The Pilgrim’s Route is a common name for routes leading from various parts of Norway to Trondheim and Nidaros Cathedral, following in the footsteps of pilgrims.

In 1997, work was begun on re-marking the routes. These are excellent hiking paths, long or short. I started with a short one.

“We are now arriving at Kongsvoll station, exit right.”

My pilgrimage follows the Gudbrandsdal route across the Dovrefjell mountains. I take it easy to begin with, spending the night and dining well at the mountain lodge, Kongsvold Fjeldstue. The mountain lodges were built long ago to house people travelling across the mountains. The ground floor of today’s main building probably dates back to 1720. It is a venerable and impressive building.

In the realm of the musk ox

The Dovrefjell mountains and Dovrefjell National Park are the home ground of the musk ox. Ellen and Knut J. Nyhus run Kongsvold Fjellstue and have seen musk ox on a number of occasions.

“In spring they pass through the valley and we see them by the roadside. In autumn they are found up in the mountains and are less often seen.”

Musk oxen, however, are closer than I thought. My hosts at the mountain lodge are excellent cooks. There is local food on the menu, and our three course meal consists of sauna smoked musk ox, mountain trout and cloudberries. Delicious!

Plan your own pilgrimage

The mediaeval pilgrims went all the way to Nidaros, and their supreme goal was the shrine of Olav the Holy in Nidaros Cathedral. Today, pilgrimages may have any number of themes and are just as much for those of us who want to walk through scenic countryside, visit cultural monuments and meet nice people. However, having at least some knowledge of history makes the trip more interesting, and therefore it is a good idea to stop at one of the regional pilgrim centres of Norway.

After spending the night at Kongsvoll I take the train to Berkåk. It is 10 km from the station to Meslo Farm in Rennebu, where lodgings and hearty laughter await me. Ingrid Meslo is a farmer and hostel host, and her laughter and smile offer a warm welcome, together with the cockerel tripping around the courtyard and the playful and charming kitten. Two time-honoured buildings on the farm, Mastu and Buret, have been converted into a pilgrim hostel.

The final 101 kilometres to Nidaros Cathedral

Leaving Meslo Farm I follow the pilgrim’s route through fields and meadows, woodlands and open ground. Soon I see Rennebu Church far down below. This rather unique church dates back to 1669 and is one of only four Y-shaped churches in Norway. Outside the church there is a large pilgrim sign telling us that it is 101 km to Nidaros. A photo stop here is mandatory. I have split my pilgrimage into several parts, and from Rennebu church to Skaun church I will be travelling by car.

“Skaun is a popular overnight stop among pilgrims,” says Ralf Ruckert, Vicar of Skaun. “In Skaun we offer overnight accommodation in the parish hall and there are also a number of private pilgrim hostels.”

A brief visit to the church will suffice for now. We are walking the 9 km to Kleivan pilgrim’s hostel, which is the next overnight stay, so we had better be off.

“The pilgrim’s route from Skaun to Kleivan runs through varied terrain. At first there is some woodland and a path, and then the countryside opens up and we see the fjord,” Rolf informs us before we leave.

We arrive in Kleivan at dusk. Our hosts await us and dinner is served, hostess Liv Aastad’s own fish dish with creamed rice for dessert. We eat in the “hexagon”, a built-in fireplace with an excellent view overlooking Buvika.

Stylish pilgrim hostels

The pilgrim’s route also takes us across water. We have walked down the hills from Kleivan and continued along the fjord to Gaulosen. Rower John Wanwik from Sundet farm is waiting for us there. He knows the brief stretch across the Gaulosen outlet well. In summer he rows across maybe ten times a day.

“They ring from the overnight accommodations along the road to Gaulosen and book the trip across.”
“I row those that stay on the farm and those who want to press on straight away. Since we are the last hostel before town, some spend their last night in our converted storehouse,” John tells us.

And what a place! The pilgrim’s hostels I have visited have been really stylish. They are furnished and run with commitment and love. The storehouse at Sundet is almost like a museum. A must see!

Urban pilgrimage

“It’s 19 km to Trondheim,” says John Wanwik. “It’s a good day’s walk, but if you’re to get everything done today, you should drive to Lian Farm.”

So we get into the car and drive to Lian Farm, before setting off on the last stage of our journey – which now becomes gradually more urban. The pilgrimage route markers are no longer out in the countryside, but are found on signposts and letterbox stands. We cross Byåsen with its housing areas, shops, Sverresborg Museum and other elements of urban life. Steinberget is a steep hill leading down to Ila, and soon we reach our goal. As always there are lots of people in front of Nidaros Cathedral, which is photographed from all sides and angles, and waves and smiles as best it can.

I used to think that the pilgrim’s route was one single stretch from Oslo to Trondheim, and that I had to go the whole distance. Wrong on both accounts. There are several ways to go, and you can walk as much as you want and stay wherever you want. I caught the train and drove between the various stages of my route, and the pilgrim hostels are excellent places to spend the night.

It is places like the hostels, with their personal touch, that provide the best experiences, I reflect as I set course for my last “hostel”, Britannia Hotel. As a modern pilgrim I permit myself to stay at a five star hotel on my last night.

Runa Eggen, 04.10.2012