on September 22, 2010
Just next to the Boknafjord, between Strandkaien (beach quay) and Løkkeveien and right in the city centre, is an area that escaped a building spree that took the city after WWII, thanks to the then city architect Einar Hedén. Gamle (Old) Stavanger is the only area in town where you can still find the beautiful wooden houses that were constructed from the 18th until the early 20th century. Nowadays, the cobbled streets are lined with flower beds and the houses are freshly painted in a cool white colour. The peaceful tranquillity of this quarter resembles in nothing anymore to the area as it was when it was constructed. The first wooden houses here were constructed by the fishermen of Boknafjord. With the industrialization of the 19th century the single fishermen were replaced by big fishing companies, followed soon by the canning industry, exporting all over the world. Several new houses were built for the labour force, but along with the wealth for the business tycoons came social inequality and unrest. By the time the canning industry collapsed during the fifties, the are was considered as one of the seedier parts of town. There were plans to demolish the complete area and modernize this part of town, but luckily the town architect convinced the city council to let the quarter undergo a big restoration instead. It turned into a pleasant and completely revived part of town and lots of middle-class families settled here. The compactness of Gamle Stavanger (around 200m x 600m) makes it an easy walking option, also because most streets are pedestrian. A good place to start your walking tour is the modern fish market, on Rosenkilde Torget (Square) at the southern end of the Vågen bay on Boknafjord. It's a great place to grab a quick lunch of shrimp salad or a smoked salmon sandwich. Just west of the square is the not so interesting maritime museum, housed in a beautiful wooden 19th century warehouse. If you continue north along the waterfront you will see more of this type of buildings, although a few of them are made of stone, but all are painted in bright white colours. At the end of Nedre Strandgata (Lower Beach Road), it's time to move away from the water, uphill to the oldest part of Gamle Stavanger and the area with the biggest concentration of these white-coloured wooden houses. Clean streets, colourful flowerbeds, great views on the city is what awaits the occasional tourist in Gamle Stavanger. Main street here is Øvre (Upper) Strandgata, but do wander around its side streets as well. A good overview of the area's history can be seen in the Canning Museum, housed in an old cannery and one of the only buildings that still retains its original colour, instead of the now omnipresent white.
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