Solving the mystery of “Kallebu”

Published on 13 January 2012 in , ,


In 2006 Catherine and myself went on holiday in Norway where we stayed next in two parts of the country and got around purely by public transport.

This proved to be an interesting challenge in the second half of the holiday when we stayed in the small town of Ulvik, next to the Hardangerfjord where the local bus system didn’t always go quite where we wanted to go. Which is why on one day, we ended up having to walk a couple of miles up a busy road in order to get to one particular tourist attraction.

Walking several miles up hill on a main road isn’t always interesting, but as we did we spotted something curious in the hillside. We spotted Kallebu.

Kallebu was a complete mystery. Sat a short way off the road was something that looked like the front of a house, located in a gap in the rocks.

Inside it got even more curious. There was a little seat, a kettle and cups hanging from the wall.

Someone had clearly put in a lot of effort to make Kallebu but it wasn’t mentioned in any guide books we had. When I got home I scoured the internet to see what I could find.

The internet said nothing. No web pages, no photos on flickr.

Inside Kallebu

That was in the summer of 2006. Whilst writing this post I did a search on the flickr once more. My three photographs remain the only ones of Kallebu.

Frankly if I hadn’t taken photographs I’d now be beginning to think I’d imagined it all. Realistically I know that not many people probably walk up that road (there’s not even a pavement) but somehow it still seems fundamentally wrong that Catherine and myself are some of the few people to actually have seen this place.

But anyway those photos, and the associated blog post from the holiday, were where I expected the story to end and I filed it under “Weird Norwegian Oddities” in my brain along with the fake bus stop someone had installed in a tree on a walking trail.

Of course it didn’t end there. And it didn’t end there because I’d put something about Kallebu on the internet. And thank goodness I did because I now know I was not the victim of some bizarre, combined hallucination-Photoshopped photo prank.

Because if we know one thing about the internet it’s that if you search for something, chances are someone else will at some point. And at least two people have also searched for Kallebu.

In 2009 it was Roger and just this week it was Inger. I know because they told me. And they know about Kallebu because they have a personal link. They knew Kallebu’s creator. He was Roger’s grandfather and Inger’s father. And that man was Karl Heiland.

Karl apparently built Kallebu in the 1970s and used to stay there when on trips to fish for salmon in the nearby river. According to Inger, during one summer he caught a massive 169kg of salmon over a two month period.

The little house built in a cave was naturally built without the Norwegian equivalent of planning permission and at one point it was torn apart by the local authority. Undeterred Karl rebuilt it and the battle even hit the press. It became a bit of a tourist attraction with cars parking up on the road to pop in and take a photograph.

Catherine in Kallebu

Karl sadly died in 1985, but Kallebu remains, and in 2006 it was clearly looked after, and I would presume still is. I hope it remains so for a long time.

For Kallebu was something magical; something special. If you’re even in Måbødalen, it’s on route 7 and is a few miles east from Eidfjord, in the Hordaland region. Why not walk up the road and discover it the most magical of ways? And whilst you’re there, put the kettle on and give an appreciative nod to Karl and all those who have looked after Kallebu in the years since he’s gone.

Thanks tor Roger and Inger for getting in touch with the Kallebu story.