After a more or less comfortable night on Hurtigruten’s lounge sofa, I disembarked at Trondheim shortly after six in the morning. This early on a Saturday morning hardly anyone was about and I negotiated my way through a still sleeping city. On my way to the youth hostel I already noticed the different faces of this historic town. Coming from the Hurtigruten pier I was passing the harbour and dock area, with its containers, workshops and vast warehouses. Side by side with the industrial port archicture I could see signs of alternative living concepts, lots of street art and graffiti, which always seem to establish itself in these kind of areas. It reminded me strongly of Hamburg and I felt immediately at home.
For me, Trondheim had always been inevitably connected to the Vikings. All those childbook stories, I had lapped up in my youth, evolving about the wild and heroic Northmen – rather romanticising their way of life – Trondheim always being the distant, but magnificent seat of the king. Thus, I was curious, how much of the former Viking capital was still alive.
Founded as trading post in the late 10th century, Trondheim still is a busy port and the trading centre for central Norway. However, Trondheim’s NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) and numerous technology-orientated institutions and research centres are Trondheim’s trademark today. The many students sure give the town a vibrant and juvenile flair. I passed numerous students’ houses, which seem very modern and nicely designed – much in contrast to the old and run-down students’ homes I had lived in during my studies. A further plus: Trondheim is very cycle friendly!
Easily the most remarkable relict of the Viking era is Nidarosdomen, the Nidaros Cathedral. The impressive Gothic cathedral, which was built on Olav the Holy’s tomb (after Olav Haraldsson, not Olav Tryggvasson, the founder of Trondheim) served as the coronation church of the Norwegian kings during the Middle Ages, and again since independence. The Norwegian regalia are actually on display in the Archbishop’s Palace, right next to the cathedral. As both charge a hefty entrance fee, I contented myself to the outside views.
Continuing my way across the city along wide boulevards and through narrow alleys and streets, I could still see many ancient houses. The wooden town villas, many dating as far back as the 1700s, most of them lovingly restored, and surrounded lovely gardens in which the Hydrangea was blooming lavishly, made for a nice contrast to the more linear, down-to-earth modern architecture. Despite its busy port and industry, Trondheim has managed to preserve some of its medieval charm. The heart and soul of which surely is the old city Bakklandet. Consisting only of a single stone cobbled street along the river Nidelva, lined with former workers’ wooden homes and riverside warehouses, it has been beautifully renovated and now houses a colourful assortment of small shops, cafés and bistros, which draw a mixed crowd for lunch and afternoon coffee.
Gamle Bybro, a more than 300 years old bridge with the Lykkens Portal, the “Gateway to Happiness”, spanning the river connects Bakklandet with the town centre. Lykkens Portal refers to the lyrics of the popular waltz Nidelven stille og vakker du er (“Nidelven quiet and beautiful you are”) by Kristian Oskar Hoddø. Hoddø was a member of the resistance during German occupation and had later been executed for it. As legend has it, he wrote the song while standing on Gamle Bybro during his years with the resistance.
When I arrived at the youth hostel, I had to learn that I had finally reached “Norway’s tourist belt”: the hostel was fully booked for the weeks to come. Up to now it had always worked out to just turn up and find accomodation without trouble. Apparently, not so in Trondheim – and all destinations to come further south. Tourist season slowly picked up and affordable accomodation is scarce in Norway. However, I was lucky to find a room via AirBnB, which even turned out to be cheaper than a private room in the hostel. As I had only planned a short visit to Trondheim, I hopped back on the Hurtigruten next morning, enjoying a day journey for a change. I made use of the comfortable panorama lounges, working on my blog and answering mails, while being transported along the beautiful fjord coast.