The farms of Stalheim, Brekke, Sivle and Sivlesøy in the municipality of Voss make up the hamlet of Stalheim. The village may be seen as the gateway to the valley of Nærøydalen and the collective area of the Nærøyfjord World Heritage Park. The name Stalheim most like comes from the name of the steep mountain road leading up to the hamlet, named Stalheimskleiva and means “the farm by Stadall”, from the verb standa/stå which means to stand.
Burial grounds from the Iron Age at the Farm of Sivle
Due to archaeological finds we can follow the settlement on the farm of Sivle back to the early Iron Age. The early part of the 20th century saw amongst other things digging taking place on the so-called “Kjempehaugen” (meaning giant heap), which is found northwest of the farm with the property registration number 1, towards the river. During this dig, two graves were discovered. One of these graves contained a belt stone, weapons, tools and horse equipment, most likely dated to be from during the Migration Period (approximately 400-600AD). Belt stones were pieces of quartzite used to make fire and named as such due to being carried in the belt. The fire was created by hitting an iron tool similar to an awl with the stone. The second grave found during the dig had most likely fell victim to grave robbers at some point as the contents were in disarray. The contents of the grave did however indicate that the person that had been buried there was a man, and that it was from the late Iron Age. The grave from the Migration Period is the oldest archaeological find in the hamlet to date.
The Poet Per Sivle
The famous poet, novelist and newspaper editor Per Sivle was born in Flåm in 1857, and spent the majority of his childhood on the farm of Brekke. Per’s life was marked by tragedy, starting when his mother died when he was only 2 ½ years old. His father dealt in cattle and as such spent a lot of his time travelling, leaving Per to stay with relatives. At age six he moved to Brekke, where he had a good life. Tragedy however kept visiting his life, and he suffered with illness, problems with his eyes, headaches and a gloomy state of mind which is reflected in his poetry. The bright sparks in his life were his wife Wenche Von der Lippe Nilsen from Bergen, and their daughter born in 1888. Despite the happiness brought by his wife and child, Per Sivle took his own life on the 6th of September 1904, aged only 47.
Per Sivle’s poetry is well known amongst several generations of the Norwegian people, most famous being the song “Den Fyrste Song” (The First Song) and the story “Berre Ein Hund” (Only a Dog). His poetry often portrayed the weakest in society as well as incidents from the environment where he grew up.
DRAKEHIET; the dragon’s den
Sivle’s story “Only a Dog” is about a Scottish Sheepdog who tries to save his English owner, who has fallen to his death upon attempting to reach the so-called “Dragon’s Den”. The Dragon’s Den, or Drakehiet as it is named in Norwegian, is a hole in the mountain on the way to the valley of Jordalen by the base of the mountain of Jordalsnuten, which in earlier times was completely isolated. The road via the farm of Nåli was the only travel worthy summer road, where a wire had been put up to protect travellers against the cliff below. According to local stories, the hole housed a dragon with seven heads, one for each of the valleys visible from the top of the mountain.
the road between voss and the valley of nærøydalen
In the booklet “Hotel Stalheim and the valley of Nærøydalen”, most likely written at the start of the 20th century, Professor Dr. Yngvar Nielsen describes the road between Voss and Stalheim as a goat trail. “It was one of these roads, in relation to which it has often been said, that the goats must have been the first kind in charge of the roads. As a result, not many travellers would want to travel on the roads of Voss and Stalheim when making their way from Bergen to Eastern Norway”. This road between Eastern and Western Norway has been an incredibly important route for travel going back to the oldest of times, but the road was not regulated until the creation of the postal route between Oslo and Bergen in 1647. Along this route, some of the farms were given the responsibility of distributing the post, and amongst these was the farmer at Stalheim.
We know that Stalheim offered transport and accommodation as early as the Middle Ages. The highly trafficked postal route lead to an increased need for the transport offers at Stalheim. In 1885 Johann Anderson moved his hotel business from Vossevangen, the administrative centre of the municipality of Voss, to Stalheim. At that point the hotel could already room 150 guests. The hotel quickly grew a reputation both within Norway as well as abroad for their high standards and the breath-taking views. Kaiser Wilhelm II was one of their most famous guests during the early years of the hotel, and one of the scenic overlooks are named after the Kaiser; “Wilhelmshøi”. Here you can also find a memorial stone whose inscription translates as: “In memory of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s visit to Stalheim”. The hotel found at Stalheim today is the fourth in the line of hotels in the hamlet.
hikes in the hamlet
One of the lovely hikes in the area starts at Stalheim and ends up at the tenant farm of Nåli, which belongs to the farm of Sivle. The farm is found on a mountain ledge along the old road between Stalheim and the valley of Jordalen. The hike takes about an hour, and journeys through dramatic and breath-taking scenery. The road has been made secure and has been improved since the old days and is an exciting place to travel along for locals and tourists alike. It is also possible to walk along the old royal road which was the road travelled to Stalheim prior to development of the improved vehicular road of Stalheimskleiva between 1844 and 1849. The walk to the waterfall only takes about 15 minutes and suits people of all ages. The road is also wheelchair accessible and wheelchair friendly.