Our family celebrates the local history of the Santa Ynez Valley’s past by traveling Solvang streets in a remarkable Danish conveyance known as a Honen.
It is truly a family affair: Parents, Lorena and Sal Sr., and daughter, Claudia, and son, Sal Jr. all work in several capacities for the family business.
Pulled by two Belgian horses named Rita and Claire, the Honen, or trolley, slowly glides past Solvang’s landmarks. Claudia, Sal, Jr. and other employees in costume take turns guiding the tours, each spicing the narrative with historical facts and local lore. “The Honen is a great way to see Solvang, it gives you the opportunity to notice many things you miss while driving or walking and looking in windows. In the Honen, it’s a completely different effect.
Plus, it is also a great way to learn about where we are, the history of the Santa Ynez Valley and how it relates to the history of America.”
The Honen (which translates from Danish as “the hen,” after a trolly line in Denmark known by the same name) travels a similar route each day, depending on traffic and passenger requests.
The horse-drawn-trolley can seat 20 riders and its open-air construction affords a wrap-around view of the sights.
Enhancing the Old World feel, the Orona’s dress in Danish-style clothing, much of it designed and stitched by Claudia, a theater major.
Solvang Trolley, the "Honen"
Solvang’s Honen Flourishes under the care of the Orona family.
“Most people, especially kids, go crazy over riding the Honen,” Claudia says. “They love to pet the horses and ask about them, and we welcome it, because we love to educate people about them.
The Oronas recently acquired two more Belgians, Stella and Coco, which means they’ll have two teams to share the labor. Claudia is quick to explain that since the massive Belgians were bred to pull, they need to do so regularly to remain healthy.
Having ridden and trained horses most of their lives, Lorena and Sal Sr. bought the Honen, horses and all, in December 2007 as an ideal way to build a family business. After sprucing up the aging Honen for comfort and safety, they set about writing a script that would both entertain and enlighten their riders. The family spent weeks researching area literature, visiting museums and gleaning stories from long-time residents to come up with an engaging version of Solvang’s history.
Claudia’s lively narration during the Honen tour links present-day Solvang with its nearly 100 years of history.
Since moving to the Valley from Santa Barbara, the Oronas have animated Solvang’s colorful history in English, Spanish, French and even Japanese. They have proved themselves able ambassadors of Danish culture and made many friends along the way.
“My family loves the Valley,” Claudia says. “My brother and I are used to a more urban setting, but we do love that it’s a close knit community, the air is clean and we’re near our animals. We’ve had a very warm welcome and a lot of people really appreciate what we’ve done with the Honen.”
Since our beginning, Solvang Trolley has transported more than 10,000 happy passengers of all ages and from all parts of the world.
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