Aug 8, 2008

Downtown Trondheim

My story continues. In case you're a little bit confused by the timeline, Day 1 was en route from Bergen to Dombås, and days 2 and 3 were in Trondheim. So what follows is from day 2, and is what we did between our lunch time and evening time visit to the sunny side of Nid.

We arrived in Trondheim a little after noon, which meant our rooms weren't ready. We stored our luggage and, after foraging for maps and having some local brochure thrust at us by our guide, we set off to explore the city.

As we sat with some cold drinks on the floating restaurant in the river (we just had to have the experience, even if they had no food we liked), we started looking more closely at our map and the brochure. The brochure turned out to be the complete schedule for all musical events in Trondheim that week in connection with "Olavsdagene". So we timed our sightseeing according to when various musical events would be happening.

So first we found a place to have lunch, and we ended up at an outdoor restaurant right next to the town square, which really is square. In the middle is a very tall pedestal with King Olav Tryggvason on top.


The main square with pedestrian shopping streets, and the city founder, King Olav Tryggvason, high on his pedestal.

Olav who, you're asking? Good question. Here's the run-down: Olav I, also known as Olav Tryggvason, reigned in 995-1000 and in 997 founding a trading post that later became the city of Trondheim. Olav III is Olav Kyrre, who reigned 1067-1093 and officially put Bergen on the map in 1070. St. Olav, the dead Christian guy, is Olav II.


Apropos St. Olav…

Speaking of kings in Trondheim, this building (Stiftsgården), right in the heart of downtown Trondheim, is the royal residency when Norway's current king visits.

My impressions of Trondheim, as someone who lives in Bergen, a charming city in its own right, is that Trondheim is neater, more open, with more of a compact city center (having a river on two sides and the ocean on the third will do that). One of the funny things about our trip is that we weren't necessarily waited on by locals or even Norwegians. My, how times have changed! I was so worried about not understanding "trøndersk" (the local dialect of Trondheim, which tends to treat a single vowel as a whole word), and instead I got Swedish and Osloish and an Italian accent, and even a Bergenser. (I shan't complain. I remember my last trip to Trondheim some 20 years ago where I almost switched to English in desperation.)


Somewhere on our way to the downtown shopping area, we ran into this professional shopper.

I got an explanation for the wide boulevards (wide by Norwegian standards, for sure): After several devastating city fires, new planning by a French architect (name escapes me) meant building wide streets that could function as fire breaks. The streets were also laid out in a grid, with main streets running according to the directions of the compass, at right angles to each other. The result is an orderliness and spaciousness one rarely sees in old medieval cities. The fact that the city seemed very clean and well-kept added to the feeling of order.

After gawking at the old buildings, the wharf, the fish market (where I saw a flounder actually try to spit at the people surrounding its tank), we had an appointment with a jazz band offering a free sidewalk concert. Had we realized it would be standing room only, we would have had lunch at the venue's outdoor restaurant. But it didn't really matter in the end; we couldn't stay for it all, since we also had an appointment with a vesper service.


Yes, we have Japanese tourists who photograph everything. Music was good, too.

We actually stood in the street to listen to the band, and I was expecting some semi-annoyed motorists to show up, but there was surprisingly little traffic as we stood there and even less disturbance in the crowd blocking one lane. Something tells me that the people of Trondheim are a bit more laid back than the people of Bergen. I noticed it while we were being served food, too. Here is my very subjective impression: Wait people in Bergen are efficient and friendly. Wait people in Trondheim are also efficient and friendly, but they have less of an air of "this is business, don't waste my time" about them (it's subtle, but I'll swear I sensed it). Perhaps Bergensers are used to thinking and deciding faster and our wait people adjust. There is, after all, the old joke that a "trønder" (person from the counties Trondheim is a part of) are spontaneous once they've given it a thought. Bergensers, however, are known as the Italians of the north. ;-)

2 comments:

chanpheng said...

Looks like a great trip. If there are Japanese tourists along the way, it means that the places you're visiting are worthwhile.

Keera Ann Fox said...

So that guy is actually Quality Control? :-)