwegian cinnamon rolls) or Norske Boller (Norwegian sweet buns).  We located three bakeries that looked promising.  The first two didn’t have either Kanelsnurrer or Boller.  So we kept going.  The third bakery had both, so we got one of each and shared them.  They were both very good.  The Boller had chocolate and a creamy custard inside, but just enough to add flavor, not enough to squish out.  The Kanelsnurrer tasted like a less sweet cinnamon roll.

After enjoying our snack, we checked out all three of the souvenir shops that were on the street where the ship was docked.  The shops were doing a brisk business with the cruise ship passengers.  Tom and I found a few items we wanted in the first shop.  They cost us over 300 Norwegian Krone, which sounds like a lot, but was actually about $31.

Tom and I had a wonderful time in Stavanger.  Even though some of the things we wanted to see were closed, we enjoyed what we were able to see.  We were really impressed with the small-town feel of this big city.  There were green spaces and small homes everywhere in the city center.  And the pedestrian streets and shops were fun to explore.