Progress along St. Olav’s Way: Hiking into the scenic hills of Dovrefjell

Photo: Anders Gjengedal / Visitnorway.com Autumn in Rondane, the breathtaking National Park you’d pass if you took your virtual pilgrimage to the real world. While St. Olav’s Way only skirts these incredible vistas, what’s a few more kilometers when scenes such as this might be your reward?

Photo: Anders Gjengedal / Visitnorway.com
Autumn in Rondane, the breathtaking National Park you’d pass if you took your virtual pilgrimage to the real world. While St. Olav’s Way only skirts these incredible vistas, what’s a few more kilometers when scenes such as this might be your reward?

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

Last week we walked (virtually) from Otta to Dovre, so we pick up there. Now the challenging, but gorgeous, climb begins.

Budsjord Historical Farm
This historical farm is a national heritage site. It dates back to the 15th century and was originally owned by the Diocese of Nidaros. It was my last stop before I started my arduous trek through the awe-inspiring Dovre Mountains.

The farm is now owned by the Killi family, who opened it up to pilgrims and tourists in the 1990s. I decided to splurge and spend a night here. For $75 I had a place to sleep in a traditional Norwegian farmhouse, dinner, breakfast, and a packed lunch. Go to the farm’s website (en.budsjord.no) to see some breath-taking photos of the farm in its splendid setting and to learn more about its history.

Photo: Anders Gjengedal /  Visitnorway.com More of the beautiful scenery in the National Parks of this part of Norway.

Photo: Anders Gjengedal /
Visitnorway.com
More of the beautiful scenery in the National Parks of this part of Norway.

Dovre
Dovre is a farming community and currently has a population of 3,000. It is near the southeast entrance of the Dovrefjell National Park, which was established in 2003 and covers an area of 112 square miles.

When I arrived here, I wondered how I would ever be able to leave. Not only was I in the region where my ancestors had lived, but I was also overwhelmed by the magnificent setting. It literally took my breath away. I have probably said this before because Norway offers a multitude of breathtaking sights. But this region, called the heart of southern Norway, is really special.

Photo: CH / Visitnorway.com Dovre’s famous muskoxen, descended from the 10 animals released into the area in 1932.

Photo: CH / Visitnorway.com
Dovre’s famous muskoxen, descended from the 10 animals released into the area in 1932.

The Romsdal Fjord is to the west of the Dovre Mountains, the Gudbrands Valley to the south, the Rondane Mountains to the southeast, the Øster Valley to the east, and the Trollheiman Mountains to the north.

Animals and birds thrive in these mountains where there is abundant vegetation. I saw wild reindeer and the famous musk ox.

The modern coat-of-arms of Dovre (granted in 1986) shows a black musk ox with a yellow horn on a gray background. This animal is native to Canada, Alaska, and Greenland but not native to Norway. However, 10 muskoxen were released near Dovre in 1932. They have thrived here and there are about 300 of them today.

One can enjoy many healthy outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and camping in this national park.

Photo: Visitnorway.com, Kirkesok.no Dombås kirke, a cruciform church built in 1939.

Photo: Visitnorway.com, Kirkesok.no
Dombås kirke, a cruciform church built in 1939.

Dombås
After leaving the village of Dovre, the next town along my way was Dombås. What I found most interesting here was the lovely cruciform church built in 1939.

Fokstugu Fjellstue (Mountain Lodge), Overnight Location
Fokstugu Fjellstue is a rest stop for pilgrims who are crossing the Dovre Mountains. I was very happy to see it (rest stops are always a welcome sight), and I discovered that it had an interesting history.

It was King Øystein Magnusson who suggested creating rest stops for pilgrims around the year 1120. This rest stop, therefore, goes back almost 1000 years! Back then it was a very simple shelter. In the 1880s, however, it became a very comfortable place to spend the night. Each bedroom has a sink and comfortable beds. All guests have access to a shared shower and WC. The lodge has a kitchen, dining room, and living room. Food can also be purchased.

In addition to the lodge, there is also a sheep farm here with an important claim to fame. It is located at 1,000 meters and it is, therefore, the highest farm in Norway that works all year round.

I was happy to be here in the summer because I was able to attend a prayer service in the Guds Huset (God’s House) Chapel.

Photo: Bjoertvedt / Wikimedia Fokstugu Fjellstue, a rest stop for pilgrims along St. Olav’s Way that was opened in the 12th century. The buildings, of course, are all considerably newer.

Photo: Bjoertvedt / Wikimedia
Fokstugu Fjellstue, a rest stop for pilgrims along St. Olav’s Way that was opened in the 12th century. The buildings, of course, are all considerably newer.

If you would like to get a feel for this beautiful place, go to this website where you can view a slideshow of spectacular photos: www.fokstugu.no/bilder.html.

Fokstumyra Nature Reserve
If you are a bird watcher, you will definitely want to visit this reserve where you can see more than 150 species of birds. You can take a 7-km trail through the reserve and observe the birds. You can also climb the observation tower that will give you another view of the birds. Remember to be as quiet as possible so that you do not disturb the birds.

This reserve is naturally of global importance.

Dovregubbens Hall
This place is indeed special. It is definitely not your typical pilgrim rest stop. To see photos of this extraordinary place, go to the hall’s website at www.dovregubben.com/eng/indexeng.htm.

The hall has a connection with the very famous piece of music, “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” composed by Edvard Grieg for the sixth scene of Act 2 in Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt. The original Norwegian title is “I Dovregubbens hall” (“In Dovregubbens Hall”). The word “gubbe” refers to a male troll. In the play, “Dovregubben” refers specifically to the troll king from Dovre.

You are probably familiar with this music. Go to this website to listen to an excellent performance by the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg under Scott Lawton at the Musikfestspiele Potsdam Sanssouci: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRpzxKsSEZg.

The major attraction of this place is certainly the magnificent hall where you can enjoy an elegant dinner in a majestic setting. A café and a supermarket are also available, if you prefer. Dovregubbens Hall offers both apartments and cabins for an overnight stay. Your choice will depend, of course, on your budget!

Conclusion
I have now covered a total of 280.5 miles (385 kilometers). Only 106 more miles (238 kilometers) to go!

You will find my previous reports in the following issues of the Norwegian American Weekly: December 26, 2014; January 23, 2015; February 13, 2015; March 6, 2015; April 3, 2015; May 8, 2015; June 12, 2015; July 3, 2015; and August 28, 2015.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 4, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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