In the olden days...
In 1840 the first steamboat began regular traffic in the Sognefjord. As a result, small pensions and hotels sprang up at the stopping places. One of the so called coaching stations was located at Leikanger. From 1857 the boats were in regular service to Bergen. This was the start up of “Fylkesbaatane i Sogn og Fjordane” Our history begins before 1900 with the baker Jan G. Olsen, an innkeeper in Leikanger and the owner of two small cargo boats. In a travel guide from 1896 you can read: “Leikanger is a smiling, beautiful beach along the mainfjord, located 260 km from Bergen. Charming place. Rooms available at Baker Olsen.
In those days there was no road between Leikanger and Sogndal. The fjord was the only means of transportation. Around 1900 Olsen Gjestgiveri changed its name to J. Olsen Hotel, a “charming place” with 15 beds.
Leikanger Fjord Hotel
The formal history of the Leikanger Fjord Hotel begins in 1913 when Gustav Reinhard Lie was a baker in Bergen, where he met his future wife Cecilie. During a few vacation days in 1919 they visited Leikanger to meet Cecilie’s family.
Bakery and hotel
Gustav knew there was a baker in the Leikanger area. On his visit, he went to greet a colleague to help him with the Saturday baking. His name was Jan Grøvåg Olsen. As well as a baker, he was a hotel owner and a widower and organizing boat transportation. The two men became good friends and Olsen made a proposal to Gustav to sell the property to him: The hotel included a basement bakery, a beach in front yard, a boat- and bathing house and a woodshed. Gustav did not have money to buy a hotel and a bakery. The money he had been able to save as a trainee was all lost when the bank went bankrupt after the 1st world war in 1918.
One afternoon, around the change of New Year 1919/1920 old Olsen came up the stairs to Gustav’s small apartment in Bergen., with his offer still in mind for Gustav to buy Leikanger . Gustav asked him for some thinking time, and went to his master and friend baker Samuelsen and asked for advice. They went to see merchant Giertsen, gave a presentation of the project and a discussion regarding endorsement took place. The trade was finalized during spring 1920.
Past midnight on June 14th 1920 Gustav fired up the baking stoves for the first time and started baking, to be able to offer fresh and warm bread at 9am the next morning.Cecilie started the work inside the hotel, a lot needed, before they could open up the hotel for guests.
On May 2nd 1922 Jomar was born, flags were waving, and a big celebration took place in the family. Leikanger Fjord Hotel had now started it’s career as a family run hotel for future generations .
Years went by with renovation and decoration up to 1926. The hotel was in very good shape, considering the times were still without electricity. Unfortunetaly, the oil lamps,
used for ligthing started burning, and the hotel burnt down to the ground.
This was a tragedy for the young couple Lie, especially after all the work they had dedicated to the hotel. Still in their 30’s, the only thing to do: start all over again. New drawings and plans were made and rebuilding began . A brand new hotel with 40 beds was ready before the summer season in 1928.
The regular customers returned.
Early each morning began a daily ritual : start a fire in the stove, so that guests could wake up in a warm room. Then hot water was brought up for shaving and cleaning. Nobody can imagine all the work not needed today.
In 1930 electricity came from a new electrical plant built at Henjabrui at Hermansverk.
The plant delivered approx. 2000 kw, but they were not able to sell everything they produced. At certain times today, the hotel would have been able to buy all the electricity the plant produced.
The road which connected Sogndal to Leikanger was opened in the spring of 1937. The hotel got it’s first car in 1936: a 1922 model Willeys Overland with plush seats and fine curtains.
The number of guests were increased from year to year. Well known families from Bergen stayed 14 days on their vacation. The price for a room in these days were 4,50 kr pr. adult, including meals. Children were free.
A whole book could be written about everything at the hotel during the war, but we only will mention only a a few incidents:
The hotel became a base the last 3 years of the war for EB XU intelligence service (Secret Service in London). The last week before peace a group from Mil. org. moved into the hotel on room 337 with a radio communicator in room 337. Mil org. and XU were two separate organizations. Mil. org. was armed and was trained for combat, while XI had responsibility for espionage behind enemy lines. Director of the region was Agnar Ulvedal and next in command was Jomar Lie.
September 1st 1946 Jomar went to Oslo to attend the Professional Hotel School in St. Olavsgt. 8. Jomar met his future wife to be: Anne Lise Heining from Bærum was also student at the school. They were engaged before Christmas and went to Leikanger for Christmas celebration. The wedding took place on June 12, 1948.
“ Borte bra men hjemme best”
The first years after the war, the guests were mainly Norwegiens without means to vacation abroad. The infrastructure (boats, cars, trains and airplanes) of Fjord region in Norway were in sad shape just after the war. During the war the occupants confiscasted all cars. The few lucky people still with a car after the war were so proud they felt like bring their cars up to their rooms. This time bicycle was the most common used mode of transportation in Norway.
After a while Norwegian-Americans began travels for Norway in order to experience their “old country”. arrived to experience their old country..
The hotel inherited the service of the coaching station by the former owner. In 1922, the hotel bought it’s first car, a Villys Overland for 360 kr in Bergen. The next car was a 1938 Opel Olympia. On a trip to Oslo Gustav traded the Opel for a luxurious 1937 Crysler Royal 1937. The Chrysler was later confiscated and rebuilt into a truck. When war was over, no cars were available until Jomar Lie obtained a permission to buy a used 1939 Studebaker . This was in the spring of 1947 - the coaching station had become a taxi service. In 1948, Jomar obtained a Plymouth, it was used as a taxi for 8 years, and driven a total of 360 000 kms. The next car was a 1955 Mod. Chevrolet (Jubilee model), followed in 1961 by a Mercedes 220.
Hard years after the war
The hotel was filled to its capacity, even with food rations. After the war the hotel was badly in need of renovation. Through connections in the merchant trade, especially in Bergen, it was possible trade a few liters paint her and there. Good butter was traded on the black market. Jomar often painted the furniture himself in the rooms during wintertime.
Anne Lise and Jomar took over the hotel on January 1st, 1955. Cecilie and Gustav were at that time 60 years and wanted to retire from the hotel- and bakery business. Jomar’s brother Oddvin took over the bakery.
Anne Lise and Jomar had a son Jan-Erik born in 1955 and a daughter Cecilie born in 1949.
1960 - 1973
The hotel filled to capacity during the years of 1960’s primarily with British and Dutch guests. In addition the hotel served lunch daily to groups traveling the Fjord Line between Bergen and Oslo. These groups were primarily Americans. Often two groups were present at the same time, in addition to all the regular guests. For the 1960 season the dingingroom was enlarged to handle the increasing visitor trade.In 1962 a timber house was added with 5 rooms and a shower. In addtion, the hotel obtained a liquor license.
There were more extensive building out plans, but lack of space on the property presented expansion. In 1972, the hotel managed to buy the neighboring property. For the summer season in 1973 an additional building of concrete was completed. This building contained 29 rooms and a combined party- and meeting room.
The hotel had always had many regular customers. A family from England has the record with a continuous 37 years of spending their vacation at the Leikanger Fjord Hotel.
Today’s hotel owner, Jan-Erik, bought the English family’s old Bentley, as a memory from the years as guests at the hotel.
N - 6863 Leikanger – Sognefjord, Norway – tel: (+47) 576 56 020 – email: post(a)leikanger-fjordhotel.no