A gem from the age of sail
20 years ago the small Sogndalstrand was about to become a ghost town. People had moved away and the houses fell into disrepair. But when Eli and Jan Oddvar Omdal decided to rent an old building and open a café, things started happening.
Text: Edda Espeland / Translation: Linda Vikaune / Photo: Knut Bry
The same year, 1994, the Directorate for Cultural Heritage put a preservation order on the wooden houses from the 1700 and 1800s and the built environment around Sogndalstrand, and after Eli and Jan Oddvar had started their Krambua café in what had been Krambua, the general store, they gradually expanded their business. More houses were restored and they started a hotel in the old Skredderhuset, built in 1831. Today Sogndalstrand Kulturhotell consists of ten different buildings, large and small. The street outside is like a lobby and life has come back to the old store, the boathouse, the former private and public buildings which today make up the hotel.
Eli and Jan Oddvar aim to take care of the best parts of the past, “things wonky and original”, but with modern features and comforts. The rooms vary in shape and size depending on the style and age of the building, but they each have an atmosphere of nostalgia and long traditions, with painted wooden walls and big windows with lace curtains.
Their enthusiasm was contagious, and as the hotel grew, so too did the neighours’ interest in recreating some of the old trading traditions in the small town. Today there are shops and galleries, cafés and museums in the many restored and picturesque buildings in this charming coastal trading post from the days of sail. Sogndalstrand has become a popular destination in Rogaland county, a coastal gem visited by thousands of people every year.
Genuine and homemade
The hotel kitchen’s motto is “genuine and homemade”, encapsulating their pride and interest in Norwegian and local food culture and tradition. They aim to use ingredients and produce sourced in the local area; the salmon comes from the river outside the hotel, and wild sheep graze just outside the door. The kitchen staff take the time to make most of the dishes from scratch and they know guests appreciate it.
Restaurant Folvik Kafé, named after baker Folvik who used to run his shop from the premises, exudes a mixture of Norwegian coastal tradition and French brasserie. Guests can enjoy a cup of good coffee, a glass of wine, lunch or dinner. If visitors prefer a pub, there is now one in the old prison.
The hotel is happy to host all kinds of celebrations and festivities; weddings, birthdays and anniversaries, jubilees and office Christmas parties – all for up to 55 guests. The same goes for seminars, courses, conferences and management meetings, and the hotel is ideally suited to small and moderately sized events. The location and surroundings create a secluded environment where groups can work undisturbed. The hotel offers meeting facilities in the Boathouse, built in the 1800s, but renovated and furnished with old fashioned style and a maritime touch. There are also meeting rooms in the Library, originally the village public library, in the old Council building, which still contains about three thousand books giving the room a good atmosphere and preserving its character. The old village hall has also been converted into a meeting room, as well as still being used for religious worship.
Sokndal also has more to offer. In 2003 it was the first Nordic town to join the exclusive Italian association Cittaslow, towns and cities that offer The good life. The aim is improved quality of life, better hospitality and good food – and you are also recommended to move less than 50 steps an hour. A good idea in Sogndalstrand, as it gives you extra time to enjoy the beauty of this place where the South and the West coasts meet, out by the ocean.
As one guest wrote in the guest book at Sogndalstrand Kulturhotell; why go to Greece and Rome when we have Sogndalstrand?
Sogndalstrand has an impact on all who visit.