This year my family and I decided to have our first trip outside Croatia. The opportunity presented itself when I was invited to shoot a destination wedding in Norway. I know that traveling with a kid could be difficult. Airports are not exactly amusing, even for adults. But with a child, the delays, layovers, fatigue, lack of entertainment, completely new environment and a whole bunch of people talking in languages of which I could not understand a single word…it could be a challenge, my friends warned me. I looked at my wife and daughter and thought to myself – ‘challenge accepted’.
I had a good feeling about this trip from the get-go. The whole story started when the couple who hired me as their Croatia wedding photographer had a sudden change of mind. Instead of wedding in Istria, Croatia, they opted to get married in the City of Stavanger in Norway. I had never even heard of the place before that, but I was immediately excited and I just knew I would be perfect for our first family trip abroad. We decided not to do any research before the trip. Why ruin the element of surprise? We figured it would be better to get there and just figure it out on the fly.
Stavanger – Tidiest Harbor City of Norway
Stavanger is the third largest city in Norway. A harbor city on the North Sea coast, it reminded me of my home city of Rijeka. Only tidier and cleaner. And when I say tidy, I mean really freaking tidy!
There are beautiful traditional houses, all painted white, and gorgeous modern buildings – also white. People drive slowly and quietly, and you cannot spot a single bit of litter anywhere in the streets. My hometown is not exactly a dumpster fire, but our first impression of the City of Stavanger was that it looked like was produced a long time ago, and only unwrapped seconds before our arrival – a mint condition vintage town! The characteristic cityscape was perfect for my documentary style photography.
As we managed to make the trip without any delays, with only two stops, we decided to make it up to our kid and hit the parks. I fetched my camera and my wife grabbed some coffee to go and took Kiara to play with the other kids.
Next to the park, we discovered the Petrol Museum. Yeah, I know, that does not sound like much fun, but trust me, it is awesome. It is a Stavanger tourist attraction you really don’t want to miss, if you ever get there. The three hours we spent there were amazing. You can see a bunch of documentary movies about the olden days of prospecting in the North Sea. The coolest thing about it is that you can actually see the real scuba-diving suits, emergency rooms, rescue boats and diving bells and get into real submarine-like vessels they really used back then, when only the toughest guys were even considering it, and only the baddest dudes made it out alive. And they even struck oil, where nobody thought it could be found!
The downtown Stavanger was an amazing place to explore and a perfect location for documentary photography.
It was just like our first impression – only now all of the little houses in the tiny streets were painted in a galaxy of colors! We would just grab some coffee to go and browse the streets, deliberately getting lost and finding our way again – the “free form” method we use when I shoot weddings in amazing destinations, like we did in New York or Zürich.
Preikestolen – Hiking on the Preacher’s Pulpit
My wife and I used to go hiking and trekking whenever we could. Not every weekend, but often enough that we were in shape to try it for the first time with our daughter. Priekestolen (Norwegian for “Preacher’s Pulpit”) is probably the most popular hiking site in all of Norway. It is a rather steep, 600 meter climb, leading to an almost flat top – a kind of a natural terrace, overlooking the Lysefjorden. They had brought the Sherpa people from Nepal to help them build the steps to the top. Now, when I say steps, I don’t mean your average shopping-mall stairwell steps. I mean giant chunks of the mountain, arranged in levels, like steps, only much larger. They say that the steep climb used to be much tougher before this clever intervention.
Wearing clothes not even remotely resembling hiking apparel, with our child, who was hiking for the first time, lugging a bag full of chunky and expensive photo equipment… it took us three hours to get all the way up to the cliff, but we did it! The site is quite famous, and there was around a million people up there, admiring the awe-inspiring view from the Pulpit Rock.
Ogna and the North Sea
After the successful ascent to the Preachers’ Pulpit, we decided it was time for a less demanding trip. Ogna Beach on the North Sea. What an amazing body of water! And we got to see it. It took us just an hour by train to get to the point where traffic would not go any further. The remaining part we had to walk. Sounds exhausting? Hell, no, imagine the greenest hills and pastures for an hour… and suddenly – BAM! The beach!
Only the three of us, the sand and the blue skies. The amazing seascape was as close as we could get to walking through our actual dreams. We spent the entire day on the beach, playing games, climbing the rocks nearby, just having fun with our kid. So much so, that the first thing that pops up in my mind when I think of this destination is this family moment.
Traveling with your kid is not that bad. If you know WHY you’re going. WHERE is not as important. This was definitely a test we all passed, and with flying colors. And if you ever have second thoughts about either Stavanger or Norway, trust me, hidden treasures are everywhere to be found, if only you look with the right set of eyes. The people are friendly and the nature and the architecture are just breathtaking. They gave me a bunch of opportunities to take some really cool documentary style photos in the streets and scenic locations we visited.
Documentary Photos by Damir Plavotić
Destination: Ogna Beach, Preikestolen, Stavanger, Norway