Welcome to Røros. Where huskies race through the streets, horse-and-carts outnumber cars, and for one weekend every year, Christmas takes over.
First things first, Røros is remote. It's a small mountain town located inland, deep within the Norwegian mountains. As such, it's one of the coldest places in Norway with temperatures regularly dipping below -30C in the winter. Despite this, Røros is thriving.
The town was founded on copper mining, and in the days of yore everyone who lived here was connected to the industry. The modern residents of Røros still live and work in the 17th and 18th century buildings that line the streets, but the industries now are food and drink, crafts, and of course, tourism.
If you've ever been to an open-air museum you'll know the atmosphere of Røros. Except here, it's real life.
Røros Christmas Market
For one weekend a year Røros welcomes the world for its Christmas market. It's a popular event drawing crowds from across Norway – and on this occasion a British travel blogger from Trondheim and a group of German journalists! Wrap up warm folks, as I take you on a walk around the Christmas market.
Actually, despite me wearing full-body woollen underwear, a thick woollen jumper, a jacket, winter boots, scarf, hat and gloves, our guide Hilde gleefully informed me “this isn't cold!”
She was right of course. At last year's Christmas market the temperature ranged from -25C to -30C. This year, it was a tropical -10C! (for the benefit of my American readers, those figures are -13F, -22F, and +14F!)
The centre of Røros is dominated by two parallel streets running up the hill towards the Church – Kjerkgata (Church Street) and Bergmannsgata (Miners Street). The majority of the population live at the top of the hill, whereas the airfield, railway station and main shopping centre are at the bottom.
Although the market was on the other street, Kjerkgata felt just as festive. Here's a view uphill towards Røros Church, just visible on the left:
Just off Kjerkgata we found Potteriet, a perfect example of the type of business that defines modern Røros. I had the chance to speak with the owner about his experience of running a business in Røros, and you can read the full interview here.
In the winter, the locals get from top to bottom and back again using kick-sleds known as “sparks”. They are especially popular with the elderly, who are surprisingly quick on these things!
While at the top of the hill, we checked out the gift shop at the Smelting Museum – one of the four sites of Røros Museum – more for the chance to warm up than anything else!
We made our way down the hill along Mørkstugata and Bergmannsgata, so we could call in at Frøyas Hus, a homely cafe that me and my mum found when we visited in the summer of 2012. Back then, we relaxed in the back garden admiring the trinkets for sale while we tucked into some filling goulash soup. This time the goulash soup was there, but the back garden had a slightly different feel to it!
What's lovely about this town is exploring all the nooks and crannies. Take Apotekergården. Through the set of gates we were greeted by a warming fire, reindeer skin rugs, and kids playing in the snow. Through the doors was a cozy cafe and a jumble sale of homeware and Christmas decorations. You can easily miss these charming delights!
As we continued down Bergmannsgata we reached the heart of the market. Wooden huts lined both sides of the street, selling everything from reindeer meat to reindeer skins, and woollen hats to wooden toys. The theme (other than Christmas, of course!) was local. Røros has a well-earned reputation for food and drink and this really came across at the market. One stall particularly caught my eye – Galåvolden Gård – which offered local berries, ice-cream, and cheese.
As we wandered around the stalls, some Christmas music caught our attention. We were just in time to hear a group of local schoolchildren burst into song. Adorable!
An hour or so later, the adults took their turn!
Across the street was a hands-on workshop for kids, where they could make their own pepperkakehus – or gingerbread house! Pepperkaker are thin gingerbread biscuits impossible to avoid during the Norwegian christmastime.
Local businesses and groups had been busy with their own impressive creations:
After another wander around the market stalls we decided to head back to Røros Hotell for a break. It's easy to run out of energy walking around in freezing temperatures on snow and ice all day. But just before we left, we had time to say hello to a group of huskies – truly gorgeous creatures.
Røros by Night
The gentle sound of sleigh bells woke me from my slumber. After checking I hadn't fallen asleep on the remote control, I realised the noise was coming from outside. If sparks or husky-drawn sleds aren't your preferred mode of transport in Røros, how about horse-drawn carts?
It was noticeably chillier now, but that didn't matter one bit. The town, brightened by the reflection from the snow underfoot, was even more magical. We retraced our steps to see the town in another light.
Although the Christmas market is held just one weekend per year, there's plenty of reasons to go to Røros on other weekends. Cross-country skiers will love the guaranteed snow for six months of the year, while non-skiers can still enjoy the snow thanks to the husky-powered sleds. History buffs will love the Røros Museum along with the general atmosphere of the town, while foodies can join a “food safari” of local producers.
If you fancy a trip, check out the Winter Fair in mid-February, but be warned, accommodation will fill up fast! If you want to plan in advance, the Christmas market returns on 5-7 December 2014.
Goodbye Røros. Until the next time…