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Need a scapegoat? Blame it on a troll.
Did a tricky troll persuade you into stealing an extra slice of cake at the dinner party? Forget to meet curfew because an enchantress troll lured you into the woods with her siren song? Need to accuse a stupid troll of breaking your sister’s bike?
No matter the situation, culpability can easily be assigned to one of the mythical creatures, which can range from large and slow-witted to highly intelligent and human-like.
At least, that’s what Norwegians do. During a recent cruise along the country’s western coast as part of Viking’s 15-day Into the Midnight Sun itinerary, I was immersed in troll lore while exploring some of the area’s most popular sites (and I got some good ideas for who to blame for my next mistake).
During the Trollstigen & Trollveggen in a Day excursion, we drove along formidable roads and through majestic fjords and verdant valleys to visit a couple of Norway’s more dramatic attractions: the steep Trollstigen (which means “troll ladder” or “troll road”), part of a National Tourist Route that runs from Geiranger to the bottom of Romsdalen valley; and Trollveggen (“troll wall”), Europe's tallest vertical overhanging rock face.
The eight-hour journey began with a long, scenic motorcoach ride inland from Geiranger, where Viking Sea was docked. Though we had hoped for sunny weather, the overcast skies and heavy fog added a mystical element to the already enchanting landscapes; it was easy to imagine trolls lurking just beyond the mist.
To stretch our legs, we stopped at Gudbrandsjuvet, where a walkway allows travelers to peer into a narrow ravine and see the force of the Valldola River flowing through. With turquoise waters rushing below and lush greenery at every turn, it’s a beautiful rest point worth a short jaunt.
Next up was the tour de force: Trollstigen. At the high point of the road is a visitors center; the stunning slanted structure by Oslo-based firm Reiulf Ramstad Architects is crafted from concrete, steel and glass and blends into its surroundings. There are also multiple viewing platforms and walkways. The largest platform juts over a ledge and hovers more than 650 feet above the steep mountainside for breathtaking views of the foreboding road down into the Romsdalen valley. On a clear day, tourists can see for miles from the plateau, spying mountains with names such as Kongen (“the king”), Dronningen (“the queen”) and Bispen (“the bishop”), and they can also get a bird’s-eye view of the Stigfossen and Trollfossen waterfalls.
Our skilled motorcoach driver then tackled the iconic Trollstigen road, which features 11 hairpin turns. Opened in 1936 by King Haakon VII (the first king of Norway), the thin, winding road was developed mainly for tourists and sees upward of 2,000 cars per day. Luckily, perhaps because of the inclement weather, there wasn’t much traffic, and we were able to make our way down with ease (although not without a lot of gasping from whichever side of the bus was facing the road’s sharp drop-offs).
After a feast for the eyes, it was time for lunch at Trollstigen Gjestegard Restaurant (including photo ops with various troll statues, which dot most of the visitor stops along this route). On the way there, we gaped at the towering mountains on either side of the bus as our guide recounted troll tales of yore. He told us about a type of female mountain troll who disguised herself as human and lured men into her cave with beautiful songs. Once she had trapped a victim inside her cave, the troll would turn into her actual form and make the man act as her pet or servant.
“So, if you meet a pretty woman in the woods, the only sure way to know whether she’s a troll is to lift up her skirt to see if she has a tail,” our guide said, while noting that such methods are neither appropriate nor recommended.
Our last stop was at the base of the nearly 3,600-foot Trollveggen, which attracts Scandinavian rock climbers with multiple challenging routes — the upper 3,000 feet of the mountain face is vertical, and there is an overhang of 164 feet.
An impressive visitors center and restaurant (built by the same architecture firm of the Trollstigen visitors center) rivals the spectacular cliff face, featuring panoramic, jagged glass windows and a cathedral-like design. The building’s pinnacle points toward Trollveggen, inviting travelers to take in the mighty sight.
During the ride back, as our guide regaled us with more troll mythology, I stared at the fog settled on the tops of the cliffs surrounding us and wondered what — or who — might live in the unseen nooks and crannies of Norway’s epic landscapes.