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.
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.
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.]
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.
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.
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.