The road doesn’t go all the way to Canvas Hotel, guests have to walk the last two kilometres. There is no food ready to be served; they have to light their own fire and cook their own steak and make it exactly as rare or well done as they wish.
Text: Edda Espeland / Translation: Linda Vikaune / Photo: Colin Eick
“The Canvas Hotel isn’t a hotel in the usual sense, more like a theatre where the guests are the actors. It’s all about owning the experience,” says entrepreneur Jan Fasting. “And in order to do that, you have to take part in the process of shaping it.”
The idea of starting the Canvas Hotel was born after a long day on the bicycle, after the lavvo was set up and the fire was lit. Conversation flowed and ideas kept springing up between land owner and co-owner Per Kveim and instigator and manager Jan Fasting, who has 35 years’ experience as an outdoor guide and is responsible for the safety and routes in the TV series 71 Degrees North. After the venison fillet was eaten and the red wine drunk, they started talking about introducing “glamping” to Norway, establishing a luxurious tent camp here in the middle of Nissedal valley in Telemark county. The aim was to create a feeling – a feeling of contentment.
“In order to get there, to get that total, rich feeling of contentment – the way we felt that night – one condition is that our guests have to take part in what’s happening and feel that they own their experiences,” says Fasting. “After the body has had a workout, after you have had a bath, when the brain has been stimulated and the endorphins are dancing in the blood, and the stomach is filled with food and drink and we sit under the starry sky, that feeling starts sinking in – the feeling of complete contentment.”
Cycling not required
The area around Canvas Hotel is made up of smooth bedrock polished by the last Ice Age and sparse forests with many small lakes and streams, a terrain which is perfect for trail-riding. That’s why Canvas is where it is. Since that evening in May 2008 Per Kveim has built more than 100 kilometres of trails for trail-riding, but when guests ask if they have to cycle to stay at Canvas, the answer is no. Many come here just to experience the stillness, taking a bath in the open air with a glass of champagne, followed by a massage and a delicious three course meal prepared by Desmond Ngoni Utete, or rather – he makes everything ready, and then you can cook whatever you want for breakfast and dinner on the raclette grill in the middle of the long dining table. Desmond is a former safari guide from Africa and has been a part of Canvas since it started in 2010.
The bonfire is the starting point, meeting place and centre of everything that goes on. Around the fire there is room for 20 people. If there are more, it gets impossible to talk straight across the fire, so 20 chairs are placed around the grills in the middle of the dining table, and guests are encouraged to talk to each other. There are 20 beds divided between ten yurts – a copy of a Mongolian nomad tent – on poles in the water with two beds in each. The platform is insulated and the walls are covered in thick wool felt. The only furnishings in the room are the good beds and the simple wood burning stove, blankets and candlesticks. Canvas Hotel is stripped of everything the hosts don’t want; no reception, no long corridors, no disco in the basement, no cars. The nearest house with electricity is 7 kilometres away.
Private guests tend to come in pairs or small groups, but after a few days different cliques tend to blend together, and new friendships form. If you want the place to yourself, the minimum group size is 16 persons or more at weekends and 8 or more during the week for a minimum of two nights. Companies that use the place for teambuilding or conferences tell us of renewed inspiration and energy. In a creative process your thoughts are probably influenced by where you are in the world, and where better to open your mind than in an open landscape?
A perfect place to find peace of mind.