Welcome to Stavanger

I live in a little city called Stavanger on the west coast of Norway where I’ve been for about 4 years now.  It’s a funny little place and quite unique from the rest of the country, but the longer I came to stay here the more the city opened up to me and I discovered how much it had to offer. In short, here’s a few things about this city:

1. Rain. The first thing that hits you is the rain. It can rain and rain and rain, and coming from Australia it was a bit of a shock for me initially. When I asked why, someone told me that the west coast never really gets cold enough for snow and when the big rain clouds head east across the country they hit the long mountain range, acting like a long spine of the country, and they slide back down towards us. Sorry to blind you with science there, but that’s apparently the reason.

Norwegians have a saying about the weather which is, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing“. Yeah right. For me that’s the most pathetic excuse for shite weather! Another thing you hear a lot is that Norway is such a long country and if you were to swivel the country from the bottom, it would end up in Italy…yeah well, enough talk, let’s bloody do it!

Last year it actually rained 78 days in a row. That’s 7-8. More than two months of non-stop rain. The amazing thing was that when the rain finally stopped, the papers were complaining that they didn’t break the record of 80 days! Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem to bother the local Stavanger folk who get out at any opportunity, covered in the latest shiny rainwear. The best sights are the kids, bundled up like little Michelin men waddling down the path.

Welcome to Stavanger - city of rain

Welcome to Stavanger - city of rain

2. Public Art. Stavanger has a great art scene both traditional and modern. There are, of course, plenty of galleries to while away on lazy Sunday afternoons. Worthy of mention are Galleri Sult at the end of the harbour in town, the Rogaland Kunstmuseum located on the lake, Mosvannet.

Stavanger is also dotted with some exciting sculptures and street art.  Perhaps the most famous set of sculptures in the area is Anthon Gormley’s Broken Column. These are 23 identical statues that are all over the city, which face the same direction, and comprise of one ‘broken’ column. They’re everywhere too, some in around the city, one underwater, in a school, overlooking a swimming pool and even in someone’s house.

In recent years, Stavanger has also become a bit of a centre for street and stencil art. So much so that it now hosts the annual NuArt festival which focusses on all kinds of street art, pulling in international graffiti and stencil art officiados. If you know where to look there is a veritable treasure trove of stencil art hidden within the back streets of this town. Here are a few of the worthy specimens…

Some of the street art in Stavanger

Some of the street art in Stavanger

3. The harbour. There’s a lot of history in this town, and before the oil poured in and paved its streets, Stavanger was the herring capital of Norway. You only have to look across its harbour to see how many of the old fishing buildings still exist. Nowadays, its the centre for pubs and restaurants and the harbour is a zoo of drunk Norwegians and expats on Friday and Saturday nights. During the summer days though it plays host to over 80 cruiseships each year bringing in thousands of tourists. Below is the gigantic QE2 dwarfing the harbour, with it’s last ever visit to Stavanger, before it is decommisioned later this year.

The harbour and the QE2

The harbour and the QE2

So that’s a beginning. In future I’ll post more features of this little city tucked on the west coast of Norway… As a taste for the next post, I leave you with a building that looks like Darth Vader. Enjoy…

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