Destinations Norway

Majorstuen Kafe – An Extraordinary Experience in Norway

The menu offers waffles and coffee, but you can expect so much more at Majorstuen Kafe, in Gamle (old town) Skudeneshavn, Norway. In 87-year-old, Johannes Hansen’s café, you’re not just eating a waffle. Here, you’re eating a waffle with a hearty measure of laughter, a good cupful of curiosity and a sprinkling of precious memories.

Majorstuen Kafe

The white-haired man in front of us manoeuvred himself out of his cosy leather recliner, and carefully navigated his way towards us. The room, his living room, resembled a charming antique shop with an array of curios all vying for attention around a few neatly set tables. The smell of fresh waffles hung cosily in the air, and the place wrapped itself around you in a welcoming embrace.

I was at once delighted and intrigued. Figurines and dolls, teapots and lamps, books and CDs – they covered every available surface. The walls harboured paintings, photographs, porcelain plates and I even spied what looked like an old jelly mould. You could sit there for days and still not notice all the little trinkets and ornaments hiding in the myriad nooks and crannies.

A table full of bric-a brac at the Majorstuen cafe. On a red and gold tablecloth are pots, bells, vases, lamps, glasses, books, plates and a chair in the foreground.

We had heard a few snippets from the locals about Johannes, the ‘famous’ waffle maker. So we decided we should find out what all the fuss was about. Funnily enough, we had nonchalantly strolled past the entrance many times already, oblivious to the treasure that lay within.

The entrance to the Majorstuen Kafe is unassuming, blending with the other iconic white wooden houses of Skudeneshavn old town. Built in 1860, with a second storey added in 1867, the house has served as a small shop, a nautical studies school, a Salvation Army home and a boating supplies shop. The name ‘Major’ derived from the time it was used by the Salvation Army.

A white wooden house with a green door, the entrance to Majorstuen Kafe. Norwegian flags hang on the outside and a lamp is on the side of the house

As Johannes positioned himself behind the kitchen bench, I declared that we were there to try his famous waffles. His response was a hearty laugh, the first of many while we were there. If you remember nothing else from your visit, you will remember this cheerful eruption, that punctuates so many of his sentences.

A man in a blue shirt puts a waffle onto a paper plate in majorstuen kafe. He is surrounded by a big brown bowl of batter, a bookcase with lots of items on including pots, mugs, jam, mixers.

The inside of the cafe majorstuen, a blue table and chairs is in the foreground. The entrance and window are in the background. A world map is on the wall.

A white plates has a waffle on it that has a slice taken out of. The background is blurry with little yellow, blue white and red pots in the background.

A Collector of Memories

Only as he lifted the steaming fresh waffles onto the paper plate did a slight tremble reveal his years. As we slathered jam on to these famous delicacies before us, I asked about the hundreds of artefacts around us. Johannes laughed. He had been a collector of antiques and ‘old things’  before he even started here, 25 years ago.

An elderly man, settled at the next table along, chipped in,

Everything is old here – except Johannes!

Laughter again filled the room. The same man told us he lived in Haugesund, about an hour away, but regularly came to the Majorstuen Kafe. He went on to say why,

 This is the nearest I come to an Irish pub. I’ve been to many pubs in Ireland, many, many and this is the closest to it. People talking to each other and the atmosphere…

I asked Johannes if he had a favourite among his ‘collection’. He pointed to a blue and white porcelain plate hanging on the wall beside me. It was a commemoration plate of Edvard Grieg, a famous Norwegian composer and pianist. He went on to explain that he was no musician himself but very much enjoyed listening.

The white and blue plate, with the white swan on the left of the photo, is the commemoration plate of Edvard Grieg, one of Johannes favourite pieces. There are also paintings on the wall and piles of CD's.
The white and blue plate, with the white swan on the left of the photo, is one of Johannes favourite pieces.

A colourful patchwork quilt hanging on the opposite wall caught our eye, and on closer inspection, we realised that the quilt was actually made from ties … hundreds of different neckties. The artist had named it ‘All My Men’.

Johannes, a white haired man with a blue shirt. In the background is a multi-coloured quilt made of many ties.
Johannes with the tie quilt in the background

Sensing my interest in his treasures, he invited me to go through to the adjoining room which held more antiques and bric-à-brac. Stepping inside was like stumbling upon an old attic with a hotchpotch of riches to discover. Each piece had its own story to tell and secrets to whisper. There was no theme. A cardboard deer head held company with an antique telephone. An old pair of boots stood next to an ornate lamp. There was no favouritism here, no bias.

a deer head made of printed on cardboard attached to the wall between 4 paintings.

An antique telephone with metal ringer bells attached to a wooden casement.

An old black waffle maker

An old antique black and brown sewing machine

Visitors From Around the World

Before we left, Johannes asked us to put a sticker on the large world map already peppered with dots from visitors all around the world.

Johannes, talking to Lars - the large world map on the wall has red dots

He then gifted us a postcard, on which was a comic style picture of Johannes himself, serving waffles. Shining with pride, he told us that it was the artwork of a young American woman, Sarah McIntyre, who had visited from America and had drawn it for him.  You got the sense that this gesture had meant a lot to him, and he’d even had t-shirts made with the same design on them.

A sketch of a man making waffles
The signed card Johannes gave us, originally designed and drawn for him by Sarah McIntyre.

The sign outside Majorstuen Kafe reads, ‘En annerledes kafé’, which translated means, ‘An extraordinary café’. And it certainly is. Here, the trimmings and garnishes are found, not on the plate, but in the quirky collectables, the vintage vibes and the warm, inviting atmosphere.

Oh, and did I mention the waffles?

 

Helpful Information

Majorstuen Kafe has more details on its Facebook Page.

Google Maps lists it under Majorstua Kafe, Søragadå 45, 4280 Skudeneshavn

Skudeneshavn is on the Southern tip of the Island of Karmoy, county of Rogaland.

The closest main cities to Skudeneshavn to travel from are Haugesund and Stavanger.

 

Not all of our adventures in Norway have been so sedentary. You might like to read about us following the footsteps of the Viking kings, conquering Kjeragbolten or climbing Preikestolen (featured in the new Mission Impossible film starring Tom Cruise).

We’d love to hear from you about your experiences in Norway. Have you been here?  Do you have any suggestions for us?  – we are leaving Skudeneshaven and heading North in three weeks. (To leave a comment – keep scrolling down to the end of the page or click ‘Leave a comment’ at the top of the post 🙂 

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Remember – whatever you are doing, make sure you satisfy your soul  x

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Michelle

Author: Michelle

After finishing my Law Degree I decided to become a teacher. I am passionate about teaching, learning and most of all, about inspiring others. Now, as a writer and blogger, I love sharing our travels and our musings on life’s journey. I hope, through these, we can play a part in inspiring you to do whatever ‘satisfies your soul’.

17 Comment

  1. When I take photos of objects, antique or not, they do NOT come out this well! Really enjoyed this post and learning about Johannes. 🙂

  2. Wow! What a delightful place! Johannes sounds so warm, friendly and welcoming, what a lovely man! Your photography is absolutely gorgeous and I love the way you write, it’s beautiful. Yay for waffles too! The world map idea is really cool. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience 💖 xx

    Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com

  3. What a lovely article! I love places like that! Beautiful hidden gems with wonderful people. Johannes sounds like my grandfather. I love visiting places where you immediately feel like you belong. I hope to visit this lovely man someday and try his waffles and listen to his stories and laughter.

  4. Love this so much! Everything has a story and a space in time. Going to places and getting to know the people and their stories is priceless. I was transported there and could here the laughs. Thank you for sharing!

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