“Whatever you do don’t let go!” These words ran through my head over and over…and over…again as I lay there sideways in the wild, frozen eyed and laughing, while eight blue and brown frozen eyelashes were staring back at me. I was half covered in a blanket of freshly fallen snow. My hands were sweating underneath my winter gloves from the grip I so tightly held. And…I couldn’t stop laughing.
I had flipped the dogsled. Falling wasn’t the hard part. It was getting back up again, which I finally did. I was mushing through the rural region of Røros, Norway and I was having the time of my life.
I had never tried anything this wild. We were on a portion of the Femundløpet Track – the worlds largest dogsled race that was taking place in Røros Norway. Learning what it takes to be a musher was just one wild and wonderful leg of my visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site town of Røros.
HISTORY OF RØROS NORWAY
At one time, Røros was a state with all of its own rules, regulations, and laws sanctioned by the king of Denmark. In 1644 they first found the copper and the second town in Norway (and in Europe) that had electric street lighting. An old mining town, Røros is not only rich in its cultural heritage, which was present in every street I walked, but other exciting traditions, like the Femundløpet– the worlds largest dogsled race in Røros Norway that takes place each February. One hundred and eighty teams compete in a long format race across the beautiful Norwegian mountains.
THE FEMUNDLØPET RACE
My week in Røros was a mix of eating and outdoor dog-sledding adventures. From what I heard from locals, Røros has become quite the foodie destination. A bit jet lagged from an international flight in, I was thrilled to check into Vertshuset Røros Hotel the in-floor bathroom heating, cozy little cabin like room, and my first meal at the restaurant downstairs made me feel right at home – local seasonal ingredients and divine desserts for the table. Full and well slept, I woke up feeling fresh for the following day of Femund Race activities.
As a traveler, not only did I get to closely watch the race from the sidelines, but it really felt like I was part of the experience with all of the opportunities to get up close and personal with the dogs and the participants. Pre-race I got in on the excitement, arriving early each day to see all of the mushers preparing their dogs for the starting line. The dogs were fed, getting ‘socks’ on their feet, and harnessed up before making their way to the starting line. I felt the energy and the dogs could too. They they were about to embark on a big journey.
After watching everyone take off, we made our way over to meet Husky Point for a little dogsled loop around town. For those interested in taking it a step further you can arrange to have someone take you out on a leg of the trail for a longer ride and even set up a day where you will learn to drive your own sled like I did.
One thing I learned about Norway, especially in Røros at this time of year, is that the weather conditions can change in an instant from calm, serene beautiful blue skies to frigid and wind-whipped cold. The elements are all part of the charm of being there. I experienced all of them. Bundling up and dressing appropriately along with popping in and out of coffee shops and little lunch spots to eat sodd, a kind of soup traditional in the Trøndelag region, was a nice way to stay warm while also experiencing local food culture.
As we waited for the evening racers to take off, we dined at Bergstadens Hotel Restaurant just around the corner from the starting line. We dined inside a house that was built in the 1700’s, which still has one of the original walls. It was one of my favorite meals of the trip. The restaurant is made to like an old cottage where the miners lived in the mines. Vintage photos and equipment from the mining era adorn the walls.
We feasted on reindeer beef with salt baked potatoes red wine sauce and veggies. We tasted local beers which bear stories about the mining history on the label and names from a local author who started his career washing and cleaning copper from the mines whose literature has been translated into 19 languages. I tried what is translated to ‘From the mines to the smelters’ which is one of the characters in his book. Before dinner, we walked around back to take a step even further back in time and check out the Old Milk House built in 1712. When travelers came they stayed upstairs with the hay and the animals downstairs and payment for the hotel was in the form of manure.
After dinner, we lined up down the main street and watched the racers excitedly shove off into the night. The starting line is exciting but I equally loved driving out to one of the checkpoints. The second evening, we set off on one of the main road travelers would take from Oslo to Trondheim (Road 3) and turned onto country Road 30 passing by the highest mountain in the region at 1700 meters before stopping off to taste some the regions local cheeses, meats and jams at Søberg Gård.
Owner and operator Maren Solvang Johnsen’s great-grandparents were old sheep farmers that moved in in the early 1900’s. She found her great grandmothers’ old diary and now tells her stories through food and recipes.
One of my favorites on the days tasting was her great grandmothers’ sour cream porridge. We tasted food from more than ten local producers: among them were lingonberry flatbread and cured moose, potatoes with agile and cured ham, white firm cheese with reindeer, Again Blue Cheese (gold medal in) with brimi spicy syrup, beef and chicken fried, cured meat with flatbread of Ramsløk (garlic flavored), Rømmegrøt (sour cream, barley and potato like a type of porridge), and garlic, onion, chicken and beef sausage.
An hour and a half from Røros town (91k), after our midway stop for snacks, we arrived at the Orkelbogen, a 22 room boutique property with a cabin tucked away in the mountains feel. Greeted and driven up by horse-drawn carriage, it was like a step back in time. As we walked through the front door and placed our shoes next to the fireplace then walked into the cozy quiet dining room where we feasted on a family-style home cooked dinner.
We ate pork with wheat in the form of a sausage, on the bone lamb with a local space drizzled atop, Rotmos (veggie stew that has the consistency of applesauce) and boiled potatoes. Watching the race live from the Inside Track app, we enjoyed our dessert then quickly bundled up to head outside to see the first racers make their way to the checkpoint entry.
As I walked over an old wooden bridge frozen in a few feet of snow, I heard a guitar in the distance and a small crowd singing along as the fire-pit lit the way. When renowned musher Lars Monsen, a three time Iditarod participant,came through, silence overcame the celebration. Everyone watched as Lars unpacked food for the dogs and then proceeded to make their beds for the evening while he went inside to have some dinner of his own and get a little nap before heading back out. The finish line was filled with high spirits as racers came in. Winners of each category celebrated with a champagne spray. Participants were exhausted but excited as the crowd cheered them on.
After the race commenced we shared our last lunch at Kaffestuggu, Røros Oldest Restaurant. An excellent backdrop to chat about everything we’d experienced over the past four days. So much to see and do in such a short amount of time. And there was still so much more to be discovered. I can’t wait to plan a trip back soon.
I have been all over Norway and I love each part for a different reason. Røros was something special that I have never experienced anywhere else in the world. Not only the warm hospitality and the warm and delicious meals we ate, but the excitement of taking part in such a special local event that only happens once a year. The experience I had in Røros was one of those once in a lifetime firsts you will never forget. Cultured and full of the cutest pups, I am looking forward to a return visit.
*If you’re interested in planning a trip to this years Femund Race send me a note at kristen@borderfreeproductions.