Friday, 6 August 2010

Finally: living the dream!

Written 5th August 

Fishie supper!  Wohoo!  But I'll get to that...

Unfortunately, our arrival in Trondheim was more nightmare than dream-like and did nothing to disabuse us of our conviction that we have had enough of cities.  We didn't know anything about the place other than it has mediaeval origins, an old town and a tip off that there was an aire by the stadium and we went in with a general expectation that Norway's cities would be a motorhome friendly as Norway's countryside.  And sadly we were proved wrong on both those last counts.  

There was very little in the way of traffic but also very little in the way of useful signage and a lot in the way of traffic lights.  All of which seemed conspired against us.  And with Jules protesting at every enforced stop by cutting its engine, flashing all of its cross little red dashboard lights and refusing to go again - the van equivalent of of lying on the floor, kicking its legs in the air and throwing a purple screaming fit like you see with small children in supermarkets, except that with a van you can neither drag it across the floor nor walk away while it screams itself out - it was not much fun for all concerned.

And to make matters worse, Trondheim seemed destined to be the exception which proves our generally held rule that there is always free parking, you just have to be prepared to go far enough out of the centre to find it.  We found the stadium eventually but the 'aire' was just the carpark which turned into pay parking by 8am the following morning and once we got out of the pay parking zone, all the streets were either 'no stopping' or 'residents only'.  Rubbish.  What are the mobile population of Norway supposed to do here?

Just as we were on the verge of giving up, we found an unmarked hilltop residential street where other people were parked on the road and stopped on the only flat bit we could find at the crest of the hill.  Done.  Thank god.

We did get a nice quiet, undisturbed night's sleep but in the morning we found Will had left the lights on so the battery was completely flat.  Wouldn't have minded being disturbed to be told about that.  Ridiculous countries where you have to have your lights on all the time.

Still, nothing we could do.  Even if we had got it started then and there, it would still cost us to drive on the ring road out of the city and we know for sure there is nowhere else to park in town so best just left for now.  And so we headed down the hill into town on our bikes.

And fortunately, after all that, it was very pleasant :)  and Trondheim has the world's first (and only?) bicycle lift.  So there you go.

Although it feels quite small and compact, Trondheim is actually Norway's third largest city and was its first capital city, having been chosen by the Viking King Olav Tryggvason when he sailed into the fjord in AD 997. He called it Nidaros (Town-by-the-Estuary-of-the-River-Nid, it's catchier in Norwegian!) and it was only in the late middle ages that it became Trondheim (Home-of-the-Tronder) a shortened form of its actual name The-Market-Town-in-Trondheimen.  You have to admit, they had a way with names!

In its impressive Domkirke (cathedral), the city boasts the largest mediaeval building in Scandinavia and  King Olav Haraldsson, aka St Olav, was buried there in 1030.  It was he who ended the worship of the Nordic gods in Norway by converting the country to Christianity and since his burial there, the church has been not only the burial place of many Norwegian kings  but also the country's coronation church and the repository of the crown jewels.  And as St Olav's day is 29th July, we caught the last day of the St Olav's festival, which was all rather jolly.

The church has an impressive façade, covered in statues of saints and biblical figures, all of which have been painstakingly restored or recarved in the last 100 years. 

St Olav is the one with the celebratory festival wreath.

As usual, we didn't pay to go in but did check out the gift shop and the post cards to see what we were missing.  Which is when we saw this cheeky chappy, a stone mason who allegedly holds the last stone as, according to legend, if the cathedral is ever completed, the whole city will slide into the fjord - an excellent builders excuse if ever I heard one!  Mind you though, with the amount of restoration work on going, I think the city is in no danger for a good while yet anyway :)

Well he looked quite jolly so we set out to find him.  Which turned into a challenge of Where's Wally proportions.  Eventually we gave up and asked in the gift shop where the woman gave me a series of directions which involved a certain number of steps in two directions from an unclear point somewhere over the otherside of the square and then looking at the parapet, counting flowers and he will appear... Hmmm  the da vinci code was easier to follow than that! 

On second asking, she came out - saying that she'd been asked before and obviously her instructions were not very good as none of the previous people had been able to find him either! - and led us to the right spot.  Where we did finally see him, totally not where we expected, up on the tower through a hole.  Quest over!

And then through the gate into the Archbishop's palace where we found the mediaeval fayre in celebration of the feast of St Olav

complete with mediaeval stone masons,


and stalls with mystic jewellery, glass stuff, woolly hats and socks and even ye olde toffee apples. 


You have to pay to go into the museum and the crown jewels treasury But unexpectedly the military and resistance museum turned out to be free.  So a happy hour or so was passed learning some of Norway's history: union with Denmark, peace treaties and wars with Sweden which led respectively to loss and regaining of land , cession by Denmark to Sweden, eventual peaceful independence in 1905, popular vote to be a monarchy but lack of royalty so appointment of a Danish prince, neutrality in WWI and Nazi occupation in 1940.  Apparently the germans were in almost overnight in April 1940 and with all the major cities taken by surprise, it was only two months before the country capitulated.  But lots of tales of resistance derring-do involving norwegian fishing boats and the like.  The swift victory of the Nazis has left a lasting legacy in the founding of the home guard, a conscripted defence force ready to spring from their day jobs into action, which includes some 5,000 fishing boats which can all be armed and dangerous in defence of the high seas, should ever the need arise.  So there you go.

We had a bit of a wander, down to the quay,

through the wooden buildings of the old town

and up to the fortress for the view,

where we found the bicycle lift, a curious contraption whereby we think you keep your bike on the road and rest your foot on a block which slides up a rail on the pavement thereby propelling you and your bike up along with it. 

 But no one was using it so we can't be sure.

Oh, and we saw this, a 4WD off-road motorhome.  The picture doesn't do justice to the foot clearance between the tyres and the wheel arches - it looked like the love-child of a motorhome and a monster truck!  I don't know how they have any crockery left if they actually use it for its proper purpose.  Although presumably in reality it is just the Chelsea tractor of motorhomes, just used for transporting the little darlings on motorways... ;)

And we rounded off our day with some St Olav's day festive Dixieland  jazz outside one of the hotels, gazing wistfully at the glasses of wine being held aloft in the adjacent pavement café.

But we can't spend all afternoon sitting around on kerbs watching jazz, we've got a van to start.  So back up the hill we went.

Now, as I said, we're parked at the crest of a hill.  Easy you say, one little push, roll downhill, jump start, job done, Robert is your mother's brother.

Yes well, I didn't tell you about the speed bump we're hard up against.  After surveying the backwards downhill option - afterall, we've done that before - Will decided that forwards was still the best plan.  So, with the ancillaries hooked up to the leisure battery, we set about hauling it over the speed bump with the ratchet straps (their first outing on the trip so far, we've used everything else except the fire extinguishers, of which we have four... Well you can't be too prepared!), using a conveniently sited telegraph pole as a pulley.  Which, thanks to the miracle that is physics, was rather easier than expected!  And yes, I did help, not just take pictures.  And with the extra kick start from rolling down the speedbump, we were soon well away once more.  Crisis averted.  Back on the road. Hurrah!

Our next tourist touch point was the Atlantic Ocean Road (which is curiously on the coast of the Norwegian Sea) on Averoya, described as the place where the highway meets the sea and voted Norway's Engineering Feat of the 20th century. 

I'm not sure what that says about the rest of Norway's engineering prowess over the last 100 years but as a road its pretty nice. 

Snaking across a series of small islands in a sinuous succession of bridges, the road seems at some points as if it will dip its toes in the water before bouncing back up skywards again.

We stopped midway for a picture

and found a purpose-built fishing gantry running alongside the road, crowded with fisherpeople all of whom had bulging, flapping carrier bags. Just while we were watching, another five were reeled in.  Well, if we can't catch a fish here we might as well just give up and go home!

So, back to the van to get our two halves of rod - the reel bit no longer being attached to the stick bit - and our makeshift weight/lure made out of bits of bike spoke.  Well its a bit shiny and wiggly and fish are renowned for being a bit stupid and having short memories, they won't remember that every other fish they have ever eaten didn't look like this...

Will they?

Hmm, maybe we weren't giving the fish enough credit.  Whilst everyone around us was merrily hoiking fish after fish out of the water - including this six pound monster - pretty much as soon as their fishie lure went in, ours remained, shunned by the fishie connoisseurs of the deep.  Will did catch something huge... But sadly it was the bridge, and even that got away in the end...  humph

When the small child on one side of us distainfully landed his fifth or sixth fish and the couple next to us, who told us it was their first ever go hooked a big fish out each within minutes of turning up, we decided enough was enough and slunk off back to the van to eat our fish free pasta dinner and watch the sunset.  I think i'll stick to Wii Fishing in future, I'm far better at that...

But in the morning, the sun was still shining and hope abounded anew.  Having watched everyone else, we had decided that there was nothing wrong with our technique - broken rod notwithstanding - so in the true manner of bad workmen, we blamed our tools. Clearly our bike spoke lure was just not lunch-like enough. 

So we tried again, with a bolt and some tinfoil.  Surely this will fool some fish into dining...

But no.  If it started out looking fish-like to us, it clearly didn't to any actual fish - or if it did, it was some kind of sick fish with dementia who couldn't swim.  And after a few trawls through the water, the tinfoil unravelled itself so it was just bolt-like.  So, again despite merry fisherpeople surrounding us, we were once more destined to be fishless and whilst it was pleasant enough on the bridge in the sun, it was somewhat spoilt by the exercise in futility so we gave up.  Time to be back on the road, even if, what with petrol and ferries, we are once more bouncing off the bottom of this week's budget.

But just a mile or so down the road, there was a co-op.  Which not only sold the bread we went in for, but also proper fishie lures.  For much, much less than we expected they would cost.  Well this changes everything.  Lets try again!

So.  Back to the bridge.  With Fish Olav (as in Tryggvason) who has sailed in to claim this estuary as his own!

Will went off to set himself up whilst I stayed behind just long enough to slice some bread for lunch joking "just try not to catch anything before I get there...!"  

Well, he clearly didn't try hard enough as there was already a fish on the end of his line by the time I had sliced six bits of bread and walked on the the gantry!   


The next one soon followed, plus some which got away and so it continued!  Even I caught some!  Although mine were a bit stupid as, whereas all three of Will's were caught through trying to actually eat Olav, the way you are meant to catch fish, mine just impaled random bits of themselves on my hook.  The first one was caught by his tail - although he got away in a bag/edge of bridge/unfortunate relative positioning thereof/lucky wriggle incident - the second by a gill and the third just through his side.  Silly fishies.

After an hour we decided five fish were enough for dinner - feeling particularly smug as you can imagine as there were definitely some better equipped looking people who went away empty handed! Although I think I somewhat spolt the cool professional fishing image with the undignified sqeals of excitement - and set about wondering how to cook our little shoal.

As you may remember, the original fishing rod dream back in portugal was catching fish and cooking them on a drift wood fire on a beach in the setting sun.  Well, substitute beach for  rocky shoreside layby and we're pretty much there!

Will had spotted an old pallet washed up on the rocks the previous evening so we set about retrieving it - well you have to do your bit for keeping norway's coastline clean! - and made short work of dismantling it using his enormous screwdriver, his enormous AJ, the big pliars and a surprisingly resiliant tiny freebie penknife we got from my dad.  Excellent.

I would like to be able to say that I got on with fish prep, but it turns out I am a bit squeamish.   I quite like fish (although obviously with preference and given a choice I will have a big lump of cow any day) but i'm not a big fan of those fishies which come with eyes rather than fingers if you get my meaning... so he did that too.  He is a good husband. :)

So here we are.  Accompanied by Fishies Edvard, Harald, Hakon, Petter and Knut and tarragon. 

I don't know about feeding the five thousand but five fishes and half a loaf is miracle enough for us! :)

Sea: check. 

Sunset: check. 

Red sliver of moon just rising over the horizon: check.

Driftwood bbq: check.  Fresh fish caught with our own fair hands wrapped in tin foil with salt and tarragon: check.

As the Cat would say:  "I'm gonna eat you little fishie.  I'm gonna eat you little fishie. I'm gonna eat you little fishie cos I like eating fish!

Mmm mmm mmmmmmmm

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