Progress along St. Olav’s Way: Reindeer, musk oxen, and architecture

Photo: OHG / Snøhetta, Snøhetta’s design uses natural materials and soft shapes to make a cozy place to gather and watch wildlife.

Photo: OHG / Snøhetta,
Snøhetta’s design uses natural materials and soft shapes to make a cozy place to gather and watch wildlife.

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

When last we checked in, I had reached Dovregubben’s Hall at the end of Leg F. Leaving this Hall made famous by the great composer Edvard Grieg, I began Leg G of my Virtual Pilgrimage. My first stop was Arnfinnsbrua (Arnfinn’s Bridge).

According to a local legend, this bridge was built by a prisoner named Arnfinn. He had been told that he would become a free man if he built this bridge. Apparently, there is no truth in this story. Instead 28 men were hired to build the bridge to go over the stream that connects two lakes, Vålajøen and Avsjøen.

As most pilgrims have done, I walked across this lovely old stone bridge on my way to Hjerkinn.

I continued to walk along St. Olav’s Way through the Dovrefjell National Park with its breathtaking scenery.

Tverrfjellhytta: Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre
I was eager to visit this center. Its purpose is to offer a place for people both to enjoy the spectacular view and to learn about the local reindeer culture.

Tverrfjellhytta was designed by Snøhetta, the famous Norwegian architecture firm. Snøhetta has been in the news in the U.S. because it recently opened an office in New York and a studio in San Francisco. (Read Victoria Hofmo’s informative articles about the firm’s U.S. projects: Snøhetta designs America Part 1 and Part 2)

It is an incredible structure, very unique. It looks like a rectangular glass box from the outside, while inside it has walls of soft, blonde wood. Go to its website to view this architectural wonder in its unusual, isolated setting in the mountains at

Quinn Russell, a Bahamian-American architectural designer, wrote about this remarkable center on his blog. He explains why, the world’s most visited architecture website, chose this as “The Best Cultural Building of 2011.” He details why he believes the center won this prestigious award:

“A wonderful juxtaposition of organic curves and a rectilinear structure, this Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion is located at Hjerkinn on the outskirts of Dovrefjell National Park. It overlooks the Snøhetta Mountain and is 900 sq meters. A 1.5 km nature path brings visitors to this spectacular site, 1200 meters above sea level. The materials used to construct the pavilion consist of timber and steel; they are left untreated giving way to a rustic and natural quality. The interior was created with the help of the latest 3D computer programming. Nature should always be an influence within design; it is the best muse, executed well within this pavilion’s architectural language. Congrats Firm Snøhetta!” (

Photo: Ulvtro / Wikimedia Commons Kongsvold Fjeldstue (Hjerkinn) has been operating as a family business for 12 generations.

Photo: Ulvtro / Wikimedia Commons
Kongsvold Fjeldstue (Hjerkinn) has been operating as a family business for 12 generations.

Hjerkinn Fjellstue & Fjellridning (Mountain Lodge)
I decided to spend the night at this mountain lodge. I was impressed when I learned that this is Norway’s oldest family business. It has been in operation since 1600, for more than 12 generations. But it is a very comfortable, modern hotel with a working farm next to it.

I had a choice of many activities while I was here. The one that intrigued me the most was the musk ox safari. I knew that I would not be able to do it in many other places! So I passed up the horseback riding, the hiking, and the canoeing. I didn’t pass up the hot tub, however!

Eystein Kirke
After a restful night, I set out after breakfast the next morning. My first stop was the Eystein Kirke, built in 1969 specifically for pilgrims. It was built on the site of a church built for pilgrims in the Middle Ages and named for King Eystein Magnusson, who was king from 1103-1123.

The church was designed by Magnus Poulsson, who also designed the City Hall in Oslo. He was inspired by the nearby Snøhetta Mountain, the largest mountain in the Dovrefjell range. (I had not realized that the famous Norwegian architectural firm was named after a mountain!)

The structure of this church is very interesting. To get a good look at the church and its setting in the mountains, go to the following YouTube video: It is in Norwegian but it is short and worth seeing.

Hjerkinn is a very small town in the northern part of Oppland County in the municipality of Dovre. Despite its size, the train on the Dovre Line does stop here, not so much for the town but for the hikers headed for the Dovrefjell National Park. A Norwegian military base is also located nearby.

Wild musk oxen and reindeer roam around in this remote area surrounded by mountains.

Pilgrim Center Dovrefjell
Hjerkinn was important to me because of its Pilgrim Center. It is the last Pilgrim Center on the way to Nidaros, my final destination.

The center is a black building with orange trim located near the church. I stopped in to chat with the staff and get some encouragement before proceeding on my way. The next part of my journey was not going to be easy. Fortunately, I am not doing this in the middle of winter!

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 6, 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.