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Articles Blog

Stavanger, Norway

Karyn Planett

Oil And Water 

Norway, as any citizen worth his salt will tell you, is a nation rich with Nature’s bounty. Not only is it an eye-popping, jaw-dropping tableau, Norway is propped firmly on two solid economic feet. And, the basis for this posture is found in the oil and the water. Modern technology sets the pace for this advanced nation that is financed by the spoils of petroleum sales, hydroelectric power, plus the bounty from the sea. The country’s four million residents enjoy one of the world’s highest per capita incomes. And it shows. 

Oil and water. It’s as simple as that. 

A Glimpse Of The Past 

Scientists speculate that early man shivered his backside off in Norway around 8,000 BC. While short on agreement, many surmise that early fishermen and hunters may have made their way here from Russia or places further south. When the glaciers began to melt, game migrated north and guys in coarse, handmade outfits of skin followed right behind. Settlements dating back to 3,000 BC have been unearthed near Stavanger. In fact, there’s The Black Cave (Vistehola), quite near that provides evidence of early man’s ability to survive in this harsh climate.             

For the record, the name Stavanger probably comes from the Norse words “stav” (meaning steep cliff) and “angr” (meaning narrow fjord). So there you have it.           

While certain characters were important throughout the region’s history, we’ll highlight just a few. King Hakon VI (1340-80) married the daughter of Danish King Valdemar Atterdag. Their son Olav ascended to the Danish throne in 1375 then to the Norwegian throne in 1380 uniting the two nations. This union lasted until 1814.           

There were Norwegian Vikings of note, as well. And scholars point to the ransacking of an English monastery at Lindisfarne in 793 as a pivotal point in their history. It was then that Scandinavians took to the high seas in number, expanding their influence far and wide. In their sights were Germany and France, the British Isles, Iceland and Greenland, even the Mediterranean. They even reached Miklagard, what we now know as Istanbul. Leif Erikson made it to America five centuries before Columbus. And depending on whom you believe, these Vikings were either zealous traders and explorers or ruthless barbarians, freebooters and pirates who left others to tremble and beg God to be spared. As early as 800 AD, there was a large Viking settlement in Stavanger. Vikings became expert navigators and sailors and still master our vessels to this day. Stroll the waterfront and view the old seahouses to complete this extraordinary tale. Or gaze upon Fritz Roed's sculpture “The Sword in Rock” symbolizing Harald Haarfagre’s (Fairhair) 827 AD victory over local rulers consolidating the nation as one. 

Discovering Oil 

In the mid-20th century, locals tied up their fishing vessels and signed on to work the offshore oilrigs. Why? Because in 1969 oil was discovered in the North Sea. During the last three decades, the oil boom has resonated loudly throughout Stavanger. In fact because of this thousands of people from nearly 100 countries have joined the 100,000 local residents to share in this industry. A visit to the Petroleum Museum is a must. And wear comfortable clothing so you can climb on the rig model just like a true offshore oil worker.           

For the record, there’s enough oil (5 billion tons, more or less) in the North Sea to service Norway’s needs for the next four centuries. 

Other Interests 

Approximately one million Norwegians have emigrated to America. And, it is claimed that there are more folks living in the US with Norwegian ancestors than there are citizens of Norway living in Norway. Five million versus 4.3 million, according to a census of ten years back. So, if you’re one of those fair-haired folks who may have a trans-Atlantic connection, you might want to visit the Emigration Center. Why did these folks leave for the New World? What stories did they tell? Unravel this mystery and that of your ancestry while speaking with the center’s experts or doing research on their computers. It’s worth it. You just might be a missing link between the two nations.           

If you want to explore on foot, don’t miss Gamle Stavanger, “Old Town” complete with shaded back alleyways and a bustling harbor walkway. It won’t be hard to find the Fish Markets where you can sample bacalao (dried salted cod), a thick fish soup, or fish cakes made from white fish, cream and a dash of herbs and spices. 

The heartier might want to scale the 1800-foot Pulpit Rock for a glorious view of the mountains and the fjord. Others might want to pause in the Domkirke, Stavanger Cathedral, dating back to 1125. Though it was damaged by fire in the 13th Century, it still provides a quiet sanctuary for the faithful.

Before you return to your glorious ship, do sample a “lapper.” That’s a thick and tasty, traditionally Norwegian pancake served piping hot with a dollop of local jam and a plop of sour cream. In fact, take two… they’re not that fattening!