We don’t tend to visit towns and cities all that much on our motorhome trips, as we are usually on a budget that precludes living it up and are not really that keen on big cities. Still, it’s only polite to visit one or two towns in a new country, and so we rolled into Trondheim, full of hope, on the 14th June.
Having spent far too much time searching for the motorhome parking listed in our All The Aires Benelux & Scandinavia guide (see my review), we discovered it has been dug up and is being turned into a playground/car park. However, there is currently another large, flat, disused area where motorhomes can park for free nearby – although how long this will remain available is hard to say.
We parked here and walked into the city for a look around and to use the city’s wireless network. Contrary to what our Lonely Planet Norway suggested (2009 edition), this is not free, although it is much cheaper than the cost of a coffee in a cafe with wi-fi. In June 2011, it cost 10Nkr for three hours (payment via PayPal or Norwegian mobile phone) with longer periods also available. It is apparently available throughout the city centre – we sat in the park in front of the Stiftsgården (Scandinavia’s largest wooden palace and the Norwegian royal family’s official residence in Trondheim) and picked it up without problem. Visit Trådløse Trondheim for full details.
Trondheim was once Norway’s capital and the centre of an archbishopric that extended as far as Britain’s Orkney Islands. The christian church was founded in Norway by King Olav, who took power in 1015. Trondheim’s cathedral is home to his tomb and is an impressive stone building – all the more so in a country where wooden buildings predominate.
Leaving Trondheim, we headed south towards the Atlantic Road. This is a series of road bridges that joins several small islets together and the driving experience it offers is much hyped in the travel press. In 2006, The Guardian, for instance, declared it ‘the world’s best road trip’. All I can say is that the journalist concerned must have been on the receiving end of some serious hospitality from the Norwegian Tourist Board.
The Atlantic Road is pleasant enough, but no more impressive than many other stretches of road in Norway. In addition, at 8km long it does not qualify as a road trip, even by bicycle! It’s hard to avoid coming to the conclusion that the Norwegians are using tourist toll payments (the tunnel at one end of the road is tolled) to subsidise the cost of creating these bridges – but who can blame them, when the travel industry laps it up?
Our route took us via route 64 from Kristiansund, along the Atlantic Road and onwards to Molde. This route included two toll tunnels (total 223Nkr for a sub-6m van) as well. We continued from Molde to Andalsnes where we drove up the Trollstigen pass. This is steep, narrow and impressive, even on a slightly cloudy day.
The visitors centre that is meant to provide a view over the edge at the top was still not finished when we visited in June 2011 (although it was meant to be completed in 2010) but looks like it is nearly ready and should provide a stunning ‘precipice’ view point.
Instead of continuing to Geiranger in the normal way, we then took a diversion along route 60 to Ålesund. This is a beautiful fishing and ferry port with lots of pastel-coloured Art Nouveau buildings and a pleasant – and unique – feel. This difference is the result of a fire in 1904, which destroyed most of the city centre. The resulting stone and brick rebuild created a town which is quite unlike most others in Norway.
Ålesund also has excellent, dedicated motorhome parking (16Nkr/hr or 160Nkr/24hrs in 2011) which has good toilets and showers, plus a service point. It is signposted as you drive into the town on the E136. We parked in here for several hours while we visited, but if we ever visit again will plan to spend 24 hours there – it is a brilliant waterfront location that’s just 10 minutes’ walk from the town centre.
Following our visit to Ålesund, we headed west again to the island of Runde, which is popular with walkers and birdspotters and home to 100,000 breeding pairs of puffins, amongst other things. Access to Runde is via a series of road bridges which are toll free and which we thought were more impressive than the Atlantic Road.
We spent an evening up on the cliffs watching the puffins and enjoying the (steep) walk, before leaving the island in search of somewhere to park. There really is no overnight parking on Runde except for the Goksøyr campsite.
Runde’s 200,000 or so puffins are resident from Feb/March until late August and nest on the Lundeura section of cliffs (click here for a map, it’s about halfway down the page). To reach the puffin cliffs, follow the main path up from just beyond the campsite and then turn left at the top – there are some signs. It is a bit of a clamber over rocks to get to the puffin area, but it is the official route). Go down the wooden ladder and then make your way to the edge.
Runde is very much like the Shetland Islands and we liked it a lot.