One definite advantage we found when we traveled to the central area of Sweden around Ostersund was a wonderful westerly drive through some of the most scenic countryside to the Norwegian border and on to Trondheim, Norway. The drive from Ostersund along E14/E6 highway takes you through the mountainous region that hosts two of Sweden’s principle ski area’s, Are and Storlien. This journey into Norway with the Nidelven River running beside the highway most of the way is absolutely beautiful as it winds through valleys with rocky mountains on each side as you ascend towards the city of Trondheim.
Entering Norway from the middle of Sweden we crossed the Sverge/Norge border in the month of May and the flags changed from the yellow cross in blue field to a navy and white double cross on a red field. The scenery almost immediately changed also from snow-capped rounded mountains to beautiful fields of lush green grass and huge yellow dandelions wherever the ground wasn’t plowed or mowed. The spring blossoms and trees were in full bloom and we were in a BEAUTIFUL farming valley with two story, rectangular houses with black roofs. Most of these homes were painted bright red, with a few blue or yellow ones sprinkled in, which we guessed belong to native Swedes. A few had tile roofs, and many, many roofs are covered with green growing grass, (for warmth?) Flags are flying on nearly every home. Each village has its single church spire pointing heavenward.
After passing many churches and looking for just the right one to photograph (they all look exactly alike but we couldn’t find a safe turnout on the narrow 2 lane main highway with almost no shoulders and very curvy), we finally found one just outside Trondheim as we drove along the Trondheimfjord. We turned in to take a photo and I spotted a gathering of people with some women in traditional costume. I got nerve enough to see if I could photograph them and they were thrilled. The costumes show where they live and most women make their own. The sisters dressed alike and had costumes made by their mother. It was a family gathering for a confirmation of a young boy, and guests and extended family were there even from US and thought I was family too, but I was in jeans and looked very out of place, but they made me feel very welcome and spoke good English. I photographed them and inspected their beautiful dresses with fine hand embroidery and met the mother who had made them and so wish I had taken her epic too. I then gave them my card about RTADV and they were so, so excited. It was really fun!
We had a picnic by the lovely Fjord before driving on into the city of Trondheim. up and we got the photo! We were there when beautiful new green of spring was bursting everywhere. The farms are all planted and about six inches in new green growth, with each house and barn bright red, two story, with white and black trim and black roofs. They all look new, or newly painted. In fact, in all the Nordic countries we have toured we have seen only four places that needed painting!
The mountains, which are the backdrop for the landscape, appear like the Smokies of North Carolina and Tennessee with granite peaks completely covered with firs, spruce, and some thick groves of deciduous trees interspersed. It must be beautiful in the fall. The flowers and trees are in full bloom, and we’ve seen lots of lilacs in purple and white. There is almost no traffic at all until the actual city limits of Trondheim. We passed through three very, very long tunnels in the last 20 kilometers, through mountains, which are beside the beautiful, peaceful Trondheim Fjord, which has the Gulf Stream to keep it from freezing.
Because of the Gulf Stream, Trondheim has a mild year-round climate. The city streets were not as pristine as other Nordic cities we’ve seen. The people in Norway do not seem quite as friendly and eager to help as we have found in Finland and Sweden. The attitude is a little like they don’t want to be bothered, although they are polite. They speak good English, and all these Nordic countries have learned American, not British English.
Your first stop should be the Tourist Bureau near the statue of St. Olav in front of the Cathedral. If you’re driving you’ll have no trouble finding parking. We arrived for the beginning of the tourist season, the last week of May. We found the streets still lined with lovely white flowers for the wedding of the Princess of Norway the preceding week at the Cathedral. The royal wedding was here on May 25, 2002, after the Princess and her fiancé made a four day walking pilgrimage to the city, in the way the ancient Pilgrims came on the Pilgrim’s Road until they reached the Fjord and could see the Cathedral, which in its early days was reserved only for use by royalty and clergy, with the other smaller and plain churches being for commoners. The white lilies were everywhere inside the Cathedral from the wedding, The royal family and most of the royalty of Europe were here for several days, many staying on the royal ship in harbor, some at the Royal Garden Hotel where the wedding reception was held. The gardens behind the hotel are worth a visit.
If you plan a trip here, you want to plan for summer because everything for tourists is closed except June, July, August, and Chrtistmas, except by appointment at other times. You will also find that you need sunglasses, a bill cap, a sleep mask, and sunscreen because, although the sun is never quite overhead (but stays South), it is always up this time of year.
May 17 is Norway’s Independence Day from 400 years of being owned by Denmark. Curiously, when Norway became independent in 1905 there did not exist a royal family of their own, so they asked a member of the royal family of Denmark to become their king. King Haakon VII was crowned monarch of Norway May 17, 1906. He placed the cornerstone of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim during his early reign, but the building was already up to the second story, so the official cornerstone is that high!
You’ll want to begin your acquaintance with Trondheim with a bus tour, Klobu-Ruten, which starts at the tourism center. Our guide, Eva, was vivacious and informative, repeating everything in three languages for the group. The bus tour took us around the central part of the city and then climbed to an overlook of the city, which afforded us a wonderful view of the city with the Nidelva River winding through to Trondheimfjord and harbor quay as well as a great view of Munkholmen or Monks’ Island, which can be visited by boats that leave below the fish market. Munkholmen was once a sight of Viking executions and then a monastry, which fell into ruin after the Reformation, and then a prison and finally today a bathing beach with restaurant.
The bus tour continued on to the Trondheim Folk Museum where some 55 buildings of Norway’s past have been moved and reconstructed to give visitors a sense of how Norwegians lived through the ages. You’ll not want to miss this Folk Museek, a museum of living history. It is in Sversborg section of the city near the remains of the old castle of King Sverre, which is perched upon the hill overlooking the city and surrounding area. This museum is open June 1 – September 1, and you could spend all day learning the amazing history. The most memorable thing for us was the wooden church built in 1170. It had no ornamentation except its beautiful hand-hewn wood work. We were reminded by the lovely museum guide that because people then were so poor and used to living in small, dark homes that this was a place of beauty. As we stood in the old church building lit only by the light of one candle held by the museum guide as she sung a capella “Pie Jesus”, we felt we were living a thousand years ago. This was an inspiring experience to be remembered.
At the completion of the bus tour, we found that a short walk would bring us to the gothic style Nidaros Cathedral which was started in 1070, taking 200 years to complete. Orginally the city of Trondheim was named Nidaros and was the first capital and only religious center of Norway, thus the name of the Cathedral. The city was founded by Olav I in 997. After his death in AD 1000, Dannish kings ruled until Olav II took over as King in 1015. King Olav II became a Christian and then forced everyone else to convert by choice or by sword. The statue of him in the center of a huge cobblestone sundial of black and white bricks shows him stepping on the animal and holding his sword over the beast of heathenism. He was made Saint after his death and the cathedral was built over his grave.
After the Reformation the Cathedral has been Lutheran instead of Catholic. It has been reconstructed in various places because of fires but still remains intact from its earliest days. The craftsmanship of the ancient stone masons will amaze any visitor, with the huge stone arched and pillared construction in the shape of a cross. The incredible stain glass windows were added in the twentieth century, made in Trondheim by a glass artist who studied in Paris. It is in this Cathedral, Norway’s largest Gothic church, that Norway’s kings are crowned.
The inlaid, black and white marble floor with the pictures of the Lutheran deadly sins was quite impressive. The gargoyles outside the Cathedral on the pillars and corners were fascinating with their comical faces…there is one which is a musician playing a violin. I guess music kept evil spirits away. The stonework relief statues covering the entire face of the Cathedral on the side toward the Bishop’s Castle is utterly amazing. Be sure to walk to that side of the Cathedral, and also see the castle, which is the oldest secular building in Nordic countries.
As you move around the city you’ll see the medieval wooden houses all along some very narrow streets. It’s amazing to realize people have lived in them since the 1500’s. The bright colored structures are modernized inside but law prohibits changing the outside. Much of the city was burned in several great fires, so the architect for reconstruction in 1800’s planned wide streets so that fires would not destroy everything again. He also was a military man and wanted wide streets for marching troops.
At the harbor we saw boats, ships, trains, and buses landing, all in easy walk from the “Senter.” We saw the remainder of the original city wall, now covered in grass, and the place where the ancient city gate was closed at 9 pm to be reopened at 6 am. Those arriving late had to spend the night outside.
In Norway museums are closed on Mondays and on other days close at 3 P.M. and stores at 5. The exercisers come out in mass on streets and getting run over by bikes or skates seems to be more likely than cars after about 5:30 P.M. Meals are served early, so don’t be too late arriving at restaurants. You’ll find them crowded by about 6 PM. Americans will be reminded of a more peaceful way of life when spare time was reserved for family and rest instead of keeping businesses open round the clock and round the calendar! Norwegians know how to enjoy their life, and you will too when you visit here.
That evening before starting our drive back to Sweden, we returned to the castle ruins area to have a delightful supper at Vertshuset Tavern, which has been in operation since 1739 and serves traditional Norwegian dishes. The experience is not like any other we’ve had. You find a place anywhere you can and then place your order with the tavern barmaid (in costume). The excellent meal is then prepared and served at your table, or you can choose from a typical Swedish smorgasbord. The food was excellent.
Crossing the border in these Nordic countries can only be recognized by just a marker on the road now, not even a passport check, so we stopped to take a photo of the signs which say Norges and Sverges, instead of Norway and Sweden. We wanted the stamps on our passports but had to settle for pictures to document our passing from one country to the next. The money is in Kroners in both Sweden and Norway, because they and Denmark were ruled by the same Queen Margaret from 1397 until 1412 as the Kalmar Union, a unity known as tres kroners. But the monetary kroners are different now for each country so you have to get them exchanged. Neither country uses Euros, even though they belong to European Union now. The European Union as well as the internet will probably soon bring all these countries even closer in the future, mirroring some of the past ages where all or most of Scandanavia was under one rule.