Sindre Mjelva, Hotel Union

Sindre Mjelva

Royal Luxury
at the Geirangerfjord

Editors’ Note

Sindre Mjelva has held his current post since 2001. Prior to this, he was the Managing Director for Rica Hotels from August 1996 and served as an accounting advisor for KPMG Norway from August 1994. He was educated at the École hôtelière de Lausanne.

Property Brief

Based in Geiranger, Norway, Hotel Union (hotelunion.no) was built in 1891 by A. Shieldrop of Ålesund. The building was originally constructed of wood, inspired by the Swiss or dragon-head style, closely linked to Art Nouveau and Jugend architecture, and identical to the timber-built hotel at Øye. In 1899, the hotel was purchased by Julie and Karl Mjelva. The Mjelvas were extremely enterprising, opening an automobile manufacturing plant, a power station, and a cooker factory all on the same site.

Would you say that the Mjelva family owns the biggest and best hotel in town?

That’s up to visitors to evaluate, but it’s a hotel that has been in our family for four generations. We have hosted Kings and Queens, VIPs, and ordinary tourists for four centuries. I’m the fourth generation.

Doesn’t the Queen stay here in the spa suite?

Yes, she loves hiking in the mountains – she’s in her 70s but very fit, and when she visits, she enjoys the spa and hotel.

We made a special room for her with large windows and a Jacuzzi tub, and direct access to the spa.

The rooms all have beautiful views. Living here must seem to be a fairy-tale existence that you can’t find anywhere else.

We’re happy to be here. It’s an honor to greet people to our village and give them not only the hotel but the taste of nature. We emphasize local food from the area in the buffet and the courses we serve in the hotel.

Don’t you also offer hiking and boating?

It’s very popular now to go kayaking to the fjord, and go ashore and hike up to one of the mountain farms.

You also have a collection of old Buicks from the 1930s, which is in a museum here.

We have a vintage car museum, which has been growing for the past 20 years. We now have 12 vehicles.

What funny stories might you share from your time in this hotel?

Recently, we had the Sheikh of Qatar visiting. He was going to land in the nearest airport, but his jumbo jet was too big so he had to land in Bergen, which is quite a distance from here. He wanted to see the hotel and the fjord so he came up with his helicopter to visit. We let him drive one of the old Buicks; he was a good driver. He managed the trip well and in the city center, he stopped to buy some chocolates. We have our own chocolate factory in the city center.

Does it get so cold in the wintertime that tourism suffers?

No. We only go down to -5 or -10 degrees celcius. Our climate is good from the fjord so it doesn’t get really cold here.

You can go wilderness skiing or alpine skiing, or cross country.•