Holy Olaf! Trondheim and Stiklestad

We arrived at Trondheim on Thursday to find the free motorhome parking completely packed full of vans large and small. We were lucky; having initially parked in a “grey area” between the free motorhome parking and a pay-and-display car park (it was all effectively one big car park, and it wasn’t very clear where one section ended and the other began), we later spotted another van preparing to leave and managed to bag the best spot in the free parking, right on the corner with grass to two sides.

It was only a ten minute walk into the centre of Trondheim.  The weather was gloriously warm and sunny, so we had a lovely afternoon wandering around the town centre. The cathedral is indeed very impressive:

We didn’t go inside. It would have been NOK 90 each to go in, so we wouldn’t have been popping in for a quick ten minute look around. I’d have quite liked to have seen the Norwegian crown jewels, which are in the cathedral, but that would’ve upped the cost to NOK 180 each. We decided not to bother and instead to make the most of the good weather outdoors.

Apart from the cathedral, the main things that stood out in Trondheim were the wooden wharf buildings and the Tesla cars. The centre of Trondheim is pretty much surrounded by water, with some very attractive old wharves, some renovated and others more dilapidated:

The town centre was quite attractive, and Mark managed to buy and post a card to Barbara at the farm. There were Teslas everywhere. For the avoidance of confusion, I don’t just mean that there were more Teslas than you’d expect to see in the UK; they were one of the most common car brands in town. We’ve seen plenty of other Teslas out and about in Norway, but seeing the sheer concentration of them in the centre of Trondheim really brought home how popular they are here.

As a quick aside, the other bit of modern technology that we keep seeing trundling around Norway (though at significantly lower speed than a Tesla) is the robotgressklipper (see, we’ll be fluid in Norwegian in no time; a B&Q-style store we drove past the other day was advertising them, and once you’ve seen the Norwegian word it’s a hard one to forget! If you don’t know what it is yet, have a stiff drink then say it aloud in your best Swedish chef voice; all should then become clear).

We’ve also sussed out the road toll situation; we passed a lot of toll cameras on the main roads round Trondheim, all taking relatively small amounts of money that could nevertheless add up to a sizeable sum by the time we get the bill. So it’s not just bridges….

Getting back to our travelling education, the main new character we’ve met since the last blog post is Olaf the Good / Saint Olaf. The list of Norwegian kings does seem to be a real muddle, probably going back to the idea, as we discovered in Denmark, that to become a king you just had to gave “royal blood”, which didn’t really narrow things down enough for any kind of continuity. So the best place to start explaining Olaf seems to be back in Denmark, where we learned plenty about King Harald Bluetooth.

As we know, Harald Bluetooth gained control of Norway in the tenth century. The Danes were a bit butterfingers though when it came to hanging onto Norway: Harald’s son Svein Forkbeard lost Norway in 995, regained it in 1000, then lost it again on his death in 1014 (but then I suppose he had other things on his mind at the time). A bloke called Olaf Haraldsson now popped up seemingly out of nowhere (though he had the all-important “royal blood”, being a descendant of an earlier king of Norway, Harald Fairhair) and got himself proclaimed king of Norway.

You’d gave thought that the Danes would have had a thing or two to say about this, but Svein Forkbeard’s son Cnut / Canute was a tad busy taking control of England at the time, so it was 1028 before he got round to invading Norway. By this point, Olaf had converted Norway to Christianity. Olaf was killed in battle at Stiklestad near Trondheim in 1030, and Norway became Danish again.

Olaf was buried, and when he was dug up again a year later (for unspecified reasons) it was found that his body had not decayed. Hurrah! He was quickly elevated to Sainthood as a result (there is no suggestion that he was particularly Saintly whilst alive). His body was then shunted from pillar to post around the graveyards of the region (there is no mention made as to whether it retained its miraculously undecayed state during these burials and diggings-up) before being finally buried in 1090 in Trondheim. The current cathedral was built on the site in the fourteenth century; he’s under there somewhere!. Having a handy local Saint to lure in the pilgrims was clearly big business, with Trondheim ending up with a very lovely cathedral as a result.

From Trondheim we continued North and stopped at Stiklestad. This promised the “National Cultural Centre”, which turned out to be a hotel, a restaurant, and what looked like some kind of open air museum (though as it was resolutely closed we couldn’t really tell). Sorry Norway, but the Danes have done an infinitely better job at Jelling…. (see blog post from earlier this trip).
We did see the church at Stiklestad; the altar is supposed to mark the very spot where Saint Olaf died.

There’s also a statue of Olaf:


By this point we’d decided that “Olaf the Good” / “Saint Olaf” was a masterful piece of early PR but somewhat lacking in substance, so we left him behind and turned North again.