Experience Norway’s centre for living cultural heritage
TEXT: JULIE LINDEN
Having gained UNESCO World Heritage site status in 1980 for its historical importance as a 17th-century mining town, Røros offers a historically rich and culturally abundant destination with a thriving local community. Showcasing an authentic town centre with its characteristic wooden houses, as well as a plethora of local shops and delicacies, Røros invites you to experience the cultural heritage at this unique destination.
“World heritage is not seasonally contingent – so Røros offers something for everyone all year round,” says Tove Martens, director of tourism at Destination Røros. “The legacy of the mining town can be enjoyed throughout the seasons, with the added benefit of several museums that tell the town’s story – from the smelter museum to the Olav’s Mine. To this day, the community is very much informed by an industrious spirit. It’s kept alive and thriving by a keen business culture and a wealth of inviting restaurants, shops and cafés.”
Conveying the past with a look to the future
Tracing its mining history back to 1644, Røros is a location formed by its importance as a historical copper mining hub – one of only two such historically designated mining towns in Norway. Before mining activity commenced, there were only a few farmsteads and settlements of the indigenous South Sámi people, who still reside in Røros and maintain the region’s cultural heritage. UNESCO assigned the site World Heritage status, citing outstanding universal value in the area, with special attention placed on the relict mining landscape as well as the mining town – built entirely out of wood.
“The feedback we get is that Røros feels authentic and real. I think that’s highly related to its history, but also the way the past merges with the present – with a look to the future,” says Martens. “Nothing feels unnatural, like a set or a prop – everything you see is real: the famous, preserved wooden buildings, culture, culinary traditions and craftsmanship. At the same time, Røros has very much grown as a modern society. Its uniqueness lies in the conservation of historically important sites that are maintained without causing stagnation to the contemporary Røros, where people live and make a living today. This town merges old and new into something distinct, and we’re very proud of that.”
Fairs and festivals – markets, dog sleds and cured meats
A centre for several nationally important festivals and events, such as the Røros Winter Fair, The Femund Race and Norsk Spekematfestival (a Norwegian festival of cured meats), Røros boasts a varied and multifaceted annual programme. The Winter Fair dates back to 1854 and transforms the entire town into an abundant market for five days each February. Drawing scores of visitors from home and abroad, the festival offers traditional dishes prepared over open fires, craftsmanship stalls, horse-drawn sleds, lively dance halls and artisan cafés. The Femund Race, the world’s largest dog sled race, garners the same interest. And, known for its top-quality cured meat products, specially made by local reindeer meat, the Røros area naturally hosts a summer festival dedicated to cured meats.
Food safaris and local delights
Røros is a sustainable destination, and one of the first four to become a certified sustainable destination in March 2013. “Part of the immense cultural heritage is the food tradition, which we must preserve for generations to come,” says Martens. “The sparse and often barren nature in the Røros area often posed challenges to cultivation and food production, and it made people into both creative and knowledgeable producers,” she says, explaining that new initiatives are harnessing local resources for production in new, innovative ways. For instance, Terroir Røros receives and processes berries, mushrooms and herbs from the Røros area, making locally certified products intended for consumption with other local delicacies. Destination Røros offers local food safaris of the area, where guests are taken on a guided tour to several producers, before feasting on a plate of local delights.
“The Røros cultural heritage is strong and ever growing. We invite each and every one to experience this living village for themselves,” concludes Martens.
Annual events in Røros:
February: The Femund Race – the world’s largest dog sled race
February: Røros Winter Fair – national event with more than 70,000 visitors annually
March: Røros Winter Chamber Music Festival – annual festival in the old mining town
June: Norsk Spekematfestival – three-day festival dedicated to the traditional Norwegian delicacy of cured meats
December: Christmas Market – purchase artisanal and craftsman creations at the markets
For information on event dates