Yes, you can visit Hell in Norway! The small village near Trondheim draws the eye on a map. But what's the place really like? Let's take a look.
It's a source of great amusement to non-Norwegians (me included!) that there's a teeny village named Hell right next to Trondheim Airport Værnes. So close in fact, that when checking in on Facebook at the airport, you are offered the opportunity to select “Hell International Airport”…
A tiny village in central Norway
The village is only really known for two things: its train station which must be the most photographed in Norway despite its tiny size, and the annual Blues in Hell festival (this September is the next instalment!)
I'd been wondering if there's any more to this place for quite some time, so booked my one-way ticket to Hell (wahey!) to check it out.
The name Hell stems from the Old Norse word hellir, which means “overhang” or “cliff cave”. It has a more used homonym in modern Norwegian that means “luck”. The Old Norse word Hel is the same as today's English Hell, and as a proper noun, Hel was the ruler of Hel. In modern Norwegian the word for hell is helvete – Wikipedia
The most visible part of Hell is the Rica hotel and shopping centre thanks to their “look at me” signs screaming at everyone driving past along the E6. But the thing is, neither the hotel or the shopping centre are actually in Hell. They are the wrong side of the river! Still, Sandfærhus Shopping Centre doesn't have quite the same ring to it, so Hell it is.
I took the opportunity for a peek inside the shopping centre, which was much bigger than I expected, with a Rema 1000 supermarket, gym, Jerna, InterSport, Mix (selling the famous “Hell frozen over” postcards) and even a cafe.
Yes, I bought an ice-cream in Hell!
Hell Bru, built in 1959, crosses the Stjørdalselva river into the village proper. Not only is there the sign on the bridge, there's also one high up in the hills, which I'd never noticed before.
If only it glowed red…
The Hell railway station
My first port of call was of course the train station, to grab the obligatory photos. The sign “Gods Expedition” is an old Norwegian spelling meaning the freight handling operation.
The station is also notable for being the point at which the line from Trondheim splits off, one continuing on all the way to Bodø and one peeling off into Sweden, to Åre and Östersund.
Despite its proximity to the E6 motorway and an international airport, the village itself is remarkably peaceful. Typical Scandinavian wooden houses, well-kept gardens, lots of cyclists, kids playing in the streets: not what I expected at all!
Rock carvings in Hell
After a pleasant walk around I was all set to head back up towards Værnes when a sign caught my eye – “Helleristninger 0.5km”. So I followed the deceptively steep trail through another residential area and into overgrown forest. Still with no idea what to expect I delved deeper into the forest and found… rock carvings!
Two reindeer with some smaller animals are clearly visible. They date back to the Stone Age, were discovered in 1895 and apparently are some of the most famous rock carvings in Norway. Who knew!
And all most people come to Hell for (me included) is to take a photograph of the train station…
My visit wasn't over yet though. I've long admired two churches in close proximity to Hell and Trondheim Airport: Lånke and Værnes. As I was in the walking mood I decided to head on out to Lånke Church for a look-see.
Pretty! On the way, I passed more of Hell's amenities, including a Coop and a grill, and spied more houses up in the hills. There's even what looks like an old folks home. I don't need to make the in-laws joke do I!?
Hell isn't exactly somewhere I recommend you visit, but it offered up far more than I was expecting: in particular the rock carvings that I stumbled upon quite by chance.
So that my friends, was the day I went to hell… and back.