Sølvgarden Hotell: A little Norwegian fairytale in Setesdal
By Helene Toftner | Photos: Sølvgarden Hotell & Feriesenter
Once upon a time there was a silversmith who decided to start a hotel in the charming village of Setesdal, right in the heart of Norway. The hotel is Sølvgarden Hotell (translating as Silver Farm Hotel) and looks like a fairytale castle set in an equally idyllic landscape.
You would be forgiven for thinking of Disney hit film Frozen when seeing pictures from Setesdal. This is probably as Norwegian as things get, based on landscape, local dialect, culinary traditions and dancing. Thus the opportunities are enormous when opening a hotel here – as are the expectations.
Sølvgarden Hotell passes the test with flying colours and fits seamlessly into the picture perfect community. “It is like a little fairytale where guests can relax in peaceful surroundings and enjoy beautiful nature while experiencing rich local culture and traditions,” says owner Trygve Rysstad.
Setesdal is located at the very heart of Norway, connecting west with east and south with north. Even if it had not been such a lovely place, you would have to go through the village to cross the country. It is, however, highly recommended to stay longer than just for a breather on the way across the mountains, and many people do.
A year-round destination, Sølvgarden Hotell is never quiet. With autumn approaching, berry pickers from all over southern and western Norway are bringing their buckets while eager fishermen from all over Europe come to catch a big one in the river Otra. When autumn turns to winter, skiers set in. “There are no quiet times, apart from a few days over Christmas when we close down. Apart from that it is business as usual around 360 days a year,” Rysstad says.
Soft and extreme adventures on your doorstep
The hotel qualifies as what is sometimes referred to as a culture hotel, meaning that particular emphasis has been put on showcasing local culture with concerts, art and dance. “Many of Norway’s most beloved folk musicians come from Setesdal and the surrounding area, so there is a strong entertainment tradition here,” Rysstad says.
While many guests come for the cultural indulgences, even more come for the brilliant activity offers available. You may have seen photos from the Pulpit Rock, the famous rock overlooking the fjord, or perhaps Kjerag, recognisable for the rock placed between two mountain sides. Both iconic sites and hikes are within easy reach from Sølvgarden Hotell, as are ski paradises Hovden and Brokke. Perhaps the biggest draw this summer was the newly-opened Via Ferrata overlooking the hotel, the longest of its kind in northern Europe.
Climbing is, however, not just for the summer months – and Setesdal is known as the best place in Europe for ice climbing on frozen waterfalls. “Every year eager climbers from the UK, Italy and Switzerland come here as the conditions are brilliant with vertical ice and highly technical challenges,” Rysstad explains.
Keeping traditions alive
Setesdal is nicknamed the Silversmith’s valley, so it comes as no surprise that Rysstad is a third-generation silversmith, along with his brother. Together they run a studio at the hotel, while Rysstad’s wife runs the hotel with help from their children. Together they created a family business out of the ordinary, while conserving old traditions in an innovative way. “Everything stays within the family,” Rysstad smiles.
So why, one may wonder, does a small town need so many silversmiths? The answer lies in the national costume, bunad, as Setesdal is one of very few places where the costume has always been in use. While most people nowadays only wear it for special occasions, some use it on an almost daily basis. With the bunad you need jewellery, and lots of it. “We also make regular bracelets and necklaces, which are popular among the guests,” Rysstad adds.
It is not only the silversmith tradition that is being kept alive here, but also that of local cuisine. With emphasis on traditional, local food, such as salted lamb and elk, Sølvgarden Hotell offers the package A taste of Setesdal, including accommodation, food and an intimate concert. “It gives a glimpse into our community.”
Fly in from all over Europe
The hotel also operates a five-star camping site, one of only four in Norway in its category, with cabins for rental if preferred. The best way to reach Sølvgarden Hotell is by plane to Oslo, Kristiansand or Stavanger with direct flights from places including London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Copenhagen, and renting a car.
For more information and to plan your trip, please visit: www.solvgarden.no
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