This year I am going to spend my entire summer in Norway with friends and family. I will be starting in Oslo, the capital city, move onwards to Kristiandsand, Arendal, Sirdal, and then to my home city Stavanger. I will also be spending some time in Lindesnes, Norway’s most southern tip, and Bergen, popularly called “The Gateway to the Fjords”. Bergen was also the city where I attended University, so it will be fun to see it again.
Norway is actually one of the largest countries in Europe, covering 324 219 square kilometers. Much of the country is only habitable due to the warming effect of the Gulf Stream. The population is around 5 million, mostly scattered around the country, but with a large number of people living in Oslo (around 600 000).
Norway is famous for its spectacular fjords and rugged coastline with mountains rising tall from the sea. This varied landscape is due to geological processes such as land rising, the Ice Age and erosion. Norway also has a rich archipelago with more than 75 000 islands scattered offshore.
The Viking era is perhaps what most people think of when they imagine Norway. The Vikings were warriors and traders, but mostly maritime explorers whose voyages took them as far as America. They terrorized the coastal communities in Northern Europe from around 793 AD to the 11th century.
The South coast of Norway is lined with white beaches and is a popular tourist spot for Norwegian tourists due to the pleasant climate. International tourist on the other hand choose to explore the more dramatic landscape of the West Coast and the much colder North.
The average temperature in summer in Norway is 22 degrees Celsius, with warmer weather in the south and colder in the North. The coldest recorded temperature in Norway is minus 51 degrees Celsius.
Oslo is a vibrant city, especially during the summer. It is centered around a harbour and is a mix of traditional timber houses and ultra-modern architecture.
Oslofjorden becomes a playground for boats and water sports during the summer.
Oslo is also the home of the royal family and plays host to most of Norway’s important buildings and offices such as the parliament building and the royal castle.
Kristiansand is the capital of the Southern region. It was founded by King Christian IV in 1641. It is the fifth largest city in Norway.
The Southern region is popularly known as the sunny side of Norway. And it truly is a summer paradise with its white-painted towns huddled next to each other along the coast and cozy harbors reminiscent of the sea-faring ways of old.
Arendal is the Southern region’s oldest town and it used to be the biggest shipping town in Norway with a large merchant fleet.
Now it is mostly known for its stunning architecture for which it was awarded the Europa Nostra conservation medal in 1992.
Stavanger is the Oil capital of Norway, but this is a title it earned in more recent times. It used to be nothing more than a fishing village known for sardine canning!
Today, Stavanger is the fourth largest city in Norway with around 110 000 inhabitants. It is situated between the flat countryside called “Jæren» and “Boknafjorden”.
Old Stavanger is the idyllic old city situated just on the harbor. Here there are beautiful white-painted timber houses with small front gardens and picket fences.
These houses used to be the homes of seafarers and local workers. They are still used as private homes by modern-day owners and are extremely well cared for.
In Stavanger you will also the historic Stavanger Cathedral dating from around 1100. The cathedral was dedicated to St. Svithun, who thus became the patron saint of Stavanger.
Sirdal is a mountain range situated between the interior of the Southern region and the Western region. It is a popular holiday destination for Norwegians, especially in winter as there are excellent skiing facilities, but it is also beautiful in summer.
Many Norwegians invest in second homes in Sirdal, these chalices are often constructed in the traditional style of bygone days.
Many people forget that Norway is a vast country. The distance from Oslo to the North Cape is the same as from Oslo to Rome! But thankfully the connectivity is good with train connections extending as far as Bodø, just north of the arctic circle, and a comprehensive ferry network crisscrossing along fjords and islands. This makes it easy for carless people like myself to travel all over the country, and I am very much looking forward to do just that this summer!