One of the oldest towns in the world, Trondheim has one of the youngest attitudes

August 12, 2012

ABOARD THE MS NORDLYS – Breakfast in Boston, for me, means a glass of orange juice and a slice of toast. That’s it. The day begins.

On this Hurtigruten cruise ship in Norway, however, breakfast is a Vikings’ banquet.

Norwegians take their breakfasts very seriously, and the buffet choices that greet us in the dining room every morning require considerable concentration, There are huge platters of delicious native salmon, bowls of herring, pickled in onion and vinegar, soaking in mustard sauce, cream sauce and tomato sauce. There are cold cuts, green salad, beets, cucumbers, reindeer pate, and the usual assortment of eggs, bacon, oatmeal, and — a specialty of the country — cloudberry jam.

Facade of the Nidaros Cathedral, Norway’s oldest and most famous church

Fortified with all these Norwegian delicacies, we waddled off the ship today into the town of Trondheim, where we docked overnight. Here, it turns out, you can fish for some of that delicious salmon in your front yard right in the city center. That’s how clean the river is that runs through it.

One of the oldest towns in the world, Trondheim has one of the youngest attitudes.

The royal city of Trondheim, here on the central coast of Norway, was founded by King Olaf in the year 997. In 2012, it boasts the Rock Museum of Norway.

Its magnificent Nidaros Cathedral, the national shrine begun in Roman times, has the likeness of Bob Dylan on one of its stone saint statues.

Talk about contrasts!

We walked this morning through what was once Norway’s capital, still considered its royal city, with the country’s kings coming here to be blessed at various ceremonies, and the current King Harald and his family taking up royal residence when they visit.

It is a town filled with superlatives: home of the second largest university in Norway, the University of Trondheim; home of the third longest fjord in Norway; home of the northernmost synagogue in the world and the biggest Gothic church in Scandinavia. The latter, Nidaros Cathedral, is so large that when the organist plays a note at one end of the church, the rumor is that he has to wait two seconds before the sound reaches the other end.

Former warehouses in Trondheim have been turned into contemporary condominiums

While this beautiful Nidaros Cathedral was begun in Roman times, craftsmen continued working on it during Gothic times, so that its architecture reflects both periods. It is still not finished. Among its treasures is the magnificent stained glass rose window created by artist Gabriel Kielland, with a ruby center symbolizing Christ surrounded by angels. Olaf the Saint, the “eternal king” of Norway, who introduced christianity to the country, is buried under the church, and the stone statue of St. Michael, the saint who traditionally fights against evil forces, was carved in 1969. And guess who was the model for his face . . . Bob Dylan! (He is revered here for his opposition to the Vietnam War.)

The church is considered an international destination for pilgrims and those who make their way here have access to food and rest at the Nidaros Pilgrim Centre close by.

The royal jewels are stored in a building to the side of the cathedral, unfortunately closed on the Sunday morning of our visit.

Capt. Truls Bruland shows us the bridge

Many artists now live in what’s called Old Town, which, like many towns and parts of towns in this country, long ago burned to the ground, so that now its houses reflect the 17th and 18th centuries when they were rebuilt. Also, plenty of the university’s 20,000 students stay on after college to work here because the life is active and young, with rock and jazz music continuously available, and its profusion of cafes and pubs. The wealthiest residential section is nearest the waterfront, where warehouses that used to house fish, now rehabbed and professionally re-designed, sell as condominiums for $1 million.

Sigrid Unset, one of Norway’s Nobel Prize-winning writers, lived in Trondheim when she wrote her masterpiece trilogy about the life of the fictional Kristin Lavransdatter, a woman of the Middle Ages.

We bade farewell to Trondheim this afternoon and climbed back on board the MS Nordlys to meet our ship captain, Truls Bruland, who welcomed us into the bridge and showed us the numerous electronic methods of steering and guiding this 600-passenger ship. After explaining the many technical aids to his work, Capt. Bruland, who had to finish six years of education and training before even being considered capable of becoming a captain, asked if anyone knew what the most important piece of equipment on the bridge was. None of us hazard a guess, so he gave us the answer:

“The coffee machine,” he revealed, pointing to the electric coffee maker at the back of the bridge.

Photos by Timothy Leland


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