Travels · Travels: Norway

Bergen & Stavanger: Norwegian Towns with Style

I have had quite the last couple of days! I joined my teacher friend Hilde’s fourth grade class for two days. The first day, I got a marriage proposal from a little boy during his singing practice, and I had about 5 students tell me I was pretty. I was also entrusted with a hot glue gun to help make cute little egg ornaments for Easter. Not a bad day!

The second day I got to hear twenty-two 10-year-olds sing “Let it Go” in both Norwegian and English. That was hilarious! They practiced speaking with me, drew me pictures, and clung on for dear life and a group hug when I left. I had to pry myself out of the classroom. I love kids. They are goofy and brutally honest, like me.

Hilde had big plans. We left school on Thursday with the car full of provisions, and drove to Bergen for a concert. Hilde had to stop in at the doctor’s office while we were in town, so I curled my hair in their bathroom, and changed and did my makeup in the car, like ya do.

We saw the Storm Weather Shanty Choir. Hilde gave one of the guys a ride a while back, so we were on the guest list with free tickets! It was a blast, the guys sing sea shanties with a bit of a metal edge, mostly in English. We went to a basement venue that was completely packed with young people who were drunk and ready to sing along. I grabbed a Hansa, the local Bergen German-style pilsner that I was seeing everywhere. It was pretty darned tasty.

The Bergen Brew

Hilde saw some ladies she knew. At first they were a bit hesitant of the American that was being dragged along, but they soon opened up with raucous tuneless drunken singing, as soon as they realized that I knew the music and was just as crazy as they were. I used to sing in an Irish pirate pub band, so I was quite familiar with most of the tunes. I sang my butt off during the performance.


The men are excellent musicians and showmen. Shantyman Håkon Vatle has a rock persona, a strong versatile voice, and an apparent love of the sea and the shanty tradition. The songs they sung were often versions I hadn’t heard of tunes that I know well. Overall, I like the performance very much. My only real criticism is that they use a traditional Irish drum called a bodhrán, and play it incorrectly. I’m probably the only one who noticed, so it’s not really an issue. Check them out on youtube, and then buy one of their CDs!

It was nearly impossible to see or take photos during the show, and the town was dark afterwards. We climbed back into the car and went for a quick few hours sleep at Hilde’s sister’s house in Os. We were up at 5:30 to catch the ferry, and Hilde taught the kids while I slept until noon.

She returned just long enough to collect me, and her spring break began! We were back on the road, this time to Stavanger, and her other sister. Five hours, two ferries, many many tunnels, an hour long wait due to a road traffic accident, a whole lot of CDs, Redbull, and 180 kilometers of beautiful farmland later, we arrived in Stavanger. We saw the three wriggling nephews, ate hamburgers, and crashed.

Today we got to explore Stavanger. It’s the third largest city in Norway with around 150k people, following Oslo with around 650k, and Bergen with 300k. It made a name for itself in the 18th century with its fisheries and canneries. It had another boom in the 1980’s with the oil boom. The oil money still exists for the time being, and it’s apparent that the little city has the disposable income to support shops selling the finer things.

A quiet street in Stavanger

I’m always one for the finer things, and I spotted this coffee and tea house right off the bat. It was a treasure trove with mugs and infusers and all sorts of little compartments filled with different teas and coffees. I bought 50NOK of a really tasty black currant tea, solbær te. If I weren’t on a wildly restrictive budget and traveling with only a carry-on, I likely would have returned home with half the store.


Next I spied a little shop with all sorts of bits and bobs. They sold toys, children’s books, some kitchenware, and some touristy stuff. I found Norwegian troll figurines which I loved, but my little bag won’t allow me to bring every nose picking troll I meet, however much I want to. I opted instead for some sandkaker tins. They’re basically little tartlet tins that are used for making cookies and Christmastime. The cookies have almond meal, and are eaten plain or filled with cream and fruit like a tartlet. I can’t wait to use them.

I found some produce stands next. We bought two little russet cooking apples and a kohlrabi from a nice Russian man. I really wanted to buy the eggs and the long braids of garlic, but we kept it inexpensive and simple.


We made some stops at rockabilly clothing stores, where I was seriously temped to drop a few thousand NOK on some sweet duds. We also stopped at H&M for a few necessities, and looked in on an amazing butchers shop that left me wishing I could cook absolutely everything then and there.

We rounded out our journey by going to a bakery to grab some spelt bread. We were going to stop in for a cuppa, but the place was packed and we were ready for some quiet.

We went home, grabbed some groceries around the corner, and I cooked up a simple dinner of chicken breast, and salad with our apples and kohlrabi. I took a stab and boil in the bag brown jasmine rice. I was horrible at it. I ended up having to finish the steaming in the microwave. All of these newfangled ways of cooking things really screw me up! Despite the rocket science rice, it was nice to have some simple food and rest. We tried the tea, and had a cinnamon bun for dessert. We begin the next leg of our journey tomorrow; we’re heading south!

Two kinds of chicken, and some leftover scrambled eggs from breakfast.
Don’t bother me while I’m eating!


One thought on “Bergen & Stavanger: Norwegian Towns with Style

  1. Rebecca, what a fantastic blog. I love reading it. This is my third time trying to post a comment. I hope you keep writing, I am enjoying seeing the world through your eyes.


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