Pulpit Rock

For all my discomfort with uneven ground at height, I decided it would be a great idea to climb up a steep Norwegian cliff!

2017-06-04 Stavanger

I was at a conference in Stavanger last month, and having been there a few times and heard of Pulpit Rock (or Preikestolen), and seen it from below on a boat, I decided it was finally time for me to give it a go. It’s a popular tourist attraction, and there’s a lot of information out there about it, including the Preikestolen Mountain Lodge and Visit Norway websites.

Unfortunately on the one day that I could go it was rainy or misty at best, but hey ho. I got the ferry from Stavanger to Tau, and then a bus (cleverly timed to coincide with the ferry schedule) to Preikestolen Mountain Lodge, which is the ‘base camp’ and starting point of the hike. Pulpit Rock is 600 m above sea level, but the 3.8 km hike starts at a height of 270 m.

The journey from Stavanger to the Mountain Lodge takes about 1.5 hours in total. There are a couple of bus companies that put on buses from Tau, and you can buy a return bus ticket beforehand at the ferry terminal in Stavanger. Since I got the Boreal airport bus (Flybussen) into town when I arrived the day before, that ticket got me a 10% discount on the Tau – Preikestolen bus with the same company.

2017-06-04 Stavanger
A foggy start at base camp

When the weather is not suitable for hiking there are signs and warnings against going up, but summer rain and mist weren’t stopping anyone. Armed with my walking poles I headed off.
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Pulpit Rock has a mix of steep rises and falls, and lovely flat bits in between. There’s also quite a bit of tree cover most of the way, which I liked. There are also sections which have been improved over the last few years, and rock steps built with the support of Nepalese sherpas.
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2017-06-04 Stavanger

2017-06-04 Stavanger

2017-06-04 Stavanger
Interesting boggy bits

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Bog cotton

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Helpful trail markers dotted all along the way

The path is largely rock steps, some only little steps and some quite large. As it gets higher some sections are also ‘smoother’ and steep, which I think were a little more daunting than usual because it was wet.
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There are also one or two very steep sections, with narrow ledges to pick your way down or up, depending on which way you’re heading. Not terribly high, but if you’re going down it’s still too high to jump. Most people managed just fine, but some, like me, found it difficult. This was the only downside of walking poles, when you need your hands! But there were many kind strangers, and I had some help in places like this, and people waited patiently for slower ones to take our time.
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Halfway up there is a lake, which people do swim in when it is hot, but definitely not today. You could hardly see it! I really liked this bit; it was very atmospheric.
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2017-06-04 Stavanger

Finally, I got to the top, and by this time the mist had become rain2017-06-04 Stavanger
Final stretch – 1 km to go

Made it!
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Facing a corner, with the famous edge on the left

Although the weather meant you couldn’t see over the edge to the fjord all the way below, I thought the mist gave it a really unique feel that you don’t normally see in the brochures. Atmospheric, enigmatic, wild, mysterious, mystical (Thesaurus.com doesn’t disappoint!).

Makes for a cool photo, but I couldn’t ever do this!
2017-06-04 Stavanger
2017-06-04 Stavanger
Obligatory selfie – this is as close to the edge as I got

After sitting at the top for a bit and having my packed lunch, I then headed down again. This was harder! However the rain and mist had started to clear up, and I could see more of the surroundings that were hidden on the way up.

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2017-06-04 Stavanger
So many shades of green

2017-06-04 Stavanger

And finally I got back to the starting point, and jumped on a bus back to Tau, back on the ferry to Stavanger, and back to my hotel for a nice hot shower!

What a mad but exhilarating experience! It took me 3.5 hours to go up, and about 3 hours coming down (which is about an hour longer than average each way), but I had been going really quite slowly, stopping often to catch my breath, as well as stopping to take lots of photos, especially on the way up. I’m not a regular hiker, and I found some parts pretty scary, but other amazing parts made up for it. I’d told myself that I could stop and turn back at any point, but I’m really pleased I managed to push on and get to the top in the end!

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Norwegian sardines

When I visited (and fell in love with) the Norwegian Canning Museum in 2013 I bought a souvenir that came from the very last sardine cannery in Norway. 2015-01-04 Norwegian sardines

I’ve been torn between wanting to eat it and wanting to keep it forever…but in the early days of this new year I finally decided to open it up.

Don’t they look beautiful, so precisely arranged? 2015-01-04 Norwegian sardines

Gareth fried them up with lemon juice and capers, and they were delicious on toast. 2015-01-04 Norwegian sardines

Also, as we had friends coming round that day, we’d made cupcakes the night before, and went a bit mad with the icing and the sprinkles left over from Christmas… 2014-01-04 Cupcakes 2014-01-04 Cupcakes

Norwegian Canning Museum

During my weekend in Stavanger I visited the Norwegian Canning Museum, which I found utterly charming. It’s in Old Stavanger, stitting quietly amongst the pretty traditional houses. It was a cannery from around the 1920s to the 60s, part of Christian Bjelland & Co., Norway’s largest canned goods company. Later on after it shut it was preserved as a museum.
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We had a very nice English speaking tour guide who took us through the process. Here is where the sardines were washed, and then taken away in wire baskets.
2013-09-15 Norwegian Canning Museum

In Norway they’re also called brisling or brisling sardines. From what I gather they’re all parts of one family of fish, and it’s to do with what you can and can’t call a sardine, and competition with the Mediterranean fishing industry.

The fish were placed on rods by hand. At first they were put on one by one, but later on they developed these things where the fish could be lined up in a row, and the rod pushed through a row at a time.
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The rods were lined up on these racks – about 700 sardines in each rack. This section was women’s work, by the way, and they were paid per item, whereas the men were paid for their work per hour. A situation that is no longer the case in Norwegian factories today I’m sure…
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The racks were then slid onto carts, which went into the smoke ovens. They were oak smoked, which gave the Norwegian sardines their distinctive flavour. Our guide said just one of those ovens can get Very Hot, and when the cannery was operating all 14 would have been lit!
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The smoked fishies then got their heads chopped off – more aesthetically pleasing, apparently. And of course in the days before health and safety laws, many a finger got caught here as well…
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The sardines were then laid in the tins, in a very particular way. It’s really not easy, we tried! The women who did this back in the day went at a crazy rate of around 5 seconds per tin.
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Lids on and sealed,
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and then sterilised at 120 degrees Celcius.
2013-09-15 Norwegian Canning Museum

And then, the most exciting part, the labels! The labelling and marketing was a HUGE part of the industry, and boy did they go all out!
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Ships!
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Animals!
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Royal family!
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Just some of the many many labels they produced back then. Can you tell this was my favourite bit? I wandered up and down the label section for ages. The rest of the museum also had replicas of the offices and board room of the canning company, from around the 1920s. There was also a video being shown, about the sardine canning process – a proper old school affair in black and white with a very cheery narrator. If I understand correctly it is the first ever advertisement to be shown on Norwegian TV. And then from the gift shop I came away with a t-shirt and my very own tin of sardines from one of the last canneries in Stavanger. These days most of the canning is done in Eastern Europe and sent back to Norway.

I really enjoyed the Canning Museum – such an eye opener and just a lovely snapshot of what life was like back then. I loved everything about it, from the original equipment and tools lying around, to the little plastic sardine props, and the labels, all those amazing labels! I highly recommend a visit if you’re ever in Stavanger.

For more on Stavanger’s sardine industry the Museum website has plenty of info.

Visit my Flickr set for more photos from the Canning Museum and the rest of my trip.

Stavanger and Haugesund

A couple of weeks ago I was at a conference in Haugesund, Norway. The easiest way to get to it from Aberdeen is via Stavanger, so I decided to spend the weekend beforehand in Stavanger.
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Stavanger reminded me of Aberdeen actually: Harbour city and industry revolving around fishing, which then moved on to oil. Cobbled streets, lots of hill walking to be done (so I hear), and instead of the river Dee they have the Lysefjord…it was interesting exploring somewhere completely new that seemed rather like home as well.

The main part of town spreads out from the harbour – this side is where the tour boats and private little boats are; the big industrial harbour is all the way round the other side.
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I got in on the Saturday afternoon and just wandered around the harbour and the town centre. Here is a street with colourful buildings.
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And here is the Local Yarn Store! Bit graffitied on the outside, but lovely on the inside. I went looking for Norwegian yarn, and got myself some Dreamline Sky by Du Store Alpakka, and Mandarin Petit by Sandnes Garn for a friend. I also found the Dale of Norway flagship store, but didn’t get a chance to visit it.
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My wanders also took me through Old Stavanger, which is ye olde and cobbly, and has pretty gardens. Much like Old Aberdeen, but with lovely white clapboard houses instead of lovely granite houses.
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I was actually pretty thrilled at spotting lots of the same plants that we get in Aberdeen…it doesn’t sound like much, seeing as the climate must be pretty similar, but it charmed me anyway. These flowers, beside a pathway in Old Stavanger, also grow in my front garden (no idea what they’re called – anyone?).
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Also in Old Stavanger I came across a pottery studio run by three women. There were some really interesting pieces in there, but I showed restraint and came away with a lovely wee ceramic brooch, inspired by the houses on this street. Apparently the artist had also done little models of the houses for the residents.
Stavanger brooch

Later in the evening the lights around the harbour were pretty.
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The Stavanger domkirke is apparently the oldest cathedral in Norway. I was silly enough not to get a photo of the main building, but I did get one of it’s impressive back door lit up.
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The next morning there was a cruise ship in town, so lots of tourists on day release! I wandered around Old Stavanger some more, and visited the Norwegian Canning Museum. I really enjoyed it, and I shall leave it for another post.

Back down to the harbour again, and this time I spotted some footsteps – of Nobel Peace Laureates.
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Then in the afternoon I got on a boat and toured the Lysefjord. ‘Lys’ means light, and refers to the light coloured cliffs along the fjord. First we had to pass through Hogsfjord, which is where many people have summer houses. To me they looked like secret little houses in the woods, straight out of a Gothic fairytale.
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Doesn’t this rock look like some ancient warrior?
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Along the way there’s a bit where farmers graze their goats in the summer, and the tour boat stops to feed them. I don’t think the grass gets eaten much here, as the goats were expecting the boats and skipped up joyfully as it approached. And not long after, the next boat came along…
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And here is the famous Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock in English. It sticks out from the cliff, and is almost completely flat. If I go back to Stavanger I’d like to try the hike up to it, but for now it was pretty interesting from below as well.
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The next day I was leaving Stavanger but had the morning free, so I visited the Norwegian Oil Museum. It was a really interesting visit, with great information and amazing scale models! I also thought they presented both ‘sides’ of the oil story well – the need to sustain energy and economic needs, and the need for alternative energy sources and environmental protection.

Then I got my boat across to Haugesund, which also has a nice wee harbour.
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Stavanger and Haugesund have several interesting sculptures, but I particularly liked the ones in Haugesund, such as this ‘Fiskhandler’ (fishmonger I think).
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And Marilyn Monroe. Turns out her father grandfather (corrected – see comments) emigrated to the States from Haugesund.
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And just two days later the conference was over, I was on a bus and a ferry and a flight, and it was goodbye Scandinavia. I hope to return!

For more photos visit my Stavanger and Haugesund set on Flickr.