Day 32 St. Olav’s, August 16th, 16.5km, Vikhammer > Trondheim
The walk into Trondheim.
We ate breakfast and packed up camp for the final time on this trail. We walked together in silence for a while, each reflecting on the journey. The last 32 days had been so challenging. And so gratifying.
We had slept in a tent under the Scandinavian sky, and we had slept in the homes of friends that we just met.
We had been sunbaked, chilled to the bone, and soaked by rain. We had no idea what to expect when we first started this trek, but it far exceeded anything we imagined.
The walk across town felt like the longest stretch of the whole trek. We transitioned from the sleepy, grassy outskirts to a city humming with activity. We plodded along, contemplating the end of our pilgrimage.
As we neared the cathedral, we looked around us, searching for other pilgrims in a similar state of joy and relief. Scanning the crowd, we realized we were the only pilgrims. No one even seemed to notice us. We felt so alone in that joyous moment.
And then I saw them.
Our friends Hans and Astrid, coming towards us with arms open wide. Their beaming faces matched ours and we embraced. I could feel their joy and pride for us and it made my heart burst.
I was so surprised and overjoyed at seeing them again. Originally, our final day was going to be the same day they were leaving for home. Lucky for us, we finished a day early and were able to share this moment.
The trail provides.
We continued to the cathedral and again, that old familiar feeling of surprise: it’s actually real!
We arrived at our destination, the thing we have been moving toward for the last 32 days!
And again… where else would we be?
Like when we arrived in Santiago, it was not the cathedral that stirred our emotions but rather seeing our “trail family” again. Unlike Santiago, there was not a massive swarm of pilgrims displaying emotions of relief, gratitude, joy.
It added to the experience, the feeling of accomplishment that we were two of such a small number of pilgrims who have completed this path.
Another feeling of accomplishment came when we visited the pilgrims’ office to receive our certificates. We got to place a pin on the map and it would seem that we were the first Oklahomans to complete this trek. We were so proud.
(Now, this is by no means a comprehensive record-keeping so if anyone has information to the contrary, please share!)
After we had our certificates, we settled into our room at the pilgrim center and relaxed. Our trail family was staying there as well and that night we spent hours drinking tea and reliving our journey. Our joints and muscles were weary, but our hearts were so full.
Day 33 St. Olav’s, August 17th, 0km, Trondheim
The pilgrim center had an all-you-can-eat breakfast and we made plans to enjoy one last meal together before Hans and Astrid returned to Holland. I vowed that I would arrive as soon as the breakfast began and stay until it ended. They laughed like they thought I was joking.
Americans do not joke when it comes to all-you-can-eat.
The next morning we enjoyed all the coffee and all the food we could manage. We would pause to breathe, digest, and enjoy some conversation, then we would fill up another plate. We ate the entire time.
After our marathon eating session, we said goodbye to our friends. We promised to keep in touch and to stop in and see them if we were ever close by.
We gathered our gear and checked out of the pilgrim center. We headed for our next stop where we would continue our R&R: The Best Western Plus of Trondheim.
The Promised Land
This was the hotel where we shipped our extra gear when we first started Olav’s. They had been holding it for us for almost an entire month so we booked a few days there. We were looking forward to reuniting with our gear and curious to see what Best Western hotels were like outside the US.
We were not prepared for the luxury that awaited us.
This Best Western was in a building that used to be a bakery, so it had some features that harkened back to its former life. But the highlights for us were the afternoon waffle and coffee bar and all-you-can-eat dinner and breakfast buffets.
There was also self-serve laundry and a sauna.
We feasted and lived like royalty for those few days.
For as much time as I spent thinking about food (and occasionally panicking about food) on the trail, I was in heaven, able to eat as much as I wanted. And the variety! Fresh fruit and yogurt, soups, pasta salad, a dozen different types of cheese. I was on a food high.
In our hotel room, we had full-length mirrors so we could fully appreciate how our bodies had changed over the last month. Andy had started looking like he was a child dressed in his dad’s clothes. Even after bingeing for a few days, our clothes hung loosely. But we felt good. We felt strong and nimble, able to take on whatever adventures lay ahead.
When we weren’t taking advantage of the endless food at our hotel, we took a couple of days to explore Trondheim and fulfill our pilgrim duties at the Nidaros Cathedral.
The cathedral is a gorgeous, dark Romanesque and Gothic-style church made from soapstone. The diffuse light from the stained glass windows combined with the black-gray stone give the church a somber beauty. It is no mystery to why it is sometimes referred to as the Dark Cathedral. We were even lucky enough to catch an organ recital in the cathedral. The organs are among the largest in northern Europe. The beautiful setting and booming sounds made for a truly impressive performance.
Like the cathedral at Santiago contains the remains of St. James, the Nidaros Cathedral originally contained the remains of St. Olav. Unfortunately, the exact location of his remain’s is unknown because they were reburied in secret during the Protestant Reformation to protect the remains when Catholicism was essentially banned in Norway.
We attended the pilgrims’ mass in one of the small chapels of the Nidaros Cathedral. They read off the number of pilgrims from each country who had arrived in Trondheim in the last two days. We were the only ones from the United States.
End of the trail thoughts
Something that never ceased to amaze me was how surprised I always was when we arrived at our destination.
Yes, it sounds silly.
It IS silly.
You start walking in the morning, you spend all day in forward motion, following the path set before you—so of course you end up at your destination, right?
And yet here we are, amazed that all those slow, carefully placed steps carried us across another country.
Was I expecting to just walk forever and never reach my destination? (I have no sense of direction, so that’s a valid fear.)
Is it a matter of common sense?
Is it a matter of faith?
What are YOU making small, carefully placed steps towards? Will you be surprised when you arrive at your destination?