Progress along St. Olav’s Way: Otta to Dovre, via Rondane Nasjonalpark

Photo: Asgeir Helgestad / Artic Light AS / Autumn in Rondane Nasjonalpark is a beautiful time.

Photo: Asgeir Helgestad / Artic Light AS /
Autumn in Rondane Nasjonalpark is a beautiful time.

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

The Virtual Pilgrimage created by the Sons of Norway was a brilliant idea. I am learning a great deal about Norway’s history, in particular, but I am becoming familiar with today’s Norway as well.

I started out along St. Olav’s Way in Oslo last December. So far I have completed six of the nine legs of the journey (Legs A-F). In my last report I had reached the town of Otta, the halfway mark to Trondheim, the final destination. I will begin this report of Leg F in Otta and conclude at Dovregubben Hall.

Pillarguri Café
This leg of the journey begins at the historic Pillarguri Café, which has been here for over 100 years. It is named after the brave girl who warned the people in Otta about the attack before the Battle of Kringen in 1612. (See my progress report in the July 3 NAW for a description of this famous battle.)

If you go to the café’s website at!meny/cose, you will see a lovely illustrated menu. From this menu I ordered a delicious pizza, the chocolate dessert, and a cup of coffee.

I sat at a table outside and enjoyed the beautiful view. It brought back fond memories of when I visited Otta in 2012 on my way to Lom to visit my Norwegian cousins.

Photo: Bjoertvedt / Wikimedia Commons Sel Kirke.

Photo: Bjoertvedt / Wikimedia Commons
Sel Kirke.

Sel Kirke
I never tire of visiting the lovely churches along this journey. The Sel Kirke is another beautiful white church, built in 1742 in what was called the Century of Beauty (the Baroque Period). Churches built at this time differed from the stave churches in that they had more room for worshippers and the preacher’s pulpit was closer to the people.

The pulpit in the Sel Kirke is lavishly decorated with rosemaling. (If you google Sel Kirke/images, some striking photos of the pulpit will come up.)

If you would like to see the inside the church, go to As you tour the church, you will hear the exquisite voice of Ingrid Olava, a well-known Norwegian singer and actress. She, by the way, appears in “Kalde Hjerter,” a Varg Veum film. (Veum is the eccentric protagonist of a series of crime novels by Gunnar Staalesen.)

Next I went through Selsverket, a village north of Otta. Again the natural beauty took my breath away. (This happens to me often in Norway!) To experience this beauty yourself, go to This YouTube video is not only lovely for the eyes but also for the ears.

Photo: Kagee / Wikimedia Commons Nord-Sel Kirke.

Photo: Kagee /
Wikimedia Commons
Nord-Sel Kirke.

I discovered another lovely church here, Nord-Sel Kirke. It is a small brown long church that was built in 1932. The long church in Norway is defined as follows: “The long church (langkirke) has a rectangular plan with nave and choir of the same width. The nave will usually take up two thirds of the whole length.” (Wikipedia)

A statue of Kristin Lavransdatter, the protagonist of Undset’s masterpiece, has been placed at the entrance to the cemetery. I discovered a special section with the graves of 33 Allied soldiers from World War II in this cemetery.

Jørundgard Middelaldersenter (Medieval Center)
This Medieval Center was built in 1994 for the filming of Sigrid Undset’s literary masterpiece Kristin Lavransdatter. It is a realistic recreation of a typical medieval farm. I found it fascinating to visit the buildings and the stave church.

In the inner courtyard I toured the forge, the stables, the long loft, the coal oven, the cookhouse, the storehouse, two open-hearth houses, the sauna, the hallway, the bridal loft, and the weaving house. In the outer courtyard I explored the pig house, the sheep house, the barn, and the exhibition house.

Rondane Nasjonalpark (Rondane National Park)
You should definitely view the video tour of this magnificent park. Go to

Rondane was Norway’s first national park. It was established in 1962. It covers an area of 221 square miles in two counties, Opp­land and Hedmark. It is principally mountainous terrain. Because the soil is of poor quality, there is very little vegetation with only a few trees, conifers and dwarf birch. The wildlife is represented by reindeer, wolverines, and red foxes.

I found this park a perfect place to walk in. It has miles of hiking trails amid great natural beauty. Cabins can be found throughout the park. I was able to book one in advance.

Vollheim Camping and Cabins—Overnight Location
This is a wonderful place to spend the night. Cabins are available near the shores of the Gudbrandsdalslågen. This river is considered one of the best rivers for trout fishing in Norway. I do not fish so this aspect was not of interest to me, but it is to many travelers.

This beautiful campground was established in 1971. If you share a cabin with another person, you will pay only about $20 a night. There are showers and restroom facilities near each cabin.

Dovre Kirke
I was thrilled to arrive in Dovre because some of my ancestors had lived in this village. I was especially moved when I visited the church. It was built in 1736 and it was, therefore, the church of my ancestors. They were most likely baptized and married in this very church!

It is a lovely cruciform church made out of timber with a red steeple and walls covered with slate.

Olavskilde—Olav’s Fountain
Approximately fifteen springs named after St. Olav can be found in Norway. The water in this one near Dovre along St. Olav’s Way, however, has a unique attribute. It is said to protect children and to keep them healthy. But pilgrims also believe it gives them the strength needed to climb the Dovre Mountains. So I stopped here to splash some on my face and fill my water jug.

Tofte Farm
This farm is abandoned today, but it used to be a very lively and important place. Norway’s first king, Harald Hårfagre, mentioned it in his writings. And we know that King Hakon Håkonsson built a banquet hall here in the 13th century. According to the Norwegian historian Gerhard Schoning, it was a transport center and guest house for pilgrims by 1775.

Toftemo Turiststasjon
The Toftemo Tourist Station is two kilometers north of Dovre and a short walk from the Tofte Farm.

This hotel, built in 1820, was originally part of the royal Tofte estate. Its primary claim to fame is that King Haakon VII and Queen Maud stayed here after their 1906 coronation in Trondheim.

If you would rather not stay in the hotel, Toftemo also offers 21 cabins, 11 large and 10 small. Each cabin is suitable for three to five people.

I decided not to spend the night but I did take advantage of the café where I had an economical bite to eat. Before my meal, however, I took a quick hike through the pine trees along the river and had a pleasant swim in the heated swimming pool. I felt completely refreshed when I set out again.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 28, 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.