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Perhaps the counterpart to Aberdeen's UK oil capital, Stavanger is certainly an important cornerstone in modern Norway, being the centre of its oil industry and much of its agricultural land. It sits in one of the warmest and wettest part of Norway, so doesn't have the classic Scandinavian weather, but you don't have to travel far inland to find spectacular fjords and miles of great skiing.

I have visited Stavanger many times, largely due to the nature of my company's business, but for a short while my parents were also resident there, which gave me better opportunities to see the place properly. It always surprises me that somewhere less distant to Aberdeen than London can be so different, just across the North Sea. I have experienced Stavanger in all seasons and can confirm that they all really merge into one; the wet season.

Al Fresco - a cousin of Al Dente?

Down at the harbour in summer time Stavanger has a bustling cafe culture, that European phenomenon so missing from the UK, and here proven that it's not just due to the weather. This picture was actually taken in April.

Looking across the harbour to some of the hotels of central Stavanger. Although plenty of traditional wooden buildings survive, the developments of the 60s and 70s were largely unsympathetic.

Stavanger harbour

Wooden buildings

Fronts of the old warehouses at the harbourside, with their overhanging hoist gables. Most of them are now cafes and bars.

Old central Stavanger is brightly painted and still looks cheerful even in the typically miserable weather.

Stavanger town centre

Wood, glorious wood

Old wooden buildings in central Stavanger, bars and restaurants for the most part. On Sundays, everything is shut and the streets are deserted but for the pint-seeking Brits seen here.

Another shot of Old Stavanger, this time on a day where people were actually able to go about their business. The trading hours in Norway are draconian, much like they were in Scotland forty years ago.

Downtown Stavanger

Sverd i fjell - swords in rock

Three giant swords pierce the rock on the shores of Hafrsfjord, to commemorate the unification of Norway under King Harald Fairhair in 872. Needless to say, Fairhair's is the largest of the swords.

By the shores of the North Sea stands the austere monument to the Alexander Kielland, a floating accommodation vessel which capsised in 1980 with the loss of 123 lives. It remains the second worst offshore oilfield accident in the North Sea.

Alexander Kielland Memorial

Norwegian countryside

A view of the Norwegian countryside from the Bilmuseum (Automobile Museum) outside of Stavanger. Much of the Norwegian countryside looks quite similar to that of Scotland.

Utstein Kloster or abbey is north of Stavanger on Mosteroy island, reached through the Rennfast deep tunnel under the fjord. It was founded in the 13th century and is one of Norway's best preserved medieval monasteries.


Norwegian family home

My parents outside their house in Tananger, a part of Sola kommune, near Stavanger. Like in Alaska, houses in Norway are predominantly wood, and although ours looked a bit like a large garden shed from the outside, it was always very warm inside. Triple glazing and excellent insulation is something that housing in Scotland could really do with.

Local fishermen sell their catch right on the quayside in Stavanger. Interestingly, they're not allowed to sell you prawns raw, so they're cooked pink on the boat when sailing back to port.

The catch of the day

Stavanger oil museum

Being the centre of Norway's oil industry, Stavanger has a very interesting museum all about it, which is itself designed to look like a series of oil platforms.

Statue of a lad feeding the ducks, next to the frozen Breiavatnet lake.

Boy feeding ducks

Breiavatnet, frozen Stavanger lake

Central Stavanger as viewed from the middle of Breiavatnet. The winter of 2010 was unusually cold all across Europe, and this amount of snow and ice in Stavanger had not been seen for years.

In another area of Rogaland county is the town of Sandnes, a reasonable bus trip from the city centre. We bought some tungsten carbide studs for our shoes, so that we could walk along the icy pavements safely.


Mosvatnet frozen

The much larger lake of Mosvatnet was completely frozen over too. It was a giant natural ice rink popular with local skaters for a while, but the heavy snow put a stop to that. In the background is the Rica Hotel.

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