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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Norway - 2 June, 2004

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Egersund (Steinsnes Camping) N5828.720' E00559.746' 3 meters .
Stavanger . . . .
Utstein Abbey . . . .
Ferry . . . 13 km
Ferry . . . 22 km
Lysekloster . . . .
Finish Bergen (Bratland Camping) N6021.172' E00526.130' 67 meters 301 km

Total (BMW 330CiC)

5,450 km

Total (other):

1,870 km

Total:

7,320 km

 

Weather: Clear, sunny and warm (16-20)  Cool at night.

 

 

The light in the morning - the early morning.  And these cabins just do not have decent curtains.  We are up much too early.  Of course, if we were in a tent, it would be even worse.  We toss and turn, trying to sleep in the bright light, but in the end, get up at 8 AM to get ready.  Soon, we are continuing on our way north up to Bergen.  This stretch of the road, which is also pat of the North Sea Road, is windy and along the shore but on flat farmland.  We pass by one farm after the other, with the air often filled with the aroma of the many farm animals kept in the barn or fields. There are sandy beaches, some with dunes.  We also pass the remains and traces of German bunkers and invasion barriers dating from the occupation.

 

Soon we are approaching the city of Stavanger and we arrive in the city center shortly before 11 AM.  We first go and check out the information office to get some local info on the sites and to also get the ferry schedule for the stretch of road north of here.  We also find a free place to park our car, and make the short drive to park our car.  It takes only a couple of minutes to walk back into town.

 

We have not parked too far from the old town of Stavanger - which was fortunately saved from being razed some time after the Second World War.  It is a wonderful - not a museum, but a living, breathing part of town that is filled with narrow cobble stoned streets lined with picturesque small white painted buildings.

 

We wander here and there through the lanes, taking in the many buildings, each of the same type, but also very different in the details and their individual character.  It is a great place and we take some time to walk the length of the old part of Stavanger.

 

From the old town, we make our way all the around the small harbor, taking in the boats and the buildings that line it.  It is a great day, so we decide to sit down in one of the cafes for a coffee.  Soon, the outdoor tables are filling up with locals, here for their lunch.  One of the favorite dishes seems to be a large bucket of shrimp, which they peal themselves and eat with bread and mayo.

 

But soon it is time for us to head on.  We need to catch a ferry from a town just north of here.  We walk back along the way that we have come, once again walking through the old part of town.  What a pleasure.  We try to find a route that we have not already covered.

 

From Stavanger we head north to Mekjarvik, a short drive away, where we hope to catch the ferry to Skudeneshavn.  But first it is time for lunch.  We pull out our picnic lunch after we have stopped at a small bay on the ocean.  we sit down on the rocks and make our open-faced sandwiches.  When it is time to catch the ferry, we pack up and head over to the ferry pier.  But it is a bit strange - the place is empty.  We decide to double-check the ferry schedule and discover we have made a horrible mistake.  We have read the wrong column and there is no ferry at this time (unfortunately the guy at the info center had agreed with our reading of the timetable).

 

So, rather than wait a couple of hours for the next one, we decided to take the road north, instead of the ferry.  We will miss some sights, but as we shall see, we will also have some interesting experiences on this drive.  In Norway, it is hard for any stretch of road to be uninteresting for any long period of time.  So, we backtrack a short distance and turn north on E39.  Soon we will have to start paying tolls for the many tunnels, bridges and ferries we will use.

 

Soon we are entering the 5.8 km long Byfjord tunnel.  What is interesting about this tunnel is not the length, but how deep it goes.  Once we enter the tunnel, the road drops down at a steep angle and we are penetrating deep into the earth.  Our ears are popping and soon we are at 223 meters below sea level - we understand it to be the second-deepest road tunnel in the world.  Remember, we are driving with the top down, so it is quite a sensation making this plunge deep down into the earth.  And then we begin the steep drive back up the tunnel, to emerge back into the bright sunlight on the island of Sokn.

 

From Sokn, we drive across the Askjesund Bridge to arrive at Mosteroy, where we decide to take a slight detour and visit the Utstein Monastery (or Abbey).  This site has been mentioned as far back as the 9th century when it was King Harald Fairhair's garrison.  The construction of the Abbey started in about 1260, although some parts may be older.  After the reformation, it fell into disrepair, eventually being used as a farmhouse.  Renovations began in 1900.

 

We take a quick look into the Abbey's church, which is unique in Norway with the tower situated centrally between the chancel and the nave.  On our way out and back to the car, we wander through the grounds, taking in the back of the Abbey.  Back in the car, we continue our journey north.

 

We pass through another tunnel - this one a baby at only 4.4 km length and 133 meters below sea level.  We arrive just in time to catch the ferry from Mortavika to Arsvagen.  These ferry rides, along with the long tunnels, will become a regular event on our journey.  It is hard to travel through Norway without requiring the services of one of these along the way.

 

 

After taking the ferry, we come upon what we understand to be the deepest road tunnel in the world - this one is 8 km long and drops to 260 meters below sea level.  It is an amazing tunnel with its steep drop below the sea bed above us.  We race to the next ferry that we have to catch, but we arrive at Sandvika just a few minutes too late.  We had been racing along with a huge truck that also wanted to make that ferry.  Nothing to do, but wait for the next one.  It is only a 30 minute wait, so it is not too bad.

 

We take the time to go and explore around the ferry terminal, walking out to the fishing huts that line the shore.  At places the trail has been built into the rocks, with planks supported by metal bars.  It is a nice little bay - very typically Norwegian with the wooden buildings, the boats, boulders and trees.

 

The ferry arrives and we are the first to drive on.  This ride is a bit longer, taking almost an hour to arrive at Halhjem.  It is now 6:30 PM and we carry on north.  We have decided to try to reach Bergen this evening, so that we will have the day tomorrow to explore that city.  We are not too far away.

 

Along the way, we have decided that we would like to try and visit Lysekloster.  But we are having troubles trying to figure out on our maps how to get there.  As we drive along, we cannot find the signs or roads where we expect them to be.  But just as we are about to give up, we see a sign pointing us towards Lysekloster.  We turn off and it turns out to be a narrow, winding country road.  Just wide enough for one car - just hope we do not come across anyone from the opposite direction.

 

We were finally able to find the abbey - founded in 1146 as the first Cistercian monastery in Norway, by the monks from the Fountains Abbey near York.  It is a small place, but the ruins that are left are quite interesting to walk around.  Not much left, but we can get a good feeling of the place.  One section of arches that was part of the wall surrounding the cloister still showed some of the details of the original carvings and workmanship.  There were a number of empty graves set in the floor of the church, with the lids missing.  They were small, suited to the shorter people of the day.  They even still had the stone pillow to support the head.  Unfortunately we came a bit late in the day, so the site as largely in shadows.

 

It is now only a short drive to Bergen.  We start to look for a camping ground to stay the night.  The first one we come to is full.  The second one is in a beautiful location has not yet opened for the season.  Finally, the third place we come to has a hut available.  It is now 8 PM and we settle in and prepare our dinner.  The rest of the evening is spent working on our journals.

 

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