Eidfjord Gjestgiveri – A unique history
Eidfjord Gjestgiveri was built in the year 1896 by Lars Sæbø. At that time, many Englishmen sailed to Eidfjord to fish for salmon and see the beautiful waterfall, Vøringsfossen. The trip to the waterfall was a long journey on foot and there were no roads. Lars Sæbø saw the need for an accommodation on the way, from which you could both go fishing and visit the Vøringsfossen waterfall. Determined to raise funding for the project, he went to the United States to dig for gold in Alaska.
Lars Sæbø struck gold, and back in Norway he imported driftwood, which was sailed to the bottom of the fjord and from there carried over to the construction site. He built the Sæbø Hotel in true Victorian style, just as Queen Viktoria would have thought of, with a dining room with large windows, which brought – and still brings – a fantastic light to the room. However, the building was too small to be categorized as a hotel, so the name was changed to Eidfjord Gjestgiveri, as the cozy old guest house is still called.
Later there were trails in the area, and Eidfjord Gjestgiveri acquired a horse-drawn carriage to transport the travelers up to the Vøringsfossen waterfall. This meant even more guests at Eidfjord Gjestgiveri. The original horse carriage has long since worn out, but Eidfjord Gjestgiveri has produced an exact copy, which today is parked in the driveway to the hotel.
Lars Sæbø had a son who was also named Lars. Both were great men who were described as fighters. About Lars the younger, “Little-Lars”, it was said that he had Norway’s largest wingspan!
Eidfjord Gjestgiveri played a leading role in a very special World War II story. While Norway was occupied by Germany, the occupying power had come on the trail of an English family staying at a hotel in Odda. Lars Sæbø together with three other families in Eidfjord decided to help the family. The occupying power were already in Eidfjord, so first the family was hidden in the attic of Eidfjord Gjestgiveri. Later they were smuggled into a stone hut far up the mountain. There was snow high up in the mountains, and the trip up there was a dangerous journey where Lars, without rope or support, had to carry the English one by one over the dangerous notches in the mountain. He had to say to the children, “Don’t look down now,” all while carrying them safely over the rocks. The four families from Eidfjord were changed to take the trip up to the mountain with food once a week. The Norwegian families themselves were actually starving as the occupying power took all the food available and the remains were smuggled up to the English family. The story came to a happy end when Lars Sæbø helped the English on a boat to the Shetland Islands.
Lars Sæbø later received the English honorary cross, and to this day all the diplomas and letters from the English king still exist. A large stone was brought down from the mountains in memory of the families of Eidfjord’s heroic deeds. The story of the English is to be carved into the stone. The inscription was never made, but the stone still stands in the courtyard at Eidfjord Gjestgiveri.
Today, the guest house is owned by Steen Giphardt, who among other things has expanded the place with conservatory and terrace, giving a great atmosphere and overlooking the mountains in addition to the beautiful Eidfjord.
We note that the above story consists of stories passed down from generation to generation of people in Eidfjord.