...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Warm greetings from Hell... err, Trondheim!

Tuesday, 17 February. A hotel in Trondheim, Norway, 7PM.

Lest you think I'm just being crass by making fun of Norway, here's proof that I literally passed through Hell today:

... at exactly 11:23 in the morning, too.

I wasn't the only one taking a picture of this small Norwegian town station when the train took a stop there this morning. Actually, you could tell who were native and who weren't by observing which groups were exchanging Hell-jokes in the train coach and which groups seemed uninterested. A cargo loading bay, which in Swedish and Norwegian is called “gods expedition,” becomes even more interesting in this small town where a yellow building was labeled: “Hell. Gods expedition.”

“Ho-hum,” the Norwegians were probably thinking as they observed their fellow passengers. “Here they go again.”

Yet, here I am. I passed through Hell. It wasn't my last stop after all, and here I am writing to you from Trondheim, Norway's third largest city, where I'm attending the second part of the course on disability policy (1st part was in Oslo last November). At around 400 kilometers under the arctic circle, this is the northernmost point on earth I've ever been to so far. It's surprisingly not as cold as I expected it to be. Since Trondheim lies very near the Gulf Stream (a warm stream of water carried to the northeastern Atlantic), land temperatures are much warmer here than than in Sweden on the same latitudes. The Trondheim streets, on the other hand, are heaping with snow, and I hear that it still doesn't get light here until 7:30 in the morning, even on a mid-February day.

The trip here began Monday evening. A colleague and I caught a train to Stockholm that connected to a midnight train going north. It was my first time in a sleeper train, which was an experience in itself. I shared the space with 5 other women, in triple-decker bunks on opposite sides of the aisle. I'm not especially tall, but there was hardly any headroom to sit upright on the bunks. It was a good thing that I was too tired to think about staying up, and I slept well despite the interrupted sleep.

In the morning, we connected to another train at Storlien in the Swedish mountain ranges, where it was -21 C. The views from the train windows were unbeatable – and I don't just mean the exoticity of passing through Hell station. We seemed to have gone up a mountain and passed right under the tree line, as we passed flat snow-covered fields with shrunken bonsai-like birch trees. Then from Storlien to Trondheim, we passed through tall mountains and deep valleys, winding rivers and a scenic fjord scene with small fishing boats.

No wonder the Norwegians I know are pure outdoors people. Seeing nature like that – even from inside the confines of a train car – explains it all.

Thursday 19 February. Home in Norrkoping, 11:35AM

There was definitely no time to pre-blog yesterday. We had a course the whole day and magically managed to squeeze in some city sightseeing before catching the train out of Trondheim. It was very hectic – I still have a head that feels stuffed with cotton balls after a full day of activity and a not-so-restful evening in the homeward-bound sleeper train.

Decided that I should see a bit of Trondheim despite the tight schedule, I got up yesterday at 7AM to walk around the dark city. The city was only beginning to get to life, just as the weak sun against the cloudy skies. It must have been plus-degrees already – the heaps of street snow were quickly turning into dark pools of muddy slush. Later in the afternoon, I even fell calf-deep into a slush pool that was pretending to be a puddle. Thank goodness for Goretex boots. Norwegians, incidentally, all seem to wear robust-looking footwear.

Both in the morning and afternoon, I got to see what Trondheim was famous for: the old town bridge that overlooks a row of buildings on stilts, and the Nidaros cathedral, an impressive example of Gothic architecture that used to be an important site of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, the opening times of the cathedral had passed when we got there. It should have looked equally impressive from the inside.

Old storehouses that stand on stilts flank the river Nidelva

Gotham city? It's Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim

It was a bit of a pity that we didn't have time to explore Trondheim more. It seemed to be a pleasant little city, surely with small secret areas to be discovered, if only we had time to hang around and be guided by the locals. After falling into that slush pool and changing to dry socks, we just had enough time to walk back to the train station and catch the train that would later connect us to the sleeper train down home.

But first, back to Hell...

In our hurry to get to the train station on time, I had completely forgotten to send two already-stamped postcards to my family. Immediately when I sat down on the train to feel my pockets, the postcards were there – stamped, unsent, worthless. I considered asking a kind Norwegian soul in the train for a favor... but who know when they'll be back up there? It seemed my only option was to re-stamp them with Swedish stamps and send the postcards from Norrköping. Too bad. I kind of fancied the thought of the postcards being sent all the way from the top of the earth.

But I thought of something better. I sent them from Hell. The train conductor was so kind as to oblige.

Warm greetings from Hell, folks.

Pictures to be posted in Multiply soon.


Anonymous Rafal said...

I found your blog very interesting for me due to fact that I'm inderested in Scandinavia and its culture.
Could you write me something more about your trip to Trondheim? What was the trip timeplan? How much trains costed?
Rafal (sowiakr@interia.pl)

1:13 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Hi! Glad you found your way to my blog!

I was in only Trondheim for a couple of days. The train from Norrköping, back and forth, cost about 1,700 SEK, in a sleeper cabin shared by 6, with 1 and 2 train changes per trip.

As I wasn't there as a tourist, I didn't have any real time plan for exploring the city: I just went out and explored when I could basically. The schedules for the train you can find at www.sj.se, the Swedish train company's site. There are surely good resources over the internet if you're traveling as a tourist or a student. Try WikiTravel, for instance.

Have fun!

3:40 PM


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