The Coastal Path in Stavanger – Norwegian Petroleum Museum

The Norwegian Petroleum Museum.  It doesn’t really capture the imagination, does it?  Does it?  A petroleum museum?  Well I suppose it looked quite interesting from the outside but it didn’t really sound that appealing for me, especially with two 12-year olds who I feared might get very bored very quickly.  However, it was listed as one of Stavanger’s top attractions and therefore we decided to give it a go.

Norwegian Petroleum MuseumHow wrong could I have been?  What an incredible place!  From word go the kids were all over the exhibits.  They jumped into a lifecraft and awaited their rescue.

Norwegian Petroleum MuseumThen they tried out the submersible.

Norwegian Petroleum MuseumWe toured the numerous models.  I could see that Ben, being a lego fan, was getting all sorts of ideas for construction projects when we got home.

Norwegian Petroleum MuseumAt the back of the museum was an area leading to a mock-up of an oil rig.  This took us through the three interesting-looking structures we had seen standing in the water from the outside.  But first we had to go through customs and get on the helicopter simulation that would take us out there.  My poor wife only just got passed the stringent customs officials, although let’s be fair – she does look a bit dodgy…

Norwegian Petroleum MuseumThe mock-up of the rig was great fun, and interactive too.  Here’s Ben, going down an escape shute.

Norwegian Petroleum MuseumIf you’re not really a Petrol Head then don’t be put off by the thought of the Norwegian Petroleum Museum.  It makes for a great day out!

Date of Visit:  29 July 2014

Points in this post (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Norwegian Petroleum Musuem:    N 58° 58.420 E 005° 44.080

The Coastal Path in Norway – Preikestolen (Under)

On the Monday we climbed Preikestolen and then carried on up:  we went “Over”.  On the Tuesday we decided to take a cruise up the Lysefjorden, beneath Preikestolen and so go “Under”.  I was happy to go, but in some sense I was doing this more out of ambivalence than desire.  We had been on a cruise up the Naerofjorden a week earlier, and it had been a tourist meat factory; as much as I had enjoyed that trip I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through it again.  Furthermore, I asked myself, was there much point in doing a cruise under Preikestolen?  How could you better the spectacular views from the top?

Looking down on Pulpit RockCould a cruise underneath really offer a worthwhile perspective?

The answer is YES!

Our cruise boat was small and not overcrowded.  It was busy enough, but the number of tourists was comfortable and there was no jostling for camera positions.

Our Cruise BoatOff we headed, out of Stavanger.  After about 40 minutes of pleasant cruising we reached the small municipality of Forsand.  We went under the Lysefjord-Brücke and the entered the fjord itself.

Lysefjord-BrückeWe visited a cove and waterfall on the way, before reaching Preikestolen itself.  Sailing underneath gave a completely different perspective.  It looked a lot smaller and unimposing from down here, although still very distinctive.

Pulpit RockLook at those sheer flanks – how incredible that it is still standing!

Pulpit RockWith the benefit of my zoom lens I could see the people on top, dangling their legs over the edge just as I had done the day before.

Pulpit RockSome cruises go deeper into Lysefjorden, however, ours turned back at this point and took us back to Stavanger.  We spotted a seal on the way back and I just managed to swing my camera round to take a blurry shot before it ducked underwater and disappeared into the depths.

SealPulpit Rock – everyone thinks of climbing it, but if you have the time it is worth taking the cruise underneath too in order to gain a real perspective.

Points in this post (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock):   N 58° 59.225 E 006° 11.335

Trip Statistics:

The Coastal Path in Norway – Preikestolen (Over)

Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock, is a table-top-flat rock buttress with a sheer and vertical drop of 604m (1,982 feet) down to the Lysefjord below.  The walk up there is popular, to say the least, but you must be fit and mobile – the walk can be quite strenuous, especially so in the scorching heatwave we were enjoying in July 2014.  When we started out we saw a woman leaving at the same time as us, with two walking poles.  She was moving very slowly and deliberately and I wondered if she was fully fit and able to cope with the terrain.

The bottom section of the walk consists of a smooth and easy rock path.  The going is flat and comfortable.

Preikstolen TrailGradually, the going becomes steeper, and the route becomes man-made.

Preikstolen TrailIt was on this section that we saw the woman with poles stumble; she had to be helped back to her feet.  She was fine, and after a brief sit-down she got back up and resumed her slow and steady plod.  Soon after this, however, she stopped and seemed to be contemplating whether or not to continue.

Had she seen one of the many trail boards and realised that the terrain was going to become more difficult still?

Preikstolen Trail Board

We didn’t see the woman again until some hours later when we arrived back at the coach park.  There she was, sat down outside the toilets.  Had she made it, or had she had to go back down and sit waiting for her companions to rejoin her after their walk?  I never found out.

Just after Krogebekkmyrane the trail board threatened us with a particularly steep section – you can see it in the photo above.  It wasn’t joking!  We clambered over boulders, stretching our legs out to hop from one to another.

Preikstolen TrailOnce we were over the shoulder, however, the views started to open up around us.

Preikstolen TrailA short while later we rounded a corner and there it was:  Pulpit Rock.  It was swarming with people!  The route up had felt like a bit of an ant trail at times, and here we were in the heart of the nest!

Teaming Like Ants at Pulpit RockWe took the obligatory photos.  To my wife’s annoyance, I dangled my legs over the sheer drop down to the fjord below.  I wish I had taken a photo of the drop itself.  Never mind.  Next time, maybe…

Nic on Pulpit RockThe secret, when on Pulpit Rock, is to block out all of the people and all of the noise.  Stand on that corner of the rock.  Take a deep breath, turn away, and look out down Lysefjorden.

View down Lysefjord from Pulpit RockIf you climb Preikestolen, please don’t stop at Pulpit Rock.  Continue on up.  There are fewer people and some spectacular views to be had.  First of all there is a shelf where you can look down on the Rock itself.

Looking down on Pulpit RockCarry on further.  Keep looking back.

Looking down on Pulpit RockAfter a short time Pulpit Rock disappears from view and it is then only a short distance to the summit of Preikestolen, at approximately 2,325 feet according to my GPS.  We made it!

Summit of PreikstolenOur journey to the summit didn’t take all that long, but when we got back to Pulpit Rock it was busier than ever.

Back to Pulpit RockIt was like Club Med up here!  We were so pleased we had taken the early ferry from Stavanger and got up here before the party really started going.  The trail back down with all these people took its toll on me, I am afraid.  At times we were almost queuing in the constant stream of people hiking up and down.

Pulpit Rock:  very much worth the effort, but try to get there early, and get away from the crowds by continuing that little bit further to the summit.

Points in this post (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Trail Start:   N 58° 59.510 E 006° 08.275
  • Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock):   N 58° 59.225 E 006° 11.335
  • Preikestolen (Summit):  N 58° 59.100 E 006° 11.032

Walk Statistics:

The Coastal Path in Norway – The Stavanger to Tau Ferry

One of the principal tourist destinations in southern Norway is Preikestolen, the Pulpit Rock.  Described by Lonely Planet as “One of the world’s most breathtaking viewing platforms”, it is located just over 15 miles due east of Stavanger, on the northern side of the Lysefjorden.  The most convenient way of reaching it from Stavanger is to take one of the regular ferries to Tau.  Busses then ferry tourists to and from the large car and coach park at Prekestolhytta, from which the walk to Preikestolen and back is a recommended five hours.

We realised that Priekestolen would be popular, so decided to take the first ferry of the morning.  Here it comes!

Ferry from Stavanger to TauWe were so pleased we caught the early one!  The sun was up, but it was still warming the world and the early morning haze was still burning off.  There were amazing views across the calm water, over the islands lying at the entrance to the fjords and across to the distant peaks behind.

Stavanger Islands in the MorningWhat a start to the day!

Points in this post (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Ferry Departure from Stavanger:   N 58° 58.335 E 005° 44.412
  • Ferry Arrival at Tau:  N 59° 03.903 E 005° 54.499
  • Prekestolhytta (the start of the trail to Preikestolen):  N 58° 59.510 E 006° 08.275
  • Preikestollen (Pulpit Rock):   N 58° 59.225 E 006° 11.335

Walk Statistics:

The Coastal Path in Bergen – Mount Ulriken

Mount Ulriken is about 2½ miles southeast of the centre of Bergen.  It is a popular destination and can be reached by a rather snazzy-looking bus which leaves regularly from the fish market in the city centre.

Bus to Mount UlrikenThe bus drops you off at the base of the mountain, from which a cable car can be caught to the top.  Be prepared to queue!  If you don’t fancy queueing then you can walk to the top (altitude 1,985 feet to the top cable car station; 2,110  feet to the summit) but in the sweltering heat of the 2014 summer we were not going to do that.

You can see the cable car in this next picture if you divert your gaze away from the absolutely enormous TV tower.

Mount Ulriken from FantoftI haven’t been able to find out exactly how tall it is, but suffice to say it grabs your attention from just about everywhere.  Especially if you’re standing next to it.

TV Tower, UlrikenThere are some great views to be had from the top station (where you will also find a restaurant and shop).

View from Mount Ulriken Viewing PlatformThe walk from the cable car station to the summit isn’t too far and is well worth the effort.  Here we are, all pointing the way (except for Catherine who is a few degrees off and will never be given permission to trek solo to the South Pole if I have any say in the matter).

Pointing the WayThe landscape on the way is stunning.

Mountain Lake, Mount UlrikenWe were really pleased to reach the summit, but I’m not sure the woman we met up there shared our enthusiasm…

Mount Ulriken SummitThere are various treks from the summit, including a horseshoe round to Mount Floyen, from where you can take the funicular back into Bergen.  We were saving ourselves at this point so went on a shorter walk.  I must give a quick mention to the perfectly in-tact husk of some sort of fly we found up there.

Bug Husk

Points in this post (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Bus From Bergen:  N 60° 23.673 E 005° 19.415
  • Ulriksbanen (Bottom):  N 60° 22.437 E 005° 21.820
  • Ulriksbanen (top) and TV Tower:  N 60° 22.640 E 005° 22.875
  • Mount Ulriken Summit:  N 60° 22.645 E 005° 23.224

Walk Statistics:

The Sorry Story of Fantoft Stave Church

One of the “must see” sights of Norway is a stave church.  Sited all over Central and Southern Norway, they are timber structures that date back to Medieval times.  They are noted for their steep, multi-layered roofs.  Their name comes from the word stafr (stav in modern Norwegian), referring to the load-bearing posts that are integral to their construction.

Fantoft Stave Church is situated about 3½ miles to the south of Bergen and can be reached by a tram from the city centre and a short walk.

Given that stave churches date back to Medieval times, you would be forgiven for thinking that Fantoft seems to have weathered quite well and looks quite new.

Fantoft Stave ChurchIn dact, Fantoft Stave Church is new.  Originally built around 1150, it stood until 1992 when it became the subject of an arson attack and was burnt down.  It was the first of some 50 church burnings in Norway during 1992 and 1996 which were mostly carried out by members of the black metal scene, an extreme subgenre and subculture of heavy metal music.

Varg Vikernes, a black metal artist who had just released his first album, was eventually arrested and charged with burning down four churches, including Fantoft.  He was also charged with the murder of Øystein Aarseth, the founder of the Norwegian black metal scene.  Vikernes was found guilty of murder and of three of the arson attacks, but found not guilty in relation to Fantoft.  It is generally accepted that he was the attacker, however, and Vikernes himself said that “the church was burned as an act of retaliation against Christianity for placing a church on sacred Pagan grounds”.  Most sources claim Vikernes to be a Satanist, though this is something he denies.  He was sentenced to 21 years, the maximum sentence in Norway.  On the day of his sentencing two further churches were burnt down.

Of some 1200 stave churches that were originally built, only 31 remain standing in Norway.  Of these, 9 were the subject of attacks during this period.

Vikernes escaped from prison in 2003 but was recaptured.  He eventually served 15 of his 21-year sentence before being released on parole.  Within a week of his release a church in Våler, Hedmark was burnt down.

Restoration of Fantoft Stave Church was begun soon after the attack in 1992, and the newly built church re-opened in 1997.

Fantoft Stave Church

Date of Visit:  26 July 2014

Points in this post (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Fantoft Stave Church:   N 60° 20.360 E 005° 21.200

The Viking Within

When we were walking in the Mount Floyen woodland we came across a small lake, Skomakerdiket.  Two girls stood by the shore, next to some canoes and a string of life jackets.

“Would you like to have a canoe and go out on the lake?” they asked.

Deb declined and chose to take pictures from the shore, but the rest of us were strangely drawn to the idea.  I think we all have a bit of the Viking within us.

The Viking WithinWell, either that or underlying maturity issues…

Points in this post (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Skomakerdiket:  N 60° 23.700 E 005° 21.150

Walk Statistics:

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