Norwegians Love Dogs – that’s no surprise
Straight out of the airport in Stavanger, the first thing I saw was a man sitting with two dogs on his lap.
Europe is dog friendly, so no surprises there. But do you know that Norwegians spend the most on dog food in the world? They are also among the top countries to have more dogs per square meter. Dog population is also more rapidly growing than human population in Norway. Could there be a situation in the future that Dogs outnumber the species that owns them?
Taxi is costly
We (I was with an office colleague) took the airport taxi to our hotel. The hotel is only 15 minutes away but we had to pay 60 Euros. Taxi is costly.
Food is costly too
The Taxi driver who is a Pakistani told us that Indian expat population has overtaken Pakistani community in the last two years to become the largest Asian community in Stavanger so we would find many Indian restaurants.
We did find a few, ‘Indisk’ restaurants as they call it – India Tandoori, Mogul India and Curry Masala, but we also found out that the cost is too high. In the next five days we would come to know that every damn thing is costly.
An average meal (any meal – Indian, Thai or Continental) costs on an average 120 Kroner. The lowest I found is 99 Kroner at Curry Masala. Curry Masala is run by an young dude from Andhra by name Gangadhar who has changed his Hindu name to fashionable christian ‘Martin’. It is located near the Red Cathedral. Food is good.
Curry Masala is next to the yellow building in the right
Thai restaurants are more easier to spot though as there are a lot of them, but most places serve Thai food with a Norwegian twist (read less spicy and sweeter).
But strangely I never saw an Indian customer in an Indisk restaurant. I guess Norwegians like Indian food more than Indian settlers do.
Tips: If you are an IT guy from India traveling on meager daily allowance (per diem) or if you are a budget traveler, and if you can live on burgers, check out McDonald’s or KFC or Burger King – they come for less than 50 Kroner. We only realized this on the last day of our stay.
Norway is not an EU country and Euros are not commonly accepted
Why Norway isn’t in the European Union? The reason is quite simple, the Norwegian people said, ‘no’ twice in referendums.
The arguments for saying ‘no’ were that membership would result in increased centralization and that fishing industries and agriculture would suffer.
Anyway, Norway is not part of EU and Euros are not commonly accepted. We had to beg the cab driver to accept Euros, because Euros was all we had. The driver accepted, but with some extra money in the name of conversion charges.
Stavanger is a big small town!
I had always dreamt of visiting a small European town with cobble-stone alleys and wooden houses. Stavanger offered everything I wanted to see, and beyond. Despite being the third largest city in Norway, it has a distinct small-town feel about it. Life is unhurried and quiet.
Stavanger is in fact a miniature version of the country itself. Beautiful fjords, quiet beaches, small ports, isolated islands, pristine country sides, music festivals, wooden houses and great opportunities for outdoor activities. Stavanger’s Old Town is the largest surviving wooden house settlement in northern Europe.
Old Town Houses
I just couldn’t get enough of those beautiful streets and houses. In the 5 days we were there, I walked through each and every street in the main city, multiple times in a day, to the point that I could guide other tourists.
Panoramic view of Stavanger Port and the main town
The most beautiful Øvre Holmegate street
Why are Norwegian houses painted red?
Traditionally Norwegian houses were painted a strong red, yellow, or white. White is the most popular color. The color the owners chose depended mostly on the family’s financial situation. Red colour was the cheapest to produce. As a result, many buildings in farming lands or fishing areas where incomes were lower were mostly paint in red. Yellow color was a little more expensive than red.
White was the most luxurious of colors since it was the most expensive. In the old days the mineral zinc was needed to create white paint which was very expensive. So, if one painted their house white they were showing that they were wealthy.
However, in modern times, with Norway being one of the richest countries in the World, color choices has a different explanation. Bright colors are favored because it’s important that people who live in cold, dark climates get some brightness in their lives.
I was certainly happy to see those red, yellow and blue houses. In fact I liked them better than the white ones which are boring.
Stavanger is a hotspot for graffiti and street art
The driving force behind it all is the NuArt festival, established way back in 2001. After the festival is over, some of the works will remain and become an integral part of the city, while other less permanent art is either removed or eroded away by time.
Stavanger in fact shared the European Capital of Culture title with Liverpool in 2008.
Below I have included a piece I found near the port.
Drivers actually stop to let you cross the road, even if you don’t want to
Once I was standing on the edge of the road wondering which direction I should go, a car stopped and the driver waved me to cross the road. I waved at him to go since I hadn’t decided where to go. He wouldn’t move. He waved at me again. This back and forth waving went on for couple more times. Then, I crossed the road for his sake, to make him leave in peace.
Preikestolen is a must visit, and my impressive guide to the summit
A fjord is a deep, narrow and river-like elongated sea or lake drain, with steep land on both sides. Stavanger is the gateway to the amazing Lysefjord. The name means light fjord, and is said to be derived from the lightly coloured granite rocks along its sides. Lysefjord stretches to 42 kilometers and in places it is as deep as the mountains are high.
Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock is the most popular attraction in Lysefjord. To reach Preikestolen, there are three ways. You can take the Lysefjord cruise (cruise boats to Lysefjord start from Stavanger), or take a ferry to Tau and from there a bus to the base of the mountain and then hike up to the Pulpit Rock. The 3rd way to see Pulpit Rock is by helicopter which I assume to be extremely costly.
Tau Ferry Station
Country houses in Tau
Hiking to the Pulpit Rock was part of the official trip agenda, so I didn’t have a choice. At the start of the climb, a sign board says the destination is 3.5 kilometers. Don’t be fooled by it. It’s a hard trek which takes approximately 2 hours each way.
On the way up, as I was frequently stopping for photographs, I lost my group. A girl in ultra-short denim shorts was walking in front of me with most of her bottom spilling out of the shorts. Norwegian women are buxom and healthy-looking without being over-weight. I didn’t see any skinny types; even the dummy models in clothing shops are a little plump. The girl walking in front was very agile and hopped on the boulders with incredible ease. She kept a steady pace and I had to follow her ass all the way to the top.
The trail becomes narrow and scary towards the end and after a final sharp turn the majestic Pulpit rock comes into view.
The Pulpit Rock is a square formation of rock resembling a pulpit. It juts out from the surrounding mountainside and stands 604 meters above Lysefjorden with an almost flat top.
It was crowded with tourists and locals and many were crawling on the edges to take a peek down the vertical drop.
View from a higher point
It never really becomes dark in the night in summer
I was lucky to be in Norway in summer. 11 pm at midnight, the sun would still be shining. I was so thrilled by this that I kept sending photos to friends back home with the time of the photo taken.
Sunday is Dry day
We found out to our utter disappointment that all liquor shops are closed on Sundays. Just make sure that you stock up on Saturday afternoon.
But then, it’s not all too bad – the pubs are always open.
You don’t need to learn Norwegian
Because almost everybody in Stavanger speaks English. Since Stavanger is the oil capital of Norway, there’s a sizable population of expats from all over the world so English is commonly spoken.
July is Jolly, not for travelers!
Only after I reached Norway I understood why it took so long for our visas to be approved. In Norway almost everybody takes a month off in July. It’s the best time of the year for them and everybody wants to be out basking in the sun or pack their bags and go on a holiday.
So if you are planning to visit Norway in July, make sure you apply for visa a month or two in advance (if you have that luxury), or else while your passport sits idly in a pile on a man-less desk, you are going to rust away waiting for it.
This is me at Preikestolen