A traditional long-table in a farm-house at Vinstra in Norway has been set with the farm’s own cutlery, fresh meat of moose, smoked salmon, and home-made sour cream. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee seeps out from the kitchen, where 24-year-old chef Tor Kramperud is in the finishing stages of tonight’s dinner. Mikkel Dobloug, owner of the farm named Per Gynt Gaarden, retreats to his desk in the library. 4,870 books line the walls. An old polar bear skin adorns the floor.
On the wall hangs a portrait of Mikkel Dobloug’s great-great-grandfather. The house is filled with antiquities, paintings, and remnants of a bygone era. But not a single television. Cell phones are not allowed. The most modern object in sight is a pair of antique binoculars that rest on the windowsill. Looking through it out the window you can see the mountains and the sun about to go down behind the dense Norwegian forest. It doesn’t take much to understand that this is a special place: In fact, this is where the person who was the inspiration for Henrik Ibsen’s infamous character Peer Gynt lived a few hundred years ago.
Ibsen traveled to Gudbrandsdalen in 1862 before going to Rome, where he lived for four years and wrote Peer Gynt. When Ibsen submitted his famous play on August 8, 1867, he wrote to his publisher: “It may interest you to know that Peer Gynt is a real person who lived in Gudbrandsdalen, probably at the end of last century, or at the beginning of this century. His name is still well known in the local community.”
During the reformation in 1537 many Arch Bishops’ estates were seized by the king and his minions. The farm at Vinstra was turned over to noblemen. But the Norwegian nobility at the time was not on good terms with its ruler – Danish King Fredrik. After several feuds the king evicted the Norwegians from the farm and reinstated noblemen sworn to his allegiance, in this case the German family Von Günther.
This family ruled the farmland from 1557 to the 1800s. Passed from generation to generation, some owners were more successful in running the farm than others. The 17th century owner Peder Lauritzon Günth was more concerned with hunting, fishing, and chasing women, than with managing the estate. The crazy stories he told, or became the subject of, made him– as many people believe – the inspiration for Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, written in 1887.
Hundred and fifty years later, in 1936, Mikkel Dobloug’s great-grandmother and her husband, a renowned opera-singer, bought the Hågå farm, which is was then called. They had seen an intriguing ad in the paper, announcing: “Peer Gynt’s farm for sale,” and brought a suitcase with them containing 24,000 kroner in cash to buy the farm (Equivalent to $3,000 based on today’s exchange rate). The farm quickly became a popular place to gather for artists, celebrities, and royalty.
When World War II broke out Mikkel Dobloug’s mother lived in Oslo with her parents. Suffocated by the German occupation and rationed food, she looked forward to each time she could spend time at the family farm – where she felt safe and free, and nutritious food was abundant. Her strong bond to Hågå was passed on to her son. “I have spent every weekend and vacation here since I was a child,” Mikkel Doublog said. “There’s no lack of roots and great memories."
In 2001, when Mikkel was 22 years old, tragedy struck. Both his parents died, his mother of cancer and his father in an accident. Initially he was devastated, then found a purpose. With a treasure-trove of memories of weekends and summers at Hågå, he made it his mission to restore the then dilapidated farm (maintenance had been neglected during the post-war years) and turning it into an exclusive guesthouse. “Initially it did not seem like a blessing to leave the capital and all of a sudden run a farm,” he said. “But I understood that this was the way my life would be and that, maybe, there was a purpose to it.”
With his inheritance he put the 19 buildings on the estate in proper condition, employing local carpenters for several years. “I had to realize my mother’s dream of restoring the place – to restore life within the timber walls of these houses. I chose to turn it into a hotel, or a guest house, if you will. Here you can come to enjoy the place, the history, and the beauty – traditional food, culture, and experience the tranquillity of the nature. Or take part in many activities like horseback riding, fishing, hunting, rafting, hiking in the mountains, or in the winter: skiing or dog-sledding.”
There are currently nine bedrooms, another 20 to be added. Each room has its own unique athmosphere – with traditional furniture, modern art, and family photos side by side. Walking through the rooms is like traveling in time. In a majestic bed Greta Garbo slept when she visited after World War II. The late King Olav V regularly stayed in the “King’s Room.”
Among the celebrities who have signed the guest book after the restoration are Danish Queen Margrethe and actress Liv Ullmann, who wrote: “After many travels and a long life I finally found a home offering hundreds of years of history from my country and at the same time tops any modern 5-star hotel. I’m moved and impressed that a young man has cobined the very best that we, as guests, dream of! And leaves a guest of Per Gynt Gaarden with a wish to be back soon – to dream on about how great life really can be.”
For more information please visit: www.pergynt.no