Saturday, September 7 –
You may not know the Preikestolen and Kjeragbolten by name, but if you have ever seen a tourist brochure for Norway, you will immediately recognize these stunning natural wonders. Today we would be traveling by two of the most photographed overlooks in Scandinavia.
This morning I slept a little later, but I went out on the balcony to observe views of the Gandsfjorden as we cruised towards the city of Stavanger. A little after 11 a.m., I grabbed some lunch and ice cream in the pizza café on the top deck of the Crown Princess as we approached the port.
Upon arrival in Stavanger, my brother and I walked down the port to a boat tour that we had pre-booked. All visitors to Stavanger shouldn’t miss cruising down the Lysefjorden.
Our three-hour boat ride left Stavanger to sail down this dramatic fjord, considered one of the most majestic in all of Norway. Pre-recorded narration in Norwegian and English provided fascinating insights into the scenery during the cruise. Along the way, we passed by many islands and went under the 3,200-foot-long Stavanger City Bridge – a magnificent one-tower, cable bridge.
At the entrance of the Lysefjorden, we could easily distinguish from the landscape how the fjord was carved by Ice Age glaciers that had retreated. We gazed up at some magnificent cliffs and scenery towering above us. Steep sheer walls and craggy mountains seem to stretch forever along the side of fjord. We also passed several dazzling waterfalls, one that we actually approached so closely that it sprayed the front of our bow.
The highlight for me was seeing the Preikestolen – a rock formation that resembles a Pulpit Rock – rising more than 1,980 feet above us. Using my 300 mm lens, I could see people walking out on the edge and laying on their stomachs to look over the side. It’s an astonishing sight since the cliff is about 250 feet higher than the spire at the top of Chicago’s Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower).
Opposite the Preikestolen is the famous Kjeragbolten – the astonishing Kjerag boulder – that seems dangerously trapped between two cliffs several hundred feet above the Lysefjorden. You have probably seen photos of people daring to stand on the fear-inducing boulder. One day it will plummet to the fjord below – hopefully with no spectators posing for selfies on it!
Throughout the cruise we saw several eagles, a few mountain goats, seals and orcas. We also stopped for Norwegian pastries and coffee at an island restaurant on our return through the Gandsfjorden. I highly recommend this engaging 35-mile tour down the Lysefjorden.
When we arrived back in Stavanger, my brother and I had some time to explore Norway’s fourth-largest city. Stavanger is located at the mouth of the Gandsfjorden and is the capital of Rogaland county. The city is one of Norway’s wealthiest due to major oil and gas companies based here.
The old port is where Vikings once sailed on voyages of conquest and exploration. In later centuries, the port became a major hub for Norway’s mercantile and fishing fleets. However, in 1969, the discovery of North Sea oil opened a new chapter in Stavanger’s history. Today, thanks to Stavanger’s leadership in exploring Norway’s oil and gas reserves (Statoil is based here), Norway is one of Europe’s wealthiest countries. The reserves help fund a world-leading standard of living.
Stavanger dates back to 1125, which was the year the Vikings and English bishop Reinald built Stavanger Domkirke (Cathedral) – also known as St. Svithun’s Domkirke. My brother and I began our tour of Old Town by visiting the cathedral. This church is one of the most beautiful religious buildings I have ever entered. It’s the only Norwegian cathedral that is almost unchanged since the 14th century. In addition to the colorful altar and vivid stained glasses, the stunning paintings will completely engulf your senses.
When we finished touring the church, we walked through the old town to see the light-colored 18th and 19th century detached wooden homes. They are considered a landmark of the city and make the city almost seem like a small town. I almost thought I was in a smaller city if not for the Crown Princess towering above them at the waterfront dock.
After a little shopping, we returned to the ship. My brother and I met up with our parents for dinner in the Botticelli Restaurant. I had fresh North Sea scallops, shrimp, potatoes and tiramisu for dessert. Then we went to Gatsby’s casino for a little gambling. I hit my first royal flush ever playing video poker and won £200. Then I went outside for Princess’ “Movie Under the Stars” on the big screen. Unfortunately, it started to rain, so I decided not to stick around.
I returned to my room and reflected on a fantastic and relaxing tour of Norway. Contrary to the movies, this land is not frozen. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with scenery that will burn their images forever into your soul. The Norwegian people are kind and giving hosts who extend perhaps Europe’s warmest welcome.