The looming presence of the long mountain range across the fjord reminded me that, after almost two weeks, we were once again getting close to mainland Norway. This coastline view with stunning peaks will soon come to an end. In a strange way, that makes me quite sad. Yes, we will continue travelling and see plenty more great places, I am sure, but this country has really touched in a way that I never expected. I just love it and I especially love waking up to mountain views, there is just something rather majestic and captivating about it.
Next week our travel plans go on hold for just over a week. Craig will stay here in Harstad on the island until the repairs to our motorhome are complete and then he will drive over to Alta. I plan to leave the island on Tuesday, head over to Tromso for a flight home and then return back to Alta airport on 14th July. It all feels rather sensitive, a bit uncertain and whilst I know I always try to add humour to my posts, today things feel rather different. In a few days time, I will arrive home and spend time with a friend who’s husband has terminal cancer. They have asked me to help them work through their finances, so when he passes away everything is in order and she does not have to worry about things. It is the least I can do but I know, by my nature, I will find this emotionally hard to deal with. How they as a couple are coping, I will never know and all I can do is help in the best way I can.
I logged on-line and to do a little administration ahead of my flight to the UK. I also booked an appointment for a well overdue haircut. Tony be warned I am in need of plenty beautifying treatments, my hair needs a good cut! We did a little more washing, internal drying and a little more cleaning, so everything is clean and squeaky. The dogs got washed too and they were actually very good. We made it fun and made big fusses of them, so I guess it wasn’t such a big issue. Fun and games for puppies is always a winner! Then for a walk to dry off and a bit of exercise.
Within a few miles of our parking spot is the Trondenes museum and Sagas walk. We had no idea this place existed and so when we found it, it took us a little by surprise. There is not a lot to show in terms of photo’s. But as you will read, the tragic history and events that took place here is enough to paint the picture. We had never heard of Trondenes until now but after today, we certainly won’t forget it.
Unfortunately the museum was closed but we followed the trail towards the church. At stone walled entrance, a small noticeboard tells us this is the most northerly medieval church in Europe. The church was closed (no surprise) but apparently, it is richly decorated, funded through prosperous trading back in the 14th century when they sold dried fish.
On the edge of the church yard a beautiful array of wild flowers. Bees dashed back and forth between the flowers and the tiny butterflies fluttered amongst the grass. It was very pretty and with no one around, very peaceful and relaxing. At the side of the church a small cemetery with some rather old headstones dating back to 1700’s.
At the back of the church and over the stone wall, the path continued. Initially the fields looks quite bare but soon we reached 3 information boards. Most of the information was in Russian but the black and white pictures clearly showed this was originally a war cemetery. The graves are no longer here. In 1951 during the cold war period the Norwegian government decided to relocate all war graves to Tjotta International War Cemetery in Nordland. A total of 403 graves were relocated from this site. In the middle of the site, a memorial inscribed in Russian, erected by the prisoners of war when peace was announced.
A little further along and we notice small sections of bricks and ruins. This is more than a burial site, it is the remains of the Soviet prisoner of war camp. It sent a shiver down my spine. Between 1941 and 1945 around 100,000 Soviet prisoners of war arrived in Norway and around 13,700 prisoners died whilst in captivity. This prisoner of war camp was established by the German forces in connection with the Theo Battery Fortress on Trondenes Peninsula. The prisoners were soldiers from the Red Army, captured during the summer of 1942 whilst they were defending their country against German invasion. The prisoners were captured and taken to Norway, so they could be used as slave labour for building the Fortress. They were exploited to build the foundations, heavy manual work, road building and snow clearance.
The German troops regarded the Slavic people as subhuman, so they gave them low rations, poor clothing and horrid living conditions. During the 1942 -1943 winter months, this had fatal consequences for many and on a daily basis, young soldiers died of exhaustion and ill treatment.
The Trondenes Camp was one of the largest in Norway. Up to 1200 prisoners were crowded together in simple plywood huts located behind the barded wire fences. The parade ground was marked out on the map and the remains of the two watch towers were all but overgrown.
About half a mile up the road an military base. This base is still used today but a notice indicated you could attend the site during specific dates at a given time for a tour of the grounds. Inside the base is one of the four Adolf guns that constituted part of Hilter’s Atlantic Wall. This wall was a chain of coastal forts which stretched from the Bay of Biscay to the Arctic Ocean. Built to protect the third Reich against the allied invasion forces.
Across the road from the church and down the hill are the remains of a German barracks built by Russian prisoners. The barracks by the lake were used to house the people from Finnmark and Troms who were forced to evacuate their homes. The camp was almost a village with over 1,000 inhabitants.
We continue on down the road right to the waters edge. Here is a magnificent view of Toppsundet which separates the islands of Grytoya and Hinnoya. The fjord is rich in fish and so attracts a large fishing community but also, the area has a strong agricultural background. In and around the area are ruins dating back to the Viking era and rare finds such as jewellery, rings, pearls, axe and human remains were found in 2001 and on display in the museum.
Back to the museum and vicarage. It is here they discovered the remains of buildings and discarded elements from settlements dating back 2500 years. Asbjorn Selsbane (apparently a well known Viking) lived here about 1,000 years ago. What a remarkable and unexpected find, time for us to head back to Vin.
We got back in the motorhome just in time. The heavens opened and it poured it down, so guess that is it for the day. Craig is going to make a curry with some homemade flatbreads, which should go very nicely with a couple of beers.
Our wild camping spot tonight, same as last night but still not taken any photo’s!
GPS position N068.777605 and E016.589564
Weather: Low 14 and high 27, nice and warm until early evening when it started to rain