Norway is the land of trolls. Real trolls, not those socially-stunted, hate-fuelled nuisances that lurk on messageboards and shout “faggot nigger” at every rational, reasonable comment and make jokes at the expense of 13-year-old suicide tragedies. No, I’m talking real trolls, 13-foot monstrosities that live in the woods and eat goats.
Now, I’ll admit I didn’t see any actual trolls during my four days in Norway. I presume mainly because I was in the big city and not way up north in the cold forests, but I knew the trolls were there. You only need to watch Trollhunter to know that trolls are real. And kids in Norway grow up believing in trolls, with fairy stories that become urban legends that become accepted truth. Nobody in Norway has ever seen a troll because the people that venture out to find them never return but they all know they’re there.
I was taken out into the woods by my host and his girlfriend, who also both showed me around the entire time I was there. I was the spare wheel, the sparkly new plaything, the pet dog, for four days. I quite enjoyed it, if I’m honest. I’d love to be someone’s pet – getting fed, going for walks, lazing around every day; hell yeah, I could get used to that. Any offers?
We got off the Tube at the end of the line, which is handy because I’d never be able to remember the name of the specific stop as it contained more consonants than a Polish surname. The tube stop itself was one platform with some barriers and a ticket machine. We headed off down the hill, inadequate shoes slipping in the snow. I say inadequate, but Norwegians don’t do sandals and high heels. Women in Norway are more likely to wear spiked-hiking boots than stilettos on a night out, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. All I ask in a woman is that they have more pubes than bottles of shampoo.
Our trainers (sneakers to you non-Brits) weren’t ideal for the snow so we didn’t go for the long hike. We’d have ended up wet and cold and we’d have been easy pickings for any trolls hiding in the trees. So instead we climbed down the hill and into the big cabin in the photo.
Inside was all timber panelling and moose-heads hanging from the wall. There was a big fireplace and chandeliers making the spacious two-storey place feel cosy and warm. Norwegians certainly know how to escape their winters, whereas if you come to England in the winter, you’ll constantly be wondering where that draught is coming from and why the hell the thermostat decides to not work the one time of year you need it.
The cabin itself was a glorified cafeteria. I feel like I shouldn’t mention that in case you were expecting groups of grizzled old hunters resting their rifles against chair legs while eating the spoils of their day. But it’s true. We collected trays and served our own soup out of the pot and grabbed bottles of apple juice from the fridge and slid our trays along to the cash register. It was a familiar scenario for any Brit.
I say the place wasn’t filled with grizzled old hunters but everyone there was at least Norwegian. It wasn’t a tourist attraction, so it felt authentic, right down to the food I chose. My host went for the shrimp soup, his girlfriend went for the salmon sandwich and I was told I should try the sour cream porridge for “the real experience”. In Norwegian it’s called rømmegrøt.
Most Norwegians don’t even like the stuff apparently, and the smell of it as I ladled it out of the pot made me gag. But I was generous with the sugar, raisins and cinnamon which improved the grey gloop somewhat.
“You have to add butter too,” my host said to me.
I grabbed an individual butter pot. “Butter?”
“Yes, it’s traditional. It keeps the goblin king away. Make sure you eat it or something bad will happen.”
“So what, like, just put the whole thing right in the middle?”
“Yes. Just put it in.” (There’s a joke here somewhere about greasy, buttery packages and “putting it in” but I’m far too dignified to make it in such a warm and wonderful environment.)
So I did. The butter melted into the warm porridge and made the improved sweeter taste become bitter and gross again. But I didn’t want to be killed by the goblin king so I ate the whole lot. I nearly threw up afterwards but I wasn’t killed by any goblins so I guess it was worth it.
I didn’t see any trolls during my first day in Norway, let alone hunt any, but I did learn about traditional folklore while sitting wrapped up warm in a cabin in the woods. Not as exciting but it’ll go down as one of my more memorable meals.
Anyone else have any favourite restaurants/places they go to escape the cold? If your story includes trolls, even better!