Progress along St. Olav’s Way: Our virtual pilgrim reaches Lake Mjøsa

Photo: Colin Dobinson / Oplandske Dampskibsselskap Skibladner on Lake Mjøsa. Inside it boasts a saloon and a fine restaurant.

Photo: Colin Dobinson / Oplandske Dampskibsselskap
Skibladner on Lake Mjøsa. Inside it boasts a saloon and a fine restaurant.

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

I am still virtually walking along St. Olav’s Way, and I am gradually drawing closer to my final destination, Nidaros (Trondheim). In my last progress report I had completed Leg A from Oslo to Eidsvoll, a total of 48.6 miles.

Now I have completed Legs B, C, and D for a grand total of 171 miles. (See the map for my exact location.) Let me share with you some of the highlights on Leg B between Eidsvoll and Hamar.

Lake Mjøsa
Being a native of the great state of Minnesota, I am a lover of lakes. Therefore, I was thrilled to see Lake Mjøsa come into view. It is Norway’s largest lake and stretches 65 miles from Eidsvoll in the south to Lillehammer in the north. It is one of the deepest lakes in Europe.

It is very popular with fishermen as it has over 20 species of fish including pike and European perch. It is also popular with sunbathers in the summer.

At this point in the pilgrimage I had a choice. I could follow the path along the right side of the lake or the one along the left. I chose the right and therefore went through the cities of Hamar and Moelv. If I had chosen the other side, I would have passed through Bønsnes, Jevnaker, Gran, Gjøvik, and Vingrom.

I don’t like to only look at lakes. I like to be on them. I think being on them is much better than being near them or in them. So I decided that I could not pass up the opportunity to have a ride on the Nordic Explorer, the oldest paddle steamer (skibladner) still in operation in the world. It was built in 1856. Onboard it has an elegant saloon and a very fine restaurant.

To share this experience with me, go to the following online video:

For complete information, go to the skibladner website:

For more beautiful views of the lake, you can access two online videos:
• HDR Time Lapse Lake Mjøsa:
• Kayaking and fishing on Lake Mjøsa:

I spent the night at the Finnsbråten in Espa. It is an unstaffed, no-service cabin just south of Lysjøen Lake. I reserved a bed in advance and then paid when I arrived. Paying is on the honor system because no one is there to collect the money. Norwegians are exceptionally honest people, and they expect foreign tourists to be so as well!

Morskogen is a forest on the Mjøsa Lake located between Eidsvoll and Stange in Hedmark County. It is historically significant as the battlefield where the Norwegian Army fought the invading German Army in 1940. The Germans won the battle and occupied Norway for five years.

You can see actual footage from the Battle for Norway in videos posted on YouTube. Go to

The Morskogen area is particularly known today for having one of Norway’s most dangerous roads. A high frequency of deaths in car accidents occurs here on Highway E6.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons An epitaph inside Stange Kirke in Stange, Norway.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
An epitaph inside Stange Kirke in Stange, Norway.

Stange is mentioned in the 1225 saga of Håkon Håkonsen (then called Skaun) and is described as “a large village with many churches and large farms.”

I visited the very beautiful medieval church here that dates back to 1250. It is an important church because it is located on one of the main roads traveled by St. Olaf many years ago.

Hulda Garborg (1862-1934) was born in Stange. She wrote novels and plays. What I will especially remember about her, however, is her role in inspiring keen interest in the bunad, Norway’s national costume, during the Romantic National Movement in Norway. She was even knighted by the Royal Order of St. Olav in 1932.

Interesting facts about bunads from the Viking magazine (May 2013):
• Types of bunads: 450
• Number of bunads owned: 2.5 million
• Percent of women who own one: 55%
• Percent of men who own one: 7%
• Price range: 8,000 to 70,000 NOK
• Average times worn per year: 2.5

Fokhol Farm (overnight location)
This farm, just outside of Stange, receives visitors throughout the year. Pilgrims are always welcome. It is an 1,125-acre farm with cattle, horses, grains, vegetables, hayfields, and pastures. It is one of Norway’s largest biodynamic/organic farms.

Many farmers in Norway and throughout Europe are opening up their farms to guests who can learn about the daily operations of the farm and can also do some work.

Atlungstad Distillery
This distillery calls itself “a cultural monument of national value” on its website. It was built next to Lake Mjøsa by local farmers in 1855. After 150 years, it was finally placed on Norway’s Cultural Heritage List of Historic Sites.

I took a tour and had a sample of its renowned akevitt. In addition to the distillery, its historic brick building includes a museum and a large dining room and offers a beautiful view of the lake.

After my tour, I rented some golf clubs and played a game of golf on the Atlungstad 18-hole golf course. Then I walked over to a nearby farm and went horseback riding. Being active outdoors in such a lovely location was exhilarating!

Hedmark Cultural History Museum
I enjoyed visiting this interesting museum very much. I toured its many open-air exhibits. The most spectacular was the ruins of Hamar Cathedral, which is now covered with a glass shield to protect it. Church services, concerts, and plays are held here. The museum has 65 other historic buildings that one can explore.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons The ruins of Hamar’s ancient cathedral are now protected by a glass enclosure.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The ruins of Hamar’s ancient cathedral are now protected by a glass enclosure.

Hamar is the most important city in Hedmark County, with a population of 30,000. When Bishop Nicholas Breakspeare, an Englishman, was sent to Norway as a papal legate in the late 11th century, he established a diocese in Hamar. The famous cathedral was built here along with a monastery and a school. Nicholas later became Pope Adrian IV.

The city is located on the lake, about halfway up on the eastern side. In addition to the cathedral, this city has other tourist attractions: the Kirsten Flagstad Museum, Lake Mjøsa’s Skibladner, the Norwegian Railway Museum, and the Olympic arena that was used during the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer.

This brings me to the end of Leg B. I have much more to share with you but I have run out of space!

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 13, 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.