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After I moved beyond the piano lessons that I had been taking from a family friend, I enrolled at a formal music school and had my first brush with Soviet-style music instructors. My piano teacher’s name was Daina (pronounced Dai-eena) and she was from Albania (my other piano instructor was from the Ukraine). She had a thick accent and could play piano like no other. While I learned many pieces under her tutelage, it was the Grieg pieces that I enjoyed the most. So when I found out I had the opportunity to visit Grieg’s house Troldhaugen on my Norwegian cruise, I knew what I would be doing on my day in Bergen.
Edvard Grieg is Norway’s most famous composer and while he never wrote symphonies like Beethoven and Mozart (he apparently started one but never finished it), and perhaps in non-classical music circles is not as well-known as them either, in musical circles he is regarded as one of the best.
Troldhaugen is located just outside of the Norwegian city of Bergen and its setting is utterly enchanting. While Bergen is quite a large city by Norwegian standards and there was a bit of traffic getting there from the port, you wouldn’t think such things once you arrived. It’s quiet, it’s secluded, and it’s just beautifully green. Troldhaugen comes from the word trold which means troll in Norwegian and haug from the Old Norse word haugr meaning hill or knoll. If you know Grieg’s compositions, you’ll know that many of his works feature trolls quite prominently (just like in the country itself).
Unfortunately, our tour only included the ground floor at Troldhaugen but from what I did see, it was quite a lovely space. Although Grieg referred to Troldhaugen as a villa, there is nothing grandoise or ostentatious about it; on the contrary it reminded me more of a simple country house. And just like everywhere in Norway, wood was the material of choice in the building construction.
One of my favorite parts about the grounds at Troldhaugen was seeing Grieg’s composer’s hut which overlooks Nordås Lake. If there was ever a place to inspire you to compose, it would be here. Although both he and his wife Nina were talented pianists and there was a stunning Steinway grand piano at Troldhaugen, I can see why Grieg felt the need to have a separate space, one with no distractions, wouldn’t you agree?
The highlight of our visit to Troldhaugen was undoubtedly the private 30 minute concert in which a local pianist performed some of Grieg’s works inside of Troldsalen, a concert hall on the grounds. She was utterly amazing and made me wish I could play like that. The final piece she played was Wedding Day at Troldhaugen which Grieg composed in honor of his and Nina’s 25th wedding anniversary. I have a copy of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces book and have started to “try” to learn that piece, but it is definitely a work in progress!
Info on visiting:
Our visit to Troldhaugen was the second port adventure that we booked directly through Disney Cruise Line. It cost $69 for adults and $35 for children ages 3-9. Overall, I was pleased with the tour since going on your own from the Bergen city center is a bit complicated (while you can take the light rail from the downtown, you still have a 20-30 minute walk from where you get off to Troldhaugen).
Our tour guide, who rode with us from the port,was excellent; her English was flawless and she provided the group with a lot of great background and historical information on Bergen and of course Grieg. My only critique (besides not being able to see the second floor of the house) is that the group itself was too large. As the rooms at Troldhaugen were on the smaller side, trying to fit 25+ people into a room that was designed in the 19th century was tough and sadly, I didn’t really get to see the Steinway that was in the living room due to where I was standing. Smaller groups would definitely be a better thing.
A beautiful stained glass window that was in the front of the villa.
Also, photography was not allowed inside, which always disappoints no matter the attraction.
Grieg’s piano in his composer’s studio.
Transportation alternative-At 11 AM every day from June 1 until September 30, the museum arranges a guided bus tour from the Tourist Information Office in Bergen’s city centre to Troldhaugen. For more information on this option, click here.
Even if you don’t know who Grieg is and only have a passing interest in classical music, I still think you’ll enjoy your visit to Troldhaugen. And needless to say, if you are a classical music aficionado, you will definitely adore it. My visit to Troldhaugen was definitely a highlight of my Norwegian cruise.