In Search of the Northern Lights: Day 3

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Stiftsgaardsparken Trondheim

Stiftsgaardsparken Trondheim

Into Trondheim at 6am but not a lot of people were on deck to see us enter. The first excursions weren’t leaving for 2 hours. Breakfast doesn’t start till 7am and was full as soon as it opened to cater for those eager to eat before leaving on their trip. Not willing to part with the equivalent of £25 to just walk around the town, albeit with a guide, (who we were told later didn’t turn up anyway) we sauntered off to the centre at about 9am.

You could tell that it is gradually getting colder and that there had been recent snow. Trondheim was icier than anywhere else despite the fact that there was grit everywhere. (and I mean grit, not rock salt.) There are also large piles of snow that have been shunted into spare corners of anywhere that’s convenient. The roads are completely clear, however, so sometimes we found it safer to walk in the road rather than on some of the pavements.

Trondheim occupies a strange position in Norwegian life and we have nothing similar to it in the UK. This is where each incoming Norwegian monarch comes for a ceremonial blessing after they accede to the throne so there is a royal palace here. Stiftsgarden. Unlike our own Buckingham Palace, the palace at Versailles or any number of royal palaces, Stiftsgarden is different being made entirely of wood. It is supposed to be the largest wooden palace in Scandinavia. Right in the middle of the town, in Munkesgarten, it was easy for us to visit in our limited time. It seems that in the eighteenth century, three ladies, so my “12 Days” tells me, competed as to who could have the finest house. One of these is know the royal palace.

Trondheim used to be the capital of Norway and was founded as long ago as 997 by the Viking, King Olav Tryggvason whose statue dominates the main square. To me he looked more like William the Conqueror but then historians say the Viking image we know so well is misplaced and that they didn’t have horned helmets.

Nidaros Cathedral front above entrance

Nidaros Cathedral front above entrance

Having only three hours there was no way that we would do justice to Trondheim so it was just a question of what was closest and appealed. Take the Nidaros Cathedral, Norway’s national cemetery, for example. It dates from the twelfth century but looks newer. Look up above the main entrance and there is a colourful depiction that is lacking in any of our cathedrals. Look down at the manhole covers and see pictures of past events.

Nearby is the Var Frue Kirke, an Anglican church that looks much older than the Nidaros. Even the name though has interest. “Kirke” shows how close the links between Norway and Scotland have been and how Viking culture entered Scottish everyday life. The main market square is, I suppose, the shopping hub of the city. Clothes shops, ski outfitters and jewellers seemed to dominate but you can still see international sights such as Burger King, Macdonalds and retail chains like H&M and Oasis.

The problem with walking at your own pace is that you can miss a lot. We didn’t see the five interesting wooden sculptures up to 18 feet high that have been erected in Tommerdalen and which are a statement about the way man is treating the forests. We missed the old town replete with wooden buildings. But with the ferry you do have the option of stopping off and picking up the next passing ferry on the following day.

Heading back to the port area (about a 20 minute walk with well, signposted directions) we made the ferry with time to spare and, more importantly, in time for lunch. Lunch on board is a buffet. But it’s a buffet with a massive amount of food. Hot and cold dishes are there to try (today I had some moose which is a bit like venison but mine didn’t have a gamey taste) marinaded halibut, salmon, smoked dogfish and cod. Other fish were there, some with names I had never heard of. On top of this there are a variety of meats and salads as well. To follow there were puddings and a good selection of Norwegian and other cheeses. My one, little gripe? It would be nice to have proper milk with tea and coffee rather than a UHT equivalent from a sachet or bucket or whatever you call them. There is proper milk at breakfast for the cereals but at no other time. Rest assured no-one will starve on this voyage. Waistbands will be worn looser this trip! The sea air and the daily walk around towns gives you an appetite you thought you didn’t have.

The afternoon was sent struggling to send images for this diary back to the office. Not only is the internet connection painfully slow. I have found it doesn’t like sending images. So if you want to e-mail pictures of your voyage back to your family be patient or don’t bother. The crew says the internet connection has got better though!

More open water and fewer people at dinner. The boat was jostled by the waves but as the purser put it. “We’ll be going over the open sea. It’ll be a little rough but it’s only the sea not the wind.” What did this mean? None of us knew but we took it to mean it was a good thing. Wrist bands are being bought in the shop in greater numbers as people have been told they help to ward off sea sickness.

Almost the last stop of the day was Rorvik where we docked behind another ferry in the fleet. Many from both ships took the opportunity of the half hour stop to give the other ferry the once-over and see how the ships compared. Was their ship better than ours? Amid a flurry of snow we set sail first up towards a stop just after midnight. But that wasn’t occupying the minds of passengers. There was a competition to guess at what time we would pass the Arctic Circle in the morning. There was champagne for the winner. Tomorrow was going to be an eventful day.

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