We were passengers on a Hurtigruten ship sailing up the coast of Norway from Bergen to Tromso in August 2022. It was our second day at sea and our ship was timetabled for spending 3 hours in Trondheim and the passengers were able to leave the ship at that time and choose a variety of activities while we were there. We decided we would do a city tour on bikes.
Trondheim lies on the south shore of the Trondheim Fjord at the mouth of the River Nidelva. It is the fourth largest city in Norway and appeared to be a prosperous and very livable city for its citizens. There is a Norwegian University of Science and technology there which accounted for the large number of students we encountered as we explored the city. The city was founded in 997 CE and served as the capital of Norway during the Viking age until 1217.
The map of the city below with our bike route indicated by the dashes shows that we started out at the docks and rode for some time along on what appears to be a long thin, man-made ‘island’ devoted to the shipping trade. The centre of Trondheim is on a land mass almost completely surrounded by the river Nidelva. Our shore front ride basically gave us an understanding of how Trondheim developed as a trading port and has remained so for the last thousand years.
We left our Hurtigruten boat behind and rode for a short time along the docks area, stopping at a monument to Leiv Eiriksson, a replica of a statue erected in Seattle in 1962 as part of the World’s Fair in that city. Eiriksson’s journey to Vinland, (North America) in the year 1000CE has been known about since the 13th century as it was written into the sagas of the Norsemen. Independent confirmation of Vikings in Newfoundland has been precisely measured by scientists as occurring in 1021, around 1000 years ago; discarded sticks and tree trunks with clean edges were used in this process as the indigenous inhabitants did not have metal tools to cut wood.
From the statue of Leiv Eiriksson, we moved down to the edge of the docks where the small island of Munkholmen could be clearly seen off the coast with its defensive walls and an enclosed building inside these walls. Over the last 1000 years, this conveniently located island has been used as a place of execution, a monastery, a fortress, a prison and during World War 2, as an anti-aircraft gun station. It is also a big tourist destination for visitors with more time to explore than us.
As explained above, we were riding along a thin strip of land that sat between the city of Trondheim and the open Fjord. There was basically a canal where all the leisure craft belonging to locals were moored as well as providing an expensive outlook for those citizens who were able to afford the gorgeous houses with a marine view.
The Trondheim Canal we were riding beside had exits at both ends. The curious piece of engineering in the photo on the left (the Skanson Bridge) was designed by one Joseph Straus who among other things designed the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It is a railway bridge with a counterweight that is able to open the bridge to provide a means of enabling sailing boats to pass out this end of the canal. The bridge was opened in 1918 and in 2006 it received ‘architectural conservation’ being unique in Norway and one of the few left in the world.
Our guide showed us the area of Trondheim that stretched quite a way along the fjord before it was time to swing around and head to the centre of the city. I did not quite catch the name of the institution that owned the white building in the photo above but I must admit I was slightly amused when he explained how lucky the members were because they had such a lovely beach for their private swimming usage. I admit that I sneered to my travel companion and muttered, “These characters don’t know what a real beach looks like!”
We left the fjord side of Trondheim and headed towards the river before turning left onto Kongens Gate where not far along we encountered the Llen Church. This grey-stone church was built in 1889. The distance between the fjord and the river here is only 250 metres.
Norway was occupied by Nazi Germany from the 10th June 1940. By 1942, the Nazi’s ‘ultimate solution’ to the Jewish question came to Trondheim. One of the inexplicable incidents that occurred in that year was that a 13 year old Jewish girl, Cissi Klein, was taken from her Kalvskinnet School classroom by Norwegian police and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp where she died a year later. In a park between Kongens Gate and Erling Skakkes Gate there is a beautiful little park that our guide led us to. There is a statue of Cissi on a park bench here. It was unveiled on 6th October 1997 and pupils from Kalvskinnet School took part; every year since then, the school holds a memorial service here.
From Cissi Klein’s park, we rode towards the Nidaros Cathedral. On the way, we passed through the yard of the Cathedral Restoration Workshop which was established in 1869. We then pedaled along to the oldest medieval church in the Nordic Region; its construction started with the building of a stone church in 1070. Our guide kept us for some time in front of the cathedral talking us through some of the Cathedral’s history as well as pointing out features of the Romanesque and High Gothic periods of St Olav’s Church. We didn’t have time or opportunity to go inside the church but we had already planned to come back to Trondheim after we finished our boat trip Tromso. I planned to have a much closer look at this amazing building during that stay.
After finishing our frontal inspection of Nidaros Cathedral, we rode a short way from the church to a large café that clearly had the contract for providing morning teas for Hurtigruten groups. It was a very pleasant tea-break in a beautiful place and all the bike riders were very happy for the quality coffee and cake.
From our morning tea house, we rode to the central ‘piazza’ of Trondheim (Torvet). The main feature of this area was the tall pillar on which a statue of Olav Tryggvason stood, considered the founder of Trondheim. An extra feature of this column is that it stands on top of an obelisk, a cobblestone mosaic dating from 1930 which forms a huge sun dial.
From Torvet we biked down to the river to inspect Gamle or Old Town Bridge. It had been built in 1681 as part of a reconstruction of Trondheim after a great fire of that year. There is a sad story about a waltz written about this bridge in the early 1940s by singer/composer Kristian Hoddo. He was a member of the Resistance Movement against the Nazi occupiers but was captured with 8 other fighters in November 1943 and executed.
From the Old Town Bridge can be seen the University of Science and Technology on the western side of the Nidelva River. Our guide referred to it as the Hogworts of Trondheim. He was also very aware that our tour was running out of time so our ride back to our ship was a fairly swift one without much sightseeing. Despite little commentary, we were able to enjoy the views of the river, particularly of the tall colourful houses that stretched out over the water. It gave us ideas for sightseeing when we reeturned to this fascinating town in the near future.