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A day in Trondheim, Norway

Posted: 11/29/2013   Page Views: 122   Comments:

The sun glitters on the Norwegian fjord but not for long. We had just arrived in Trondheim, and a friend and I want to make use of the remaining daylight.

The harbour at the mouth of the Nidelva River surprises with its electric atmosphere. A busy trading port for a thousand years, this is now the liveliest part of the city with trendy shops, pubs, cafes and luxury residential apartments. At this hour students, housewives and city slickers in smart suits have already invaded the site.

We turn towards the bohemian Bakklandet and stroll along the cobblestone streets where pots of geraniums, scented roses or just weeds trim the doorways of modest butter yellow, brown and mushroom pink cottages. The wooden houses in that area are more than two hundred years old and are an important part of the city’s heritage.

By sunset the suburb is crowded with university students. Lectures finished, they ride bicycles with laptops and veggies sticking out of the baskets in the back. One of them pauses at the bottom of a steep street and activates a bicycle lift, a sort of a footplate running along the curb.

Night is gathering slowly and the street lamps begin to glow. In places music escapes from open windows or smells of cooked meals. The residents settle in the restaurants or cafes, and we chose one with the tables outside to sip our cappuccinos. When we finish we continue toward the Nidelva River and then across the Elgeseter Bridge to a medieval cathedral we are to visit in the morning.

With some hesitation we enter a cemetery behind. The graves provoke thoughts of the two legendary Viking kings; Olav Tryggvason who founded Trondheim in 997 AD, and Olav Haraldsson who replaced Nordic gods with Christianity. He died for his faith in 1030 and forty years on he was declared a saint. This church was built to house his remains.

The cult of St Olav spread quickly through the Catholic Europe, and Nidaros (the ancient name of Trondheim) attracted countless pilgrims from Norway and abroad. Although finished in 1300, the church grew in size, prominence and power from its beginnings. Often damaged in fires, it was always rebuilt and continued its spiritual function until Reformation in 1537.

The wind laments among the graves and icy stars burn the sky above. My friend and I must leave the ghosts of the past and return to our hotel.

In the morning we’re back. A local guide, an ascetic figure in a long maroon robe waits at the heavy cathedral door. We gather around and he talks about the green-grey soapstone façade. Statues of saints, kings and bishops nestle in their narrow niches. A rose window breaks the wall’s angularity with its curved lines. The towers and the patina green spires rise high, making the structure visible from afar.

We enter the huge, shadowy interior that speaks of the late nineteenth century. Near the high altar is a much older panel depicting St Olav’s life. The silver casket he was buried in stood there and humbled the pilgrims. They must have been upset to learn the casket was taken to Denmark in 1537 and melted down for coins.

Next door is the Archbishop’s Palace from the middle of the twelfth century. In succession, it was used by the archbishops, Danish governors and by the military. Nowadays it serves formal state functions. The palace museum houses original sculptures from the cathedral, archaeological artefacts from the area and a collection of the crown jewels.

With time to spare, we leave the palace and stroll towards the nineteenth century wooden Bridge of Happiness, Gamle Bybro. If one believes in stories, a wish made while walking across it would come true.

As I gaze at the boats and colourful houses bathed in a pastel Nordic sunshine, I wish for more time in Trondheim. This city is family friendly and equally enjoyable for a single traveler; it certainly deserves a chance to be better known.