They were just colleagues until they shared a hotel room. Now they are married

When Ida Skibenes pulled up in front of the Solstrand Hotel, her stomach clenched, she vacillated between nervousness and excitement.

Solstrand is one of Norway’s most beautiful hotels, situated just outside of Bergen, framed by fjords and home to over 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 down by the sea,” Ida told CNN Travel.

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Every year Ida’s workplace in Bergen retreated to the dreamy surroundings of Solstrand for a few days to work remotely.

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 her excitement wasn’t really about escaping the city and relaxing in the mountains. It was all about Hanna Aardal.

Ida and Hanna were just colleagues before they left on a business trip. Recognition: CNN

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 settling into her new job.

Hanna was now a single mother whose teenage daughter had just moved to the United States to study for a year.

But as the months passed, her 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 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 at work.”

“I think we kind of shared the same sense of humor, so we became friends quickly,” says Hanna.

Hanna and Ida started working together 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 Solstrand Retreat.

Ida and Hanna stayed at the Solstrand Hotel near Bergen, Norway, which is known for its beautiful location amidst the Norwegian mountains and fjords. Recognition: Solstrand/Monday

The two worked on the project off-hours and began sharing regular dinners and drinks. They texted each other regularly and often texted each other goodnight.

Reflecting on that time today, Ida and Hanna suggest they “dated without realizing it.”

“I was used to dating men and I’ve 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 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 had taken her hand and begged her not to go.

For Ida, at least, it felt like a “watershed moment.”

But she went anyway – they’d both been drinking, and she felt the conversation needed to be approached under different circumstances.

Solstrand, Ida decided, was the perfect opportunity. Especially when Ida and Hanna were randomly chosen to share a room.

Ida proposed to Hanna on a return visit to Solstrand. Recognition: Solstrand/Monday

“I had feelings for Hanna and I definitely had a crush on her,” says Ida.

“But if it was all in my head, then I had to clear that up. And we wanted to work together. So I just decided that 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, romantic setting.

“If she turned me down, at least I wouldn’t be in this dump somewhere. I would still be in a nice hotel,” jokes Ida.


Ida raised the issue at the end of the first day in Solstrand. It was late evening and the two women were in their separate single beds.

Hanna’s answer surprised them both.

“I started saying, ‘I know we’ve become close friends and everything, I love you like a friend.’ But then, while I was saying it, I realized that of course there is more to it,” recalls Hanna.

“I freaked out when she told me that,” says Ida.

“I thought, ‘Wait a minute. That does not happen.'”

After the initial shock, the conversation continued.

“We talked, we kissed. And then we just settled down and decided that we would figure things out eventually,” says Ida.

The historic Solstrand Hotel in Norway played an important role in Hanna and Ida’s relationship. Recognition: Solstrand/Monday

The next day, Ida and Hanna were busy with a busy day of meetings and presentations.

They didn’t elaborate on what had happened the night before, but it was a tradition in their company that everyone gave greeting cards to their Solstrand flatmates at the end of the trip.

They wrote down their burgeoning feelings in Ida and Hanna’s cards. And Ida excitedly shared the news with her close friends.

“I texted with three thumbs up, ‘We made out!'” says Ida.

“But otherwise we kept it quiet for a long time.”

It took Hanna some time to come to terms with her newly admitted feelings.

“I’ve been in a few relationships, but mostly I was a single parent and very self-sufficient in some ways and not very good at close relationships. I think it was really scary and exciting at the same time – and confusing.”

It was also clear to Ida and Hanna that they were jeopardizing not only a friendship but also a working relationship. For Hanna, this increased her trepidation.

“I think I was really scared of messing things up between the two of us,” says Hanna.

“Because we worked together, if at some point I screwed up – which I suspected – it would have had greater repercussions.”

Ida and Hanna took it easy, but little by little they became even closer.

Six months after their meeting in Solstrand, the two were on another work trip and they 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 weird to have a man in her shelter.

“She came out to us two years later, so it’s a very gay family,” adds Hanna.

Solstrand is surrounded by Norwegian fjords and mountains. Recognition: Solstrand/Monday

Return to Solstrand

Hanna and Ida moved in together in 2016, shortly after breaking the news of their relationship to their loved ones.

They started talking about marriage and decided that Ida would be the one to propose when the time felt right.

“I love surprises and Ida hates surprises,” explains Hanna.

Ida knew exactly where to propose: Solstrand.

Three years after they first voiced their feelings out loud, Ida and Hanna found themselves back at the historic hotel for the annual company retreat.

The company had just aired the traditional office mockumentary when Ida interrupted the proceedings.

“She just got up in front of everyone and said, ‘There’s another video,’ and she gave me a box of Kleenex because I’m a screamer, I cry all the time,” Hanna said.

“And then she had made this really cute and romantic video with music that was about our relationship and ended with the proposal.”

Wiping away the tears of joy, Hanna said yes.

“Would have been really embarrassing if I hadn’t done that,” she jokes today.

“I was very nervous,” Ida recalls.

“I might have told a few people before we left, but five minutes before I was going to show the film, I ran around and told everyone.”

Her colleagues were ecstatic and encouraged a panicked Ida to try.

“I had a total meltdown, got two glasses of wine and two cigarettes, and then I was good to go,” says Ida.

“It felt very right to do it with these people at this hotel because they kind of have been the entire journey of our relationship. So it was exciting and a lot of fun. Especially the part where we got to celebrate with so many people who love us and want us to be happy.”

Hanna and Ida got engaged at Hotel Solstrand and married in Bergen in 2022. Recognition: CNN

After some postponed pandemic wedding plans, Ida and Hanna got married in the summer of 2022. The long-awaited ceremony took place outside in a Bergen park near the couple’s home.

“It was a very special celebration,” Hanna recalls of 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 excited to return and hope 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 that feeling of having your best friend with you all the time. Whatever happens, you have your best friend and that makes you feel like things will work out eventually,” says Ida, who adds that being a stepparent also “changes her life” and taught her a lot Has.

Ida and Hanna hope to one day celebrate 50 years of marriage together. Recognition: CNN

Hanna says she also learned a lot from Ida.

“Ida is very brave,” says Hanna.

“She’s a lot smarter than me when it comes to relationships and emotions. And she’s very brave and dares to speak up about things when things get difficult.”

“We bonded very quickly and we trust each other completely, so we can be ourselves,” said Hanna.

“I have never been in a relationship this close before and it has changed my life in many different ways. And also to have a partner who loves my daughter and to be a family – a bigger family.”

Coldplay interrupts the concert mid-song and tells the crowd to put their phones down.

Coldplay interrupts the concert mid-song and tells the crowd to put their phones down. They were just colleagues until they shared a hotel room. Now they are married

James Brien

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