A lovely stay in the heart of Telemark
Spend a weekend relaxing at this fairytale hotel and delight in the magnificent scenery
Katrin Konradt & André Fey
On our trip to the Lysefjord, at the beginning of our time in Norway, we passed the village of Dalen. This small place, barely consisting of a couple dozen houses, is located between rather steep, though not very high, mountains at the end of the Bandak Lake.
As I had read something about the Dalen Hotel, we made a quick detour through the village just to take a look at the hotel and to decide whether it would be worth coming back here at a later point in time.
And what can I say; both of us immediately fell in love with it. You would as well if you value the sort of hotel that makes you travel back in time to enjoy some luxury hobbies of the past, such as having lots of time passing by uneventfully and not worrying about tomorrow. We could do that, we thought, at least for a few days.
Two years later we booked a stay, unaware that it was the first weekend after the winter break when the hotel was closed. But we barely noticed as the charming staff glanced elegantly over some last items not yet perfectly in place.
The hotel itself is from 1894, built as a hotel for the rich and the beautiful, among others; King Oscar II, emperor Wilhelm of Germany, King Leopold II of Belgium, and last but not least, the Norwegian King Haakon VII and Queen Maud, have all stayed there. In other words, just perfect for us!
From 1992 onwards, it has been nicely renovated. The rooms vary in size but are all reasonably big and furnished in the same style and time period as the main rooms. And those are the highlights: the big main hall with a huge open fireplace, cozy English-style leather club armchairs, and old paintings over the wooden panels that clad the walls.
The hall is at least six meters high, with various openings and balconies accessible from the second floor and a fantastic, colorful glass ceiling. The kind of ceiling you usually find in central European churches.
On the backside towards the terrace, there are four or five more rooms, in the same classy style, in one of which dinner and breakfast are served. In summer I suppose guests rather like to sit on the big veranda, overlooking the large, simple but elegant English garden, with the fjord and mountains in the distance.
At an adjacent tiny bar, you can order drinks and then watch the warming flames, read a book, or just listen to the pianist.
The drinks were well made, the service really good (not just by Norwegian standards), the atmosphere quiet, and the food excellent. What more do you need for a relaxing weekend?
Well, massages, a sauna, a swimming pool… you can always come up with such things, but we didn’t miss it this time. When you don’t have the chance to do a lot, you do the few things with much more relaxation.
That was pretty much what we did for two days, and we enjoyed every minute of it.
On the way back from our stay at the hotel, we decided to drive a bit further north to Rjukan to get an impression of that region, its highest mountain Gaustatoppen, and also the sun-mirror installation in the city center we had heard about.
When we approached Rjukan, the road wound down from the high plateau at Møsvatn and passed by Vemork, the famous heavy-water power station that was sabotaged during WWII to prevent Germany from making an atomic bomb. The impressive building hasn’t changed much since then.
Back down in the valley, we drove to the marketplace in Rjukan where you can enjoy the sun in winter even though it doesn’t go over the horizon; three gigantic mirrors made out of aluminum are installed up in the mountains. They move slowly and thereby reflect the sunlight down into the city. It’s pretty damn bright, like a small sun, though just a few square meters.
Krossobanen Cable Car
We also decided to take the cable car, called Krossobanen, which takes you up to the foot of the Hardangervidda.
Little fun fact: It was the first cable car in northern Europe and was built in 1928 by the company Norsk Hydro. The simple reason for building it was to give the people living in the town (and mainly working for the company) the chance to go up to this platform to see the sun during wintertime.
The view from up there is truly stunning. You can see along the valley, the city of Rjukan below you, the water power station with the huge pipe work going up the mountainside and, as the main attraction, Gaustatoppen. In clear weather, which we had on that cold spring day, it’s a magnificent sight.
After not warming up in the bright but not too warm light, we followed the valley for a few kilometers and then turned right onto the road leading to the Gaustablikk Høyfjellhotell, the gate to Gaustatoppen, the highest mountain in Telemark, which offers a lot of winter and summer activities.
It was already Sunday afternoon, and unfortunately we had no time to hike up to the top, even though it is just a three- to four-hour tour. So instead of hiking, we had coffee and cake on the terrace of the hotel, which offers a marvelous view of the scenery and Gaustatoppen. Blue sky, no wind, hardly any tourists… We clearly will come back once again in summer and then hike to the top. It shouldn’t be too difficult as there is an elevator system inside the mountain, nearly reaching the summit!
Katrin and André are two travel-happy Germans in their early forties. After moving around a bit, they settled for good in Norway in 2011, exploring the beautiful country ever since. They spend every free day traveling to famous sightseeing spots as well as discovering lesser-known stunning places and unique traditions off the beaten tracks—and meeting great people everywhere. What started as a simple homepage for family and friends, explore-norway.org has meanwhile grown into a blog with 25 tour descriptions covering all parts of Norway, an Oslo guide, and a large picture gallery for Norway enthusiasts.
This article also appeared in the Aug. 26, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.