Trondheim – finding the difference

13 Sep

What a difference a railway track can make.

Whilst wending our way down through Norway enjoying the majestic scenery, there has been time for a couple of stopovers in Tromso (home of the weird tunnel system) and Bodo where we went on a self guided trail to find the street art for which you are provided with a map and details of what you are looking for and a bit about the artists. A map is a bit of a misnomer, as said street art, of which we are fans, is not necessarily where it is purported to be. In fact you just have to be bold and walk down alleys and round the backs of buildings until you find it and these are not small art pieces but can cover the complete sides of buildings. A real treat and a completely free way to explore the town.

Norway are holding their elections on 11 September and a very civilised rally, with all parties having a gazebo and giving out various stuff as they do was set up in Bodo. We stopped and had a lengthy chat with a young man from the equivalent of the labour party who explained the political system of Norway to us. They were giving out red roses. Personally, I thought we should have stopped at the one handing out coffee as it was bitterly cold.

But back to Trondheim. A larger town, and famous for the brightly coloured buildings that line the canal and date back up to 400 years. The area where these are found together with cobbled streets, little coffee shops and a young feel is Bakklandet. Here, over a coffee, we got chatting to a journalist from the Norwegian equivalent of the BBC, a veritable mine of information. Currently he’s researching why certain birds have disappeared from one of the islands.

Just opposite this particular cafe there is Trondheims ‘Trampe’ French designed bicycle lift which will take the bike and it’s rider up the very steep hill towards the Krystiansen fortress with ease. Well, that is the theory. There is a knack to it and while we were there only one person attempted to use it and they failed. See for yourself, search ‘bicycle lift Trondheim’ on Youtube – it’s clever stuff. It is said that Trondheim has 12% more bike lanes than any other city in Norway. Not sure if this is true but you are certainly more likely to get run over by a bicycle than a car here.

So back to the railway track. Reading a blog by a local on Trondheim, one area popped out as being quirky. That was Svartlamoen. It was a bit of a walk but that was fine as the buildings were colourful and nice to look at. On arriving at the area marked on the map all we could see were standard blocks of flats. Nothing quirky. Not about to give up we kept walking until we spotted a small heavily graffitied tunnel under a railway line with the word Svatlamoen graffittied above it. It brought us out into a small parking area with a no parking sign and half a dozen vehicles ranging from full sized coaches to small vans parked in it.

All in a bit of a dilapidated state but obviously parked long term and being lived in. There followed an area of sheds, ISO containers, garage sized dwellings and old houses all being lived in with graffittied fencing and wild flowers sitting happily side by side. A lot of recycling and upcycling going on. Following a small path we happened on a yard with one man industriously sawing wood. There were 5 dwellings in various stages of construction and a sign in Norwegian. More info required. I made a beeline for said carpenter who turned out to be called Torfinn and he wasn’t a carpenter. The project was the brainchild of some architect students who had designed the houses as part of their finals. It was a self build project with a lot of the materials being donated and recycled such as windows and doors. All were slightly different according to the new occupants interpretation and their requirements. Torfinn and his family plan to move in in September. This area has always been an example of alternative living with a 5 story wooden building being the first project where there are communal spaces within the building and a kindergarten. Also a dwelling completely made of recycled pallets.


The area attracts many artistic people and there is outdoor art covering many walls and buildings. Have to say we were completely hooked and Torfinn didn’t get far with the bed he was in the process of constructing as I chatted to him for ages. In the meantime on of the ‘student’ architects turned up on his bike with his wife and Jim ended up chatting with them. So much more fun for us than ‘dead’ museums.

Svartlamoen is sandwiched between two railway lines and won’t be found on the tourist trail but it embodies what we love about independent travel – finding the ‘difference’.

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