image00029You walk through your palaces, mindful of romance
but from the slums you hear the song of sorrow
share your bread with your peers, so many vagabonds so grey of skin
along scorching roads, cities full of doom and gloom
along scorching roads, cities full of doom and gloom

Loosely adapted and translated: Onderweg - Willem Vermandere

I'm nearing Trondheim, or Nidaros as it was called in the past. The final destination of the pilgrims route. It's to early to form a definite idea about the route, but one word comes to mind every day: hospitality. As I took a picture of the pilgrim hostel around eleven yesterday, I got invited by the owners for coffee and an ice cream. Right after that lunch came along as well, almost unnoticed. As they happen to be key-keepers of the church and a small museum shop, I got a private tour.

Along the route you won't only find accomodations for pilgrims, but also private initiatives to provide the pilgrim with food and drinks. But apart from this pilgrims-business, I'm approached almost constantly with questions or remarks like: Where are you going to? Where are you from? Don't forget to visit that place!
On a camping I joined a Norwegan/Belgium couple for diner and a fellow pilgrim (hiker) gave me half of a melon.
Norway feels like a warm bath. There was not a moment I felt lonely.
"If you arrive there, you need to take that small road. Remember to stay on this side of the river". Oh well, I already knew where to go, but it doesn't matter. And an hour later at that specific road, I see a car standing and as the window goes down a familiar face says "Look, this road here!", I find this level of care very touching.

I travel by bicycle for so many years now. And there are always those special meetings that make this world a bit more wonderful every time and put a silver lining to this trip. Because as time goes and you look back after all those years, all the hardship and rain are all forgotten and the wonders and beauty of the country and especially the special encounters with people remain forever. And the slower you travel, the larger the chance of these special memories.

Having said that, I have confession to make: the St. Olav Way is more wonderful if you go by foot. I get on my hips after a day walking, but otherwise I would love to walk it all the way some time. (Uh, on my hips? No idea what, and nothing was found after countless checks for anything wrong. Glad there's no issue while cycling).
If you go by car, you won't know what you're missin out on. A lot, but what you don't know, you don't miss (ignorant bliss) and the ride can still be enjoyable. For myself, I find it frustrating move along so fast and you're a participant in traffic. Then you're also cooked-up in a can where you don't smell or fell anything.
How different is the experience on a bicycle. All your senses participate and you get to places cars can't go. You also go slow enough to look around you and stop whenever or wherever you want to.
And still... I did cycle parts on the hiking route that were actually uncyclable, so had to turn around to find an alternative, knowing that just ahead on that trail it would be more beautiful than the cycle route. Exploring a country by foot is the ultimate pleasure to enjoy. By bicycle is second.
Of course this is not exactly a sales pitch for a cycling route guide. So let's keep it a secret between you and me...

Anyhow. The bicycle route is still stunning. Even though the most wonderfull and impressive is behind me, the spectacular planes of Dovrefjell, the coming 150 kilometers are no less impressive. The bicycle route does deviate sometimes from the hiking route, but it also has its highlights, which you miss out on as a hiker....