A trip through Hell on the way from Östersund (Sweden) to Trondheim (Norway)
Hell is a small town in Northern Norway. Our train from Östersund stopped there briefly today on its way to Trondheim. It was very sunny wand warm when we were there, but for those of you who are curious about Hell freezing over, you would be advised to visit in January or February, when temperatures get down to -25°C.
Passing through Hell was just one of the many highlights of our journey out of Sweden today. It took 4 hours to cover the 265km from Östersund to Trondheim, which seemed like pretty slow going to us, until we saw how many lakes the train had to go around and the mountains we had to pass through. The map below gives you an idea of the route we took.
Needless to say the view from the train was stupendous, leaving us awe-struck. On the Swedish side of the border the landscape was all rolling green hills, rivers and lakes. As it pulled out of Östersund, the train meandered its way alongside Lake Storsjon, then past Lake Liten. It was still early morning at this stage and the reflections off the water of these lakes was crystal clear as the lakes’ surfaces had yet to be disturbed.
Our first stop on the train was the village of Are, along the banks of the River Aresjon. From there we continued past Lake Gevsjon and through the Swedish border town of Storlein. With both Sweden and Norway subscribing to the Schengen Agreement, the border crossing was a non-event – we’re not even getting stamps in our passports when we cross Schengen country borders! It does save time though, not having to go through passport controls at every border.
As soon as we were across the border, the scenery changed dramatically – no longer were we seeing the flat plains and low hills of Sweden, these were mountains. The Dovrefjell mountains run through this part of central Norway and at 1,500-2,200m high, these are serious mountains! These stony, craggy peaks are typical of the Norwegian landscape, which is dominated by mountain ranges, broken up by green valleys and fjords. Interestingly less than 10% of the country’s area is arable – the rest is mountainous.
Trondheim is a Norway’s third largest city (population 180,000) and lies at the mouth of the Nidelva River, long the Trondheimsfjord. It’s a very old city, with records of it being a Viking trading post as early as the 9th century; Trondheim was actually the capital of Norway for over 200 years (up until 1217 when the capital moved to Oslo). Today it’s Norway’s primary technology hub and the starting point of the Hurtigruten ferry, which we are hitching a ride on come Saturday.
Once we’d alighted in Trondheim and checked in to our hotel, we made a bee-line for the water-front so checkout the calm water of the Trondheimsfjord (Trondheim is a fair way into the fjord, so the ocean here is incredibly flat and glassy). We had lunch by the water (Norway is even more expensive than Sweden, so you can imagine how much a couple of sandwiches and a few bananas set us back!), then decided to catch the ferry over to Munkholmen (translation = Monk’s Island) for the afternoon.
Munkholmen is a tiny islet about 1.5km off-shore that was used by the Vikings as an execution site, then by Benedictine monks as an abbey from the 12th century until 1658, when a fortress was built there and it was used as a prison. Today the island is a popular sunbathing and swimming spot, and a great place for an afternoon adventure! We wandered around the island (which didn’t take long as it is tiny), and then found a quiet spot to relax and enjoy the view. There were lots of locals there too, most of them sunbathing and some of them even swimming. We thought about taking a dip, but decided against it when we realised our travel insurance probably wouldn’t cover us for hypothermia treatment when the cause was self-inflicted. Even without a swim, it was still a great way to spend the afternoon. Tomorrow we have a full day here to explore the rest of Trondheim, so we’ll be able to share more of this scenic town with you. Ha detuntil then blog fans!
- The oh so friendly “hej hej” greetings you get everywhere.
- The weird laryngealisation that some of the Swedes use when speaking. It is SO odd – think Kermit the Frog meets Ja Ja Binks. Why do some people do it and others don’t? Why on only some words, but not others?
- The awesome, epic beauty of the place.
- The cuteness of all those wooden holiday cottages, painted red, yellow and blue.
- Allmansrätten, or “Every Man’s Right”. This important part of Swedish cultural heritage basically means they believe everyone has the right to access nature, and that, reciprocally, everyone has the responsibility of caring for the environment. The origins of Allmansrätten date back to the local laws and customs of the Middle Ages, and gives Swedes a unique level of free access to their own wilderness, as well as encouraging a high level of environmental responsibility. It’s just such an awesome precept!
- Lagom, which means “just the right amount”, or “enough, sufficient, adequate, just right”. The basis of the words is apparently from a Viking phrase meaning “around the team”, a phrase used to specify how much mead one should drink from the horn as it was passed around in order for everyone to receive a fair share. In a single word, lagom is said to describe the basis of the Swedish national psyche, one of consensus and equality. Very different to the consumerist, greedy mentality so often seen in Aus where people’s primary motivator seems to be “more is always better”.
- Herrings. Everywhere. In everything. And the tubes of mayonnaise + herring roe paste that gets offered to you at breakfast or squeezed on to hard boiled eggs for you. It’s not all bad, but was a bit of a surprise the first time we sampled what looked like a bit of harmless hard boiled egg and mayo, only to get a mouthful of fishy-eggy-mayonnaisy flavour.
And so much more! Thank you Sweden for an awesome time – so sorry we had to leave so soon…