In the pilgrims’ footsteps part II.

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Lake Mjøsa from the shoreline

Lake Mjøsa

The first two days’ exploration, involving aquavit, wandering and steam paddling, provided an excellent and varied intro to the Hamar region, its history and culture. In fact, my time here had been so good I figured it would be hard to top, but my guide Bente had two more exciting days in store for me.

The sun was still shining from a cloudless sky when the two of us set out – by car this time – to follow Lake Mjøsa to the north (all my explorations thus far had been taking me south of Hamar). Reaching the town of Moelv, with only a few sleepy streets to its name, we continued inland towards Ringsaker. This village is home to a 12th century limestone basilica, dedicated to patron saint Olav, who spent quite some time in the area before his death in 1030 (he was later canonised in 1164). A quick stop at the church and I was immediately struck (not “struck down”) by the gorgeous view. The 16th century Flemish altarpiece, a masterpiece to say the least, was nearly lost on me, for my sins, so lovely was the sunshine over Mjøsa.

A short drive from here lies the birthplace of one of Norway’s best-loved and most listened to singer-songwriters, Alf Prøysen (the website is only in Norwegian). Born to poor croft farmers in 1914, Prøysen initially dreamed of becoming an artist, but instead made a name for himself with his own songs, verse and children’s books. He passed away in 1970 and his family’s humble home is now open as a museum. Our guide Kristine showed us around the Prøysen museum and the new Prøysen centre (Prøysenhuset), opened for the 100th anniversary of his birth in 2014, all the while regaling us with several of his best-known songs. After the morning’s sight-seeing, a spot of lunch seemed like a good idea and we drove to Kvarstad Gård, another grand-looking farmhouse offering accommodation and food. Kvarstad Gård also has a farm shop selling local produce, including locally made chocolates, so that set me up nicely for the afternoon’s bike ride.

Ottestadstein pilgrims way with a walker

The Ottestadstein pilgrims trail

I admit it had been a while since I cycled much further than 10 km in one go, so I spent the afternoon breaking myself in gently. Starting off on the outskirts of Hamar, my guide and I cycled through town, following the waters of Mjøsa, still looking calm and pristine in the afternoon sunlight. The lake isn’t always as kind, however, and a large stone boulder marks the height of the floodwaters that have affected the town over the decades. Cycling past the centre and small boat harbour, we reached one of the oldest parts of Hamar, Domkirkeodden, or Cathedral Peninsula, dating back to the 11th century. The cathedral here was ruined by my pesky fellow Swedes in 1567, but the glass-encased ruin is worth a visit, as are the in- and outdoor museums.

The Pilgrim’s trail and route (walking and cycling) both take in the peninsula and further along the lake the whole area is turned into an open-air museum with old houses from different parts of the region. This made for an afternoon of easy, scenic cycling and good practice for the next day, which looked set to be more epic in terms of distances – at least for this novice cyclist.

The Pilgrim’s cycle route, although not exactly following the walking trail, (it’s following Norwegian national cycle route no. 7) coincides with and crosses the trail at regular intervals. It’s actually possible to cycle all the way from the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, down to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, but I was rather less ambitious on my last day exploring the Hamar region. Even heading up to Trondheim, some 400 km away, seemed a tad far, so instead we took the cycle route south towards Stange.

The route followed paved and gravel paths with splendid views of Mjøsa on our right, as we made our way gently uphill. Made a quick pit-stop at Fjetre Gård, where I’d been staying a few nights before, gratefully accepting some refreshments. I realised I was in fact enjoying cycling along what Tone from the Pilgrim’s Centre had cheekily referred to as “Norwegian flat”; what the Dutch might perhaps call “very hilly”.

the new Domkirkeodden

Domkirkeodden

Pit-stop enjoyed, we continued past Atlungstad distillery and nearby golf course, daring to cycle along the path that runs right through said course, as we were wearing our helmets (although this writer was slightly worried a ball might come flying and hit her arm, not her head). The colours were just beginning to turn in the lush, rural landscape, hints of red tinting the leaves and the harvest season was in full swing. Our goal for lunch was Staur Gård, perhaps the jewel in the crown of all the beautiful, old houses I’d visited over the last few days.

A manor house with lakeside views from most of its rooms, Staur is unsurprisingly a popular wedding venue and lunch did not disappoint. After trying plenty of medieval fare, which can be rather stodgy, I was extremely pleased to be offered a tasty salad. Having cycled the roughly 12 km there, I would need to cycle the same distance back, and in record time, as I had a train to catch and a medieval feast was bound to have slowed me down even more than my, by now, natural weariness.

Saddle-sore, but very happy and content, I boarded the train back to Oslo in the afternoon. For an excellent combination of nature and culture, the Hamar region had proven hard to beat and after this my second visit, I was even more enthusiastic about plotting my return. Or, if feeling really ambitious, I could always continue, leisurely, in the pilgrims’ footsteps, all the way to Trondheim.

For further information about the Hamar region of Norway, click here.

 

 

http://hamar.pilegrimsleden.no/

 

The paths for walking/hiking to Trondheim are known as “Pilgrim’s Trails”, while the cycle path is known as the “Pilgrim’s Route”.

 

By Anna Maria Espsäter

First UK Rights

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