View of Trondheim From the River
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"No King in Norway could rule in peace if he failed to have the people of Trondelag on his side."
--Snorre Sturlasson, 12th century Icelandic poet
Trondelag, or Trondheim, has been the city of kings ever since Viking king Olav Tryggvason sailed up the Trondheim Fjord in his longboat over 1,000 years ago and founded Nidaros, after the River Nid. In 999, Olav invited Leiv Eiriksson to stay here as his guest, after which the famous seaman sailed off to Greenland and onto America. Olav himself was canonized as Norway's patron saint with a cathedral built at his gravesite. By the Middle Ages, this central Norwegian city had become an important religious pilgrimage center and trading hub.
After a devastating fire destroyed much of Trondheim in the late 17th century, the city was rebuilt using a gridiron plan with broad avenues intended as firebreaks. This layout has survived, lending an elegant air to Norway's third largest city. Trondheim also enjoys a youthful energy thanks to some 25,000 students in its population of 160,000. Nidaros Cathedral remains Norway's religious center, attracting thousands each July for St. Olav's festival. Locals like to say, "Without Trondheim, all that would be left of the history book of Norway is the cover."
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Norway has two official languages: Bokmal or "book language," derived from Danish, and Nynorsk, derived from many rural Norwegian dialects. Bokmal is the more common of the two languages with Nyorsk spoken in the fjord country along the west coast and in the central valleys. Norway's oldest language, Sami, is spoken by the country's indigenous people. Most Norwegians also speak English. Interestingly, fjord is a Norwegian word that's become part of the international lexicon.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
At the time of this report, $1 U.S. = 5.4 Norwegian kroner (NOK) but do check with www.xe.com for current currency conversions. Unlike Denmark and Sweden, Norway is not a member of the EU and the Euro is not legal tender. ATMs are located throughout Trondheim's city center. Banks, the main post office (Dronningens gate 10), and the Tourist Information Office all change currency.
Where You're Docked
A German coastal defense battery guards the approach to Trondheim Fjord, Norway's third longest fjord, an eerie reminder of the city's five-year occupation during World War II. The Hurtigruten fleet docks at the harbor north of the city center, a 15-minute walk to the train and bus terminal. From there, it's a short walk across the bridge to central Trondheim (cab fare from the Hurtigruten dock to the city center is about $14).
Historic Trondheim sits on a triangular island bordered by the River Nid and a long arm of the fjord. The city's heart is its main square, Torvet, with a towering statue of Olav Tryggvason, Norway's patron saint. The tourist office here rents bicycles and sells tickets for guided city tours. On the square's south end, there's a popular outdoor market with flowers, souvenirs, and fruits and vegetables for sale.
From Torvet, it's a pleasant stroll north along Munkegate to Stiftsgarden Palace, a residence of Norway's royals. To the south are Nidaros Cathedral, Archbishop's Palace Museum, and the Museum of Decorative Arts. East of the Cathedral is Gamle Bybro, the 19th century Old Town Bridge that crosses the Nidelva River. The bridge offers great views of Kristiansen fortress and the wharves, and leads to Bakklandet, a former working class area whose old wooden buildings have been converted to fashionable boutiques and restaurants.
Trondheim is pedestrian friendly with many attractions located in the city center. For visits northeast to Ringve Museum and southwest to the Trondelag Folk Museum, it's best to use public transportation. Bus drivers sell a single ticket for $4 or an unlimited 24-hour ticket for $10.
Another option is renting a bicycle from the city's 125-bike fleet at the Trondheim Tourist Office. For $13 plus a $37 deposit, you have use of a bike for up to 24 hours. The only hitch is you must return the bike to one of 10 stations around the city after three hours and take another bike (Munkegate 19).
Taxi stands are located at Torvet, Trondheim's central rail station, Sondre Gate, Nedre Elvehavn, Nordre Gate, and the Radisson SAS Royal Garden Hotel (TronderTaxi, phone #07373, Norgestaxi #08000). Car rental offices include Avis (Kjopmannsgt 34), Hertz (Innherredsveien 103), National (Ladeveien 24), and Budget (Kjopmannsgt 41). Daily rates are pricey: For example, a small manual car from National including 62 miles costs $94 per day; an automatic station wagon or similar car with 62 miles runs $122 per day.
Ferries leave frequently from Ravnkloa jetty for Monk Island (late May to September, 50 kroners roundtrip).
Watch Out For
Hurtigruten ships are very punctual -- so be aware of the time when sightseeing independently.
Nidaros Cathedral and Archbishop's Palace Museum: This impressive, Gothic-style cathedral was completed in the early 14th century over the burial place of St. Olav, Norway's patron saint. Over the ensuing centuries, a series of fires badly damaged the church. Highlights of the extensive restoration begun in the late 19th century include stained glass windows, two German organs, and sculptures on the west front. Next door, the Archbishop's Palace Museum houses Norway's national regalia as well as original Cathedral art and sculptures, including the St. Olav altar front painted over 700 years ago. It's possible to time a visit here with an organ recital given Monday to Saturday at 1p.m., a summer service with music held Monday to Friday 5:40 to 6 p.m., or year-round services held Sundays at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. (admission to the cathedral and museum is $19, cathedral only is $9.50).
Ringve Museum: This 18th century summer manor house, formerly the childhood home of Norwegian naval hero Petter Wessel Tordenskiold, is now Norway's national music museum. The former barn has been turned into gallery space for the museum's impressive collection -- covering four centuries of musical instruments from around the world. In the elegant manor house, with period rooms named for famous composers, tour guides play Chopin and Beethoven on antique clavichords, organs and square pianos. Ringve's setting is also charming – with great views of Trondheim Fjord and a 32-acre botanical garden (Lade Alle 60, two miles east of the city center, bus No. 3 & 4, $14). Guided tours are offered mid-May to mid-June, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily; mid-June to August 5, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; August 6 to September 9, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
Been There, Done That
Trondelag Folk Museum: This Norwegian Williamsburg is an open-air museum located around the ruins of King Sverre's medieval castle. Some 60 structures have been reassembled, including 200-year-old barns with sod roofs, farmhouses, cottages and a stave church. "Images of Life" and "The Tronder Bride" exhibitions depict life in the region over the last 150 years. Also on the grounds is Sverresborg Ski Museum, tracing four centuries of Norwegian skiing (Sverresborg Alle, three miles west of the city center, bus No. 8, $15). Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, June 1 to August 31; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday and 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, September 1 to May 31.
Stiftsgarden Palace: With over 140 rooms, there's no shortage of space when Norway's royal family comes to town. In fact, this yellow structure is Scandinavia's second largest wood building. Built in the late 18th century as a private home, the palace features furnishings in a variety of styles, like Biedermeier, Chippendale and Hepplewhite. Princess Martha Louise had a reception here in 2002 after her wedding at Nidaros Cathedral (Munkegate 23). The palace is open June 1 to August 20; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Guided tours are $11 per person and start on the hour from the rear.
National Museum of Decorative Arts (Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum): This museum's permanent collection includes gorgeous glass, silver, costumes, textiles and furniture from the 16th century to today. Art nouveau lovers shouldn't miss Belgium architect Henri van de Velde's 1907 interior designed for the museum. The entire second floor is devoted to the work of three pioneering women artists: tapestries by Hannah Ryggen and Synnove Anker Aurdal, and glass designs by Benny Motzfeldt (Munkegata 5, 60). Entry fee is $11 per person and hours of operation are June 1 to August 20, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday; August 21 to May 31, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, and closed Mondays.
Monk's Island: This popular summer beach destination has a dramatic history -- from an ancient execution ground and 11th century monastery to 17th century fortress and prison. Unfortunately, its cannons could not ward off the Swedes, who conquered Trondheim in 1658 and 1718. The prison's most famous inmate, Danish Count Peder Griffenfeld, spent 18 years here in the late 17th century. The tiny island is a mile and a quarter offshore, a quick 15-minute ferry ride on the hour from Ravnkloa (adults $9, fortress tours $5.50).
Local Eats: Bakklandet Skydsstation serves reasonably priced Norwegian standards for lunch and dinner in an old coaching inn. Try baccalao, dried salted cod in tomato sauce, and kjottkakaker, meat cakes (Ovre Bakklandet 33, open daily from noon to 1 a.m.). Bring a hearty appetite to Vertshusset Tavern for Norwegian peasant food like meatballs in brown gravy with pea stew, sour cream porridge, fish cakes and fish soup. On Tuesdays, the cozy, 18th century tavern serves all-you-can-eat potato dumplings for under $19 (Sverresborg alle 7, Sverresborg Folkemuseum; 4 p.m. to midnight Monday to Friday, 2 p.m. to midnight Saturday, and noon to midnight Sunday).
Gourmet Options: Havfruen (The Mermaid) just celebrated its 20th anniversary. The seasonal menu changes monthly and stars ingredients like giant scallops, king crab, lobster, oysters, blueberries and chanterelle mushrooms (Kjopmannsgata 7, open from 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday). With a floating pontoon terrace perfect for summer evenings, Chablis brasserie just across the Old Town Bridge serves three- and four-course Norwegian cuisine as well as an a la carte menu (Bakklandet 66; 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday).
Restaurants Close to Main Attractions: Located in a 200-year-old former blacksmith's forge near the Archbishop's Palace, rustic Grenaderen features Norwegian fare including lutefisk, beefsteaks, pork ribs, and smoked salmon. The daily lunch buffet and special Sunday buffet are good values at $24 and $31, respectively (Kongsgardsgata 1; noon to midnight Monday to Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday). Egon, located atop the Tyholt radio tower, revolves one complete turn every hour, with spectacular views. On Sundays and Mondays, there's a pizza buffet for $20, a bargain in Norway (Otto Nielsens vei 4, Tyholt; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.).
Staying in Touch
For free internet access, try the Trondheim Public Library (Peter Egges plass 1). The library is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, September to April, and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays). If you're in a hurry, Spacebar Internet Cafe has 40 terminals and charges $7.50 per hour with a $3.75 minimum (Kongensgate 19, enter Prinsensgate, weekdays 10 a.m to 2 a.m, weekends 24 hours).
Hurtigruten's fleet offers two excursions. Northbound itineraries feature a bus tour combining Nidaros Cathedral and Ringve Museum; southbound itineraries feature a tour with stops at "Utsikten" ("The View") and Nidaros Cathedral (2 hours, $51).
For More Information
On the Web: www.trondheim.com and www.trondelag.com
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--by Susan Jaques, a Los Angeles-based writer whose favorite travel adventures are with her husband and teenage son and daughter. In addition to Cruise Critic, Jaques' articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Magazine.
--photos of bridge, cathedral and river bank appear courtesy of Johan Berge/Innovasjon Norge