A Touch of Paradise in Norway

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On the island Sør-Hidle, a twenty minutes boat trip from Stavanger on the Norwegian west-coast, you can experience a tropical feeling, wandering through several flower-gardens, palm trees, a Bonsai water garden with its 80 happy koi-fishes, not to mention enjoying gourmet food!

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It all began in 1987 with a health ailing gardener, who settled on this windswept island to make himself a rest home.

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But already in 1965, Stavanger residents Åsmund and Else Marie Bryn bought a farmstead, named Magela and built a small cabin on this small island.  In 1987 the couple moved more permanently to the island, hoping that fresh air and quiet would bring better health.  The island featured little shelter from the strong winds known to the area and thus, pine trees were planted. As time went on, the garden was expanded and became more and more elaborate and impressive.

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In 1995, Åsmund’s son, Olav, and his wife Siri welcomed their first guests, 700 visitors, to the island to view the gardens. Next year the number was 10,000 and today over 30,000 visitors find their way every year from May through September.

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The third generation of the Bryn family now cares for the gardens and it’s become an entire career.  In the off season, new plants are sought after worldwide and they’re constantly envisioning new directions to take with the elaborate gardens.

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Endre Bryn is the manager today. He told us that they have bought a farm on the island, and three weeks ago they received their first Scottish Blackface sheep , the most common breed of domestic sheep in the United Kingdom, suitable for the Norwegian west-coast.

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Endre told us about happy guests, many of whom are claiming that “this is one of the sites they should see before they die”.
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The Queen of Norway celebrated her 70th year anniversary here, and the Norwegian master of chess, Magnus Carlsen, arranged a private event last June.

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One month during wintertime the family travel abroad to find inspiration and new ideas. “There is nothing better than Flo and Fjære in the world,” claims Endre Bryn. “The nearest I can think of is Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada.”

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A tropical paradise consisting of 10 different gardens

Today Flor og Fjære (meaning something like ‘bloom and ebb’) invites guests to a guided tour around the beautiful gardens after a 20 minute boat trip with MS Rygerfjord from the Skagenkaien in Stavanger.

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The ten gardens are the Palm garden, Cactus hill, Bamboo garden, Bonsai garden, the Wilderness, the Perennial garden, the Rose garden, the Flower garden, the Cypress garden and the Monastery garden.

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After the tour the guests will enjoy a delicious meal, inspired by all corners of the world, prepared with local ingredients in the garden restaurant by chef André. The restaurant has an interesting collection specially imported wines from Italy, France, South Africa, Portugal and Brazil.
170815-flor-og-fjare-stavanger-norway-from-buffet-5_Fotor_Collage Chef André, living on the island from May through September, told the guests with his very dry sense of humor that he was allergic and hated living on the island. He explained the meal we would be eating with elaborate stories, for instance that he had made so much fish soup that he could swim in it.

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The food, being a buffet, was delicious and even with many guests, arranged without irritating queuing.

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Torstein Nilsen, who had invited his wife Nattuya Nilsen, and friends from Thailand, Nuttakun and Nutchanat Huttanasin, was impressed by the gardens. So was the rest of the group.

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The intricate gardens are completely unexpected in Scandinavia, and the sheer amount of work to keep them beautiful is astounding.  We do recommend a visit should you be in the area or planning to do so.

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A Touch of Paradise in Norway, written and photographed by Tor Kjolberg