The trail starts at Fjell Church and continues through Gjerdet Cultural Heritage Estate. Gjerdet housed German commanders and soldiers during the Second World War. From Gjerdet follow the path that Russian prisoners of war climbed each day, when they were forced to work on the German’s new fortress. Once you’ve reached the top, you can take a tour inside the mountain and experience one of the largest fortifications in Northern Europe. The trip is about. 1 km, and takes approx. 30 minutes.
The Trail passes several interesting attractions in Fjell, before arriving at one of the most spectacular attractions in the region - Fjell Fortress.
The Cultural Heritage Trail starts at Fjell Church in the village of Fjell. The church that stands there today dates from 1873-74, but records confirm that churches have existed on the site for the past 700 years. From Fjell Church, walk south along the road about 600 meters to Gjerdet Cultural Heritage Estate.
The estate dates from the 1800s. The farmhouse and barn date from 1914, and after an ongoing restoration project, will be returned to their original condition. Gjerdet will soon be transformed into a place where you can enjoy good local food, as well as traditional and contemporary arts, crafts and design from the area.
Continue past Gjerdet and further up the mountain to the Russarstegen (The Russian Path), which was built by Russian prisoners of war during World War II. The Russians were imprisoned in a camp called Sjubotn, south of Gjerdet. The prisoners walked from Sjubotn each day, passed Gjerdet, and climbed to the top of Russarstegen. The path winds up a fairly steep, forested hill, and has steps at its steepest parts. During the war, there was a pulley system to the side of the main path, used to haul up heavy goods and equipment to the fortress. The pulley system is long gone, but its existence is well documented through historic photographs. Russarstegen was the main link between Fjell village and the German’s mountain defences during Norway’s years of occupation.
When the occupying Germans planned Fjell Fortress in 1942, its purpose was to secure the approach into Bergen. On top of Fjedlafjellet they built one of the largest defences in northern Europe. The defences included a triple-cannon with a range of 37 km. The building workforce comprised mainly of Russian POWs. Inside the defence facility was a kitchen, washing facilities and dormitories, with sleeping quarters for over 200 soldiers. Work on the fortress continued right up until the Germans’ surrender in 1945.
Today, Fjell Fortress is protected as a military heritage site and has been made into a museum as part of Museum West. The fortress is open for guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer season. In addition, the museum’s annex and surrounding areas are used for art exhibitions, concerts and more. The Cannon Tower Cafe, in a glass pavilion built over the gun-well, is used extensively for meetings and gatherings. The entire cultural heritage trip, from the fields around Fjell village, up the Russian Path and over the mountain plateau, is an amazing experience at any time of the year.
For other trips please see www.sotraoygard.org