30 July 2011

Trondheim waterside

Trondheim was the most northern place that I visited on my holiday.

It was also the place that I spent the most time, four days, so it is the town that I have the most to say something about.

I'll start with the waterside.

Not only is Trondheim on the coast but the old town is all but circled by the river. Only a narrow stretch of land on the western edge joins it to the mainland.

Lots of water means lots of waterside.

This water comes in two sections with distinct characteristics. To the north and east are the old buildings from Trondheim's seafaring past and to the south and west are the sedate suburban streets and open spaces that are more typical of the rest of the city.

So it's the north-east corner of the Trondheim waterside that I'll focus on and it's immediately clear why.

The buildings are colourful but functional. They share a similar style but each is unique. And they hug the still water which rewards them with sympathetic reflections.

The industry has long gone, these are offices now, and the stillness of the water is echoed in the stillness of the buildings and engulfs the neighbourhood. There are very few people in any of these photographs.

The ring of water around the town centre is breached in several places by bridges. The age and social attitude of the city mean that some of these are just for people.

Bridges are always a good place from which to enjoy rivers and Trondheim is no exception.

Here, on the east of the town, the river has been sculpted in to a wide straight avenue that almost convinces you that it is the Grand Canal in Venice until you realise that the architecture is wrong and the river is too quiet.

Either side of the avenues of shacks are busy roads packed with tourists, visitors and locals. A few of these have broken through the barrier of the buildings and can be seen by, or on, the water, enjoying the it just for doing what water does.

A closer look at the buildings shows how they are held high to keep dry and this also suggests how high the water can get at times. Indications that the calm waters can be fierce and threatening when the mood takes them.

The boats and doors on to the water confirm what we already suspected that the water was a major highway.

The physical nature of the coast of Norway means that the easiest way to get around was, until quite recently, by boat and it was only natural to extend the sea routes in to the cities.

Fish and timbers may account for a lot of the goods transported this way but these were Norway's main roads and so everything would once have moved on the water and in each port there were buildings right on the water's edge ready to receive them.

Today's boats may be used more for pleasure than for business but they still enliven the waterside and reassure you that this is not just a picture-postcard, it is also a vibrant city. And that's a great combination.

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