I’d chosen Stavanger as my primary destination for Norwegian sightseeing as it afforded reasonable access to a number of outstanding natural attractions. I say ‘reasonable’ because it’s not like these attractions were close by, but they were closer to Stavanger than any other largish town. Stavanger itself was a charming town with a bustling harbour and a large network of narrow cobbled streets containing brightly painted wooden shops, cafes and restaurants. Damn it was cute.Stavanger is the oil capital of Norway. There are a number of oil rigs off western Norway and the town is home to many oil company offices, employing thousands of Norwegians. In short, Norway has become very wealthy from North Sea oil and Stavanger, along with Oslo is one of the world’s most expensive cities.
In the early sixties, after gas reserves were found in The Netherlands, Norway decided to allow foreign companies to explore the Norwegian Continental Shelf in the North Sea for oil and gas. It was initiated by an offer from the Phillips Petroleum company and the Norwegian government cannily rejected the offer which would have granted exclusivity to Phillips, and opened the shelf up to all companies wanting to explore. Agreements between Norway, Denmark and Great Britain were reached on the lines of sovereignty and the first block of production licenses were granted in 1965. It was and is, an extremely successful venture.
This boom in the economy spurred the Norwegians into a road building frenzy that continues today. On my way to my hotel from the ferry terminal, the road was beset by relentless roadworks, often with multiple tunnel entrances jammed with pipes and god knows what machinery. Norway is made up predominantly of rocks, extremely large and extremely hard rocks. All separated by hundreds of fjords and waterways. But they will build a road over, under or through them wherever it is required. My taxi driver told me that there is a tunnel being built currently that runs for 24 km under a fjord and will be completed in 2019. “It’ll be awesome” he said.