By Sarah Jost
Seven hours north of Oslo by train, tucked into the Trondheimsfjord, lies Trondheim, Norway’s third largest city. Established in 997, Trondheim’s history includes stints as the seat of the king and Norway’s capital, and, more recently, a five year occupation by the Nazis. Nowadays, Trondheim is a quaint but hip city, with 20% of their population composed of students, filled with cobblestone streets and pedestrian thoroughfares just begging to be explored.
I’m lucky enough to be visiting Trondheim during the magical time of the midnight twilight, typically 20 May to 20 July, when the city never experiences complete darkness. Thanks to Trondheim’s northern location near the Arctic Circle, the sun only sets for a few hours during this period, and even then only hovers just below the horizon. The effect is an ease of being I’ve rarely experienced. Normally, I begin to feel stressed about to do’s and deadlines and preparations for the next day once the sun goes down. Darkness makes me feel as if bedtime is suddenly lurching towards me, encroaching on my window of productivity. With no darkness, however, I feel like I have all the time in the world to get things done. The day never ends! Bedtime simply feels like a short nap in the middle of the day to get some rest, and then I’m ready to bound out of bed again and get back to what I was doing. I’m usually less of a morning person than Dracula, but have been gleefully bouncing out of bed at 7am all week, even if I go to bed well past midnight. It is unbelievably delightful.
The downside of Trondheim’s 63° N latitude is that it is currently 54° Farenheit. In June. Yet everyone here seems happy, fit, and quite content to spend hours perusing both the daily outdoor fruit and vegetable market in the town square (which is actually a circle, those avant garde Norwegians) and the current Midsummer Market, which occupies both the square/circle and four streets.
A short walk over the Old Town Bridge to the Bakklandet neighborhood reveals more cobblestone streets, this time narrower and cuter, and the prettiest pastel buildings, each harbouring a tiny cafe, shoppe, or bakery. During my first day exploring Trondheim, I told my girlfriend that it reminded me of Amsterdam but…’in a snow globe’, she immediately finished, nailing it neatly on the head. If that description is accurate, then Bakklandet is like Amsterdam shrunken, in a snow globe, being sold at Disney World. All of the beautiful, blonde, stylish Norwegians gliding past on their bicycles or pushing their other-worldly adorable babies past in prams only adds to the surreality. Then one of the dozens of impossibly cute and tiny Buddy electric cars I’ve seen around town drives by and I realise: this is Disney World, and I’m not in a snow globe. This is real life for these people, and they’re really doing things right.
I get to spend two more days enjoying the charm and fun of Trondheim before setting off on a week-long expedition through the rest of Norway. I already got a preview of what has to be CGI scenery on the train ride from Oslo to Trondheim, and I can’t wait for what I’m sure will be a week of more dropped jaws and incredulity.