The Village of Gudvangen

At the inner most part of the Nærøyfjord we find the village of Gudvangen, which stretches from the hamlet of Stalheim in the western parts of the valley of Nærøydalen to the village of Dyrdal further out in the fjord. The farms of Ramsøy, Gudvangen, Skjerpi, Hemri, Hylland and Solbjørgo are all part of the village. The village has been known for the urban area by the dock, offering accommodation, transport and trade since the 19th century.

the oldest farm in the village

Topography and archaeological discoveries help us reach an opinion on which is the oldest farm in the village. A lot of the area consists of the bottom of the valley either side of the large river of Nærøydalselvi. When taking into consideration sunlight and flooding, this area would not have been a good place for permanent settlements further back in time. If you however consider the farm of Ramsøy, this farm is found on a natural balcony in the area and quite possibly has the best views towards the fjord. It may not be a coincidence that that the oldest find in the area was on this farm; a Western Norwegian axe made of black basalt rock which can be dated to the late Stone Age.

the postal route and mass tourism

When state official Hannibal Sejerstedt opened the postal route between Bergen and Oslo in 1647, good roads were developed going over the mountainous areas of Lærdal and Filefjell, as well as between Gudvangen and Voss. This led to Gudvangen becoming an important hub for the traffic between Eastern and Western Norway. Gudvangen was given guesthouse and trading privileges by the king in 1734, leading to Gudvangen taking on a role previously held by Arnehus in Dyrdal. When the railway between Bergen and Voss opened in 1883, travel along this stretch showed a noticeable increase leading to a tourism industry in Gudvangen that was more than capable of standing on its own two feet. Tourists from the boat that came from England and docked in Bergen would be taken into the fjords by the transport company Fylkesbaatane, assuming they weren’t already on board their own tourist ships. As many as 200 horse carts could be waiting in Gudvangen to welcome those who were travelling on to Stalheim, Voss and Hardanger and many of the farmers made a lot of money offering these rides to tourists.

building customs in the urban area

The influx of tourists in the 19th century led to the building of more hotels and other buildings in the centre of Gudvangen. The fact that the place went through such an intensive building phase means that the area has a distinctive 19th century look, mostly influenced by the Swiss chalet style. The urban area of Gudvangen is of a great cultural importance to the county of Sogn of Fjordane, as it shows a clear picture of the changes and development that took place as a result of the tourism boom in the 19th century. A distinguished example of the Swiss chalet style of building in the area is the Vikingvang hotel, which consists of the main building built between 1870 and 1880 and an extension built in the 1890s. Two of the old guesthouses from Arnehus were purchased at an auction in 1739 and rebuilt in Gudvangen. At one point these buildings were utilised as annexes by the hotel.

the village today

Gudvangen is a vibrant village with approximately 90 residents. In addition to traditional agriculture, the inhabitants of Gudvangen make their living through trade and industry, but still first and foremost through tourism. In addition to the hotel and camping sites, the focus on tourism initiated the establishment of a Viking village, where the yearly Viking markets play an important part. The Viking project also led to the reconstruction of a Viking ship that was found on the island of Fjørtoft in Sunnmøre, the southernmost district in the county of Møre og Romsdal. This ship is used by the people involved with the Viking project for trips on the fjord, and is additionally meant to exist as an experience to be offered to tourists. Moving on from tourism, there is also a considerable value to be found in the deposits of anorthosite in the area between Gudvangen and the village of Mjølfjell in the municipality of Voss. The anorthosite contains aluminium oxide, which is an important raw material in the production of the metal aluminium, and is also used in explosives, artificial fertiliser as well as in the paint and paper industries. There has been knowledge of the occurrence of anorthosite since early on in the 20th century, and there have been plans to carry out mining on a large scale for a considerable amount of time. Almost 200,000 tons of rock was excavated in 2005, which was then exported and used for amongst other things the manufacturing of isolation materials.

The extraction of the anorthosite can amongst other things help create more local jobs, but at the same time there is an obvious challenge in carrying out the mining work in a way that does not interfere with the goals set for the area due to its UNESCO World Heritage status.


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