Best to start with the facts. Avaldsnes became a seat of power because it's a key point on the Karmsund strait, a narrow and unavoidable channel on the 'Nordvegen' - the coastal shipping route from which Norway's name derives.
Among its most famous rulers are Harald Harfarge (Harald Fairhair), who first unified Norway, and Olaf Tryggvason, who displaced the old gods - Odin, Thor et al - with Christianity. He founded St Olaf's Church, which you'll find just opposite the Nordvegen History Centre.
Hugely important viking country, then. Unfortunately, displays in the history centre's main exhibit aren't translated, so you're left with a rather piecemeal audio guide (English or German) to fill in the gaps.
Be sure to look through the introductory panels in the lobby, which do have translations and will give you much of the need-to-know stuff.
Two great bits follow our tour of the museum.
First, we take the ten-minute walk to the centre's 'viking farm', and enter dark, smoky wooden longhouse for a meal of cured goat with wild garlic leaves, roasted boar with a vegetable stew (no potatoes - we're being vikings, and potatoes haven't been discovered yet) and fruit sweetened with honey.
Second, we take a rigid inflatable from the viking farm to our hotel in Haugesund. On the way I look back at Avaldsnes to see St Olaf's Church disappear behind one of the hulking industrial ships that dominate the Karmsund strait today.
It flips a switch in my head - the past and present, and all the realities of geography and trade that link them, swim into focus. Yes, it's pure chance. But memorable travel moments often are...
The Nordvegen History Centre can organise viking meals for groups - contact them to enquire. Local adventure company Ravnafloke provided our boat trip.