12. Jul 2018
Veien til Nidaros
Experience beautiful natural scenery while you’re treading in the footsteps of the pilgrims of olden days. Good for the soul, good for the heart – and a safe journey on waymarked trails.
The Pilgrimage from Oslo to Trondheim takes three to four weeks, over all the hills, up to Dovrefjell Mountain and onward to the Nidaros Cathedral. This is the route taken by anyone who could not afford to take the boat but still wanted to reach the most sacred of sites. An arduous trip, and not something for wimps these days either.
Not everyone can spend a month doing the trek, but you can do long or short legs. If you walk the final 100 kilometres to Nidaros Cathedral, you will receive the Olav Certificate – the venerable proof that you are a pilgrim.
One option is to take the train to Berkåk in Rennebu. The station has gained status as a Pilgrim station, so you can get right off the train and start your trip. The trek from here to Nidaros takes six days. Alternatively, take the train to Verdal and walk from the historic Stiklestad site to the cathedral on waymarked trails.
You will find several route suggestions on pilegrimsleden.no, including parts of the 643-kilometre-long Gudbrandsdalen Route, or the slightly shorter St. Olav’s Route, which starts in Selänger in Sweden.
“I got to experience the Gudbrandsdalen Route from Oslo to Trondheim in several stages,” says Trine Neumann-Larsen, Communications Manager for the Pilgrim’s Route.
She is originally from Nordland County and became enchanted by the rolling landscape of Hamar and Hadeland as well as Trøndelag’s forest trails.
“A beautiful cultural landscape for someone like me who is used to the wild mountains of the North. I’ve walked Gudbrandsdalen Valley up and down, to Dovrefjell Mountain, and onward to Trøndelag which is incredibly lush,” says Neumann-Larsen, who also found it fascinating to experience various Norwegian dialects. They changed in each and every little valley she passed through.
Follow the stone posts
All along the route, there are 1.5-metre-high stone posts engraved with the Pilgrim logo. These also indicate the remaining distance to Nidaros in kilometres. There is even a milestone that awaits on Dovrefjell Mountain.
“They provide a reassurance that you’re on the right path. The trails are cleared and waymarked thanks to the efforts of 50 municipalities and many volunteers. I’m proud of the commitment and sense of ownership that people have.”
It gives Trine Neumann-Larsen extra joy to talk about the trees of Trøndelag.
“My favourite part is the route in the woods, which is quite prevalent in Trøndelag. The forest isolates you; you don’t hear the traffic, but you still have the security of the waymarked trails and can focus on enjoying yourself. The sound of birds, the wind in the trees, it’s beautiful.”
Following the Reformation, pilgrimages were banned, and the trekking expeditions to St. Olav faded away. In 1997, the route was waymarked, and just over a decade later several ministries joined forces to blow life into the nearly one thousand-year-old pilgrimage tradition.
In earlier times, you were required by law to receive a pilgrim. Today, most of the accommodations along the route consist of beautiful small farms. The pilgrims are a source of revenue for the farms, which in return provide trekkers with unique food and cultural experiences.
Stay the night in an old storehouse and get served sausage and cheese from the farm for breakfast. At Munkeby Farm in Levanger, the cheese is made by French monks in the French monastery nearby and served with homemade bread and beer, which is brewed for the cheese.
From home to Nidaros
Of all the people who walk the Pilgrim Route, 70 percent are foreigners, but the interest is increasing as more and more are discovering their own country. The Pilgrim Route is not only for believers.
“During the middle ages, people went to Nidaros to pray to a Viking King who became a saint after his death, but the pilgrim trekker’s motivation for going nowadays is an individual matter. Some do it as a girlfriend’s trip, others want to challenge themselves, and some walk for religious reasons. The common denominator is that they all experience the pilgrimage as meaningful,” says Neumann-Larsen.
Many of the trekkers have a personal story. Grief, gratitude, the need for time to reflect. A man from Belgium almost lost his life in a car accident, and the following year he walked out the door and to Trondheim. Each year there are several trekkers who do the same.
“The cathedral’s role as a pilgrimage site is the main focus in everything we do,” says the pilgrim priest at Nidaros, Einar Vegge.
By this, he means that reaching the holy site is the goal regardless of an individual’s stance and conviction, and he does not concern himself with people’s motivation to make the trek.
A real pilgrim
From mid-June to mid-September, Nidaros Cathedral holds a daily pilgrimage church service, which is simple in format with a lot of organ music and short prayers.
“However, a quiet, reverent reception is not something the pilgrim can necessarily count on, because in addition to being a church, the cathedral is an active museum and concert site,” says Vegge.
At the Nidaros Pilgrim Centre, 100 metres from the cathedral, the pilgrims encounter other trekkers and they can also stay the night there. There are volunteers and staff members present who are available to talk with visitors.
“Most people learn a lot about themselves on the trek, for better or worse. Many have intense impressions, outdoor experiences and a need to tell others about them. No matter whether you have walked for a weekend or trekked 643 kilometres from Oslo, we receive everyone like real pilgrims,” says the priest.
(Header photo: Pilegrimsleden.no/David Tett)