Norwegian graphic design student, Kristian Hjorth Berge tells us about his hometown, Stavanger.
My name is Kristian.
I’m a graphic design student and electronic musician from Stavanger, Norway, currently studying at Central Saint Martins in London.
I’m not gonna bore you with what I like, that is a complete waste of time. If you would like to see any of my work or get in touch, please visit my blog kristianhb.com.
Let’s get on with it.
Stavanger is a small (but Norway’s fourth biggest) town on the South- West coast of Norway. It is the oil capital of Norway. It is amongst the top 3 most expensive cities in the world. Accordingly, it’s not exactly a great environment for students, artists, designers, musicians or most so-called young professionals in any creative field to make it in. Stavanger is very dominated by money and people with no interest in culture that is not extremely mainstream and well established.
Still, even in a city so dominated by capital, there’s always a handful of people trying their best to keep sub-cultures alive, doing their best to bring something new and different to this cold and rainy city, to educate the public to whom culture means but symphonies, Munch, and MTV. Here’s an overview for you.
At the seaside in Stavanger East (which was traditionally the poor, industrial area of the city before the oil arrived) lies an old Victorian brewery which has been converted to a cultural centre for (more or less) alternative stuff. Though not exactly overused, it is the venue for the majority of the city’s worthwhile cultural events as well as hosting an artist residency and some studios. Here you might go to a rave, a street art exhibition, or an indoor market. It’s great for festivals and concerts, and once in a while someone kicks life into the rooftop café.
A couple of years ago, while on my way home from a driving lesson, I suddenly realised that there were vinyl records, café tables, and a coffee machine inside a house that had been empty for as long as I could remember. A combined café, record store and micro-concert venue had taken over. It was furnished in a 70’s style and devoted to vinyl, underground experimental music of all genres, and good coffee. It turned out the place had opened just a month earlier. I told some friends and it became our ritual to go to Café Humbug every weekend. We even ended up working and DJing there on several occasions. We made it our mission to help keep this fantastic place alive. However, all of us have now moved out of town, so the place is struggling now more than ever trying to make ends meet. So this is a no-miss!
ROGALAND KUNSTSENTER (ROGALAND ART CENTRE)
The art centre is a lovely old building downtown dedicated to arts. It recently opened an art library on the top floor with a brilliant collection of art and design-related books and magazines. Other than that it houses a couple of art institutions, two galleries, and a print workshop (Grafisk Verksted) for lino-, etch-, and screen printing, which can be rented. They also do introductions to the techniques (but the place is a bit expensive).
Downtown Stavanger on a Friday or Saturday night is a sad affair. It’s filled with childishly drunken people of all ages, prostitutes, and all the bars/clubs play the same shitty pop music (if they’re not for 40+ aged drunks, in which case they show football and play bad country or something of that nature). However, if you dare tread this hell-hole, there are a couple of decent places to go. Keep in mind that most places are empty before 11 pm and close before 2 am.
BØKER & BØRST (BOOKS AND BOOZE)
Definitely the coziest place downtown to go for a coffee during daytime (I’m writing most of this sitting there). They have a large collection of vintage books and some board games, and a lovely backyard. In the evening “Bøker” smoothly transforms into a bar/pub, perfect for enjoying some import brew or any of the locally brewed Lervig beers (they are world class!).
CAFÉ STING / STING NERE
Sting is a nice place to have a beer and amazing veggie nachos with a view from the rooftop. Nachos (a dinner’s worth with beans, jalapenos, cheese, salsa and the best garlic dressing on the planet). Then on weekend nights Sting Nere (Sting Downstairs) opens. It is the only decent nightclub in town. They usually have proper DJs and it’s the place to go dancing.
Kind of similar to Bøker & Børst in looks and that they have a large collection of books, Cementen is a bar or pub often populated by the actors, musicians and the like of Stavanger, and they have a slightly higher average age. Nice, relaxed, and a good place to get drunk with old people with a view of the harbor.
Just next door is GNU. That’s a decent place as well, and they sometimes serve some quality sausages.
Some other places to go for food:
Original Thai has the best Phad Thai in town.
Gådjå is a great little ethiopian restaurant.
Jacobs Brød has delicious sandwiches with marinated vegetables, pizza, coffee etc. It’s mostly vegan. And they bake their own bread, which you can also buy to take home.
Lura Turistheim is about a 20 minute drive from the city centre. It looks like a trashy canteen and is usually full of truck drivers and old people, but they serve great, traditional, regional food.
Go on a Thursday and order Komle. It’s delicious!
Once in a while there’s an exhibition on here too.
Reed Projects gallery always has something street art related on. Sometimes they show off some of their Banksies.
Skur 2 is a space that hosts various stuff, from street art to fine art to photography and whatever. It’s often quite good.
Galleri Opdahl is a fine art gallery that showcases experimental fine art stuff from around the world. It’s also “home” to brilliant local artist Per Dybvig.
As mentioned, very little happens in Stavanger in general, but once every late summer/early autumn, for some reason everything happens at once.
Nuart is a street art festival that has put the city on the map.
It’s been recognised as one of the best street art festivals in the world by magazines such as Juxtapoz, and every year it just gets better, attracting the world’s leading artists in the field.
(Shameless self promotion: I designed their identity and all stationery for 2013. See my website.)
Numusic is the twinn festival to Nuart, run by the same brilliant guy Martyn Reed from the UK. It is an electronic beat music festival in spirit, but it features both small and large, local as well as international artists within a large musical spectrum.
This is an exception to the autumn thing (luckily). It’s a jazz festival happening every May (as the name implies). They always manage to book some serious legends as well as local talent. Can at times be a bit conservative, but still it is usually very good stuff.
Maybe the biggest (?) festival of literature in Norway. Their line-up is spectacular, with a plethora of guests from all over the world, from poets to musicians, filmmakers, comedians and novelists.
This is definitely the biggest and best of its kind in Norway. A Hip-hop festival usually running over an oval (long) weekend, with big-shots, legends, underground artists as well as newcomers, mostly from Norway and the US, paying their respects to the culture through rap, graffiti, break dancing and DJ-ing. Always great.
Of course, you cannot come to this corner of the planet without checking out the main tourist attraction: Nature. Though northern lights are very rare in the south of Norway (this is what everyone asks me about in London), there is plenty of beautiful nature to overwhelm you in close proximity to the city. An hour by bus will take you to the fjords (Lysefjorden) and its majestic attractions such as Preikestolen (The Pulpit Rock) and The Kjerag Bolt and the surrounding mountains, to any of the countless beaches along the coast, some of which are world renowned for the great winter-surfing conditions, or to the endless open landscapes of hills and farmlands of Jæren. During winter you are also but a couple of hours away from great skiing and snowboarding centers in Suldal and Sirdal. These places are also great for hiking and salmon-fishing during summer.
A lot of foreigners find Stavanger a beautiful little city. Being an old fishing town originally, parts of it still have that charm, with its old wooden houses, cobblestone streets, and small factories. It is by no means a metropolis, which has its positives and negatives. It’s a nice holiday destination (manifested by the hundreds of cruise ships that come here each summer) and a relaxing, quiet break from any large- scale city. If you’re planning on studying or just staying for a longer period of time, however, let me recommend Bergen.
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