The northerly country of Norway has always been held in captivation for their fjords and rugged mountains. We took advantage of a discount in KLM’s redemption programme and took a few days off to explore Trondheim on the coast. Now you might recall that we’ve “covered” the country way back in 1996, coming across from Sweden, but this journey was as impromptu as it can get because of the limited time offer!
Now you also need to remember that Norway has a really long coastline and that Trondheim is but at “only” the southern third of the country (at 63˚N). Not quite near the arctic circle! A two-hour flight from Amsterdam, we arrived at the airport that is 35km from the city.
Geographically the city is located in a bay. And nearby are the fjords of the same name, which on a fine day is clearly visible.
The city was built in the 990s by King Olav and he made it his base. This continued on for about 200 years before it was shifted further south in 1217. And it began first as a trading post though the frequent use of it by the King turned it into a de-facto capital city. Now you must understand that to sustain royal power, it has to be financed. That’s why aristocrats and royalty often site themselves where the money is…
As with many of the cruise tours that stopped over in Trondheim (on their way to the northernmost city of Hammerfest), our first stop is to Nidaros cathedral. The cathedral’s facade is now the emblem of the city and proudly emblazoned on flags, souvenirs etc. A really small city of about approximately 180,000 people, it is far up north enough to see the Aurora Borealis during winter. Ok so they told us and we gullibly believed. But it was a pity; for we did not manage to catch any in the nights we were there because it was early Spring. Sigh.
Legend: The patron saint of Norway, Saint Olav (King Olaf) was buried at the spot where Nidaros Cathedral is built, after his body was moved from Stiklestad where he died in a famous battle in 1030.
A spring was said to have appeared close to the burial site and the water from it was found to have healing properties. There is a well where this spring is said to have originated. And there were also other miracles attributed to the king too. Soon after his death king Olav was declared a saint and the site became a popular pilgrimage destination for people from all over Norway and other parts of Scandinavia and Northern Europe. Eventually this cathedral was built in the 1070s and has stood the test of time since.
Today the cathedral is still important and was the site of coronation of Norway’s monarchs. Though it had since been replaced with consecration as coronation now takes place in Oslo. But many an important royal occasion take place there till this day. It also has the distinction of being the northernmost medieval cathedral in Europe. By the way, the archbishop palace being next to the cathedral is not to be missed too.
Stroll the city
One of the many places to take a nice stroll is along the old wharves of the city. Today these buildings along the Nidelva river have been preserved into shops, homes and offices. Afterall it is charming real estate though take note of opening hours. Work life balance’s good here!
Yet another place within easy walking distance is the Kristiansen fortress. Built after a great fire devoured much of Trondheim in 1681, the fortress is also a place of intense history – seeing battles against the Swedish in the 1700s. You need to know that for much of Norwegian history, the country was part of a wider Scandinavian union dominated in turn by their cousins the Danes or Swedes.
There seems to be a track that pulls bicycles up the hill, but it was not working till summer, so bikers beware! The fortress itself provides a great view of the city surroundings as well as the fjords in the distant. On this day we could see all the way to the distant town of Fosen.
Strolling along the southern bank of the Nidelva river, we get a great view of Nidaros cathedral from the water. Spring time is such a lovely time to be here and boat trips are available from the summer. When we were there in April, most tourism businesses were still closed – so time your visit and we hope that’s all changed now. And a coincidence it might be for we were there as apparently it was graduation time for high school with the city literally filled with students. The revelry continued well into the night as we heard them from our hotel room. Trondheim is also a university city, and there said to be 30,000 students here! Wow.
Try to get outside
We took a tramway to the little town of Lian on the northern side of the city. This 20-minute ride up the highlands gave us a view of the city. It circles back down though you can get off at the end for a stroll of the gardens and fields. And when we got back to St Olavs at Skansen Marina, we took a walk and tried to take a photo of Monk island, which today looks more like a fortress.
Aside from the city of Trondheim, there are options to explore the greater region. Good roads link to the other towns all along the coast, so road tripping could potentially yield wonderful dividends. We did not rent a car on this occasion and decided to take a ferry to the town of Brekstad. Well, to see for ourselves what it is like in a small Norwegian town. Now you need to know that ferry schedules are not as frequent and they are costly too. It was 180 Norwegian krones for each person for just a one-way trip!
And it was really quiet… not exactly the best decision. Virtually saw nobody on the streets. Perhaps it was the weekend. However, strolling along the stony beach of Brekstad by ourselves was an enjoyable experience. But because we did not rent a car, it was difficult. Very indeed. For the distances are long and the weather can change quite quickly within the hour. It rained (well heavy drizzle) for much of the afternoon we were in this small town and it got a little too cold for our comfort. Tip: pick up a rental and be at home on the roads.
Norway’s smaller cities are attractive places to visit. However, do time your visit to coincide with the advent of the summer holidays as many shops, restaurants and travel offices seem to be closed or have limited hours. One thing though, if you are indeed thinking about adding shopping to your list of activities, be aware of the prices. Suan obviously did not come away from this journey with much added the luggage as we flew home.
The land of the midnight sun beckons to you. And in winter it becomes a snow bound land with a chance of seeing the lights in the sky. With a little planning you will find Norway to be more fascinating then even the Instagram photos and certainly not just the fjords and the dare-devil poses.
This journey took place in April of 2004