Travel

The secret part of Norway that everyone misses in the rush to the fjords

In a garden of wild flowers overlooking lakes and pastures, we perform a Qigong peace ritual, mimicking movements of sea turtles swimming in the ocean and eagles soaring through the air. Heidi’s gentle manner is even warmer than the low-slung amber sun.

Fewer than 200 people pass through Troset each year, but she has no urgent plans to expand. One visiting priest astutely suggested Heidi’s new-found vocation was no coincidence: Troset translates as “belief place”.

Serendipity also guided entrepreneurs Frode and Kristine Sakshaug in the construction of their Oyna landscape hotel in Inderoy, a 50-minute drive north. What started as a pitch for putball (a hybrid game of football and golf) became an eco-hotel carved into the hillside, where rooms appear to float high above the Trondheimsfjord.

Launching in the middle of a pandemic was challenging, but with lockdown rules eased for Norwegians a couple of weeks after the hotel opened, it has been almost fully booked ever since.

Solidarity has glued this community together. Frode, who grew up and played on the land where his hotel now sits, employed local businesses for construction and eschewed lucrative deals to work with an investor he knows and trusts. He constantly talks about “we” and “us”. It’s a reminder that money isn’t the only motivation in life.

Further north, on Stokkoya, an island in the Norwegian Sea, Torild Langklopp and Roar Svenning have spent almost two decades building a social enterprise to benefit their community. A bakery and affordable housing are part of a drive to attract people to live in the countryside, while a beach bar, glamping site and rustic cabins at the Stokkoya Sjosenter give visitors a taste of coastal living.

At low tide, we forage seaweed from the shore and take a boat ride flanked by sea eagles to collect wild scallops. The shallow water is so clear, I can reach down and collect shells wrapped in ribbons of kelp.

“During the pandemic, we went out fishing most days,” reminisces Roar that evening, as chefs prepare our catch a few sandy feet from the lapping waves. “We had everything we needed.”

As we talk, I’m swept up in their tidal wave of innovative ideas: jazz concerts on the rocks, moonlit dancers emerging from the surf, and a philosophy for a new way of existence. Our thinking cogs are oiled with shots of Granskauen gin, distilled by local barman Dustin Zimmerman and his partner Maren Grotte. It’s infused with spruce shoots, dandelion root and birch leaves, and the couple describe it as “a walk through the forest”.

Like so many products made in the countryside, Granskauen is served in the city, too. I encounter it again on the menu at the Michelin-starred Speilsalen restaurant in the newly renovated Britannia hotel in Trondheim. In the 19th century, “salmon lords and ladies” from the English aristocracy would stay here after fishing expeditions. It is now a grand five-star hotel: gold accents fleck the stairwells, bathtubs, and even a sparkling pastry on my dinner plate.

Although UK travellers have been missed, proceedings have not ground to a halt. In the absence of masks and Plexiglass screens, bottles of sanitiser are the only reminder of a pandemic from which Norway has escaped relatively unscathed. Perhaps it is the high standard of living, the clean air or the amount of space, but life generally feels happier and healthier here. That thought stays with me as I take a final train journey two hours south to Oppdal, to meet the area’s oldest resident: the muskox.


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