In the middle of a nature reserve in Norway is the quietest hotel in the world 1:47
(CNN) — When Ida Skibenes pulled up in front of the Solstrand Hotel, her stomach clenched, a shift between nervousness and excitement.
Solstrand is one of the most beautiful hotels in Norway, situated on the outskirts of Bergen, framed by fjords and home to more than 125 years of history.
“It almost looks like a yellow lock. It is very nice. And it’s a very quiet place, there’s no traffic, it’s by the sea,” Ida told CNN Travel.
Every year, Ida’s workplace in Bergen moved to the dreamy surroundings of Solstrand for a few days of telework. This year, 2014, Ida was in the company for the first time. Her colleagues had entertained her with stories about Solstrand and she was hooked. But his passion wasn’t really about escaping the city and chilling in the mountains. It was Hanna Aardal.
Hanna was Ida’s employee. When Ida started at the company, the two of them bonded quickly, but they were in different places in their lives. At the time, Ida was married and focused on her relationship and adjusting to the new job. Meanwhile, Hanna was a single mother whose teenage daughter had just moved to the United States to study for a year.
But as the months passed, his circumstances changed. Ida’s relationship broke up and she got divorced. Hanna got used to her daughter’s stay abroad and spent more time with her colleagues. Over time, Hanna and Ida became closer.
“Our energies matched,” says Ida. “It was always more fun to be at work when Hanna was there.”
“I think we had the same kind of humor, so we quickly became friends,” says Hanna.
Hanna and Ida started collaborating on a fun side project, a short The Office-style mockumentary that showcases the ins and outs of their workplace. The film was to be shown at Solstrands Retreat.
The two worked on the project after hours and began sharing regular dinners and drinks. They texted each other regularly and often exchanged goodnight texts.
Reflecting on that time today, Ida and Hanna suggest they “dated without realizing it.”
“I was used to dating men and had never been in a relationship with a woman,” says Hanna. “Looking back, it’s kind of obvious that we had feelings for each other.”
Ida didn’t know if Hanna would be willing to date a woman. And she didn’t know if her feelings were returned or if they were all in her head. Still, Ida felt there were signs that suggested the relationship was something more.
A few weeks before the trip to Solstrand, the two had stayed up late at Hanna’s house talking. When Ida suggested going home at 2 a.m., Hanna took her hand and asked her not to go. It felt like a “watershed moment,” at least for Ida. But she went anyway: they had both been drinking and she felt the conversation needed to be conducted under different circumstances.
Solstrand, Ida decided, was the perfect opportunity. Especially when Ida and Hanna were randomly chosen to stay together.
“I had feelings for Hanna and was definitely in love with her,” says Ida. “But if it was all in my head, I had to sort that out. And we wanted to work together. So I decided if we end up in the same room, that’s a sign for me to actually do something about it. “
In addition, Solstrand was a beautiful and romantic setting.
“If she had turned me down, at least I wouldn’t be in this dump somewhere. I would still be in a beautiful hotel,” jokes Ida.
Ida brought it up at the end of day one in Solstrand. It was late at night and the two women were in their separate twin beds.
Hanna’s answer surprised them both.
“She started saying, ‘I know we’ve become good friends, I love you like a friend.’ But when she said that, I realized that of course it’s something else,” recalls Hanna.
“I was scared when he told me that,” says Ida. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute. This isn’t happening.'”
After the initial shock, the conversation continued.
“We talked, we kissed. And then we calmed down and decided that eventually we would work things out,” says Ida.
The next day, Ida and Hanna were busy with a busy day of meetings and presentations. They didn’t mention what had happened the night before, but it was a tradition in their company that everyone gave greeting cards to their Solstrand roommates at the end of the trip.
In Ida and Hanna’s cards they wrote down their blossoming feelings. And Ida excitedly sent a message to her close friends with the news.
“I gave them three thumbs up, ‘We kissed!'” says Ida.
“But otherwise we kept it a secret for a long time.”
It took Hanna some time to come to terms with her newly admitted feelings.
“I’ve had a few relationships, but mostly I was a single mom and in some ways very self-sufficient and not very good at close relationships. So I think it was really scary and exciting and confusing at the same time.”
Ida and Hanna also knew that they were jeopardizing not only a friendship but also a working relationship. For Hanna, this increased her anxiety.
“I think she was really afraid of messing things up between the two of us,” says Hanna. “Because we worked together, there would have been greater consequences if I had been wrong, which I thought at one point.”
Ida and Hanna took it easy, but little by little they became even closer. Six months after their conversation in Solstrand, the two were on another work trip and decided they were ready to tell their colleagues. Later, back home in Bergen, Hanna shared the news with her daughter.
“She was very happy for us,” says Hanna, recalling her daughter joking that it would have been strange to have a man in her girls’ house.
“She came out to us two years later, so it’s a very gay family,” adds Hanna.
Return to Solstrand
Hanna and Ida moved in together in 2016, shortly after sharing the news of their relationship with loved ones. They discussed marriage and decided that when the time came, Ida would be the one to propose to her.
“I love surprises and Ida hates them,” explains Hanna.
Ida knew exactly where he wanted to propose: Solstrand. Three years after first expressing their feelings out loud, Ida and Hanna found themselves back at the historic hotel during the company’s annual retreat. The company had just aired the office’s traditional “mockup” when Ida interrupted the process.
“She just stood in front of everyone and said, ‘There’s another video,’ and she gave me a box of Kleenex because I’m a crybaby, I cry all the time. And then she made this really cute, romantic video with music depicting our relationship and ending with the proposal.”
Wiping away the tears of joy, Hanna said yes.
“It would have been very embarrassing if I hadn’t done that,” he jokes today.
“I was very nervous,” Ida recalls. “Maybe I told a few people before we left, but five minutes before I showed the film, I ran and told everyone.”
Her colleagues were ecstatic and encouraged a panicked Ida to try.
“I had a total meltdown, had two glasses of wine and two cigarettes, and then I was ready to go,” says Ida.
“It felt really good to do it with these people in this hotel because they have been with us throughout the journey of our relationship. So it was exciting and a lot of fun. Especially the part where we can celebrate so many people who love us and want us to be together.” Let’s be happy.”
After some wedding plans were postponed due to the pandemic, Ida and Hanna said yes in the summer of 2022. The long-awaited ceremony took place outdoors, in a park in Bergen, near the couple’s home.
“It was a very special celebration,” says Hanna, recalling a day full of sunshine and celebrations.
embark on a journey
Hanna and Ida no longer work together. When Ida left the company a few years ago, her colleagues gave her a voucher for a romantic weekend in Solstrand. The couple is hoping for a return and hopes to one day celebrate 50 years of marriage at their favorite hotel.
Hanna and Ida describe their years together so far as “a fascinating and fun journey”.
“It was always that feeling of having your best friend with you. Whatever happens, you have your best friend and it makes you feel like things will work out eventually,” says Ida, adding that the stepmother has also “changed her life” and taught her a lot.