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If you visit the area of Varese-Como visit the Monastery of Torba located in Gornate Olona,next to the Roman exacations of Casteseprio with other 6 sites since 2011 this ancient monastery is inscribed in the World Heritage List of UNESCO. Located in a picturesque verdant plateau next to a charming hill the area during the Roman Empire was used as adouane controlling the trade of agricultural products and goods on the road linking the region of Insubria to Switzerland and the Padana Valley.Under the Goths the complex was used as defensive  area against invasions from East an North Europe.

After Lombard occupation,in the 8th century the building was transformed in a monastery of  Benedcitine Nuns.The building had further transformations adding cells,a prayer hall and a small refectory.Later a church was built dedicated to the Virgin Mary.In the 15th century the monastery was abandoned and used by local farmers mainly for agricultural activities.
The massive defense tower is about 18 meters high and is located in front of a plateau dominating the road leading to Gornate towards Castiglione Olona famous centre of the noble family Branda and the city of Varese.

Inside you can admire some traces of paintings dating back the early middle age depicting the nuns and other trligious figures.The complex is a great architectonic m

asterpiece and thanks to the FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italianan organisation very active preserving historical and cultural sites in Italy the monastery and the tower are well preserved.Worth a visit for its relevant historic value in a beautiful and picturesque environment,if you are in the area of Como and Varese the visit is very recommended.

Francesco Mari

Holmenkollen | Norwegian Ski Jumping Cathedral Overlooking Oslofjord.

Holmenkollen is a name in Scandinavia which sounds like a myth and legend and much more for all those who are fond about Nordic Ski, it is the Norwegian Ski Jumping Cathedral overlooking Oslofjord that magnificent sea arm delighting the view of everyone with its striking image in the wonderful maritime scenery of the capital of Norway Oslo from the summit of a stunning hill in Vestre Aker just 20 minute away from that Nordic city, a great place surrounded by the verdant forests of Marka part of a very scenic and attractive environment.

That icon wrote the history of something which is not just sport, it is a sort of Sacred Temple for all people who love that spectacular sporting speciality and it became since its establishment a Top destination inserted among the most relevant excursions to enjoy during the visit of the major centre of that wonderful Scandinavian country.

The name of that emblematic site derives by the composition of two words such as Holmen and Kolle. The first one is related to the denomination of a Farm linked to the main activity of the former local settlers while the second means hill. 

Nobody could think that legendary complex developed on a remote hilly plateau in 1892 since then populated by humble farmers living on that height a very peaceful life working hard in an uncontaminated and virgin area changed the history of a country becoming the Norway´s biggest resort.

Holmenkollbakken, that stunning trampoline as it is called in Norwegian language  for the passion, enthusiasm and joy of an entire country well known to boast a wonderful  sporting culture is a living symbol, a famed hub visited all year for the illustrious traditions and history closely linked to Nordic Ski next to a stunning Arena boasting a capacity of over 30,000 spectators. Despite that and high flows of tourism 365 days a year, a clever plan of preservation managed by the local Institutions has greatly conserved around that monumental complex a natural environment simply wonderful, a superb detail which immediately surprises many visitors.

The natural frame encircling that icon is immaculate and greatly preserved and that is another secret of a country which always strongly defended and defends with pride nature and its green spaces.You will see there those magnificent structures but also superb landscapes admiring a marvellous setting higlighted by intact forests which during spring, summer and early autumn are visited by a lot of people enjoying a varied kind of outdoor activities such as trekking, cycling, mountain bike, footing but also families walking with children, nature lovers and romantic couples.

Also in winter Holmenkollen covered by snow is a special place to visit for enthusiastic photographers who can immortalise that area in another scenic way and packed by Norwegians practising Ski Cross Country, a sport extremely rooted ans beloved all around Scandinavia.

Marka woodland is a jewel and patrimony of all people there is a great respect for those virgin green spaces which are of everybody, an Eden of peace and serenity and much more in a walk crossing those forests in many points you will be delighted by the stunning view of that magic fjord over 100,0 kilometres long consisting in a section of the Skagerrak strait, a kind of stunning hallway between the North Sea and the Kattegat, that maritime space between Denmark and that narrow entrance to the Baltic north of Copenhagen.

If you are planning to visit that beautiful Scandinavian country and  you are spending a stay in its capital Oslo (I wrote a post about that city if you are interested) do not miss a visit to that site because in its kind and for all what it is able to transmit. It is something unique, part of the culture of a Nation and also a patrimony of the world, a site in which sport and tourism are tied in an everlasting marriage.

Holmenkollen was and is protagonist of glorious pages of Winter Sports in Northern Europe but apart all that it is also awarded as a sort of monument unique in its kind, it is  the sportiest resort of a country which hosted many iconic events, for someone it is an Empire, others consider it a Cathedral because there is a special veneration which generated in its kind true pilgrimages by many people who once in a life want to see that place for many reasons.
The first official competition with athletes of high  level took place in Homenkollen in 1892, year in which was inaugurated that emblem, so after over a century you can imagine which kind of legendary and suggestive aura there is around that site. The magic air surrounding that iconic trampoline and Stadium established on that marvellous height transmits to a myriad of people special sensations and vibrations, a place born over a century ago calling there thousands and thousands of fans to watch something of extremely spectacular and for many people is also emotion and dreaming.

The emblematic Holmenkolbakken is absolutely the main highlight, that ski jumping track reachable by steep long steps flanking its sides was elevated on that hill at 417,0 metres of altitude. The tower is approximately 60,0 metres high and it is developed on a longitude of Hs 134 completed by Holmenkollen Ski Jump Arena a kind of Stadium with absolute protagonist Nordic Skimaking that bipolar hub one of the most visited tourist attractions in the entire Norway.

The Ski Jump Tower with a Ski simulator on which everyone can try the emotions thrilling and vibrations to feel what means all that are also part of that stupendous network and furthermore that glorious site hosts the World´s oldest Skiing Museum.
Every year in Holmenkollen takes place there the FIS Nordic Ski World Cup stage and in addition another great event is celebrated in that place consisting in Holmenkollrennene, the Ski Festival a popular and magnificent appointment characterised by competitions, a very lively atmosphere with music, entertainment and attractions.

The history which has elevated that corner of Greater Oslo in the Olympus of the Gods was in addition much more highlighted when that site hosted the Olympic Games celebrated on its soil in 1952 and undoubtedly that so famous manifestation increased furthermore a fame which already existed with a sort of additional tribute.

Nordic Ski in that part of Europe especially linked to competitions of World Cup, World Championships and naturally Winter Games are appointments lived by athletes but also by ordinary people with extreme enthusiasm as a feast, a kind of festival of sport, everything in those occasions is absolutely magic with a total participation, a vibrant atmosphere so lively and captivating.

The secret of the eternal success is also highlighted by an extreme passion but what is simply fantastic, there is always an extreme civility and fair play all is greatly pleasant, those events have to be lived in harmony, never happen something wrong, a great organisation, hospitable and kind people and all that is Holmenkollen in its true essence and spirit.

In those relevant times naturally that Cathedral attracts a multitude of fans who take the chance to visit a distinctive place and many of them return there to re-see that sort of Sanctuary because that name for a lot of peole is like something written in golden characters in a kind of awarded book or for someone in a Sport  Bible.

The relevant curriculum of that icon does not need promotions or presentations it speaks for itself. Apart the Olympic Games hosted in the 50s, it was the seat of four editions of the Nordic Ski World Championships in 1930,1956,1982 and 2011, a superb poker of aces which elevated that resort as a magnificent Queen. 

In addition five  Biathlon World Championships editions took place on its soil in 1986,1990,1999,2000 and 2002 more a further one coming very soon because the 6th will be celebrated in 2016, a choice for for the stunning traditions that inimitable and unreachable place boasts also to organise competitions linked to that other speciality.
Holmenkollen could be compared to a University of those sporting activities with a C.V. absolutely outstanding and not many other sites in the world have those numbers and prestige.

Full oevents and interesting episodes are also the chronological historic stages which launched in the Gotha that place. Historically that legendary site was re- arranged in different occasions after its inception and also closed in a period when it was used for other purposes during the 2nd World War with the occupation of Norway by German troops becoming a headequarter devoted to military operations changing after that its former aspect.

The most significant mutation was managed not a long time in 2008 with an enlargement of its spaces and a further one just two years later when it was totally demolished, re-projected and rebuilt. 

That kind of  construction  naturally has inspired different countries with sort of replicas, imitations or simply using the same materials and systems of assembly. At the beginning of the 20th century in U.S.A were developed some complexes using sort of artificial scaffold structures but the Norwegians did not like that, the opinion was pretty negative and critic affirming that the genuine, real and true Ski Jumping has to be celebrated on a natural hill.

The official record is held by an Austrian athlete from Innsbruck, Andreas Kofler who with 141,0 metres obtained on 5th March 2011 that outstanding performance although in the same year a Norwegian skier called Anders Jacobsen reached in a jump 142,5 metres but that outstanding exploit was performed in an unofficial competition and for that it was not validated.

The hope to win in that place is the dream of every skier, a triumph there or establishing a new record is just like to enter automatically in the history and to be famous for ever because Holmenkollen is simply legend and in a kind of comparison between athlets of different sports is as for a footballer scoring a goal in a Football World Cup final or to be awarded with the Golden Ball.

Once there you can buy a combined ticket which includes the visit of the spaces around the trampoline, the Museum and the Tower served by a lift but then you have to walk up over than 100 steps to reach the top. The effort is worth because on the summit you can enjoy a marvellous view of the city of Oslo, the magnificent Oslofjord and the splendid forests of Marka until the outskirts of the Norwegian Capital.

The superb Ski Museum is the World´s Oldest and it opened its doors in 1923.It represents a great opportunity to enter in deep contact with the culture related to all the activities on snow in that Scandinavian Nation which for the locals is something of extremely significant, for others almost a sort of Religion.

That exhibition introduces the visitor to the chronological history of skiing with in addition an extensive section dedicated to the legendary Antarctic Expeditions with the great trips of eminent and famed explorers such as Amundsen and Nansen.A further attraction is an illustrative  explanation narrating how was built the boat with a slide and a tent  to cover the last 100,0 kilometres to Nuuk.

The Museum also hosts a space paying homage to the Norwegian Royal Family and another one devoted to the origin of ski since its birth.You will also have the chance to learn more regarding that notorious speciality called snowboarding, a trendy winter sports which is conquering thousands and thousands of people year by year. The complex also provides a bar and a shop in which you can buy some souvenirs taking home with you some lovely item next to unforgettable memories of that iconic site.

Apart that emblematic historic value proclaimed as significant landmark and stunning attraction that place also represents a remarkable symbol deeply rooted in the population linked to Ski Cross Country and Biathlon which are not just ordinary sporting activities but something which deeply comes from a rooted culture born centuries ago.

The winning athletes who became idols as the cases of great and famed champions such as Vegard Ulvang, Bjorn Dæhlie, Einar Bjorndalen, Marit Bjorgen who dominated the International scene for several years with their magnificent careers packed by memorable triumphs and prestigious honors have created a myth but all that is a pride which reflects the culture of a Nation where people always used skis as a loyal friend or a daily allied to reach places totally covered by metres of snow including those acclaimed stars during their childhood did that.
Nordic Ski is not only a common sport or hobby in Scandinavia but for the major part of the inhabitants is life. The notorious examples of the great Norwegian explorers is obviously something of emblematic discovering unexplored lands but that kind of activity was since a long time ago practised by ordinary people to survive. hunting or moving from town to town reaching a remote village for needs and with many difficulties.
Skiing was the best way to reach places practically impossible using other means of transport such as cars, motorcycles or bicycles and many locals used and use skis to go to work, school, meeting friends and also for emergencies.All that was later linked to sporting events generating the tradition to compete, those successes in life, skiing for kilometres and kilometres with many efforts were moral victories against daily obstacles.

Skiing is always protagonist also at amateur level in Scandinavia practising ski tourism and a kind of speciality called Ski Adventure discovering unforgettable places covered by metres and metres of snow in winter season in total contact with a marvellous nature. All that donates to who is fond about that unique activity vibrations and emotions to reach something of extremely attractive with those difficult climatic conditions.

The Ski Country is a sort of spirit and soul sublimation once reached a goal which also reflects a relevant physical effort lived with a captivating and challenging philosophy transmitted in sporting activities to show in a race in the most genuine way who is the first, the second or simply to be part of a group with a great social spirit of team training and improving together.
In Scandinavia there is a great cultural movement regarding that and the result is that those countries despite a population not extremely numerous are always able to find many young people dreaming to become maybe in future someone important and popular but much more they are able to create enthusiasm and participation of a group with the chance to live next to friends and mates experiences and much more leading a healthy life.

All that is the key of the success of the Nordic Ski school in the Scandinavian Nations always loved by young because they feel themselves important inside an Institution, they have a social life, very active always in contact with someone and an incentive to improve not only athletically but also as a person climbing hills during a sporting competition but at the same time life stages.

Those unforgettable athletes previously mentioned, notorious names who entered in the world of the legends for their career and successes also in Holmenkollen are for them something of simply special coming from those situations following that dream which became reality following in that country the philosophy “I can do” very strong and rooted just like the construction of Holmenkollbakken erected on a hilly territory for someone not totally appropriate.

That site is also considered a Cathedral for that, because it was made by people who lived all that transforming part of the lifestyle in spectacular competitions which are venerated remembering how they were created and from where they come.

Every Norwegian young boy or girl very fond about Nordic Sports dream and hope one day to compete in that place and why not to be World or Olympic Champion and for them that site is very special and mandatory to be present watching a competition. What is great and that is part of a magnficent culture if they could not be a star it will be not a tragedy, the most important is the presence, today, tomorrow and forever.
The atmosphere created all around that temple is great, for many people it is like the Madison Square Garden of New York i hosting  famed concerts or a Boxing, NBA Basketball match of relevance.

All that is characterised by the participation as spectators of every age,and every event is celebrated as an important day.The atmosphere in the bars and restaurants is always lively often highlighted by a good plate of smoked salmon and a cool beer among friends but also a great occasion to socialise with a lot of people talking about the race, the ranking of the athletes, the track for who is more suitable, the forecasts and of course the final results but also to have pleasant chats about other topics.

In the case of World Championships or competitions celebrated in more days that legendary site is as a festival of flags and colours and all is highlighted since a long time ago by a code respecting the deepest ethic and moral values of Sport despite an incredible rivalry and antagonism among Norwegians Swedes and the Finn, the historic neighboring and old rivals im thousands and thousands of races but all that is part of the game,sport, culture and history.

For Norwegian skiers is a pride to show those Nordic rivals that their school is better and that they are the masters and vice versa.The prestige is especially highlighted by the capacity of the execution of the techniques such as classic, skate skiing, alternate, that famous skilöbning born a long time ago to be able to run on skis in every style is something very deep and extremely rooted. That is a way to show who is the best and more complete but never snubbing or mocking the competitor and also that is extremely great.

The mutual respect is a sacred code and the Nordic philosphy is also that without a tenacious opponent there is not competition, no spectacular race and show. Including in many cases someone can learn from another simply checking the skate skiing or a kick-double-pole, a Telemark turn or a diagonal stride, there is always something to take by someone, nobody is perfect and there is always something to learn or improve or simply an athlete inspiring for his technique and inmaculate style.

It is absolutely divine for a Norwegian athlete to win at home in that iconic Temple while for a Finn to win in that Cathedral  is the equivalent to win in Lathi ,the Nordic Ski emblem in that country or more.(I wrote a post about that place) The same is for the Swedes who with a triumph in that icon  it is probably more relevant than a victory at home in Falun, another prestigious site of International fame about Nordic Ski.

You can compare that rivalry as if in Football Argentina team wins at the Maracaná stadium of Rio against Brazil or vice versa in a victorious match of the Brazilians at the Monumental Stadium of Buenos Aires or also in Ice Hockey USA vs. Canada or in Rugby with the historic rivalry between England and France in matches played at Twickenham or at Stade de France Saint- Denis, different realities but with many aspects pretty similar.

During those events the Arena is totally packed by thousands of fans living those times with great passion and celebrating the winners as heroes. In March each year the Nordic Ski World Cup takes place at Holmenkollen which turns it in a vibrant place.

At the end does not matter who is the winner, in Norway all the athletes are respected, sport was born to join people not to divide and separate. That culture code to honor to the rival is eternally alive there, finished all it is a "see you soon next time on the track but now we can go to have a drink together”. That also happens with ordinary people who spend pleasant times and in brief that is true sport and great genuine life.

Apart that beloved area dedicated to sports that corner of the District of Vester Aker also has other attractions to offer the visitor.

You can start from a very nice Chapel famous for a sad event which took place in 1992 when it was destroyed by a fire caused by a Heavy Metal artist named Varg Vikernes and rebuilt four years later in 1996.

The original construction was a Historic Patrimony of Norway, a classical Stavkirche, (in the case you are interested I wrote a post about Borgund which is an iconic emblem of the country for that kind of structures) a traditional wooden Church erected in the early 20th century, exactly in 1903 and after the reconstruction it was consecrated in the same age once again.

The new building reflects the architectural silhouette and the image of the former, similar sloping roof, high facade and bell tower but it is not the original which was a magnificent attraction and a masterpiece with over one century of age representing in its kind something unique.That reconstruction was a strong signal to transmit a clear message that the madness of an isolated episode or a case of vandalism by an individual can not destroy and delete a secular cultural history.

Pretty close to that Church you can see the Kongsseteren, the Royal Lodge and holidays home of the Norwegian Monarchy. It is a wonderful mansion in Neo-Baroque style erected in 1911 for the Kings consisting in a superb and huge construction with an ample fine facade, large lined refined rectangular windows arranged on two stories. Tt is in its kind a fabulous example of local architecture covered by scenic gable roofs with the central larger than the others developed on the sides.

The inspiration of the architect Kristjan Hjalmar Bjong  who developed that captivating masterpiece came by the traditional wooden houses erected in Norway in the 18th Century. Bjong also used his talent and imagination adding some modernist details in vogue in that period and in a trendy way he also used in with creativity some Art Nouveau elements which were very well combined and in total harmony with the rest of the architectural layout.

That majestic house was a donation by the Norwegian population to King Hakoon VII and Queen Maud. The date in which started the project of the construction is dated 1906 in occasion of the coronation of those new Monarchs. Since its establishment in that period that building became something of very important for the local history and five years later the Royal Family started to spend the Christmas period in that residence.

Also another art, literature was bewitched by that site and the novel Snomannen, the Snow Man written by John Nesbo a notorious writer specialised in crimes and fiction stories published in 2007 had Holmenkollen as significant protagonist..   
That place is also a perfect start point for many outdoor activities. If you are a mountain bike or trekking lover the nearest forest of Marka is a fantastic place in spring, summer and early autumn with several magnificent trails immersed in a virgin Nordic wilderness and two steps from Oslo which is just 20 minutes away by public transport but easily reachable cycling too.

For all the the most passionate photograpers those places are definitely a great attraction with unique colours in every season, spectacular natural corners totally virgin and obviously those magnificent and great Oslofjord views are something simply unique to immortalise it in millions of panoramic pictures.

I suggest you to visit Tryvann, as very special place to visit with its marvellous small lake surrounded by pines and typical Nordic vegetation and highlighted by Triyvannskleiva consisting in a superb winter ski resort ideal for Alpine ski with 18 pistes. One track has a length of approximately 1,4 kilometre and the complex boasts 11 ski lifts. It is a place pretty loved by snowboarders, some of those slopes have pretty steep straights, not long but very challenging and some other piste are pretty appropriate for special slaloms.

On the top of a hill called Tryvannhoysden you can see Tryvannstarnet which is the TV Tower erected in 1962 with a height of 60,0 metres. Some years ago it was open to the public with an observation deck but it was closed for a fire safety plan made in 2005.

Sorkedalen  is a further site you can visit, very suggested for its fabulous landscapes and a fantastic preservation of the natural environment and  very  loved by many Oslo citizens who reach that huge green beauty enjoying long walks.

Its name derives from the river Sorkedalselva which runs in a large valley of immense natural beauty. That site is also  well known to be a great horse riding destination while in winter Nordic ski is largely practised by a lot of people thanks to the presence of  long trails along a large plain perfect to improve the classic style.

You will have the chance in that place to see some historic sites as the local Parish Church  called Sorkedalen Kjrkye, a very attractive example of Nordic Neo-Gothic architecture highlighted by a high facade and series of beautiful stained glass windows, the construction boasts refined lines and a scenic belfry placed on a large and long sloping roof surmounted on its top by a long green pinnacle.

That area is since a long time ago is a protected space despite the proximity of Oslo and you will see different farms, a place which since its origin has agriculture and horse breeding as its main activities.

Sorkedalen is in addition recommended for all the lovers of golf thanks to the presence of Oslo Golfklubb which is the first established in the entire Norwegian territory and boasting a high reputation highlighted by an immaculate nature all around its complex.

If you love architecture and gardens you can take a look to the splendid Bogstad Manor dating back the late 18th century, a magnificent building characterised by numerous windows of different size placed all along its walls and a scenic grey roof with  a pleasant symmetrical line of chimneys. Around that beautiful architectural masterpiece was developed a wonderful English garden in a perfect layout with a large meadow facing the structure and on the side several trees.

Holmenkollbanen is the metro line which connects Oslo to Holmenkollen along a network of over 11,0 kilometres between Majorstuen in the borough of Frogner famous for its vibrant nightlife and Nordmarka which the mostly forested area of the district of Vester Aker well known for its scenic woods scattered all around a picturesque hilly territory ideal for  hiking.

A destination as Homenkollen is something simply special if you are planning to visit Oslo and to know more about that splendid Scandinavian country discovering a destination unique in its kind.

The great chance is naturally that one to admire the Queen of Nordic Ski elevated as Ski Jumping Cathedral in a wonderful natural scenery and that astonishing place overlooking Oslofjord will donate you a great image to remember for a long time with immense pleasure.

Francesco Mari

Recommended Accommodations in Holmenkollen  in the case you decide to stay there and not in the city of Oslo, to practise some sports activity or simply to choose a non-urban location .Oslo is very close or if you plan a Fly &Ddrive around Norway you can spend the last overnight  there enjoying a F/D reaching Oslo Gardemoen Airport in a short time the day after, it is a suggestion of itinerary comfortable for the drop off of the car.

Hotel Lysebu
Scandic Holmenkollen Park Hotel  

Recommended Restaurants 

Restaurant Holmenkollen 

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