Mining the Mountains of History; Simeon Tegel Visits Roros, Norway's Highest - and Chilliest - Town

Article excerpt

The blanket of snow which drapes over Roros for more than six months of the year gives the town a peaceful, almost supernatural air.

Brightly-painted low wooden houses huddle together on the hillside, beneath which miners bored during the 18th and 19th centuries in their search for lucrative copper.

In the centre of the town lies a spacious timber and stone church, Bergstadens Ziir, which dominates the town's skyline.

One of the largest and finest examples of a Baroque church in Scandinavia, it was first built in 1650, rebuilt in 1784, and seats a congregation of 1,600.

It even has a royal box for senior officials from the local mining company, who paid for it to be built. That industry still dominates Roros although the mines finally closed down in the 1970s.

Roros, a designated World Heritage Site, is now a living museum dedicated to Norwegian copper-mining, the industry which first put it on the map 300 years ago.

The award-winning mining museum is housed in the remains of a giant timber smelting hut which was restored after a blaze in 1953. It opened in 1988 and visitors can still climb down into the Olav mine below it.

It details the rise of copper after the first smelting hut was built in 1646 and the industry's quick expansion, copper being an important war material at that time.

At its peak at the turn of the 18th century, it was one of the most important industries in the Kalmar Union of Norway and Denmark, employing 2,000 people, including many engineers from Germany.

The oldest houses in the town still date from this boom period, any earlier buildings having been destroyed by Swedish cannons.

The town has a total of about 650 hotel beds, but has been mindful to look after its heritage. Seven buildings were listed as monuments of national heritage as early as 1923.

Wood is the main building material, providing more warmth than other possible construction materials in what is Norway's coldest town.

The bitter climate is simple to explain. At an altitude of 650m, Roros is Norway's highest town.

But, despite the icy conditions - the record low is minus 53C - Roros is still a place for outdoor activities. …