It is really difficult to condense all the amazing things I saw and did in Norway into one post. Here’s my best go though. We saw 4 different cities up and down the southwest coast of Norway while we were gone; I recount the highlights of each.
With a population about the size of Flint, MI or Fayetteville, NC, Stavanger is the 4th largest city in Norway.
On approach it was a very cute, seaside town complete with the same sort of steep-roofed white houses you find all over New England. The city is still pretty clearly an oil city- I had no idea how much oil is apparently in the North Sea until this trip. We mostly stayed in Old Stavanger because it was so pretty, with its old fashioned homes and beautiful park.
I have no explanation for this piece of art.
We also made sure to check out the Stavanger Cathedral, as it’s apparently the oldest in Norway, and the Maritime Museum.
After Stavanger we went to the teensy new port of Skjolden. Their best estimate was a year-round population of about 300, plus some extra hikers and fishermen in the summer.
This is literally the entire port.
This was actually my favorite port of the whole trip. We spent many hours cruising through the massive Sognefjord to this little town at its very end, which was by far the prettiest place we went in my opinion.
When we got there we hiked as long as we dared (there was a storm looming) and got back just in time to dash into the only pub to have a pint of Ringnes and wait out the storm.
This is also where I found the Holy Grail of this trip – locally raised and spun Merino.
It seems to be about fingering weight, and is apparently from Merino meat sheep, which wasn’t something I knew existed. It’s definitely not as soft as what I would generally expect from Merino, but it is quite knitable, Now to come up with a pattern.
With a population about the size of Salt Lake City, UT or Perth, Scotland, Alesund is between the sizes of the first two places we visited. I’m told it is also the northernmost year-round port in Norway. That’s saying something when you realize how much more “north” is left on the map of Norway after Alesund. The main draw for tourists in Alesund is the Art Deco architecture, which was largely funded by Kaiser Wilhelm II (yes, of Germany) after most of the city burned in the early 1900s. Apparently the area was a favorite vacation spot of the Kaiser.
That nifty shot of the town was made possible by our climb up the 418 steps to the top of Mt. Aksla, which also produced the views below.
After coming back down from the mountain, we tried to figure out the bus system to get to their little aquarium or medieval-style farm, but eventually gave up and walked the supposedly 3k to the aquarium. Naturally it rained, and was largely an uphill climb. Not our favorite part of the trip!
Last but definitely not least was Bergen. Bergen is the second largest city in Norway and the only one I really wish we’d had more time. Population-wise, it is about the size of Lincoln, NE or Saskatoon, SK. When you consider that the entire population of Norway is less than New York City, this is quite large. The first thing we did was set out for the Bergenhus, an old castle/fort/ruins right on the water. It was stunning and I particularly loved the 13th century ruins, but it took a bit longer to get out there than planned because I may possibly have gotten distracted by the Dale of Norway window display on the way.
After that we did some shopping in the old warehouse district Bryggen, mostly to play funhouse in the old warehouses that got seriously shaken by an exploding Dutch ship a few decades back. None of the following pictures are taken at a weird angle, and my military husband is standing straight and tall in one doorway to really give you an idea of how crooked these buildings are.
Then we wandered on down to the awesome fish market, where we feasted on painfully expensive fjord shrimp which were still the cheapest meal we found in Norway, as well as cloudberry jam on fresh bread. It was all absolutely amazingly delicious.
Sadly by that time it was about time to head out. I could definitely go back to Bergen. I’ve tried to condense this post as much as possible and share only the biggest, best-photographed highlights, but it’s still massive and I still feel like I’ve left out a lot of good stuff. It makes me kinda sad. The next post will be easier because it was a seriously whirlwind tour. Next post, London!