Norway’s roads less traveled: Halden, an idyllic small border town

Photo:  Joni Räsänen / Flickr Halden by night. It’s a small but picturesque town.

Photo: Joni Räsänen / Flickr
Halden by night. It’s a small but picturesque town.

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

This article is the third in our series of “Norway’s roads less traveled.” We asked Eivind Heiberg, Norway’s Honorary Consul in Minneapolis, to suggest a special place that the average tourist might miss.

The previous articles in the series are “Spitsbergen: A place out of the ordinary” by Ambassador Kåre Aas (April 15, 2016) and “The Ulvesund Lighthouse” by Consul General Elin Bergithe Rognlie (May 20, 2016).

Mr. Heiberg: Visit my hometown!
To recommend only one place to visit in Norway is nearly impossible because every place has something unique and wonderful to offer. However, there is one small town that is worth putting on your list—Halden.

You will immediately understand the importance of this charming Norwegian town when you learn that it is one of only two towns named in Norway’s national anthem. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, the Norwegian author and poet who won the 1903 Nobel Prize in Literature, wrote the anthem’s lyrics and mentioned Fredrikshald (Halden’s name from 1665 to 1928) in the fourth stanza:

Husker bare hva som hendte
(Just remember what happened)
Ned på Fredrikshald!
(Down at Fredrikshald!)

The reference is to an event that happened there on July 4, 1716. The citizens of the town burned down their own houses so that they would not fall into the hands of the forces of King Charles XII of Sweden.

One of the major attractions of Halden is the Fredriksten Fortress, which was built in the 17th century and strategically positioned at the southeastern tip of Norway. With an ammunition tower and dark secret passageways, this place tells many stories. Here you can see where the Swedish King Karl XII was shot and killed during the Siege of Fredriksten in 1718.

You can also hear ghost stories about Den Hvite Dame, the White Lady, who is said to live in the fortress. When her lover was killed by a cannon ball shot by the Swedish forces during the siege, she jumped off a fortress wall to her death. It is said that she appears at midnight near the white tower and has been seen sometimes waving and sometimes simply staring at the town.

Photo: Terje Rakke / Nordic Life AS /  Visitnorway.com A reenactor at the Fredriksten Fortress makes history come alive.

Photo: Terje Rakke / Nordic Life AS / Visitnorway.com
A reenactor at the Fredriksten Fortress makes history come alive.

I have very fond memories of going sledding down one of the major hills at Fredriksten Fortress as a child.

After exploring the fortress, why not relax with a cup of coffee in one of the many cozy cafés found along the charming cobblestoned streets? Or try some delicious Norwegian food in one of the many enchanting restaurants in the area?

Or simply go for a stroll in the beautiful Busterudpark. This park was created about one hundred years ago. The lovely old bandstand was built in 1879 and is frequently used for concerts in the summer.

You must visit Rød Herregård, the Red Manor House, one of the best-preserved manor houses in Norway. I will always treasure my memories of playing hide and seek with friends here. The property was owned by the Tank family from 1733 to 1829 and consists of the manor house, several other buildings, a baroque garden, and an English garden. Two foundations were established in 1861 to maintain this historic property.

If you are looking to experience Norway’s natural beauty, do not worry. Halden has beautiful options, with everything from trails in the forests to sailing the islands in the Iddefjord. Or you can go to the Ekås farm, an enjoyable climbing park that has everything from base-jumping to over one hundred exciting platforms of fun in the form of zip lines and a climbing wall.

Don’t forget to explore the Halden inland waterways, built between 1852 and 1860, one of the two oldest canal systems in Norway.

Halden is an idyllic small town right on the border with Sweden, only two short hours from Oslo. It would certainly be a shame to miss this place while visiting Norway!

Looking Ahead
Lise Kristiansen Falskow, Norway’s Honorary Consul in Alaska, will share her recommendation in the next article in our series, “Norway’s roads less traveled.”

Eivind Heiberg is Norway’s Honorary Consul General for the state of Minnesota. He also serves as the CEO of Sons of Norway and Sons of Norway Foundation. In addition, he plays an active role in the Reciprocal Troop Exchange between the Minnesota National Guard and the Home Guard in Norway. Heiberg is married to Michele and is the proud father of triplets.

Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.

This article originally appeared in the July 1, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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