Childhood Memories and a Fjord: Stavanger, Norway

Hannah was so excited to visit this city. She lived here for 2-3 years as a young girl when she was around 7-9 years old. She had certain vivid memories of places that she wanted to revisit. We spent time each day retracing her steps to her old home, playgrounds, bus stops, lakes, and landmarks.

Our Airbnb host provided bicycles for out stay. We found in several cities that the ability to cycle had made our experience more positive. It surely beat walking 10-12 miles each day. On the day of our arrival, we took the bikes on a leisurely ride of the two lakes adjacent to the neighborhood. The bend of the trail ran parallel to the expansive lake, snaking back and forth while the white gravel crunched beneath our tires. Dark columns of tall birch, spruce, and pine trees filtered the orange evening light as it reflected off the lake. One turn brought farmland pastures, another contained dark forest passages, while still others bore dispersed boulders among the dark tree canopy.

Another area we visited several times was Sverd I fjell, or 3 Swords. The swords stood tall with differing hilts emblazoned against the sky. Beside it, a small sandy beach inlet was occupied by families enjoying the summer sun. Children splashed in the waters, while parents prepared lunches or laid back to take in the sunny rays. We biked there over two separate days and the situation was much the same, peaceful and pleasant.

Downtown Stavanger was a windy and sleepy array of cobblestoned streets. Large cruise ships dwarfed the small marina. Unlike many other cruise ports I had seen, this one seemed less touristic and had far less of the consumerist flair. Small shops and restaurants lured bystanders in while the centuries old stone-grey watchtower loomed overhead, a reminder of a historic past. While not as historic, Hannah remembered the movie theater nearby where she saw “Star Wars” with her family. The building was interesting to me. It was multifunctional, with a movie theater opposite a library peppered with patrons. Further down the boulevard stood a museum devoted to petroleum. Recycled pipeline and old petroleum equipment stood as a modern edgy playground and practice arena for local graffiti artists.

One particular day will always stand out as special for me. We visited Preikestolen, also known as “Pulpit Rock”. We started bright and early, waking up at 5:50AM. The sun was already bright. After a 35 minute walk to the harbor, we boarded a ferry for 45 minutes, followed by a short 30 minute bus ride to the base of Preikestolen. Hannah’s father told us ahead of time that the trail in recent years had undergone some renovation that made it easier. We were thankful for that. We began the hike with a wet mist and thick opaque fog surrounding us. It initially made visibility impossible beyond 10-15 feet.

We are not triathletes by any stretch, but thankfully in pretty good shape. With walking sticks in hand, and flimsy tennis shoes, not hiking boots on our feet, we made the ascent. There was roughly a 1000 feet vertical climb that occurred throughout the hike. It was quite steep with craggy staircases made from rocks covered in rain and dew made for perilous hiking. My initial thoughts were “what have we gotten ourselves into?” All in all, the hike took us about 2.5 hours each way.

We had gotten ourselves into one of the most beautiful natural experiences that a person could ask for. Meadows and picturesque forests stood for miles in every direction. On the way we made conversation with two Americans from Washington and New York finishing up a teaching certificate in France. It made the hike less strenuous and more enjoyable. They eventually outpaced us. Hannah and I were left to our own musings and wonderment of every crag and green bend in the trail as we literally watched the sun lift the fog from the mountain.

Pulpit Rock overlooks the Lysebotn fjord. A fjord is a natural valley and waterway made by glaciers. Below the cliffs, remarkable turquoise blue water snaked alongside towering mountains populated by white dots of sheep. An occasional sailboat petered through the waters. Meanwhile, 1900 feet higher, a small crowd gathered on the cliff. A small group of teenage boys played Norwegian music from a speaker while laughing and carrying on. Our new American friends came over to talk a bit more. Meanwhile, others unwrapped sandwiches or crept to the edge on their bellies to look below.

Most would sigh with relief that the resulting hike is downhill, but if anything it was more strain on the knees and ankles. The walking sticks came in handy to help in tricky spots. One issue by this point in the day was that a heavier flow of tourist traffic began to make its way up the trail. The path was littered with small choke points at a steep grade, which often caused delay or stops to allow people through. With some achy joints and sunburn, we grabbed a cold Fanta at the bottom and waited to take our 2 hour journey back home.

The final day or so in Norway were spent with Hannah reliving memories and enjoying the crisp air and bright sunshine. I had always considered that Hannah’s memories and affection for Norway were exaggerated because she was so young. I was thankfully wrong. It was one of the most beautiful natural landscapes I had ever encountered and now imparted memories for me that I will hold dear for a lifetime. Norwegians get so many things right in their approach to the environment and their affection for nature.

Sad to say goodbye to her old house again

The “forest” behind her house wasn’t as lush a she remembered.
But the neighborhood park was still there
The playground at the International School of Stavanger
Hannah and Thomas’s old school, home of the Vikings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s