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In Norway, Snowballs Have Chance as Hell Freezes Over : Tourism: In modern Norwegian, town's name means "luck." But locals know the name has a devilish ring in English.

June 25, 1995|DOUG MELLGREN | ASSOCIATED PRESS

HELL, Norway — Hell does freeze over. There are cold days in Hell. And snowballs have an excellent chance too.

At least when Hell is the often snow-covered town near Trondheim, the main city in central Norway, about 220 miles north of Oslo.

Thousands of tourists stop by each year to mail friends cards postmarked "Hell," or to have their passports stamped "Hell."

Hell's hottest attraction? The sign for the railway freight office, which in Norwegian reads: "Hell--Gods Expedition."

In Norwegian, "Gods" means freight and "Expedition" means office. A postcard featuring the sign is Norway's best seller, with 1 million sold annually.

"A lot of tourists buy tickets to Hell and back as souvenirs," said Tor Sorlihaug, an official at the railway station in nearby Stjordal.

The name has nothing to do with the inferno of Christianity.

"The name Hell comes from a very old Norwegian word, 'Hellir,' which means a cave hidden by an overhanging cliff," explains a hand-lettered sign at Hell Station, two wooden buildings next to the railroad track.

In modern Norwegian, it means "luck." But locals know the name has a devilish ring in English.

After stops at Hell Station, Hell Cafe, Hell shopping center, Hell Souvenirs, Hell groceries and Hell Post Office, there isn't much more to do in the town of 4,500 people.

"We are looking at tourist packages that would include things in Trondheim so we could fill up a weekend," said Frank Olsen, manager of the Hell Hotel. "We are trying to figure out a concept that uses the name Hell in marketing."

Some of the Hellish ideas: "Honeymoons in Hell," "Take your mother-in-law to Hell," "Have a Hell of a weekend," "A roast in Hell" barbecue, "Take the highway to Hell."

Last autumn, Mike Rigby, of Norway's Braathens SAFE airline office in Newcastle, England, spotted a British newspaper headline--"Honeymoon in Hell"--about newlyweds whose wedding trip to Portugal was a disaster.

"So I called them up and said, 'How do you fancy having a real honeymoon in Hell,' " he said.

Paul and Christine Sinclair did, and Rigby enlisted the Hell Brass Band, the Hell Cruisers, the Hell Hotel and businessmen from Hell and showed them a heck of good time.

That gave Rigby the idea of promoting Hell as an exotic site for weddings. But the plan fizzled.

Rigby said the local church minister balked at promoting "marriages made in Hell."

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