Henrik Ibsen, playwright, author and a worldwide literary name. Author of the world renown dramatical poem, Peer Gynt. What inspired him to write about that smug, arrogant and self-centred person?
In 1862 Ibsen applied for a travel grant, in order to collect myths and folktales and, luckily, his application was accepted.
He wanted to travel to the western part of Norway, where he meant that there were many unknown folktales.
This inspirational journey took him through Gudbrandsdalen, Norway’s longest valley, and further over Sognefjellet to Lysterfjorden in Sogn, over Lærdal to Sunnfjord and Nordfjord and also to Vestnes in Møre and Romsdal.
It was most likely that it was the journey through Gudbrandsdalen that Ibsen heard the story and local, oral traditions, about the infamous Peer Gynt from Vinstra. After his journeys through Norway Ibsen wrote to his publisher in Denmark:
“If it is of interest to you, we can say that Peer Gynt was a real person who had lived in Gudbrandsdalen, most likely during the end of the last century, or the beginning of this one. His name is still well known among the people in that area”
Henrik Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt “is not just a fairytale. It is a reflection of our time, just as much as a poem about Norwegian culture, nature and a local historical story.
Travel in Ibsen’s footsteps while on the way to the Masterpiece Peer Gynt.The journey includes the most authentic version of the well-renowned Norwegian theatre play "Peer Gynt" at Gålå.
Maybe you will be inspired too!
Ibsen began his journey on 24th June in 1862. The journey took him from Oslo, then called Christiania to Lillehammer. He traveled by train to Minnesund, from where he took the paddle steamer. It is still possible to travel with the world1s oldest preserved paddle steamer "Skibladner", to Lillehammer. To travel onboard Skibladner is a voyage for all your senses, and the ship is an actual international technical cultural experience in itself. On the boat you can experience the same view as Ibsen did, and you can choose to enjoy traditional Norwegian food as you travel up beautiful Mjøsa river up til Lillehammer.
If you are going by car from Oslo, you can drive to Moelv and take the paddle steamer to Lillehammer and back to Moelv for picking up your car before you travel to Lillehammer.
Lillehammer was a blooming town when Ibsen travelled through it in 1862. Beside the river ,”Mesnaelva” in the town centre, there was a mill, now restored into a hotel. Mølla Hotel offers overnighting with the air of tradition, in the middle of the town.
Henrik Ibsen enjoyed the peaceful surroundings of Lillehammer and did not travel further until late afternoon on 25th June.
Lillehammer town has much to offer for those interested in culture and history.
Start the day by visiting the Lillehammer Art Museum, which can boast an art collection of nearly 1,500 works of art, dating from the 18th century up to today.
Experience a journey of art depicting, among other things, national romantic period, expressionist and the new romantic eras.
You can also pay a visit to Maihaugen and enjoy what Ibsen saw on his inspirational journeys through Gudbrandsdalen in 1862. Be a part of the Peer Gynt guided tour at Maihaugen, which is one of the biggest outdoor museums in Europe. Here you can see the Peer Gynt loft where the historical Peer Gynt gang lived.
Guides and actors take you back to the 18th century where you can see both the buildings and cultures that inspired Ibsen.
Enjoy dinner at one of restaurants in Lillehammer.
At Bryggerikjelleren, Hvelvet, or experience dinner at the Mølla Hotel.
If you do not have your own car then it is possible to hire one in Lillehammer.
Now the journey progresses further into Gudbrandsdalen and on into Peer Gynt’s territory.
Ibsen walked from Lillehammer to Øyer and to the coaching inn, Mosus, just below Øyer church. Here he stayed overnight before going onto Tretten where he met a farmer who rowed him across the river Lågen. Ibsen also took the opportunity to fish while being transported over the river.
On 27th June Ibsen found himself at Eldstad farm, which is situated just south of Ringebu stave church. The church remains today on the same site as when it was built at the beginning of the 12th century. It is one of the 28 remaining stave churches in Norway.
On the journey from Lillehammer to Harpefoss, we well recommend that you visit Ringebu stave church before heading for the next overnight stop, Sygard Grytting. Built in the Middle Ages, Sygard Grytting is a dignified farmhouse hotel with a 700 year history. It is one of Norway’s most beautiful and best preserved farmhouse hotels which could have been taken out of a Norwegian fairytale.
At Sygard Grytting you can overnight in one of the majestic buildings dating from 1650-1860 and also enjoy a good traditional Norwegian meal cooked with fresh commodities from their own vegetable garden and fruit orchards. You can also take a guided tour around the dignified hotel and its gardens. The hotel also offers transportation to Peer Gynt at Gålå.
Beside a lake and between a forest and steep mountain in Gudbrandsdalen you can experience Norway’s most well known traditional folklore fairytales in a spectacular outdoor theatre setting. The dramatic poem “Peer Gynt” is played worldwide, but it was here that Ibsen found his inspiration. The outdoor theatre is also well suited for international guests, via English and German introductions, summary leaflets and audio guides.
You can only buy tickets for the theatre performance here.
Ibsen spent the night at Listad in Fron and journeyed on past Hundorp, Sødorp and Kvam on his way to Vågå. It was either during this journey, or on his way home that he heard about the reindeer hunter Peer Gynt and from which he gained his inspiration from the actual village traditions that he experienced on the way.
After a day in Peer Gynt’s territory the journey goes on towards Songnefjellet. Henrik Ibsen arrived in Lom on 3rd July. On his way he walked along the lake “Vågåvannet”. In Lom he visited the vicarage. According to Ibsen’s notes he experienced the Gudbrandsdal way of life, which included fiddle playing, dancing and homemade liquor drinking in Lom, which we often see in several of the scenes in Peer Gynt.
In Lom it is possible to visit the “Bygdemuseet” building museum, where you will find 22 timber built houses from the 16th - 17th and 18th century. Houses that have seen and heard everything! The houses have been transported from farms and villages in Lom, Skjåk and Vågå.
On 4th July Ibsen walked on to Bøverdalen and past the coaching inn Røysheim, which today is a hotel of cultural and historical interest. Røysheim Hotel has, since 1858, been a natural place to stop on the way between Lom in the east and Luster in the west. Overnight at Røysheim Hotel before travelling over the mountain towards the fjords and the coast.
Ibsen walked over the mountain “Sognefjellet”. However, by car you can drive past green meadows in Bøverdalen on your way to the majestic mountains. The road winds its way up to the summit, which is 1434 metres above sea level which makes this the highest mountain pass in Northern Europe. Along the way there are view-points where you can stop and appreciate nature and the mountain air. The same air that Ibsen must have inhaled on his journey over the mountain.
One of the small villages that Ibsen liked well on his journey was Hellesylt. Today you can visit the Peer Gynt gallery there, an exhibition by the artist Oddvin Parr, which consists of large wooden carvings inspired from Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, which cannot be found elsewhere. In the gallery you can also find video guiding, by Dennis Storhøi, who played the role of Peer Gynt at Gålåvatnet from 2008 - 2013.
Along the fjord “Geirangerfjord” there are many overnighting possibilities.
Ibsen stayed the night in Sande before he went on to Vassenden, where he took the boat to Re, where he spent the night. He enjoyed the environment there very much and in the newspaper,”Illustreret Nyhetsblad” he wrote the following;
"I walked around at the far end of the lake, “Bræheimsvandet” where one can afford one of our country’s rarest views, where the wild nature of the high mountain, in its winter environment envelopes the lowlands. Here one can, just like along Ullensvangstranden in Hardanger, walk under the flowering fruit trees and see the grand icy glacier lit up through the leaves".
The last notes from Ibsen’s journey are from Vestnes in Romsdalen. We do not know of his return journey, but know with certainty that he was back in Christiania on 12th August. Some believe that he walked from Romsdalen via Gudbrandsdalen again.
If you wish to experience more of Norway and the inspirations of Peer Gynt it is possible to travel by coastal steamer, “Hurtigruten” from Ålesund and down to Bergen, where you can visit Edvard Grieg’s home at Troldhaugen. Edvard Grieg composed the well known “Peer Gynt Suites” that we know from Ibsen’s Peer Gynt.
If you wish to continue your journey you could drive over Hardangervidda to Oslo and visit Henrik Ibsen’s home, “Ibsenmuseet”.
Have a great journey!