Well-being and traditions has always played a large part in the friendly surroundings at Straand. This has been kept as the hotel has been expanded. In the old part of the hotel you will find a special atmosphere that lives on the with the later, new additions.
If the solid timber walls in these cozy living rooms could talk, they would have a lot to tell about the history and life of past times. Straand has an interesting and colorful past which today’s owner and host Sigmund Straand is proud of, but also feels an obligation to continue.
19th century: Once upon a time…
We must go five generations and 154 years back in time – to 1864 – to find the foundation for present day’s business at Straand. Sigmund’s great-great-grandfather Olav and his wife Kari, bought upper and lower Straand. What they bought was more or less a cotter’s farm, with a small cottage and a patch of land with a lot of rocks and bush. The position however was beautiful with hills going down towards lake Nisser.
Olav and Kari was a hard working couple and they had high hopes for the future. I addition to creating a model farm, Olav also bought the posting station in Vrådal. With this aquistion Straand soon became a center for transport and activity. Tourism had nott reached this part of Telemark yet, but Vrådal was still an important juncture for road travellers.
They built at milieu at Straand that continued on – right up to present day.
Everyone was welcomed by Kari and Olav at Straand, even though there was limited space in the beginning. This old part is stilll found at the hotel. It consisted of kitchen and living room on the ground floor and a loft-room above.
The guests slept in the living room, the hosts in the kitchen, while the farm worker’s slept on the loft. In busy periods it is safe to say that they were pressed for space, but there was room for both agents, judges and normal travellers.
Coming closer to the turn of the century Straand grew. New buildings were build and the stables could house 15-16 horses in the stalls. In addition to being Vrådal’s only hotel for many years, the place also had other important functions. The inhabitants of Vrådal could meet the doctor here, among other things.
Kari and Olav built the foundations for a business where new opportunities are always sought. This way they left behind a rich legcy to the generations coming after them. They built a milieu at Straand that continued on – right up to present day.
20th century: towards new goals
Kari and Olav’s son, Johan, was the next generation at the posting station. He took over after this parents in 1902. His wife, Sigrid, had experience in running a boarding house and the running of the hotel was expanded. Tourists started coming, for obvious reasons mostly in the summer.
In 1924 disaster struck. The hotel, built in Swiss style, burned to the ground. But Johan immediately started building a new hotel. In 1925 a new hotel was ready to welcome guests again.
This part, with its solid timber walls and traditional style, is still a central part of the modern hotel at Straand. Together with Sigrid he continued on the Straand legacy, and expanded the hotel which now had five rooms and two living rooms on the ground floor and ten rooms in the floor above.
Johan was even busier than his father, and in addition to running the posting station and logging, he was also involved in business and bought several large properties. As the owner of a posting station he experienced the transformation from horse-drawn carriages to cars, and in 1919 he bought the first car in Vrådal together with two relatives. He knew it was only a matter of time before the car would dominate the transportation of people and goods.
In 1929 he bought the first lorry and got a transport permit for the area. Later he established a route between Vrådal and Skien. This part of his and his family’s business was developed to «Straand Bilruter». A lot of mergers over the years means that this business now is a part of Telemark Bilruter.
20th century: towards our own time
In 1948 Johan’s son, Sigmund, and his wife Jorunn tok over the running of the hotel. He had already gotten his education at the Norwegian school of hotel management during the second world war and he was eager to continue the work of two former generations into a new time with growing mass tourism in the start of the 1950s.
Unfortunately Sigmund died in 1960, only 12 years after the took over the business.
His son, Johan, had already decided to take over the family business, even if he was quite young at that time.
After getting his education at the Norwegian school of hotel management and getting experience from, among others, Park Hotell in Sandefjord, he bought Straand Hotel from his mother in 1973. Since 1973 the hotel has undergone a massive expansion and is today one of Telemark’s largest and greatest hotels.
After several expansions in the 70s and 80s and further into the 21st century, the hotel can offer 125 rooms, a large restaurant, bar, pub, piano bar, swimming pool, living rooms, wine cellar and last, but not least, a large and well equipped conference department.
Eventually Vrådal Hotel became part of Straand and new self catering cabins was built. A few years ago Vrådal Hotel was refurbished as self catering appartements. Vrådal Booking was eastablished and through this company Straand provide cabins, appartements and serices for self catering guests. Johan also developed the beach area down by lake Nisser with a beach bar and the veteran ship M/S Fram, which was built in 1909.
During Johans time at Straand a lot of work has been done in order to promote Vrådal a holiday destination.
After three years at the Norwegian school of hotel management in Stavanger, and several years at different hotels, Johan’s son Sigmund stepped in in 2008. Sigmund and Elin was hosts at Straand until 2019 when Sigmund decided to work elsewhere.
During the summer of 2019 Johans youngest son, Lars Arne and his wife Katrine moved back home to Vrådal in order to take over the family business. Until then Lars Arne had been working with technology, strategy, system development and project management for consultants Accenture. Katrine Samdal Straand, originally from Bergen has been working as leading sales and marketing manager, building and properties Oslo for Multiconsult Norge. Both Lars Arne and Katrine is looking forward to manage and develop the family business in a way which promote and maintain Straand and Telemarks culture and traditions for years to come.
Vrådal is a unique holiday destinaton both for the summer and winter seasons, incorporating elements from our past, present and future.