Progress along St. Olav’s Way: Churches, skiing, biking, and trolls

Photo: Vesna Middelkoop / Flickr Hunderfossen troll, impressive guardian of the family park.

Photo: Vesna Middelkoop / Flickr
Hunderfossen troll, impressive guardian of the family park.

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

I am continuing my journey from Oslo to Nidaros along St. Olav’s Way. I have completed Legs A-F and part of Leg G of the Sons of Norway Virtual Pilgrimage. I have now walked 270 miles. I am thrilled at how much I am learning about this beautiful land of my ancestors!

In my last progress report I described Leg C, from Hamar to Lillehammer. In this report I will share some of the highlights that I have experienced on the first part of Leg D, from Lillehammer to Tretten.

Leaving the city of Lillehammer, I began my walk through Gudbrandsdalen, a picturesque valley in Oppland County. This area is well known for its medieval farms and national parks as well as its hiking and skiing. I saw many stone markers along this route indicating the number of kilometers to my final destination of Nidaros.

Lillehammer University College
On the outskirts of Lillehammer I saw the Lillehammer University College. Norway has eighteen university colleges, institutions that offer bachelor and masters programs but have not yet been granted full university status by the Norwegian government.

This institution recently introduced a Sports and Outdoor Tourism program, which is very appropriate for this sports-minded city.

The Lågen Delta
I arrived at the Lågen Delta where the Lågen River (or Gudbrandsdalslågen) flows into Lake Mjøsa. This river begins in the Dovre Plateau at the northern end of the Gudbrands Valley and continues southeast for 122 miles until it reaches the lake at Lillehammer. You can follow the flow of the river in a beautiful video posted to YouTube. Go to

Heading north, I arrived at the small village of Fåberg, which is now a part of the municipality of Lillehammer. The village was named after an important farm in this area.

Fåberg Church
The most important sight here is the beautiful Fåberg church with its striking red exterior. It was built in 1727 and then modernized first in the 1800s and then in 1956. It is in the cruciform style. One of the most important relics inside the church is a soapstone baptismal font that dates back to the 12th century.

Hunderfossen Familiepark (Family Park)
Another site that might be of interest to pilgrims is the Hunderfossen Family Park. As I was not traveling with children, I was not particularly interested, until I heard that the largest troll in Norway was here. I had to see it, of course. This troll is 14 meters tall and is indeed very impressive!

Once inside the park, I realized the troll wasn’t the only attraction for me. I also enjoyed sailing on the fairytale ship, trying the high ropes course, and doing some white water rafting. All in all, a fun day!

Photo: Ole C. Eid / Wikimedia Commons The view from Hafjell, the third-largest Alpine ski center in Norway.

Photo: Ole C. Eid / Wikimedia Commons
The view from Hafjell, the third-largest Alpine ski center in Norway.

Next I arrived at the village of Hafjell, not too far from Lillehammer. Here I discovered the third largest Alpine Ski Center in Norway. It hosted Olympic skiers in 1994 and will host the alpine skiing events for the Winter Youth Olympics in 2016. It also has a world-class bike park with some vertical drops of 830 meters!

I was certainly not up for skiing or biking here but I did enjoy wandering the wonderful walking trails.

If you would like to have a taste of riding a mountain bike down the mountain, this YouTube video is for you: I found it quite scary. The path is very rocky, as one should probably expect on a mountainside, and the speed of the bike was rather excessive for me.

Skåden Gård (Farm)
I stopped for the night at Skåden Gard, an ancient farmhouse that is an accredited National Pilgrim Center and can accommodate 22 people. I had the choice of a cabin or an apartment. I was given a bed, a warm shower, and two meals (breakfast and lunch). The view was spectacular.

Øyer is located in the heart of Gudbrandsdal Valley. It has a population of almost 6,000 people and has many outdoor activities including skiing, biking, hunting, and fishing.

Go to YouTube for a lovely look at what the video calls “The Best Municipality in Which to Live”:

Photo: Asgeir Enersen / Wikimedia Commons Øyer Kirke, an 18th century replacement for the site’s original stave church.

Photo: Asgeir Enersen / Wikimedia Commons
Øyer Kirke, an 18th century replacement for the site’s original stave church.

Øyer Kirke
Of course, I am always interested in visiting the churches along Olav’s Way. After all, this is a pilgrimage! The original stave church, that was built here 700 years ago, burned down in the early 1700s. The church that exists on this site today was built in the early 1700s and consecrated in 1725. It was given the name “Den Hellige Treenighets Tempel” (The Holy Trinity Temple).

Continuing north up the Lågen River, I reached the small town of Tretten. It is a very old town, probably founded by the Vikings many centuries ago.

An important battle during WWII was fought here. The British 148th Brigade tried to stop the advancing Germans at Tretten Gorge but was defeated. It suffered a severe artillery barrage the next morning and then an attack by tanks in the afternoon, followed by an attack by mountain troops afterwards. The brigade had 705 men killed, wounded, or missing.

Tretten Kirke
The church in Tretten was built in 1728, shortly after the Øyer Church, and they look very much alike.

Glomstad Gjestehus (overnight location)
I stopped at the Glomstad Guesthouse for the night. The farm has been in the family since the 16th century, and the guesthouse has been part of it since 1943. Pilgrims can relax in this beautiful mountain retreat. I arrived here in time for dinner and spent the night. I especially enjoyed the rømmegrøt, which the guesthouse is famous for.

In case you haven’t grown up with rømmegrøt or read about it in NAW, here is the definition from Wikipedia: Rømmegrøt is Norwegian porridge made with sour cream, whole milk, wheat flour, butter, and salt. Rømme is a Norwegian word meaning a heavy sour cream made from cream or blend of whole milk and cream that has been acidified.

I got up early the next morning and headed for Fåvang—which you’ll learn all about in the next installment.

This article originally appeared in the April 3, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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Christine Foster Meloni

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.