blogging, Travel

Værnes – To Hell and Back

Meet Hans Olav – a real Viking

Despite not being a major airport, for some of us, it’s rather fun landing over water, flying low into the fjord at Stjørdal, landing on a thin strip of land that juts out between the two arms of the sea. The airport itself has an interesting history dating back to the Viking age according to my Viking guide, Hans Olav.

http://www.simflight.de/Trondheim_Vaernes

War History of Værnes and Stjørdal

When the Luftwaffe occupied Værnes, Norway, on April 9, 1940, the Naziis met with little resistance and immediately set to work improving the small airport at Stjørdal, near Trondheim, recruiting thousands of Norwegian workers. A large bomber base and port facilities were planned for German naval vessels at nearby Øysand. This would have provided the Nazi war effort with a stepping stone for further invasions north and perhaps, bilaterally east and west.

There were probably at the most 2,000 German soldiers and 2,000 Norwegian labourers at Værnes during World War II.

trondheim_vaernes_norway

The construction may have been speedy and impressive, but their Nazi rationale was not. Nevertheless, within a year or so, more than 100 buildings, three new concrete runways,  multiple hangars, bunkers and anti-aircraft artillery had been constructed.

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-760-0165N-26, in Norway

Miraculously, Hans Olav told us, that within a few weeks the Naziis had organized a workforce that built a completely new runway, one that was used by the Germans to bomb Allied forces on the Narvik front, in the far north.

My Trondheim guide, who described himself as a real Viking, was intensely proud of his heritage. He explained that work had begun to clear the forest near the airport, when graves from the Viking Age, c1085, were unearthed. Construction was halted and plans were made for the airport to move to a different location.

Hans Olav seemed pleased that the Vikings had stymied the Nazi war effort! [There was a huge passive resistance movement against the Nazi occupation in Norway.]

Landing on the Vaernes Runway

After World War II, the Norwegian authorities decided there was a need for a civilian airport at Værnes (NATO had contributed towards the construction of the military part of the airport). In 1961, the runway was extended out into the fjord and it is on this runway that I land on the occasions when I fly into Værnes and Trondheim.

Værnes

Recently, plans to establish a larger airport at a location on the outer peninsula were again halted after evidence was found of a massive ancient Viking settlement underneath the ground.

The site was huge, 91,000 square metres of remains and dated back to the Viking age. It is believed the area was inhabited by a fishing community, with a large proportion of the site acting as an Iron Age rubbish tip, known as a midden. Two Viking funeral boats were also found, uniquely buried on top of one another.

In Norway, any construction must undergo an archaeological survey first to ensure that any evidence of ancient civilisations is not damaged.

Photo Credit: P Goke

To Hell and Back

The Værnes airport is located in the municipality of Stjørdal, Nord-Trøndelag, which lies 19 km or 12 miles east of Trondheim and is a joint civilian and military airport. It was the first airport to have a train station at its door.

The railway station ironically lies between the village of Hell and Stjørdal. Yes, Hell is a place – it means, “overhanging cliff,” in the old Norwegian language. The train station at Hell is a favourite tourist spot even though it is no longer a functioning station.

A great photo opportunity so you can say I have been to Hell and back!

I was discussing airport experiences with all the lovely readers who choose to comment on the Friendly Friday Challenges when I remembered flying into Vaernes Airport, in Trondheim, Norway for Travel with Me’s Friendly Friday- meet some amazing guides – post.

Visiting Trondheim

53 thoughts on “Værnes – To Hell and Back”

    1. The is still time, Gerard. You could visit the trifecta of The Netherlands, Finland and Norway, taking the ferry down the west coast of Norway to Bergen, then flying, as I did into Schiphol.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Always good that those ancient vikings were still able to foil Nazi plots… Quick question – where was the photo at the top of the page, the one with the pile of snowballs and mountains in the background, taken? Is that Norway?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, Trent, that photo in the header image was taken at Beitostolen in the Norwegian mountains. A village in the famous ski resort – I stayed there with friends for a few weeks and we made the snow candles. I learnt about different types of snow during that time. Something I was not aware of. I thought there was only one type!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My gosh! To hell and back. Gives me the shivers just thinking about it, but I can see why it is a tourist attraction. Speaking of Norway… have you seen the excellent “Post Mortum: No One Dies in Skarnes”? It’s available through Netflix.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ooh. I will definitely look for that one, Laurie. Thanks. I love to hear of new series from or set in Scandinavia.
      I just now finished watching Furia – a Norwegian series – a political thriller. Super intense in the final episode but provocative.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Hans Olav looks like a Viking, or rather, looks like my idea of a Viking, gained from reading and from seeing illustrations in magazines. I have been to Norway a few times and love it, and I’ve probably met a few Vikings on my trips!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No doubt you have met some Vikings if you have visited Norway. Some of the younger men like to get a little too far in touch with their Viking ancestors when visiting the pubs. Otherwise, they have tamed down their behaviour since the dark age, I think. Lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I would love to land there, it looks like it would be an amazing view as you descend! Thank you for joining in and introducing us to Hans Olav – it’s always great to meet someone who’s proud of his culture and history like that 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Værnes is so much closer for you than for me, Sarah. You could easily pop over to Trondheim for a weekend. If only I could do the same. By the time I arrived, the weekend would be over.

      Liked by 2 people

          1. Sorry for the confusion! I’ve just done what I should have done last night when I left this comment – checked my old Virtual Tourist info 😉 We didn’t even GO to Trondheim! The museum I’m thinking of was the Hammerfest Reconstruction Museum. It was excellent so if you ever find yourself there do go. And if ever we’re in Trondheim I’ll check out the Archbishop’s palace museum 😀

            Liked by 1 person

            1. No worries, Sarah. I did suspect you didn’t mean Trondheim but wasn’t sure. If you do ever go to Trondheim, I can recommend several other excellent places. The municiple library even has a archaeological remnant excavation on show in their library space!

              Liked by 1 person

        1. I could just see myself doing the same thing. Something I also like to do in Copenhagen and other places in Europe. Such characterful architecture is something we don’t have in Australia.

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