Everytime I think of the travel wonder of Trollstigen (the Troll’s Ladder), one of Norway’s and Europe’s finest drives, I am reminded of a great story told to me as a child.
It is the story of Three Billy Goats Gruff, a fable told to children around the world (but especially Scandinavia) for over a century. In this tale, there are three goats who have run out of grass in their field and to get to more grass, they need to cross a bridge guarded by a nasty old troll (a stout Norse mythology creature with an oversized nose) who likes to eat goats. The first goat is challenged and explains that his older brother is coming and the troll let him pass with the promise of a larger meal. The second goat wanders across the bridge and again explains that his eldest brother is following closely behind and is allowed to pass. The eldest goat crosses the bridge and as the troll goes to eat him, he is gored to death, leaving the bridge safe for all times.
Trollstigen is a snaking single lane road carved out of the mountainous path between Ǻndalsnes and the extraordinarily beautiful Geirangerfjord in central Norway – an aquamarine highway of water sandwiched between towering granite walls that stand tall even among the stunningly exceptional fjords which pockmark the west coast of Norway.
The road is engulfed by a chessboard of mountains with evocative names like The King, The Queen and The Bishop. The pounding waterfall of Stigfossen finds a more direct way down the mountain cutting under the road in a few places, falling into a gushing dark stream where it is easy to believe that trolls have stealthily inhabited for centuries. Even road signs warn motorists (and cyclists – apparently trolls like cyclists) of troll crossings.
Having survived the climb of Trollstigen, its eleven hairpin turns and avoiding being on the troll’s morning tea menu, you are rewarded with a superb vista of Geirangerfjord. A ferry ride and a drive down the Eagles Road (Ørneveien) past some turf-roofed farms of yesteryear and you arrive at the delightful village of Geiranger and its extraordinary waterway.
Tourist boats ply these waters regularly in the warmer months. The steep walls of the fjord are punctuated by towering waterfalls several hundred metres in height. The two most notable falls are the lead players in another Norse tale. The elegant Seven Sisters is being wooed by a matching fall on the other side appropriately called The Suitor (these Norwegians have rich imaginations!).
Strangely on this most treasured drive, I am sure I spotted a few trolls in the distance but I didn’t see a single goat. Maybe the trolls still manage the Trollstigen crossings.