Wednesday, June 22, 2011


When I make my return to the United States in mid-July I’ll have spent a total of about three months living in Norway—including the weeks I spent here this past December. Most of that time has been in Trondheim, Norway’s third most populated city—behind Oslo and Bergen, and just ahead of Stavanger. I’m not an expert on the place by any means, but I do know a good deal more about it than your average backpacker or cruise-ship voyager. And I really like it here. I thought I’d talk a little bit about the place that I call home when I’m in Norway.

A little history first, though. Trondheim was founded in 997 and served as the capital of Norway during the time of the Vikings for about 300 years. The town also served as the Catholic center of Norway for hundreds of years before Protestant proselytization in the 1500s. The stoic, ubiquitously looming structure that is the Nidaros Cathedral dominates the Trondheim skyline, and serves as a constant reminder of these religious roots. You can see Nidaros’ steeple from virtually anywhere in the town: it’s the tallest church in Norway. And since it is so close to Tonje’s apartment, it serves as a Polaris of sorts for me when I’m off in the city and trying to get back to Tonje’s place. More recently, Trondheim was occupied by the Nazis from 1940 to 1945. Although the Germans constructed new buildings and had a large influence on the place during the occupation, there is little today to remind Trondheimians of their former presence.

But the buildings—and traditional dress on May 17th—are all that remains of Trondheim’s historical roots: otherwise, it is a very modern European city for the most part. A couple streets—including the one I live on—are lined with old buildings harking back to Trondheim’s days as a shipping town. The Bakklandet area is well-known for its multicolored wooden structures and quaint shops: it’s idyllic and welcoming. The rest of Trondheim is comprised of modern staples like malls, hotels, cafés, bars and apartment complexes. Whether you’re looking to explore ancient history, religious sites, typical Norwegian culture or just catch a concert and a beer, you’ll find it in Trondheim.

Bisected by the Nidelva River, and abutting Trondheimsfjorden, Trondheim is also surrounded by nature. A short, 15-minute walk through the busy streets will lead you deep into the hearts of the woods or the mountains. If you’re looking to seek solace from the city life, you can wander along the numerous trails along the Nydelva and feel like you’re in the backcountry. Whereas carrying a fishing pole down the streets of New York City would lead to strange looks or worse, such images are actually quite common here.

The city is really young too. The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) breathes much of this youth into the city: its students comprise about one sixth of the population here. And since Trondheim is by far the most populated city not in the southern parts of the country, any young person in the northern half of Norway seeking an exciting weekend or a night out will venture into Trondheim. Although you will see the occasional senior citizen fresh off a cruise ship snapping pictures, the city feels like it has an average population age in the upper 20s.

Trondheim has typical Norwegian weather: frequent changes from rain to cloudiness to occasional sun. It’s cold in the winter, but relatively mild the rest of the year due to the influence of the Gulf Stream. During the most recent months—May and June—an average day is mostly cloudy with temperatures around 60 Fahrenheit, or 16 Celsius. Some days will push 80 and others will dip down into the low 50s. The weather is great for running, and most outdoor activities for that matter.

And as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, almost everywhere you’d want to go is within reasonable walking distance. Within two minutes I can be at multiple grocery stores, the gym, several cafés and bars and the river. Five more minutes of walking and you’ll find yourself in the heart of downtown, at the train station or down at Solsiden—a collection of shops, bars and restaurants surrounding the docks of Trondheim. I take full advantage of this when I can.

Trondheim can be what you want it to be: it’s got a bit of everything. Those who hail from the city love it, and visitors often feel likewise. Every time I walk out of the Trondheim train station after returning from a weekend trip, I feel at home. I miss it when I’m gone and I find my thoughts drifting to it when I’m back in the US. And although the US will always be my home, it’s nice to have a place that I feel so comfortable in while I’m away. The “heim” at the end of Trondheim means “home”: a good name, and an apt one.

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