Thursday, August 20, 2015

Stavanger, Norway

We just returned from a weekend in Norway! Norway marks Country #25 for us! I have to admit, Norway has topped our list for Most Beautiful country we've ever visited! When Drew told me he was getting two weekends off in August, we couldn't decide where we were going to go. Norway and Scotland were the two MUST's on my European Bucket list. Since summer is the time to head up North, I let Drew plan this trip, since I wanted to go to Scotland. FYI, Norway is uber expensive. We ate out one night we were there, and had Doner, what we would pay maybe 3 euro in Germany for, we paid 9 in Norway. Just keep that in mind when planning the trip.
To save on some food costs, Drew booked hotel's that had breakfast included. We filled up on Breakfast in the morning, and ended up taking extras with us for lunch. We weren't the only ones that did it. If you read tips on Tripadvisor, this is one the biggest tips. I would suggest bringing Zip lock bags to hold your sandwiches, I tried to pick some up at the grocery store, unfortunately Ziplocks bags (unless using them for air travel) are extremely hard to find, apparently they're considered wasteful.
The view from the airplane!


We left early Friday Morning from Prague Airport. This was our first time leaving from that airport. It wasn't a bad drive. Our flight left at 6:20am, we left our house at 2:30 am, luckily no one was on the road, it was an easy 2 hour drive. We left from Prague because it gave us more time in Norway. Since there were no direct flights we wanted to maximize our time in Norway. All the flights leaving from Germany had us arriving in Stavanger at 9pm or later Friday night, that was a whole day wasted.
I booked parking through Parkvia, I would definitely suggest parking through that website. It gave me a few options, I chose the cheapest one. It was 5 minutes away from the airport, and to park there for 4 days, it was only 15 euros! It was very easy and quick, when we arrived back, all we had to do was call and the driver showed up within 15 minutes.

When we arrived in Stavanger, we didn't go through customs. At first I thought it was because Norway was a part of the EU, but it isn't. Most of my disappointment was because I didn't get another stamp in my passport.
Like I said, Drew planned this trip, he even sent me an itinerary! I was very impressed. So we headed off to pick up the car rental. The plan was to see Norway, the cheapest way possible. Drew had planned a Fjord safari and a Fjord Kayaking excursion, only thing was that it was 6 hours away, there were multiple ways to get there, but the cheapest way was to rent a car and drive ourselves.
If you read my Dublin post, you know that Drew was in charge of the rental car, only he forgot to actually book the rental car. That didn't happen here, he remembered to book the rental car, he just did it at the wrong location! On the bright side we didn't pay for it, and the agent was able to get us a little rental car. But I'm pretty sure from now on I'll be the one doing the car rental bookings.
Little cars are the best in Europe, we only filled up 1 time!

We arrived in Stavanger at 11am, with the whole day a head of us, we decided to head to the hotel so we could park the rental car. We booked a room at the Park Inn by Raddison through booking.com, it included breakfast, parking, and Wifi, it didn't have A/C, but it was cool enough where we could just crack the window. I would suggest staying here, we ended up staying here again on Sunday night. It was 89 Euros a night, more expensive then what we normally pay, but it was the cheapest place that had everything we needed. Since our room wasn't ready, we decided to find some food and head into town. 








We walked around the town and found the Stavanger Cathedral. Apparently it is one of the largest in Norway. It's not a very big cathedral. But then again I've seen the largest cathedral in the world, anything would look little in comparison.

Around the corner we did find a little market, they were selling gianormous fruit. There were raspberries the size of my thumb! Drew loves Raspberries so of course we bought some and strolled around the downtown area.



Stavanger counts its official founding year as 1125, the year Stavanger cathedral was completed. Stavanger's core is to a large degree 18th- and 19th-century wooden houses that are protected and considered part of the city's cultural heritage. We walked into town, finding a grocery store and buying some pastries and a bottle of water. We found the main area and had a little picnic on a bench. The weather was absolutely beautiful, especially coming from Germany where it was 100 degrees the day before we left! This past summer in Germany was awful. Several heatwaves hit Germany and I contemplated spending the 300 euros for an A/C, I didn't of course. Thankfully we have blackout shades, and I bought fans from Walmart. Otherwise it would have been a miserable summer.


My man child, he looks like he got dressed in the dark!







Looking back we should have headed straight to the Pulpit Rock from the airport, but you live and learn. There were 2 things in Stavanger we really wanted to check out, there are a lot of outdoor activites to do in Stavanger, from Parasailing, Kayaking (although you need to be certified to Kayak on your own, otherwise you need to do it with a group), Base Jumping, etc. Just keep in mind you have to book it months in advance. We started planning this trip at the end of June/early July and everything was booked! 
The Three Kings Swords, or Sverd i fjell, The monument was created by sculptor Fritz Røed from Bryne and was unveiled by king Olav V of Norway in 1983. The three swords stand 10 metres tall and are planted into the rock of a small hill next to the fjord. They commemorate the historic Battle of Hafrsfjord that took place there in the year 872, when King Harald Fairhair gathered all of Norway under one crown. The largest sword represents the victorious Harald, and the two smaller swords represent the defeated petty kings. The monument also represents peace, since the swords are planted into solid rock, whence they may never be removed. Drew had a great time here. Swords, Vikings, everything that has to do with Norway he loves.








After leaving the Three Kings Swords, we headed off to Pulpit Rock, our GPS said it would only take us 45 minutes to get to the base, what we didn't know was that we needed to take a ferry across the Fjord, and we must've hit Rush hour. Because it ended up taking us 2 hours to get there. It was my first experience in a car on a ferry, the ride for the most part was about 10 minutes, for 2 people and a tiny car it cost 99 NOK, One way.




Once we were off the ferry, we could see the Lysefjord, it is the longest fjord in Southern Norway, not only is the fjord long and narrow, it is in places as deep as the mountains are high. Only 13 m (43 feet) deep where it meets the sea near Stavanger, the Lysefjord drops to a depth of over 400 m (1300 feet) below Pulpit Rock, or Preikestolen in Norwegian.



The hike up to the Preikestolen SUCKS. Someone at the TI place told Drew that the hardest part of the climb was the Rock steps, only thing is that the whole pathway is made up of rock steps! Drew said when he checked on Tripadvisor it was said to be an easy hike up. They lied. I'm not in the best shape, I'll admit it, but that hike was difficult and I'm not gonna lie, I made Drew's life pretty difficult before heading up to the top, I really didn't want to go. The views were absolutely worth it at the top, but climbing up 4km up to 604 meters, Whew. 


Got an Ice Cream to get my blood sugar up!

Tips for the hike: Bring lots of water, snacks to eat to keep your energy up, hiking boots, a light jacket because when you're on the top it gets windy, and your camera! 
It took us 1.5 hours to get to the top. That's about the average time, I've read it takes some people 2-3 hours to get to the top, so I'm gonna count this as a win. 





 



I made it to the top! I didn't think I would.
It was extremely windy up at the top of the Rock. But we did get some great pictures. The Fjords were beautiful from the top. It was everything I pictured Norway to be.  We stopped at the top for a bit and took some pictures, Drew even got brave and went to the edge of the cliff, I even got to use the zoom lens! haha

The Sidles' @ Pulpit Rock



 






It was a long an exhausting day. We didn't end up back at the hotel until 11pm, the ferry ride back was quick and easy and we even got it for free! Win, win. 

Our day in Stavanger was pretty amazing, I was exhausted and slept like a husband the whole weekend. We were luck enough to have great weather, in Stavanger, the rest of our trip the sun was off hiding! 

Up Next: Driving through the Fjords & Bergen, Norway