Why yes, I did stumble across this book while searching for the phrase “bits of travel”, thank you for asking. The division of the text is: one chapter Lübeck and Denmark; two and a half chapters Sweden; the remainder (nine and a half chapters) Norway. This strikes me as a correct and appropriate distribution.
The author’s personality comes and goes. The most vivid picture may be this one, from an ethnographic exhibit in the Northern Museum, Stockholm:
In one large group of Laplanders . . . were several stuffed dogs, as we thought, lying before the tent. They looked so natural that we could not refrain from chirping to them, when with a bound they sprang towards us, much to our dismay.
I’d be dismayed too.
At the other end of the book, in the “Expenses and Practical Hints” chapter, there is some useful advice for ladies traveling alone—and the advice is not “stay home until you can find a man to take care of you”. We know that late-19th-century women traveled on their own in real life. Helen Hunt, for example, began publishing her travel articles twenty years before Midnight Sunbeams. But it’s still gratifying to find a writer treating it as a matter of course.
The book is undated. Most reviews were published in 1889, so 1888 seems a reasonable guess. Allowing for press time, the visit itself may have been in 1887. If the author ever published anything else, WorldCat hasn’t heard of it. As far as I know, there was only the one edition.
I know absolutely nothing about Edwin Coolidge Kimball. Nothing, nada, zip. There’s a long List of Subscribers, implying that the book was published at the author’s—or his friends’ and relatives’—own expense. Since most of the subscribers are from Haverhill or Bradford, both in northeastern Massachusetts, it seems safe to assume that’s where the author lived as well.
Cursory research suggests that Edwin Coolidge Kimball was born in 1850, the youngest surviving child of Albert Kimball (b. 1812) and Elizabeth Ingersoll Day (b. 1815)—and in fact there are three Days and an Ingersoll among the subscribers. The other children were Albert L. (1837-1889)—also on the list—Emma Arabella (b. 1840) and Anna Jane (b. 1842).
The narrative often refers to “we”, “us”, “our”, but never says exactly who “we” were. In general there seem to be two of them, but in later chapters the author says “friends”, plural, a few times. He definitely wasn’t traveling with his wife, since at one point he emphatically describes himself as a bachelor.
I’ve included the full List of Subscribers—helpfully divided into Haverhill, Bradford, and the rest of the planet—on the off chance that genealogists might want to paw through the names.
Along with the Kimballs and Days, the List of Subscribers shows a Mrs. J. G. Cupples of Longwood, Mass. The town of Longwood has long since been absorbed into Brookline—if in fact it was ever legally distinct—which in turn is wholly surrounded by Boston. Can this be the publisher’s wife, apparently a native of Haverhill? Was he too cheap to give her a copy?
Maybe he just couldn’t afford it. In the beginning there was A. Williams and Company, founded in 1855 by Alexander Williams. When Williams retired in 1883, the company became Cupples, Upham & Co.; in 1887 it changed to Cupples and Hurd; in 1890 it cut back to J. G. Cupples alone. Joseph George Cupples (1851-1915) seems to have had trouble holding on to a business partner—and, ultimately, to the publishing business itself. He threw in the towel in 1893.
In Norwegian and Danish (but not Swedish), the letter rendered as ö should really be ø, but the typesetter probably didn’t have it available. Almost all names written with ae should really be æ—a letter the printer did have, and occasionally used. A few names in oe may really be ø (ö). The author doesn’t seem to have understood that å as in smörgåsbord is a different letter from a, and he definitely didn’t know that it could have been written aa, as it still is in much of Denmark.
Place names were printed as shown. In 1888, Norwegian spelling was still essentially Danish. Many words and names written with æ in the book are now spelled with simple e, and many things written with a single consonant now have two: Finmark:
Typographical errors are marked with and are listed again at the end of each chapter. The word “invisible” means that the letter or punctuation mark is missing, but there is an appropriately sized blank space.
BITS OF TRAVEL THROUGH THE LAND
OF THE NORSEMAN
EDWIN COOLIDGE KIMBALL
CUPPLES AND HURD, Publishers
The following sketches of a journey in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are given to the public in the hope that their perusal will furnish information concerning the people, and attractions, of countries which are being visited by Americans more and more each succeeding year. While they may impart some useful knowledge to intending travellers over the same ground, it is hoped as well that they will furnish entertainment to those who travel only through books.
The memories of the days passed in the North are so sunny and delightful, that I wish others to enjoy them with me; and if the reader receives a clear impression of the novel experiences and thorough pleasure attending a journey through Norseland, and partakes, if only in a limited degree, of my enthusiasm over the character of the people and the imposing grandeurs of nature, the object of this book will be accomplished.
E. C. K.8 9
COPENHAGEN AND ENVIRONS.
|Lübeck—Journey to Copenhagen—Herr Rentier—Bertel Thorvaldsen—Museums—An Evening at the Tivoli—Souvenirs of Hamlet—A Famous Mother-in-law—The Frederiksborg Palace—An Aimless Widow||15|
ACROSS SWEDEN BY THE GOTHA CANAL.
|A Day at Gothenburg—The Gotha Canal—Life on the “Venus”—Keeping our Meal Accounts—The Trollhätta Falls—Pastoral Scenery—Swedish Boarding-School Girls—Lake Mälar||41|
IN AND ABOUT STOCKHOLM.
|The Islands and Features of the City—The Westminster Abbey of Sweden—Interesting Museums—Leading City for Telephones—Scenes at Evening Concerts—The Multitude of Excursions—Down the Baltic to Vaxholm—Royal Castles on the Lake—University Town of Upsala||57|
RAILWAY JOURNEY TO THRONDHJEM.
|Swedish Railways and Meal Stations—Among the Snow Banks—The Descent to Throndhjem—The Shrine of St. Olaf—North Cape Steamers||75|
THE NORWEGIAN NORDLAND.
|The Ever-Present Salmon—A Cheese Exhibition—The Blessed Island Belt—Torghätta and the Seven Sisters—Scenes within the Arctic Circle—Visit to the Svartisen Glacier—Coasting along the Lofoden Islands—Sea Fowl and Eider Ducks—Reindeer Swimming across the Fjord||89|
FROM TROMSÖ TO THE NORTH CAPE.
|The Sights of Tromsö—A Visit to a Whale-Oil Factory—The Most Northern Town in the World—Bird Islands in the Arctic Ocean—A Picnic at the Base of the North Cape—The Midnight Sun—Perplexities of Perpetual Day||111|
THE VOYAGE BACK TO THRONDHJEM.
|The Lyngen Fjord—Lapp Encampment in the Tromsdal—A Smuke Pige—Lapp Huts and Babies—Reindeer, and their Manifold Uses—Loading Cattle—Farewell Appearance of the Midnight Sun—Scenes among the Steerage||133|
MOLDE AND THE ROMSDAL.
|Christiansund—Resting at Molde—Leprosy in Norway—First Carriole Drive—Struggling with the Norse Language—Walk through the Romsdal||151|
A MOUNTAIN WALK.
|Steamboat Service—A Night in a Mountain Sæter—Primitive Accommodations—A Talkative Farmer—Riding Horseback under Difficulties—An Exhausting Tramp and a Trial of Patience—Up the Geiranger Fjord to Merok—Approach to Hellesylt||169|
ACROSS COUNTRY DRIVE.
|Posting System and Manner of Travelling in the Interior—Characteristics of the Norwegians—A Day’s Carrioling—A Morning Walk—Rival Innkeepers—Scenes in the Hay Fields—Our Third Day’s Ride—Resting at Sande||187|
ON AND ABOUT THE SOGNEFJORD.
|Day on the Sognefjord—Evening Scenes at A Norwegian Hotel—Carrioling through the Laerdal—Borgund Church—The Grandeurs of the Naeröfjord and Walk through the Naerödal—Our Drive to Vossevangen—A Morning Walk to Eide||211|
THE HARDANGER FJORD.
|A Sabbath at Vik—Road Building—Visit to the Vöringsfos—Odde on the Sörfjord—Excursion to the Skjæggedalsfos—The Bruarbræ—From Odde by Steamer to Bergen||231|
|Our Experiences in the “Weeping City”—Scenes in the Fish Market—Rainy Walks about Town—A Beneficial Licence System—Voyage across the North Sea—Up the River Maas to Rotterdam||253|
EXPENSES AND PRACTICAL HINTS.
|What Did it Cost?—The Route and Time Allowed for the Journey—Clothing and Food—Ladies Travelling Alone—The Result of Politeness and Consideration—Conclusion||267|
Lübeck—Journey to Copenhagen—Herr Rentier—Bertel Thorvaldsen—Museums—An Evening at the Tivoli—Souvenirs of Hamlet—A Famous Mother-in-law—The Frederiksborg Palace—An Aimless Widow.
It was on a charming day in June, after an hour’s railway ride from Hamburg, that we arrived at Lübeck—the starting point of our journey through Scandinavia. Lübeck is the smallest of the three independent Hanseatic towns of the German Empire, both Hamburg and Bremen far surpassing her in size and importance, yet at one time she stood at the head of the Hanseatic League—the alliance of the great commercial towns of North Germany.
Architecturally, Lübeck is one of the most interesting places in Germany. You enter the town from the railway station through the Holstenthor, a wonderful mediæval gateway of red brick and terracotta, and soon reach the 18 market-place, on two sides of which rises the venerable Rathhaus, a Gothic building in brick, with many gables, turrets and quaint spires; extending underneath it is the Rathskeller, remarkable for its well-preserved vaulting, as well as for its excellent Rhine wines and claret. The chimney piece in the apartment, where wedding festivities were formerly celebrated, bears the following inscription—a genuine bachelor sentiment—Menich man lude synghet wen me em de Brut briniet; weste he wat men em brochte, dat he wol wenen mochte (Many a man sings loudly when they bring him his bride; if he knew what they brought him, he might well weep).
On one side of the square is the handsome modern post-office constructed in the mediæval style; here and there in the quiet streets we came upon the elaborately carved fronts of the ancient guild halls, and buildings with high steep roofs filled with odd windows like great blinking eyes; in one of the squares is a handsome modern fountain, and before a hotel near by stand two colossal cast-iron lions designed by the famous German sculptor Rauch, while scattered about the city are numerous churches containing interesting monuments, mural paintings and ancient altar-pieces.19
The river Trave winding about the city renders it almost an island; the old ramparts have been converted into promenades and pleasure gardens, and from them one has an extended view of the busy harbor and its shipping, while the many towers, and lofty numerously windowed roofs of the houses and public buildings rising above it, present a striking and picturesque effect. We could not think of leaving the old city without first investing in some of the marzipan, for which Lübeck is celebrated; it is a sort of confect or cake made of sugar and almonds, very sweet and insipid to the taste, and doubtless one must acquire a liking for it the same as for the varied assortment of German sausages.
At four o’clock in the afternoon we stood on the deck of the “Orion,” watching the many tall and slender spires of the churches of Lübeck receding from view, as we steamed onward down the narrow winding river, nine miles to Travemünde, a little sea-bathing resort for the Lübeckers at the river’s mouth, where we entered upon the Baltic. We sat on deck watching the sunset and the outlines of the German coast, the country where we had spent nearly a year and which had grown to seem like home, growing more and more indistinct; the sea was as calm as a mill pond, there being scarcely 20 any perceptible motion; the moon appeared and we remained for a long time upon deck, in perfect enjoyment of the scene, then retired to our state-rooms to sleep soundly until our arrival at Copenhagen, soon after six o’clock in the morning.
Copenhagen impressed us at first like a Dutch city. The long quays covered with merchandise and lined with shipping, and, as we drove to our hotel, the vistas down side streets of canals filled with vessels, reminded us strongly of Amsterdam and the other Dutch dams we had visited.
In many European hotels the servant who conducts you to your room upon your arrival hands you a printed form to be filled out, giving information as to your place of birth, your age, where you came from, where you are going to, and your quality or profession. We had generally written tourist, traveller, or student in answer to the last, but as students are often classed with socialists and other suspicious characters, we registered this time that coveted European title—Rentier (a gentleman living on his income). Later, as we came out of the hotel, on a great black-board at the foot of the staircase we saw, in large letters, so that “he who ran could read,” Herr Rentier E., Herr 21 Rentier K., against the number of our room, and the line of servants greeting us with obsequious bows gave us an exalted opinion of our own importance, but filled us with alarm when we thought of the fees that would be expected from gentlemen with titles associated with big money bags.
The great centre of the life and activity of the city is the Kongens Nytorv (King’s Market), a large square from which radiate thirteen streets. Trees surround a king’s statue in the centre, on the south side rises the National Theatre, the principal hotels and shops are in, or near, this square, and the greater part of the horse car lines centre here. Walking down an adjacent street whose shop windows were filled with tempting displays of terracotta vases, statues, and reliefs, many of them being copies from Thorvaldsen’s works, we came to a large market place, where old women, wearing big white sunbonnets, with white handkerchiefs folded over their shoulders, sat in the open air behind piles of fruit and vegetables. Many of the market girls wore kid gloves, minus the finger ends; one girl, adorned with what were once delicate evening gloves, was selling cabbages, and from the coquettish manner in which she handled them with her soiled gloves, we judged that she considered herself the belle of the market.22
Near by is the Christiansborg Palace, which was partially destroyed by fire in 1884. Most of the walls are still standing, but the interior was completely destroyed. In addition to the royal residence, the long range of buildings surrounding the spacious courts contained the Chambers of Parliament, the Royal Library and Picture Gallery; part of the collection in the last was saved from the flames.
Looking across the great Palace Square we see the tall tower of the Exchange one hundred and fifty feet high, the upper part of which is formed by four dragons, their tails twisted together high in air, until they gradually taper to a point. Tradition says that this curious spire was removed bodily from Kalmar in the south of Sweden.
At one side of the great ruined palace is the Thorvaldsen Museum, the chief attraction of Copenhagen, and the northern Mecca of all art-loving tourists.
Bertel Thorvaldsen was born in Copenhagen in 1770. His father was a ship carpenter and carver of figure heads, and as a child little Bertel went with him to the ship yards and assisted him in his work, showing so much intelligence, that at the age of eleven he entered the Free School of Art.23
Here he made rapid progress in sculpture, but the other branches of his education were so neglected, that at the age of eighteen he could scarcely read and write; his genius for art was born in him, and at the age of twenty-three he gained the grand prize, which carried with it the privilege of study and travel abroad. In after years, when questioned concerning the date of his birth, he always replied: “I don’t know; but I arrived in Rome on the 8th of March 1797,” dating his birth from the commencement of his career as an artist. Years of obscurity and patient labor followed his arrival in Rome; the model of his great work “Jason,” though greatly admired, found no purchaser till in 1803, just as he was about to return to Copenhagen in hopeless disgust, Thomas Hope, a wealthy English banker, ordered its reproduction in marble. From this time forward, fame and prosperity flowed in upon him at full tide. When he returned to Denmark in 1819, his whole journey, in each country through which he travelled, was a series of honors. His reception at Copenhagen was triumphal, and he was lodged as a guest in the Royal Palace. He remained a year, then returned to Rome where he labored assiduously till 1838, when he left, intending to pass the remainder of his days in his native land, but the climate proving too severe 24 he returned, in 1841, to Rome. Having revisited Copenhagen in 1844 he died there suddenly in the theatre. By many he is ranked as the greatest sculptor since Michael Angelo, and is regarded as the most famous Dane of modern times.
The Thorvaldsen Museum was built by the city of Copenhagen, partly from private subscriptions, as a repository for the works of art bequeathed by the great sculptor to his native town; it also contains his Mausoleum, for it was Thorvaldsen’s expressed wish to rest among his works. The building is constructed in the style of the Pompeian and Etruscan tombs enclosing a large open court. Over the pediment of the façade is a bronze goddess of victory in a quadriga; the other three sides of the building are decorated with a series of scenes in plaster, inlaid with different colored cements, representing the arrival and unloading of the ships at Copenhagen in 1838, which had been sent to Rome to bring back the great sculptor, and his works of art, to his native land. The tomb is in the centre of the open court, covered with ivy and surrounded by a low granite frame bearing simply the name, Bertel Thorvaldsen, and the date of his birth and death. The coffin rests in a decorated vault below.25
In the corridors surrounding the court, in the lofty vestibule, and in the forty-two rooms on both floors of the building, are displayed one hundred and nine of Thorvaldsen’s works in marble, besides plaster casts of all the works from his hand, several hundred in number, comprising statues, busts, reliefs, and sepulchral and commemorative monuments: for in every city of any importance, from Copenhagen to Rome, there is found some work from the hand of this prolific genius. Several rooms contain a collection of gems, coins, vases, antiquities and paintings, gathered by the sculptor during his residence in Rome, while others contain his sketches, designs, and furniture from his home in Copenhagen.
Among his most famous works are Jason with the Golden Fleece, Hebe, Mercury, and the Shepherd Boy, the model of which was a beautiful Roman boy. There is a most striking statue of Thorvaldsen, executed by himself, representing the sculptor in his studio, with mallet and chisel in his hands, as he pauses for a moment in his work, and leans upon his unfinished statue of Hope.
The lovely reliefs of Day, Night, and the Four Seasons are familiar to all from photographs; the relief called the Ages of Love, where representatives 26 of all ages are eagerly catching the flying cherubs as they are let out of a cage, so delighted the Pope on his visit to the artist’s studio, and so absorbed was he in contemplation, that he forgot to bestow the customary blessing upon the sculptor.
Perhaps the most impressive of all his works are his Christ and the Twelve Apostles, the models of which are here in the Museum in the “Hall of Christ,” and the originals in marble in the Fruekirke (Church of Our Lady) not far away; the colossal statues of the apostles, at the sides of the church, lead up to the sublime figure of the Risen Christ; and all show the capacity of the artist for appreciating and fulfilling the demands of the Christian ideal. In the same church is a kneeling Angel of great beauty, holding a shell which serves as a font, and in two chapels are exquisite reliefs of the Baptism, and Last Supper.
Copenhagen possesses many museums and collections; among them, the Museum of Northern Antiquities contains an invaluable collection representing the Flint, Bronze, Iron, Mediæval and Modern Periods of Scandinavian civilization, but it is of more interest to the scientist and special student than to the ordinary tourist.
The Ethnological Museum is one of the most 27 extensive in Europe; particularly interesting were the figures in costumes representing life among the Esquimaux and North American Indians, the latter gorgeous in feathers and war paint.
The Church of the Trinity has a tower 116 feet high, called the Round Tower, ascended by means of a wide winding roadway, which would readily permit of a horse and carriage being driven to the very top; from the summit you obtain one of the finest views of the city, divided into islands by the canals and arms of the sea which intersect it in many directions. You look down upon a sea of roofs, broken here and there by gardens and small parks, and bounded upon one side by a sea of blue water, upon the other by the green beech forests of Zealand.
The pleasantest promenade in the city is called the Lange Linie, a wide shaded walk extending along the sea on one side of the citadel, at the end of which are several sea-bathing establishments; it is a favorite resort on an afternoon, and one encounters many promenaders, enjoying the bracing sea breezes and the views of the gleaming waters traversed by numerous steamers and sailing craft. The citadel is surrounded by a moat, but the drawbridge is always down and one enters freely, walks 28 about the earth-works and walls, among the cannon and barracks, and explores unmolested to his heart’s content, in great contrast to the fortresses of Germany, where no stranger is allowed to enter without a permit, and at every step is accompanied by a soldier.
The Botanic Gardens are laid out on the site of the ancient fortifications, and furnish an agreeable lounging place, even if one is not interested in flowers and plants. In this section of the city are many wide streets and boulevards, with handsome modern houses built on the Parisian model of flats. The handsome brick Rosenborg Palace near by is especially interesting from its collection of personal mementoes of the Danish monarchs, who fitted up suites of rooms in the style of their various epochs, and collected here their jewels, weapons, coronation robes, state costumes, and curiosities. In the rear of the palace is a pretty park, open to the public, which is a favorite resort of nurses and the rising generation of Danes.
The part of the city adjacent to the railway station appears to be of very recent growth; its wide streets, lighted by electric light and traversed by horse-cars, are bounded by large hotels and imposing business blocks and houses.
In this quarter is the Tivoli, the most popular 29 resort in Copenhagen, and a most attractive place on a summer evening. It is an immense garden, containing many handsome concert halls, gorgeous pavilions, restaurants, booths for the sale of fancy articles, and every conceivable means of amusement. You pay 50 öre (about thirteen cents) to enter, and are then free to select such entertainment as your fancy dictates. From six to eleven o’clock in the evening there is a change of entertainment every half hour. The first evening we spent at the Tivoli the programme began with a concert from a brass band; then for half an hour in a beautiful concert hall in a different part of the gardens, a string orchestra of sixty performers played selections from one of Beethoven’s symphonies; after which there was a rush to watch, during the next half hour, a trapeze performance in the open air, followed by jumping, tumbling, and walking a wire; the brass band gave another concert; an operetta in one act followed, the audience sitting in chairs beneath the trees before the stage; then came the second part of the orchestral concert, with selections from Wagner’s Tannhäuser. In another part of the garden, a play at a small theatre occupies the next hour, and you begin to feel that you have received many times the worth of the price of admission; and yet the programme is not exhausted.30
As the lingering June twilight deepens, the gardens are illuminated by festoons and arches of lights in colored globes, the façades of the cafés, restaurants, and other buildings blaze with light, and the entire grounds become a picture of enchantment and festivity.
The lively Danes sit at little tables beneath the trees, eat cold sausage, drink beer, and take in the music, the same as their near neighbors in Germany.
You can explore grottos and caves, sit in romantic arbors, or promenade through leafy allées lined with statues, copies from the antique and Thorvaldsen’s masterpieces. If you long to spend a few surplus öre, there are open cars rushing like a whirlwind down one hill and up another much like a roller toboggan; merry-go-rounds with boats furnish you the motion of the Baltic and the sensation of sea sickness on a limited scale, or you can take a cruise on a diminutive steamer up and down a contracted lake; you can gaze upon the fat woman, the living skeleton, or the double-headed girl, peep through a camera obscura, shoot at glass balls, and blow to test your lungs. There is everything for all classes, for this is the great and original Tivoli, which has many imitators, in Germany and other European countries, but still remains 31 without an equal. At stated periods there are fête nights, when fireworks and extra illuminations are furnished, but at any and all times the Tivoli is a pleasant place in which to spend an evening, and one that no traveller should miss seeing.
The Danes spell the name of their city, Kjöbenhavn, but it is difficult to recognize in this combination of letters our New England name of the kissing game with the rope, called Copenhagen, which you, gentle reader, have doubtless played at some period of your life. Perhaps it is a Yankee game after all and not Danish, for nowhere in Copenhagen did we see it played, not even at the Tivoli, where every conceivable form of amusement is furnished.
The environs of Copenhagen offer a variety of pleasing and interesting excursions. The horse-cars will take you in half an hour to Frederiksburg, a very enjoyable ride, as the cars are constructed after the general European model, with a narrow staircase ascending to the roof, upon which are comfortable seats, whence you have an unobstructed view. The Frederiksburg Palace, standing upon an eminence, has been converted into a military school, from the long shaded terrace in front of which you have a beautiful view of 32 Copenhagen, with its towers and spires. The adjoining gardens were occupied by family parties taking their lunch in picnic style, and the neighboring natural park of Söndermarken offered many shady and agreeable walks.
One morning we left by steamer for Helsingör, the trip occupying three hours. We kept close to the Danish coast, calling frequently at the little settlements, for during the first half of the journey there is a continual succession of small sea-bathing resorts, with inviting villas and cottages which were just being opened for the season.
Helsingör, the Elsinore of Hamlet, is a small and uninteresting town, where we found no one who could understand English or German, but had to make our way with the few Danish words in our possession. It is but a short distance to the Kronberg, an ancient fortress built, in 1577, on a low promontory extending out into the sea, at the point where the Sound contracts to its narrowest limits, so that it is but a short distance across to the opposite Swedish town of Helsingborg.
The Kronberg is surrounded by a broad moat and ramparts, and its numerous lofty gray stone towers rise from a steep and many windowed roof; from the flat roof of a great square tower 33 is an extensive view, embracing both the Danish and Swedish coasts, and the narrow Sound, separating the two countries, animated with numerous shipping. The interior of the castle contains a chapel with carved pulpit and choir stalls, and we were shown the apartments occupied by the royal family on the occasion of their rare visits, which are rather shabbily furnished, and filled with very mediocre paintings, painted we judged by contract at so much per yard.
The flag battery looking seaward, where the Danish colors float from a lofty flagstaff and cannon command the entrance to the Sound, is said to be the platform before the old castle of Elsinore, where the first scene of Hamlet is laid, and where his father’s ghost appeared to Hamlet, “the melancholy Dane.”
A short distance north of the Kronberg is Marielyst, a fashionable sea-bathing place, to which we walked along the sandy beach, strewed with shells and seaweed. As it was still early in the season, the Kurhaus was not yet open, and the place had rather a deserted look; nevertheless it impressed us as a very pleasant resort, from its combination of sea and forest; and the many pretty villas in the neighborhood attested its popularity. At a hotel we found English-speaking waiters, and after being served with 34 a good dinner, we visited a pile of stones surrounding a small column said to mark the site of Hamlet’s grave. Our faith in its authenticity was not strong enough to move our feelings or to make us realize that we stood upon hallowed ground; instead of lingering to weep over a pile of stones, that knew not Hamlet, we hurried to Helsingör to take the railway train to another palace. My travelling companion was a German. On the steamer on our way to Helsingör, three German Jews, travelling for pleasure, had approached us seeking to form our acquaintance; they were not disagreeable to me, but my friend, who had a German’s inveterate hatred for a Jew, would not speak to them, and besought me to repel their advances. We had encountered them everywhere,—at the Kronberg, at Marielyst, and they greeted us upon our arrival at the station; so it was evident they were making the same round of sight seeing we were, and my friend insisted, in order to escape them, that we should take a first class ticket, knowing well that they would not follow our example. In Denmark, as in Germany, only blue bloods travel first class, and we received all the attention we should have merited had we been princes of the royal blood.
During our short railway journey we passed by Fredensborg, the summer residence of the 35 Danish royal family, where every summer the most famous mother-in-law the world has ever known holds a family gathering, which comprises nearly half the present and prospective Crowned Heads, Majesties, and Royal Highnesses of Europe. Certainly the King and Queen of little Denmark have made most brilliant matches for their children, and settled them well in life. Their eldest daughter is the Czarina of Russia, their second daughter is the Princess of Wales and the future Queen of Great Britain and Empress of India; the eldest son will be the next King of Denmark, and his brother is the present King of Greece. The Czar seems to especially cherish his mother-in-law, and it is said that only in Denmark can he feel secure of his life, and take a little comfort. It is doubtless to her mother’s careful and practical training that the Princess of Wales owes her lovely character, and that she in turn has made such a good and devoted mother, and is to-day the most popular lady in England. It is pleasant to think of this royal family—parents, children, and grand-children—laying aside the cares of royalty and state, and meeting every summer at the old home, like any family in the lower walks of life, in common love and affection, and enjoying themselves in simple ways.36
We leave the train at Hilleröd, and to escape the Jews take a cab to the palace of Frederiksborg, built upon three islands, in a lake surrounded by beech woods. The islands are connected by bridges, and the situation of the palace, its lofty façades with their finely sculptured windows, its high roofs, and picturesque spires and towers, rising from the transparent water, is very striking. You pass beneath a gigantic gate tower and enter the great courtyard, where in years gone by Christian IV. cut off the head of the Master of the Mint, who had defrauded him. “He tried to cheat us, but we have cheated him, for we have chopped off his head,” said the king. The palace has been thoroughly restored, and since the burning of the Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen has been converted into a National Museum. There are sixty-four rooms, with ceilings of carved wood painted in bright colors, with elaborately carved doors and chimney pieces, beautiful inlaid floors, and wainscotted and frescoed walls, in which are displayed richly carved furniture, bric-a-brac, suits of armor, historical souvenirs, and statuary and paintings mostly by modern Danish artists. The gem of the palace is the magnificent Ritter Saal, an immense hall with a beautiful inlaid marble floor, 37 the lofty ceiling a mass of intricate wood carving, richly gilded and painted in bright colors, composed of pendants, fruits, flowers, figures of cherubs and angels, and divided into sections with carved figures in high relief representing various trades and industries, the whole furnishing a bewildering study of striking richness and detail.
The sides of the long hall and the deep window recesses are hung with beautiful tapestries, and at the end of the hall is an elaborate chimney-piece of ebony and silver, rising to the ceiling and adorned with statues and sculptured groups.
The palace chapel, where the Danish kings were formerly crowned, has likewise been restored and redecorated. The roof is rich with delicate tracery and carving, the light falls through stained windows upon sculptured and decorated arch, the curious prayer chamber where many kings have worshipped rises above the high altar, and around the upper galleries are hung the coats of arms of all the Danish nobles. Opening from the gallery in the rear of the organ is a small room with most beautifully carved doors and exquisitely inlaid wooden walls, framing panels upon which are painted scenes representing the life of Christ, 38 by Prof. Bloch. The fittings and decorations of the room are the gift of Morten Nielsen, the wealthy brewer of Carlsberg beer, the favorite beer of the people of Denmark, and the guide told us the room cost a million crowns (over a quarter of a million of dollars).
An hour’s journey by rail through a pleasant country, amid fertile fields and green beech woods, brought us back to Copenhagen, and at sunset we steamed out of the harbor with its forts, warships, and trading vessels, the spires of the city fading from sight as we sailed up the Sound, passing the great Kronberg fortress with its memories of Hamlet, out into the Cattegat.
Among the passengers were an American widow and her young daughter, who had been turned loose in Europe with a package of Cook’s tickets, and for a year had been wandering around aimlessly. They were going to Norway simply to escape hot weather, and as they could speak nothing but English, and had neither guide book nor fixed plans for their journey, they depended on those they might meet to tell them what there was to be seen, and help them out of their difficulties. We concluded it had been many a day since the aimless widow had had a listener to her complaints, for her tongue was in incessant motion 39 as she unbosomed her troubles. But even its whirr could not drive back the vague uncertain feeling that was creeping over us the farther we advanced upon the rolling Cattegat, and we soon sought the seclusion of our state-room, and passed a restless night until early morning, when we arrived at Gothenburg, Sweden.40
the country where we had spent nearly a year
[This helps explain the multitude of German names in the list of subscribers.]
“he who ran could read”
[In spite of the quotation marks, there doesn’t seem to be a locus classicus for this proverb.]
Thomas Hope, a wealthy English banker
[That’s Thomas Hope, 1769-1831, not to be confused with his brother Henry Philip, 1774-1839, who gave the Hope Diamond its name.]
In the corridors surrounding the court, in the lofty vestibule, and in the forty-two rooms on both floors of the building, are displayed one hundred and nine of Thorvaldsen’s works
[Bear with us. After a while the author will remember that his name isn’t Baedeker and he doesn’t need to bore us with all this stuff.]
the most famous Dane of modern times
[This must come as a surprise to those who thought H. C. Andersen (1805-1875) was much better known.]
the relief called the Ages of Love . . . so delighted the Pope . . . that he forgot to bestow the customary blessing
[Admittedly it would be more fun to be able to say “It so shocked the Pope that he refused to bestow”, but one can’t have everything.]
tower 116 feet high, called the Round Tower, ascended by means of a wide winding roadway
[Instead of stairs, the tower has a shallow spiral ramp. There’s a diagram here.]
open cars rushing like a whirlwind down one hill and up another much like a roller toboggan
[This is not Tivoli’s current roller coaster, which dates back only to 1914.]
A Day at Gothenburg—The Gotha Canal—Life on the “Venus”—Keeping our Meal Accounts—The Trollhätta Falls—Pastoral Scenery—Swedish Boarding-School Girls—Lake Mälar.
Gothenburg, a busy commercial place of about 77,000 inhabitants, is, next to Stockholm, the largest city in Sweden. It is situated on the Gotha river, five miles from its mouth, with an excellent harbor. As it has direct steamer communication with England and Scotland, and close business relations with them, and as many English merchants and manufacturers reside here, it seems almost like an English city. On the steamboat quays, at hotels, railway stations, and in the streets, English is spoken, so that our first impressions of Sweden had a decided English tinge.
The city is well built, with solid stone quays along the numerous canals running through it, is 44 regularly laid out with wide streets, and is furnished with horse-cars, parks, theatres, and all the adjuncts of modern civilization.
At dinner at the hotel we first saw a peculiar Swedish institution called the smörgasbord, which is considered a stimulator of the appetite. All the natives, before, sitting down to the regular table, went to a small side table laden with salted and smoked fish, sardines, fat herring in oil, boiled ham, smoked tongue, cold boiled eggs, potted crabs, pickles, cheese, bread and butter, and standing around the table helped themselves with a fork to a choice morsel, now here, now there, which they washed down with small glasses of gin, brandy, and a liquor called kummel, made from caraway seeds. At every dinner in Sweden you will see the men, and often many ladies, apparently making a good meal from the varied assortment on this side table, and then they sit down to a regular dinner of several courses. It goes without saying, that to one unaccustomed to its use, the smörgasbord, instead of increasing the appetite, causes it to quickly disappear.
It was Sunday afternoon, and we drove out to a large park, a popular resort of the people, where, under the trees and in shady quiet nooks, families and groups of friends were enjoying basket picnics and a healthful rest, in a quiet 45 and orderly manner. Among the females there was an entire absence of hats and bonnets, all wearing upon the head black silk handkerchiefs edged with lace and bead trimming, while those in mourning wore handkerchiefs with wide borders of crape; these were all alike both for old and young, and the general effect was decidedly funereal, though they heightened the charm of the fresh, rosy complexions of the young maidens.
The park has fine, natural growths of trees, and is laid out into drives and walks; and from a lofty ledge of rock there is an extensive view of the city, harbor, and bay with its numerous rocky islands.
A glance at the map of Sweden will show that the country between Gothenburg and Stockholm is largely occupied by lakes; in fact, it is computed that the lakes of Sweden cover nearly one-eighth of its whole area, and the largest lakes in the country are located in the district between these two cities. Connecting links between this string of lakes have been made by a system of canals furnished with locks; rivers and natural water-courses have been rendered navigable, and a line of internal navigation made, connecting the Baltic with the Cattegat and the North Sea. The whole distance by the canal route from the North Sea 46 to the Baltic is two hundred and sixty English miles. Baedeker states that the artificial part of this waterway, including seventy-four locks in all, is about fifty-six miles in length. Four of the locks are for regulating the level of the water. The highest point of the canal is where it enters Lake Vettern, three hundred feet above sea-level. The canal is forty-six feet wide at the bottom, eighty-six feet on the surface, and is ten feet in depth. About seven thousand barges and small steamers annually ply between the North Sea and Lake Venern, and three thousand between Lake Venern and the Baltic. The different parts of the canal between Gothenburg and Stockholm are known collectively as the Gotha Canal; it is the most important system in Sweden, where engineers have accomplished so much in perfecting internal communication.
We decided to make the journey from Gothenburg to Stockholm by the canal route, rather than by railway, although Baedeker strongly recommends travellers in no case to make the whole journey by steamer, as it would prove extremely tiresome and monotonous, and states that the steamers leave much to be desired in point of comfort. Our experience proved directly the opposite; and we look back 47 upon it as one of the most enjoyable parts of our journey in the North, and it shows that the little red book is not infallible, and that a traveller must use his own judgment in the selection of routes.
The “Venus,” which bore us from Gothenburg at noon, is a trim and snug little steamer, stubby and thick-set in build, being a little less than one hundred feet long, that she may just fit into the locks of the canals. There are six first-class cabins, cosy and comfortable, each accommodating two persons, and the space at the stern is occupied by a family arrangement of berths, so that there are accommodations for twenty or more first-class passengers in all. There is a small dining saloon forward, besides quarters for second and third class passengers. As we stood on the upper deck, we looked at our neighbors, forming our impressions of them. One man, wearing rather a shabby nautical suit, and big coarse shoes with rubber soles, we decided was one of the deck hands, until he cocked an eyeglass in his right eye. Heaven save the mark! he proved to be an English marquis! A few pleasant Englishmen, a jolly young Irish gentleman, and a lively Viennese couple, made up the passenger list. As we gathered around the festive smörgasbord and partook of 48 its assorted contents, although our appetites seemed sufficiently stimulated, and then sat down to our first dinner in what was to be our home during the next two and a half days, the social ice was broken, and we soon became talkative and acquainted.
A neat and graceful Swedish maiden, a personified Venus, served us with a well-cooked and palatable dinner. Our ticket, including passage and state-room, cost thirty crowns (eight dollars). The meals were extra, and cost for the whole trip two dollars and a half, making the total expense less than eleven dollars. A dinner for a gentleman costs two crowns, for a child one crown, while the heavenly medium of one crown and a half was the charge for a lady. By this arrangement, what was lost on a lady with a large appetite was gained on a gentleman who was a small eater.
When the dinner was finished, a long and narrow account-book was handed to the gentleman at the head of the table; he entered the number of his state-room, and then began a meal account in Swedish, entering his dinner as en Middag med Öl (one dinner with beer), and the charge which appeared in the list of prices for each meal. This book was passed to each one at the table after every meal, the keeping 49 of the account being left wholly to the individual, and it never seemed to be verified. At the end of the journey each one settled his account as he had kept it, and its correctness was not questioned.
Our course was up the Gotha river, and the latter part of the afternoon we arrived at the Trollhätta Falls, a series of rapids and waterfalls formed by the river, which proved the chief obstacle to the construction of the Gotha Canal. The canal extends for two miles at the side of the river to a point above these rapids, and a series of eleven locks form a gigantic staircase, by which vessels ascend and descend between the North Sea and Lake Venern, one hundred and forty-four feet above. As it requires over two hours for a vessel to pass through the locks, we left the “Venus,” and, under the guidance of a small urchin, followed a narrow winding path through the fragrant fir and pine woods, and along the river’s bank, visiting the various falls, six in number. The finest is the Toppö Fall, forty-two feet high, which is divided by an island reached by a frail, swinging suspension bridge. The great volume of water plunging down the narrow space between precipitous walls of rock renders the falls imposing, and in this respect they are unsurpassed 50 in Europe. The rapids above the various falls are similar to those above and below Niagara, but the Gotha river is much narrower. The roar of the waters, as they rushed and foamed among the great boulders scattered through the rocky ravine, was quite inspiring; but the picturesqueness of the scene was marred by the saw-mills and manufactories along the banks. We were shown the usual collection of Giant’s Cauldrons, Devil’s Kettles, and towers commanding extensive views, and visited the locks of an abandoned canal, which mark the first attempt to pass by these dangerous cataracts.
We arrived at the little village of Torghätta, above the falls, before the “Venus,” and our walk having whetted our appetites we entered a small inn, where, in an upper room with quaint old furnishings, we gathered around the table laden with the varied collection of the smörgasbord. One of the most motherly of old women, in quaint headgear and figured kerchief, brought in fresh supplies, and divined, rather than understood, our few Swedish words. We there tasted the Swedish bread called knäckebröd, made of rye and barley baked in thin circular sheets, eighteen inches in diameter, of the nature of pilot bread or hard tack. It has a liberal sprinkling 51 of anise and caraway seeds, and is crisp and brittle, and pleasant to the taste, but it sadly lacks filling qualities, for one can munch away upon it by the hour, and still seem to have eaten nothing. The plates were piled two feet high with the sheets of knäckebröd, and there seemed an inexhaustible supply when we entered, yet they were nearly at low-water level when we shook hands with the dear old lady and went aboard the “Venus.”
We soon arrived at Venersborg, a town completely surrounded by water, situated at the point where the Gotha river emerges from Lake Venern. As we remained here for half an hour, we left the steamer for a stroll about town; but we found that, like most of the little Swedish towns, it was paved with cobble stones, both sidewalks and roadways; and after ten minutes our feet ached from the pointed stones, and to those wearing tennis shoes the walk became a torture, which we soon ended by returning to the “Venus.”
Lake Venern, one hundred miles long and in places fifty miles wide, is the largest of the Swedish lakes. We passed the night in crossing the lake diagonally, and it proved a smooth passage, though at times severe storms rage here, the same as upon our large inland seas.52
It was the thirteenth of June, the season of long days. At quarter past nine the sun set almost due north; the heavens were ablaze in gold, crimson, and purple, burning in deep colors for over an hour. The twilight was indescribable; so light was it that at half past ten we read with ease the finest print, and not until after eleven did the light perceptibly diminish, and the last trace of the sunset’s coloring fade from the clouds.
The scenery of Sweden cannot be called beautiful, but it is very pretty; it is mild, quiet, and pastoral in its nature, and has much sameness.
Low hills, small lakes, forests of fir and pine, cultivated fields with farmhouses painted red, quiet little villages with small wooden houses and a rustic church,—such are the features of the country traversed by the canal before we reach Lake Vettern, the most beautiful of the great lakes, eighty miles long and twelve wide. The hills on its banks are higher, and the scenery much finer than along the shores of Lake Venern.
Motala is a picturesque place on the east shore of the lake, and here we take on a large addition of passengers, among them a bevy of boarding-school girls returning to their homes 53 in Stockholm. Each girl was decorated with flowers; bunches of flowers were pinned to their hats, and long garlands adorned their dresses. There were very effusive leave-takings, and as the “Venus” bore them from their companions on the quay, the deck was showered with bouquets, and handkerchiefs fluttered until the quay vanished from sight. School girls are the same the world around—chattering, laughing, and full of life. Before they had finished dinner we were all acquainted, and those who could speak English and German were in animated conversation.
When the “meal book” went the rounds for the making up of accounts, the young gentleman from Dublin, instead of the customary en Middag med Öl, entered upon his account one mad dog with oil, which horrified the girls who could comprehend an English pun.
The girls had been to a practical finishing school, where they had been taught all kinds of needle-work, dressmaking, cooking, and everything pertaining to housekeeping. They had made the tasty dresses they wore, and although we had an extra good dinner that day, yet they all declared they could cook a better one. In the school there had been no studying, but while they were busy with the needle one of their number read aloud; they also took turns in 54 being housekeeper and having entire charge of the house. They were well-informed and intelligent young ladies from good families, and were evidently well fitted for practical life.
Our journey now led through a series of small and pretty lakes, connected by canals with many locks, whose course is descending, as Lake Vettern, which we had just left, lies three hundred feet above the Baltic. While the “Venus” was passing through the locks, we walked on the banks of the “raging canal,” a merry party, the Viennese lady acting as chaperon. We were wholly misled as to time by the long lingering twilight, and only turned back when we discovered it was fast approaching midnight; finding the “Venus” in a lock we went aboard to disturbed slumbers, as she passed most of the night in going through locks, and in receiving a liberal supply of bumps.
When we went on deck in the morning we seemed to be in the midst of a deep forest, the canal being like a path through the woods, the branches of the trees meeting above our heads. Later we came out among small rocky islands, where we appeared to be completely shut in, and it was difficult to divine which course the steamer would take, until a sudden turn disclosed an egress. Farther on the course is partly on 55 the open Baltic, and partly among the great ledges of rock flanking the coast, where the intricate navigation requires the utmost skill of the pilot, until we enter the canal connecting the Baltic with Lake Mälar.
While stopping at a little village, women and children gathered around the steamer with baskets filled with kringlor (ring-shaped cakes) and pepperkakor (gingerbread), specialties of the place, and as they were well patronized everyone was soon munching from a paper bag.
Lake Mälar has twelve hundred islands, and is similar in scenery to the beautiful region of the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence river. We now enter upon the most interesting part of our journey. As we proceed down the lake towards Stockholm, we pass an island called the King’s Hat, from a rock surmounted by a pole bearing a large iron hat, to commemorate the tradition that Olaf Haraldssön, a Norwegian king, when pursued by a king of Sweden, sprang with his horse from the cliff into the lake and escaped, leaving his hat behind. On the islands are villas and country houses, their summer residents gracing the lawns and rocks; from concert gardens, gay with flags, festoons, and colored globes, float strains of music across the water, while numerous pleasure 56 steamers and gay boating parties, going from island to island, enliven the scene.
Down the lake, first a lofty spire, then several towers, come into view. What appears in the distance like a cloud of smoke floating above the houses on each side of a tall tower, we discover on approaching nearer to be a network of telephone wires, stretching above the roofs, converging to the immense standard tower above the central office. Now we have a striking view of Stockholm, rising on islands and cliffs from the lake, with its harbor and quays full of shipping, and the palace and church towers standing out prominently.
We say farewell to the officers of the “Venus,” all of whom speak excellent English and have done their utmost to make our voyage pleasant; the school girls flutter into the arms of their parents and friends awaiting on the quay, and our little company of travellers proceed to the same hotel, leaving the “Venus” with most pleasant recollections of our journey across Sweden.
a popular resort of the people
[In the copy of the book used for this etext, some previous reader has circled the word “natives” in the preceding paragraph, and the words “people”, “families” and “friends” in the present paragraph. Who knows why.]
spelling unchanged; expected “Haraldsson”
The Islands and Features of the City—The Westminster Abbey of Sweden—Interesting Museums—The Leading City for Telephones—Scenes at Evening Concerts—The Multitude of Excursions—Down the Baltic to Vaxholm—Royal Castles on the Lake—The University Town of Upsala.
The Grand Hotel is, next to the Royal Palace, the most imposing building in Stockholm. It is situated on a broad quay, near the National Museum, opposite the Palace, overlooking the bridge over the junction of Lake Mälar with the bay of the Baltic, and is near the concert gardens, public parks, and the centre of the city’s activity. Though its appointments are quite palatial, its charges are moderate, a comfortable room costing, with attendance, but eighty cents a day, and one is free to take his meals wherever he chooses.
No city of its size contains so many fine 60 restaurants as Stockholm, and one quickly falls into the custom of the natives of dining at restaurants, in parks and concert gardens, among trees and flowers in the open air, with the accompaniment of good orchestral music. The food is well cooked and inexpensive, and one can live well at a daily expense of less than two dollars for room and meals.
Stockholm, a city of 175,000 inhabitants, is more interesting from its situation than from any striking beauty of its streets and buildings. It is built upon nine islands and the mainland, at the point where Lake Mälar flows into the Baltic Bay, nearly forty miles from the Baltic proper. One of the larger islands contains the immense Royal Palace, a prominent feature in every view of the city, and constitutes with two adjoining islands the headquarters of trade and shipping. This is the oldest part of the town and is called “the city,” it having been the nucleus of the city in its early history, and it was many years before its limits were extended beyond these three islands. The mainland to the south rises abruptly from the water in lofty cliffs; long flights of steps and zigzag streets lead to the top, and an elevator takes passengers up for five öre (a cent and a third), while the charge descending is three öre 61 (four-fifths of a cent), to catch the people who are more liable to walk down. This part of the city is only interesting from its extended views. From the Mosebacke on the summit, one of the finest restaurants in the vicinity, is spread out a delightful view of the city on its islands, of the shipping and traffic on the Baltic Bay and Lake Mälar, and the islands and wooded mainland in the distance.
One of the smaller islands is chiefly occupied by naval and military establishments, and connected with it by a bridge is the Castle island, with barracks and a small fortress. On the mainland to the north is the substantial and well-built modern quarter, with wide streets containing the chief shops, hotels, parks, and museums.
The Riddarholms church in “the city” is the Westminster Abbey of Sweden, as for centuries it has been the burial-place of kings and the most celebrated men of the land. The walls of the nave are hung with battle flags and the armorial bearings of the knights of the Seraphim Order, the highest in Sweden; at the sides are burial chapels, in the aisles are burial vaults and monuments, and you walk over a pavement of tombstones. On the right of the high altar is the chapel, where, in a green marble sarcophagus, repose the remains of Gustavus Adolphus, the 62 most famous of all the Swedish kings, who ranks as one of the ablest military commanders of his age, who by his brilliant victories and career raised Sweden to the proudest position she has ever occupied in history. Between the windows of this chapel are Austrian, Russian, and other battle flags,—trophies of his victories. Adjoining is the Bernadotte chapel, containing in a porphyry sarcophagus the remains of Charles XIV. John, the founder of the present ruling dynasty. During the reign of the childless and unpopular Charles XIII., the dominant party in Sweden, with the idea of conciliating Napoleon, elected Bernadotte, one of his generals, as crown prince. By his steady support of the allies against Napoleon, he obtained at the congress of Vienna possession of Norway, when that country separated from Denmark. In 1818 he succeeded to the throne, and though at first the nation entertained very little regard for their alien sovereign, yet he and his successors have so advanced the material prosperity of the united kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, and have so identified themselves with the interests and national peculiarities of their subjects, that they have won their affection and loyalty.
Beneath the chapels are the vaults containing the remains of the members of successive ruling 63 families. There is nothing beautiful nor impressive about the church; the interior is bare and dingy, every one walks about wearing his hat, without any outward respect for the place or its occupants; people rush down the steps leading to the burial vaults, crowd against each other, peer through the iron bars of the gates at the coffins in the dusky interior, with the same eager curiosity as if viewing the victims at a morgue. Religious services are held here only on the occasion of a royal funeral.
The National Museum is a handsome building in the Renaissance style. It comprises an historical collection of all kinds of objects, from prehistoric to the present time; a collection of ancient and modern sculpture, armor, and weapons; and upon the upper floor a picture gallery, which is of little importance when compared with the famous galleries of Europe; the paintings, however, by modern artists, of Swedish life, scenery, and historical incidents are very interesting, particularly those by Tidemand. In a room containing a display of the coronation robes, uniforms, and gala costumes of the Swedish kings and queens are shown the blood-stained clothes worn by Gustavus Adolphus during his battles in Prussia, and the sheet in 64 which his body was wrapped after the battle of Lützen.
In a small square at the side of the Museum is the Bältespännare, an excellent bronze statue, giving a spirited representation of the old Scandinavian duel, where the combatants were bound together by a belt at the waist, and fought with knives until one, or both, were killed. It is said that the women were wont to carry winding sheets for their husbands when they attended banquets where quarrels were likely to occur. On the pedestal are four bas-reliefs showing the origin and result of the duel—jealousy, drinking, the beginning of the combat, and the widow’s lament. In the last the widow is represented kneeling in grief before the tomb of her husband, the dead duellist.
The Northern Museum is interesting from its figures in costumes, representing peasant groups, brides adorned with heavy gold and silver crowns and trinkets, and family scenes with reproductions of interiors. In one large group of Laplanders, where some are seated in sledges drawn by reindeer, and other figures are gathered about a tent, were several stuffed dogs, as we thought, lying before the tent. They looked so natural that we could not refrain from chirping to them, when with a bound they 65 sprang towards us, much to our dismay, for we expected to see the whole stuffed collection come to life.
There is a large collection of household articles, costumes, and ornaments, all interesting, as they illustrate the everyday life of the people in remote regions, or in past years. Hung against the wall were curious articles in wood, two feet long and six inches wide, with a smooth flat surface on the under side; they were elaborately painted and had handles carved grotesquely, and were used for ironing linen. We saw chairs made of the trunk of a tree, into the seat of which had been driven human teeth, in the belief that this would be a preventive of toothache in the future.
The young women who served as attendants in the Museum were dressed in the Dalecarlia costume, and we saw many in the same picturesque costume about the streets of Stockholm. It consists of a high peaked black cap with red piping along the seams, and a border of white trimming where it rests upon the head; a bright handkerchief worn over a loose sleeved white waist; a skirt of dark blue homespun with little bodice trimmed with red, and a rainbow-striped apron extending in front to the bottom of the dress, complete the striking costume. The 66 jaunty cap sets off the rosy cheeks and fresh complexions of the “midnight sunbeams” thus adorned, while an abundance of silver trinkets, and a small bag swung over the shoulder by a gayly embroidered strap, render it the prettiest costume we saw in the North.
In our walks about the city, we constantly saw in the shop windows—Telephone ten öre; where such a notice is displayed any one is at liberty to enter and use a telephone at a cost of two and three quarters cents. We were told by a resident connected with the central office that, in proportion to its inhabitants, Stockholm has more telephones than any city in the world. We judged there must be a large number of subscribers, from the vast network of telephone wires which was the first thing to attract our attention as we approached the city in coming down Lake Mälar. Stockholm may be slow in obtaining new inventions, but when they come they are generally adopted.
The city has a good horse-car system, with large open cars the same as ours; one can make the complete circuit of the city at the cost of ten öre (two and three quarters cents). The conductor collected the fares in a closed box, much like a child’s bank, and if one did not happen to have the right change, he was given a 67 sealed package of small money to enable him to make his contribution.
It seemed strange indeed to start after nine o’clock to walk out of the city to a high hill, to view the sunset. The sunset coloring is gorgeous, lingering for a long time, and succeeded by a twilight so bright, that at eleven o’clock one can read the finest print. This long twilight is the most enjoyable part of the whole day, and every one is out of doors. The people gather in the King’s Garden, a beautiful public resort adorned with statues of kings, fountains, and bright parterres of flowers; or in the Berzelii Park with its pleasant promenades. Adjacent to both are cafés and concert gardens, bright with lights more for decoration than for use, where bands or orchestras in brightly lighted music pavilions, furnish popular music for the entertainment of the merry throng seated at small round tables under the trees, sipping black coffee, eating ices, and drinking toddy, or the famous Swedish punch made of arrack, wine, and sugar. The stronger liquors seem to be more in vogue than beer, though the latter is good, but stronger and not so pleasant to the taste as German beer.
Within the restaurants, or upon the wide verandas, are gathered family groups and lively supper parties; all are laughing and talking, the 68 busy waiters in dress suits are taking and delivering orders and pocketing fees, and the whole scene is one of great animation.
The Strömparterre is a popular evening resort on an island just below the palace, connected by the Norrbro bridge with the fine quays on each side. It is where the waters of Lake Mälar mingle with those of the Baltic Bay, and is the great centre of the city’s activity, and the principal starting point for the little steamers running in all directions.
Every evening on the brightly illuminated island there is a band concert. Whoever takes a seat at one of the tables before the band stand is expected to order something, but to the crowd of people who sit on the settees at the sides, who stand, or promenade outside the tables, the music is furnished “without money and without price.” All over Stockholm, on little islands, and at the Mosebacke on the heights, are evening concerts which are thronged until midnight, and the glare of lights, and the sound of music is wafted over the quiet waters.
The Swedes make the most of every pleasant hour of their short summer; when they slept we never knew, for even at midnight, as we went to our hotel, the streets were filled with people, and many were still sitting beneath the 69 trees in the gardens; perhaps they hibernate during the long winter, and sleep enough for the whole year.
The Djurgard (deer park) is a delightful public park, occupying an island two miles long and about a mile wide situated a short distance down the Baltic Bay, and is reached by horsecars and several lines of small steamers. It contains many restaurants and cafés, where concerts are given both day and evening, the finest of them all being the Hasselbacken, a favorite resort for dinner parties; there are also numerous summer theatres and places of popular amusement, among them a Tivoli, which is a very inferior copy of its model at Copenhagen.
The park has mostly been left in its natural state; drives and walks extend through its stretches of grassy lawn and natural forest, furnishing views, through occasional openings, of the rocky islands and shipping in the Baltic. A royal villa called Rosendal is situated on the northern side of the park, and upon a hill has been built a tower called the Belvedere, from which there is a view of Stockholm and its surroundings. Many private villas have been built on the island, and at one end near the water is an asylum for the deaf, dumb, and blind; yet a few paces away the rocky ledges and leafy solitudes 70 give the impression that one is a long distance from civilization.
As in Stockholm water is so plentiful and bridges comparatively few, there is an abundance of little steam launches taking passengers for a few öre across the water, or up and down the bay from one island to another. The multitude of these little boats, the steamers running to places on the lake and up the fjords of the bay, together with the large sea-going steamers going out upon the Baltic and to foreign lands, present a scene of ever-changing variety and animation.
The delightful excursions one can make by steamer are the chief charm of Stockholm. They seem innumerable, and I think if one passed the entire summer there he could take a new excursion every day. The long lines of steamers drawn up to the quays, and the lists of places to which they run, were perfectly bewildering; our limited stay permitted us to visit only the most attractive points.
Sight-seeing at Stockholm furnished a restful variety. The mornings were devoted to the museums and sights of the city, the afternoons to steamer excursions up the lake or down the bay, returning for dinner to one of the garden restaurants, and the evenings were passed at the open-air concerts.71
The trip by steamer to Vaxholm occupies an hour and a half; we pass down the Baltic Bay, full of small islands, at many of which, and at points on the mainland, the steamer touches to leave passengers, bound for their country seats scattered along the beautiful wooded shores. The whole family are on the wharf awaiting the steamer’s arrival; paterfamilias is kissed and embraced, the olive branches seize upon his baskets and bundles, and as we steam away the little groups disappear down shady walks, or gather on the wide piazzas of their summer homes. Vaxholm is a small island of rock, a favorite resort of the residents of Stockholm for sea-bathing, who have built here small wooden houses in which they pass the summer. A fortress covers the greater part of an island near by, which commands the only practical approach to Stockholm for large sea-going vessels. In a field beyond the houses of Vaxholm several companies of soldiers were being drilled; from a platform crowning the summit of a rocky ledge we overlooked their movements, and enjoyed the view of the Baltic, thickly strewed with islands and detached masses and ledges of rock emerging from the dark waters.
The royal castle of Ulriksdal is reached by steamer, after a journey of constantly increasing 72 beauty of scenery as we ascend the fjord, with its fertile and wooded shores; the fjord becomes very narrow as we approach the castle, situated on the water’s edge, embowered in trees, with a pleasing prospect of blue waters framed in by green hills. We walked through a fine avenue of noble trees called the Ulriksdal Allée, extending for a mile to a lake, which unfolded lovely views as we crossed by steamer to Haga, and took the horse-cars back to Stockholm.
Another enjoyable excursion is by steamer among the islands of Lake Mälar to the palace of Drottningholm, built upon a large island, where the royal family generally reside from August until October. The palace contains an imposing double staircase, and handsomely furnished apartments commanding views of the gardens and lake. One hall contains portraits of Oscar I. and his reigning contemporaries, among them a very flattering one of Queen Victoria. Near the palace is a theatre, and a Chinese pagoda containing a collection of Chinese curiosities. The gardens are laid out in the old French style, and are adorned with statues, fountains, and parterres of flowers, while the park, with its fine old trees and greensward, abounds in pleasant walks and drives.73
Gripsholm, farther up the lake, is a mediæval castle with picturesque towers and battlements rising from the water, amid dark green trees. Many historical souvenirs cluster around this old castle, which are mostly connected with the sons of Gustavus Vasa. It has been fitted up as a museum, and contains a very extensive collection of portraits of royal and historical personages, and many interesting pieces of ancient furniture, tapestry, and plate.
Forty miles by railway, north of Stockholm, is Upsala, the famous university town of Sweden, the historical and intellectual centre of the kingdom, and the stronghold of ancient paganism. On the brow of a hill, approached by a fine granite terrace and wide flights of steps, is the handsome modern University building of brick, with granite trimmings. The foundation of the University dates from 1477; it has been richly endowed by successive kings, and numbers about fifteen hundred students, who are distinguished about the quiet streets by their small white caps.
Opposite the University is the ancient Gothic cathedral, whose chief object of interest is the tomb of Gustavus Vasa, who lies buried between his first two wives, while number three is interred in a different part of the chapel; the sides 74 of the burial chapel are frescoed with scenes from his life.
The sleepy little town was rather disappointing: its streets are paved with small cobble stones, there are a few promenades, small parks, and concert gardens, with here and there a large building connected with the University, containing a library or a laboratory. On a barren hill is the large and ugly castle built by Gustavus Vasa, commanding an extended view of the surrounding country, in which Gamla Upsala (Old Upsala), three miles away, is visible.
At Old Upsala are the three Kungshögar (king’s heights), mounds over fifty feet high, said to mark the graves of Odin, Thor, and Freya, the three great gods of Scandinavian mythology. Two of these mounds have been opened and a few bones and an urn found.
Another mound is called the Tingshög (assize-hill), from which the ancient kings used to harangue their subjects.
The splendid temple adorned with gold, within which sat the statues of Odin, Thor, and Freya, and the sacred grove adjoining, have disappeared leaving no vestige behind; but a quaint little stone church is said to mark the site of this most sacred shrine of Scandinavian worship, around which clustered the principal traditions of Northern mythology.
one is free to take his meals wherever he chooses
[Under the “American plan”, meals were included in hotel charges.]
[To refresh your memory: 1594-1611-1632.]
Norway, when that country separated from Denmark
[Well, that’s one way of putting it. To punish Denmark for taking the wrong side in the Napoleonic wars, Norway—which had been ruled by Denmark since 1380—was taken away and handed over to Sweden, who had lost Finland to Russia just a few years earlier. Norway and Finland were not, of course, consulted.]
[As his surname indicates, Adolph Tidemand (1814-1876) was not actually Swedish but Norwegian.]
In a small square at the side of the Museum is the Bältespännare
[The author passed right through Göteborg and missed seeing the real thing; Stockholm’s version is a later casting. (The one seen in Göteborg today is still later.) Johan Peter Molin was born in Göteborg, where the statue has its own park, the eponymous Bältesspännareparken.
And now the bad news: There doesn’t seem to be any hard evidence that this mode of single combat ever really existed.]
were used for ironing linen
[I don’t know why he puts this in the past tense; the manglebrett remained in use until superseded by electric irons.]
The Djurgard (deer park)
[Etymologically he’s absolutely right, but in Swedish as in most Germanic languages, djur retains its original meaning of “animal”.]
a very flattering one of Queen Victoria
[Ooh, nasty. Oskar I died in 1859, when Victoria was relatively young and had not yet become a professional widow.]
fifteen hundred students, who are distinguished about the quiet streets by their small white caps
[The male students, that is. The wearing of student caps by female students is a story unto itself. Uppsala University had admitted women since the early 1870s. Its first female Ph.D. came in 1883; the second had to wait until 1900.]
Swedish Railways and Meal Stations—Among the Snow Banks—The Descent to Throndhjem—The Shrine of St. Olaf—North Cape Steamers.
From Upsala we started on a railway journey of four hundred and ninety-four miles across Sweden to Throndhjem (Drontheim in English), on the west coast of Norway, the distance being accomplished in thirty hours, allowing liberal stops for meals en route.
Only second and third class carriages are run upon the road, a second class ticket costing $11.25 for the entire journey.
The second class carriages are very comfortable, and are constructed on the same plan as those in Austria, and like those now becoming quite common throughout Germany. You enter from platforms at the ends, a narrow passage extends the length of the car along one side, 78 upon which open the compartments by double sliding doors. When the compartment doors are open a view is obtained from both sides, and when weary from long-continued sitting one can walk up and down the passage. There are toilet conveniences at one end, and the whole arrangement is a great improvement over the old style, where the compartments are entered from the sides and are entirely separated.
The railway, which was completed in 1882, passes through the eastern part of the great mining district of Sweden, particularly rich in iron and copper mines, and also possessing lead, nickel, zinc, and a few gold and silver mines. The scenery is rather uninteresting, and the small villages of plain wooden houses have little to attract one’s notice. At one place we saw, across the road near the station, a wooden building bearing a sign along its entire length, with this word in large capital letters, all of a size: “J. JOHNSSONSDIVERSHANDEL” (J. Johnson’s variety store), which is as long a word as some of its German cousins.
On the Swedish time tables, a crossed knife and fork before the name of a station signifies that it is a meal station. Our first experience was at Storvik, where we arrived about four o’clock for dinner.79
We entered a dining room, around which were arranged little tables covered with snowy linen; in the centre stood a large table, one end spread with the usual diversified collection of the smörgasbord, at the other were piles of plates, knives, forks, and napkins. The soup is brought in and placed on the central table; each one helps himself, and, taking it to one of the small tables, eats at his leisure; the soup finished you serve yourself with fish, roast meats, chicken, and vegetables, in quantity and variety as you choose, and return to your table. The servants replenish the supplies on the large table, remove soiled plates and bring tea, coffee, beer, or wine, as ordered, to the occupants of the small tables, but each one must serve himself from the various courses, ending with pudding and nuts and raisins. There was none of the hurry, bustle, and crowding usually encountered in a railway restaurant, but plenty of time was given for a quiet, comfortable meal, with no necessity for bolting your food.
For this abundant and well-cooked dinner the charge was forty cents,—tea, coffee, beer, and wine being extra. Your word was taken without questioning regarding the extras, as you paid for them and your dinner at the table from which the coffee was dispensed. The matter of 80 payment was left entirely to the individual, and it never, apparently, had entered the manager’s mind that one could easily have walked off, without first conferring with the woman at the coffee urn.
After dinner there was time for a short walk up and down the platform, and then we continued our journey through a country where the rail fences, red farm houses, pine trees, and abundance of stumps and rocks, made us imagine we were in Maine or New Hampshire, instead of on the other side of the “great pond.” The scenery improved, and in places was beautiful, especially as we skirted the shores of a chain of lakes formed by the Ljusne river; and under a sky burning with the gorgeous coloring of a brilliant Northern sunset, we arrived at half-past nine at the little station where we were to take supper. Here was the same arrangement as at dinner, each one waiting upon himself, and a good supper of fish, hot and cold meats, eggs, tea and coffee was furnished for thirty cents, which is likewise the charge for a substantial breakfast.
There were few passengers on the train, and during most of the day we two had had a compartment to ourselves. There are no sleeping cars on the route, so as it was getting late we closed 81 and fastened the doors of our compartment, drew the curtains to shut out the bright light of the Northern night, and lying on the long seats covered with our thick railway rugs slept undisturbed, until suddenly awakened by a loud rapping at our door. The train was in a station, female voices were calling to us in Swedish, and we sprang up anxious to learn the cause of this unlooked-for visitation. But when the door was opened, the dear creatures beat a hasty retreat the moment they saw us, and evidently were as surprised as ourselves at our meeting; as we soon heard their voices in a neighboring compartment, we knew they had found those they were seeking.
At five o’clock in the morning we arrived at Ostersund, where the train stopped for an hour. We paid four cents and entered a toilet room with marble wash-bowls, brushes, an abundance of fresh towels, and that article which is never furnished free in Europe—soap. After taking bread and coffee, and a brisk walk, we felt as fresh and rested as though we had passed the night in the state-room of a vestibule Pullman.
We had previously congratulated each other on having a compartment to ourselves; on resuming our journey, during the entire forenoon, we were the sole occupants of a whole car.82
We skirt the shores of a series of lakes connected by rivers, and then through a dreary country ascend the range of mountains separating Sweden from Norway. We pass through snow sheds, and between high board fences built to keep the drifting snow from the track (both much simpler in construction than those along the roads crossing the Rocky Mountains), and in the midst of snow banks, enveloped in a thick chilling mist, arrive at Storlien, two thousand feet above sea-level, the last station in Sweden. We gather for the last time about the smörgasbord (we never saw it later in Norway), and a good dinner cheers us in our desolate surroundings.
Then we enter the Norwegian train of second and third class carriages, on the common European model of compartments entered from the sides, with the second class, in their fittings, fully equal to the first of many other countries, and begin the descent to the sea coast. The snow mountains are veiled by clouds, there is little vegetation, barren rocks are succeeded by marshy land and swamps, but soon we emerge from the mist into bright sunshine.
We are the only occupants of the second class carriage; the guard, who speaks English, opens the door as we arrive at a station and tells us 83 how long we are to stop, and following the general custom we get out for a few minutes’ walk, and to look at the natives.
We were both intently reading when the door opened and the guard made this startling announcement: “Gentlemen, this is Hell; we stop five minutes.” We hastily left our seats to see the place against which we had been warned all our lives, hoping at least to refresh ourselves with a few glasses of sulphur water. No fumes of sulphur, no odor of brimstone greeted us, but instead, “a nipping and an eager air” enveloped the forlorn little settlement, even on that summer afternoon. Whatever Hell may signify in Norwegian, this place is decidedly different as regards climate from that of the same name mentioned in King James’ version.
Descending from Hell the railroad runs for a long distance close to the edge of the lovely Throndhjem fjord, with its transparent waters, clusters of islands, and on the opposite side its deeply indented and darkly wooded shores, with a background of pale blue mountains. Then we roll into the most northern railway station in the world, and are in Throndhjem, a city of 23,000 inhabitants, the third largest city in Norway, situated on a line with the south coast of Iceland.84
The houses are mostly built of wood, on very wide streets as a protection against the spread of conflagrations. At the head of a long street stands the cathedral, the most interesting edifice in the North. It is built over the burial site of St. Olaf, the Norwegian king who first introduced Christianity into his country, at the end of the tenth century. A succession of fires has destroyed the interior, which for years has been in process of restoration, and at the present time the nave, from the transepts to the west end, is given up to masons and stone-cutters, who are busy upon its reconstruction.
The choir ends in an exquisitely sculptured octagon formerly containing the relics of St. Olaf, on the south side of which is St. Olaf’s well. Tradition assures us that it burst forth from the place where the saint was buried. The early kings of Norway were crowned and buried here, and, by the present constitution, every king of Sweden and Norway is required to repair to Throndhjem for coronation in this historic cathedral.
Surrounding this old edifice is the “cathedral garden,” so called, a graveyard where each grave is buried beneath flowering shrubs, with vases of fresh-cut flowers before the tombstones, 85 and where the seats beside the graves bespeak an unbroken connection between the living and the dead.
Rising on a high hill just back of the town is an old fortress, now disused, although a sentry still keeps guard upon one of its ramparts. We climbed thither in the twilight, to enjoy the extended view over the old city, with its background of rugged hills, and the river Nid winding through it, with picturesque bridges, old wooden warehouses, and shipping along its quays. Out in the blue fjord is the little island called Munkholm, covered by a fortress commanding the harbor, small islands rise from the water, and across the wide fjord wooded hills extend upward from the shores, and the view is closed by distant mountains.
In one of the streets we saw throngs of peasants, who had come into the city to the weekly market, bringing butter and produce, besides an endless variety of cheeses, rolls of homespun cloth, and linen from the hand-loom. We strolled along the quays, interested in the shipping and the sea-faring men, and visited the finer buildings in the city, built of stone, occupied by shops with a fine display of goods; but we found the place chiefly interesting from its natural beauty and situation.86
Our first impression of the Norwegians was a favorable one, for as we left the hotel and were vainly trying to find our way to a steamship office with an unpronounceable name, we asked a man both in English and German to direct us. Not understanding, but finding out where we wished to go from our pointing to the name in our guide book, he immediately turned and conducted us a long distance, and even when we were within sight of the building would not leave us until we arrived at the very doorway, when he politely touched his hat and disappeared before we had a chance to thank him.
During June and July Throndhjem is full of tourists, who take the steamer here for the North Cape and the regions of the midnight sun.
The steamers start from Christiania and Bergen, but most travellers, instead of taking the long and disagreeable voyage along the coast, go directly from Christiania to Throndhjem by rail, a distance of three hundred and sixty miles. From the middle of June until the end of July two tourist steamers leave Bergen and Throndhjem weekly, and make the trip from Throndhjem to the North Cape and return in eight days. These steamers are handsomely fitted up, take only first-class passengers, and 87 stop at but few places, yet in their course they include the grandest features of the scenery. The price of round-trip tickets, including everything, varies from 250 to 350 crowns ($67.50 to $94.50) according to location of state-room and number occupying the same. There are also two lines of mail steamers coming from Christiania, which leave Throndhjem weekly for the North Cape, and a line of steamers from Hamburg to the North Cape and Vadsö, leaving Throndhjem once a week. The mail steamers run up the fjords along the coast, call at all of the little out-of-the-way places, and occupy eleven days in the round trip between Throndhjem and the North Cape.
The ticket, including passage and state-room, costs 111 crowns ($30), and there is a daily charge, for meals and attendance, of five and a half crowns, making $16.50 for the meals, and a total of $46.50 for the cost of the round trip.
As our object was to see as much of the country and people as possible, and as we preferred to save half the cost of the journey to three days of time, we engaged passage in a mail steamer, and shall always consider ourselves very fortunate to have made this decision; for since making the journey we have often compared experiences with travellers who have 88 been by the tourist steamers, and have found that we saw much more, visited more points of interest, and learned more about the people and the country.
Drontheim in English
[Well, in German, anyway.]
[I think he just didn’t see the word space; it would really be Johnssons Divershandel in two words.]
this is Hell
[Today there are two popular styles of Hell postcard: the ones showing a fiery red sunset, and the ones showing the station covered in snow.]
The Ever-Present Salmon—A Cheese Exhibition—The Blessed Island Belt—Torghatta and the Seven Sisters—Scenes within the Arctic Circle—Visit to the Svartisen Glacier—Coasting along the Lofoden Islands—Sea Fowl and Eider Ducks—Reindeer Swimming across the Fjord.
At noon, June 23rd, we stood on the deck of the mail steamer “Kong Halfdan”; the last passenger with boxes and luggage had come aboard, the bridge was drawn in, cables thrown off, we drew out from the wharf, and steamed down the fjord on our long journey to the North Cape.
The captain, mates, and stewards all spoke English, that being one of the requirements for the holding of their positions, and they were well informed, social, and obliging. We were satisfied with the fittings of the steamer which was to be our home during the next eleven days, and though they were not elegant, they were 92 comfortable, and everything was neat and clean. The state-rooms, each for two persons, contain plush sofas at the sides, converted into berths at night, and between these sofas, beneath the port hole, is a washstand forming a table when closed. Our luggage and belongings were stowed away under the sofas, and arranged in racks and on hooks. There are accommodations for twenty-four first-class passengers. The saloon is at the stern, fitted with an upholstered plush seat extending around the sides, with two tables down the centre, at which we gathered three times daily. On deck is a smoking-room, the chief resort of both ladies and gentlemen, who spend most of the time there when it is too cold or stormy to sit beneath the awning, upon the deck in its rear.
At two o’clock we assembled for dinner, consisting of soup, boiled salmon, entrées, roast meats, and delicious cakes and pastries.
Almost the first word the tourist will learn in Norway is Lax (salmon), for he is absolutely certain to see it upon the table every day during his stay in the country. During our steamer trip we were served with salmon three times daily; it came upon the table boiled, fried, broiled, and smoked; we were served with salmon salad, salmon jelly, and salmon pudding.93
The pudding is the chef d’œuvre of the Norwegian cook’s art. The fish is first separated from the bones, cut into small pieces, and after being chopped fine is mixed with eggs, milk, and flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, and boiled in a mould. It is generally made from salmon and cod or halibut arranged in layers, and as it appears upon the table it looks like a mould of strawberry and vanilla ice-cream, or a variegated Italian cream or blanc mange. Its consistency is somewhat firmer than the last, and as we eat it for the first time at dinner, served after the soup, we were full of wondering and questioning as to what it could be. A lobster or shrimp sauce is eaten with it, and it forms a palatable dish; we did not relish it as well upon its second appearance at supper cut into slices and fried.
The smoked salmon is uncooked, and is cured and prepared much like smoked halibut. It always graces the breakfast table, and we became quite fond of it, although many dislike it exceedingly.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Norwegian salmon are considered the best in the world, and we took on new supplies of them at the little ports, where they had been taken fresh 94 from the water, yet after sitting down to thirty-three meals in succession where Lax in some form was always one of the constituents, we must confess that, though we started upon the voyage with a great fondness for salmon, at its end Lax had lost all its charms.
But we never tired of the delicious lobsters we had every night for supper, which were big fellows like those formerly caught along the New England coast.
As we sat down to the supper table the first evening we imagined ourselves at a cheese exhibition, for arranged down the centre of the table were twelve different varieties of cheese. What they were named we never knew, but all tasted different, and ranged in strength from the mildest of cheese to the Gamla Ost (old cheese), which from its hoary, wizened, and furrowed appearance, seemed to be the grandfather of them all. The Mysost is made of goats’ milk boiled until the water is evaporated, forming a sort of sugar of milk, which is pressed into square cakes of a light chocolate color, weighing from two to five pounds. It is generally quite soft, is cut into extremely thin slices, and at first taste seems to be a sweetened mixture of soap and sand, but one can cultivate a taste for it and grow to like it. It is a great 95 favorite with children and ladies, and often appears on the table enclosed in a case of tissue paper, which is perforated and cut into various ornamental designs, with a bright ribbon tied around the top.
Both at breakfast and supper the table was covered with an array of sardines, anchovies, caviar, fat herring in oil, cold hams, smoked reindeer meat and tongues, and ten different varieties of long cold sausages, from which one was free to cut liberal slices. The whole collection looked as if it had made numerous voyages to the North Cape, and had basked in the midnight sunbeams for several seasons.
We attempted to eat some of the smoked reindeer meat, but it was like trying to masticate an old rubber shoe, and we gave up in despair.
This collection, taking the place of the smörgasbord, constitutes the regular stand-bys at every breakfast and supper, and in addition we were served with fish, eggs, and hot meats. There is always an abundance of food, and good of its kind, but we missed the fruit and vegetables, which, with the exception of potatoes, cannot be grown in Norway except near Bergen and in a few localities in the south; and we tired of the ever-recurring salmon and fish.96
The entire coast of Norway is cut up by innumerable fjords, which are long bays or arms of the sea, penetrating far inland between rocky cliffs, contracting as they advance until many of them end in narrow creeks. Extending along nearly the whole coast is a fringe of islands, forming what is called the “island belt.” The course of the steamer is between these islands and the mainland, so there is very little motion, and it is only where there is a break in this belt of islands, when the steamer crosses a wide fjord where it opens into the sea, or goes out into the open ocean, that one feels the swell and movement. As the steamers continue within this “blessed island belt” the greater part of the way to the North Cape, the voyage is mostly robbed of the miseries of sea-sickness.
The first night of the journey was Saint John’s eve. Following an ancient custom, great bonfires blazed along the coast, from eleven o’clock until after midnight. Wherever there was a small fishing settlement, little farm house, or solitary hut,—high on a neighboring rocky point the flames leaped heavenward; both forward and in the rear the coast glowed with these great spots of fire, and amid the solitude, wild scenery, and bright twilight, the effect was extremely weird. It was the evening of the longest day of the 97 year, and although we were not yet within the region of perpetual day, yet at half-past eleven we could read fine print with ease, and the captain said it would grow no darker.
Seen from a distance, a mass of rock forming an island looks like a man’s hat floating on the water, the crown and broad rim being distinctly outlined. It is called the Torghätta (market hat), and about half way up the crown, which is eight hundred feet high, it is pierced by a natural tunnel, whose east entrance is sixty-two feet high and west end two hundred and forty-six feet high.
As you pass on the west side and are opposite the tunnel, the opening at a distance appears like a patch of snow upon the dark rock; approaching nearer you see the walls of the tunnel, with a view of the sky through the smaller opening on the east side, yet after advancing a certain distance in the steamer and looking backward, nothing is seen but a solid wall of rock with no intimation of an opening.
There is a legend connected with the rock, that while a maiden was pursued by her lover, her brother attempted her rescue; the lover shot and pierced the brother’s hat with an arrow, and the sun shone through the opening, changing the maiden into stone. Not far away, a 98 curiously shaped mountain is known as the Giant Maiden, to which the Norwegians doff their hats as they sail by.
What are called the Seven Sisters is a group of six mountains, the summit of one being divided into two peaks, rising precipitously three thousand feet above the water; when we passed them their summits were veiled in clouds, and the captain facetiously remarked: “They have their nightcaps on, and like most Norwegian girls are coy and afraid of showing their faces to foreigners.”
In places along the narrow fjords we saw white marks and stripes painted on the rocks, and planks painted white, floating in the water, for the purpose of deceiving the salmon, that mistake them for their favorite waterfalls, and are thus decoyed into nets.
We stop at little stations with clusters of small red houses; the natives row out to us in graceful boats with high pointed stern and prow resembling the Venetian gondolas, bringing us passengers whose belongings are contained in gaily painted and decorated oval wooden boxes, of various sizes, ranging as large as a trunk. Heavy boxes of merchandise and supplies are lowered over the steamer’s side into the larger boats, the rowers laboring hard, as we steam 99 away, to row their heavy load to the shore. At every place we leave the mail, for the steamer has a well-regulated post-office aboard, with a postmaster and assistant, who worked night and day during the first part of the journey, but they take their ease later, as we go farther north where stations are few, and the mail has been mostly delivered.
During the second day we crossed the Arctic Circle in latitude 66° 50’. The coast of Norway presents a wonderful combination of ocean and mountain scenery. Mountains rise abruptly from the water over three thousand feet high, their summits capped with snow, and masses of snow and ice in their rugged rocky clefts; waterfalls leap a thousand feet down the sides of barren mountains, seeming in the distance but small cascades like narrow bands of silver; glaciers from the realm of eternal ice, extending for miles on elevated plateaux four thousand feet above the sea, push their crystal mass around snowy peaks and crowd their way between mountains, sweeping away immense boulders and ploughing deep into the granite walls, on their downward course to within a few hundred feet of the sea.
The steamer turns up winding fjords between straight walls of rock, with here and there a 100 less barren aspect, where dark fir and pine trees clothe the sides, or a solitary farm house in the midst of a few acres of cultivated land gives token of civilized life. We thread an archipelago of detached masses of granite; rocky ledges rise above the crested waves; here little islands, the home of the eider duck and other sea fowl; there, great solitary islands the abode of fishermen, who have spread their nets upon the rocks and drawn their boats into sheltering coves. The way seems lost amid a maze of islands, when a turn brings us out upon the open sea, where the foaming waves dash against the rock-bound coast, and sea gulls whirl around the steep cliffs. Over all is the unending daylight glorifying mountain, glacier, and sea, and with every turn the prospect changes and fresh grandeurs are disclosed.
As we advanced amid this magnificent scenery we proceeded up a narrow fjord, where the glorious sight of the Svartisen glacier burst upon our view. The Svartisen is the second largest glacier in Norway, an enormous mantle of snow and ice forty-four miles long and covering a space of sixty-two square miles, spread out upon a plateau thousands of feet high, from which protrude snowy peaks. From this plateau descend several glaciers between the 101 mountains, and we now viewed the one which descends the nearest to the sea. The bright afternoon sun shone upon this grand glacier, which for ages has been moving slowly downward, until its glittering mass of snow and ice extends almost to the blue water. Nothing could be more beautiful than this pure-white congealed stream, as we view its course, flowing from the great ice-fields above, amid its dark framing of barren rock, down to the green slopes at the base of the mountains.
We landed in small boats upon the rocky shore and started to walk to the glacier, but the distance, which from the steamer seemed but a few rods, lengthened into over a mile. After two days of confinement upon the steamer it was a great pleasure to walk along the rocky shore, gathering shells, sea-moss, and new and strange flowers blooming upon grassy slopes just beyond the rocks. At last we stood at the base of the glacier, which towered above us more than thirty feet; great pieces of ice had been broken off and stood detached in pools of water, or were piled against each other; as far as we could see, the surface of the glacier was of pure white, in great contrast with the Swiss glaciers, so soiled and dirty from piles of stones and great moraines. As we looked down the 102 deep crevasses penetrating into the recesses of the glacier, we found that the ice was a beautiful dark blue, rivalling in tint the bluest of skies. We climbed up the glacier a short distance, but found it too difficult and dangerous an undertaking, and were content to walk along its margin, lost in wonder before this great crystal storehouse.
In beauty and grandeur the Svartisen glacier far exceeds anything we had seen in Switzerland; even the fine glaciers about Pontresina, Zermatt, Chamonix, Grindelwald, or those that sweep around the base of the Eggishorn, are surpassed by this pure-white glacier in the far North. We were rowed back to the steamer after two hours upon land, and as we sailed away we watched until the last moment the wonderful Svartisen, which was one of the most beautiful sights of the whole trip.
As we were within the Arctic Circle we all anticipated seeing the midnight sun for the first time, and remained late upon deck, but the heavens were covered with clouds and no sun made its appearance; yet it was as light as day, and some of the passengers, while waiting for a glimpse of the sun, were writing letters at midnight.
In these high latitudes, with their combination 103 of ocean and mountains, one must expect cloudy and rainy weather. At times mist, clouds, and rain shut out all the beautiful scenery, and it was very disappointing; yet many views we lost going north, on account of bad weather, we enjoyed on our way back.
At Bodö we left the “island belt” and crossed the wide Vest fjord, where we soon began to feel the motion of the sea, to the Lofoden Islands, grouped in a curve resembling a horn. These islands are a bewildering collection of mountains, straits and bays, while thousands of rocky islets form, as it were, a fringe to the larger islands.
The view of the Lofoden Islands as we approached across the fjord is magnificent; long lines of mountains rise directly from the sea between three and four thousand feet high, their tops ending in sharply outlined pinnacles, with patches of snow on the summits and sides, and often a cloud floating upon the highest peaks. The mountains are great masses of dark rock wholly destitute of vegetation, except a covering of green moss which is luminous especially in damp weather.
All day we cruised along the islands, calling at the little fishing hamlets to leave mail, freight, and passengers. At a small settlement called 104 Kabelvaag, as we threaded our way among a maze of rocky reefs and islands, we got aground, and it was nearly an hour before we were floating again; the water was so clear that we could distinctly see the rocks and ledges on the bottom, until it was stirred up by the steamer in trying to get free. At Svolvaer the scenery reached its climax; the mountains rose almost straight out of the water, their rugged walls of rock seamed and chiseled by nature into weird forms, with scarcely room at their base for the little collection of fishers’ huts and fish-packing houses, dwarfing everything by comparison with their lofty summits, thousands of feet high.
The Lofoden Islands are famous for their fisheries, as well as for their imposing scenery. From the middle of January until the middle of April millions of cod come to spawn off the east coast of the islands, and are caught with net and line by the twenty-five thousand fishermen, who flock there from all parts of Norway. The average annual yield is estimated to be twenty millions of fish, and some years as many as twenty-nine millions have been taken. Nearly six thousand boats congregate at the three principal fishing banks, a mile from the islands, for the winter fishing, which is often attended with great loss of life, when a gale prevents the boats 105 from returning to the islands and drives them across the wide and stormy fjord, capsizing them before they reach the mainland.
The fish are nicely cleaned, split, and hung upon long wooden racks to dry, and others are slightly salted, carried to the mainland, where the atmosphere is less damp, and spread upon the rocks. They are shipped all over Europe, a great quantity being sent to Spain and Portugal. The vessels bring back Spanish and Portuguese wines on their return voyage at very cheap rates, and as a result you can buy port and sherry wines cheaper in Norway than in any other country in Europe, except where the wines are made.
Upon several of the islands factories have been erected, and the cods’ heads, which are first dried on the rocks, are pulverized and converted into fertilizers; at many places we saw great stacks and piles of fish drying on the rocks, and heaps of cods’ heads awaiting transportation to the factory, whose proximity was made known by the penetrating odor, sufficiently strong to travel to the North Pole.
The Lofoden Islands are also the seat of the great cod liver oil industry, and the choicest brands of this life-renewing cordial are sent on their errands of mercy, broadcast over the world.106
The steamer bears us amid new and striking views of the grand scenery of the islands and also of the mainland, where across the fjord, which grows narrower as we go northward, long ranges of snow mountains in ever-changing forms rise from the water, and we are within a circle of giant peaks of savage and stupendous grandeur.
Many consider this the grandest scenery of the whole Norwegian coast, and affirm that nothing in Europe surpasses it.
Small local steamers make the circuit of the Lofoden Islands, calling at all the little hamlets; but to fully enjoy the journey one should be a good sailor, for along the west side of the islands one is exposed to the full sweep of the waves of the Atlantic.
To the south of the islands is the celebrated Malström, a cataract formed by the tide pouring through a narrow strait, where the water foams and seethes over deep sunken ledges, and presents an imposing scene when a contrary wind strikes the angry billows.
As we steamed along a fjord in the midst of superb scenery, we remained on deck watching again for a view of the midnight sun. The sun was behind a high mass of rock jutting out into the fjord; across the water the snow mountains glistened and glowed in the sunlight, and the 107 water sparkled beneath the midnight sunbeams. It was half an hour before we passed the rocky hill hiding the sun’s disk, and when we arrived at the point where we should have seen it, the sun was obscured by clouds. The stilly hour of midnight was as light as day, and even without bright sunshine the effect was indescribably lovely, as the mountains, islands, and sea were bathed in the mellow light.
In the far North, millions of sea gulls whirl around their rocky eyries, and circling over the steamer dart downward to skim over the water, bearing away a fish as their prey; wild ducks and sea fowl of various kinds fly through the air, and the greyish-brown eider ducks are seen on the reefs and rocky islets.
There is a law prohibiting the shooting of the eider ducks, from which a large revenue is obtained. The ducks congregate on the little islands, where they build their nests, lining them with the soft fluffy feathers which they pluck from the breast. The natives visit the islands gathering the feathers from the nests, which the birds proceed to reline, thus furnishing the eider down of commerce, that is so extremely light and warm, and is used so extensively for the filling of quilts, pillows, and the small square feather beds under which the Germans 108 especially delight to sleep. The finest of the feathers are made into wraps and garments that are marvels of lightness and warmth.
We had some eider ducks’ eggs boiled for breakfast; they were four inches long, with a beautiful bluish-green shell, but their taste was too strong to be palatable.
Among the cabin passengers was a young Englishman, who stammered so badly that at times he was wholly unintelligible. He could speak but a few words of Norwegian, yet he left the steamer at a little out-of-the-way place intending to go into the interior to fish for salmon, being very confident that with the aid of his phrase book he could make himself understood.
As he would stand, apparently for several minutes, helplessly struggling with his l’s before he could say l-l-l-l-l-l-lax, we wondered if the short Norwegian summer would be long enough for him to pronounce such simple little words as gjaestgiveri, bekvemmeligheder, or gjennemgangsbilletter, and others of like length, that go to make up a Norwegian conversation, and which it would seem to require the nimblest of tongues to glide over.
What his fate was we never learned, but perhaps the unfortunate stutterer fell a victim to 109 his own temerity, choked by the first mouthful of Norwegian consonants, and lies buried beneath a lofty pyramid of cods’ heads.
Suddenly, on a quiet afternoon, all was excitement on the steamer’s deck, as we gathered to watch a large herd of reindeer swimming in a long line across the fjord. Laplanders in rude boats were following them, shouting and urging them on; the reindeer uttered shrill cries, resembling the yelping of a dog, swimming in the water with little but the heads and branching antlers visible, until the leader reached the opposite shore, and, the others following, they gathered on the rocks and scattered over a grassy slope, till the Lapps had driven the last from the water.
The Lapps were driving them to fresh pastures, and the captain told us we were very fortunate to have seen them, for it is a sight seldom witnessed, as a calm and still day must be chosen, when the water is smooth, with as little current as possible, and they also endeavor to select a time when no steamer is liable to pass.
We came upon them just as the rear of the line was in the middle of the fjord; the steamer turned to one side, affording us a good view of the interesting sight, and passed without frightening the reindeer.110
Our voyage northward from Throndhjem had been in the province called the Nordland, but soon after passing the Lofoden Islands we entered Finmarken, the most northern province of Norway, and advanced through a series of magnificent fjords to Tromsö.
[For the Torghatten legend, with the Seven Sisters, see Norway’s wikipedia.]
Gamla Ost (old cheese) ... seemed to be the grandfather of them all
[The author is being remarkably tactful. If you can’t find gammalost in your local market, you can make your own by leaving a chunk of ordinary cheese in the back of your refrigerator and forgetting about it for a few years. A similar phenomenon was noticed by the authors of Three in Norway:
“We have never noticed any description of food which [a Norwegian] does not make sour, rather than eat it when sweet. Bread, milk, cream, and cheese, jam and cabbages, for instance, are articles which he prefers fermented or sour.”]
The Mysost is made of goats’ milk boiled until the water is evaporated
[It’s really made from whey, and is more often just called geitost.]
dark fir and pine trees
[If the book had been not only undated but anonymous, this would have been a dead giveaway that the writer’s native language was in fact English. Swedes and Norwegians invariably render gran—their basic evergreen—as “spruce”. Lacking native-speaker intuition about marked and unmarked forms, they go with a strictly botanical translation.]
but a few rods
[Why on earth did this surpassingly useful unit of measure ever fall into disuse? One rod = 16.5ft = 5.5yd = a hair over 5m, making it just right for distances in the outdoors.]
the surface of the glacier was of pure white ... this pure-white glacier
[... making one wonder why it is called Svartisen]
such simple little words as gjaestgiveri, bekvemmeligheder, or gjennemgangsbilletter
[Since the words mean “inn” or “hotel”, “comforts” or “conveniences”, and “through tickets”, the unfortunate stutterer probably got along fine without them while fishing for salmon.]
The Sights of Tromsö—A Visit to a Whale-Oil Factory—The Most Northern Town in the World—Bird Islands in the Arctic Ocean—A Picnic at the Base of the North Cape—The Midnight Sun—Perplexities of Perpetual Day.
Tromsö, the chief town in Finmarken, numbers fifty-five hundred inhabitants; it is situated upon an island with a background of snow mountains across the gleaming fjord. Above the town, a number of pleasant villas and wooden houses extend along the heights, one of which was pointed out by a Norwegian passenger as his home. This gentleman during the journey had conversed with equal fluency in Norwegian, English, French, and German. The Norwegians are good linguists, and it is surprising to find so many who speak such excellent English.114
The harbor is a busy place, full of vessels of many nationalities, among which were those bearing the flags of Russia, Germany, and France. They bring merchandise of various kinds and take back cargoes of fish, train oil, and furs. Many small boats came out to meet the steamer and we were rowed ashore at the fixed charge of three cents each.
It was after ten o’clock in the evening, but the streets were full of people and the stores all open. The first mate hunted up the custodian of the museum, and we had the novel experience of viewing its collections, thus late in the evening, by the bright light of perpetual day. There were fish, birds, mammals, and minerals peculiar to Norway, costumed figures illustrating Norwegian and Lapp life, together with an array of wood carvings, ancient ornaments, and old furniture. But more interesting than the figures of the Lapps in the museum were the live Lapps in the streets, who live in Tromsö, and appear a little more civilized than those in the neighboring encampment. They are short in stature, oily and dirty as to looks, clothed in a loose garment belted at the waist, some being made of coarse cloth, others of reindeer skin worn with the hair turned inward. On the head were brightly colored caps, their legs were 115 encased in reindeer leggings, and they wore moccasins of reindeer skin ending in pointed toes.
They gathered around us laden with rude articles of their own manufacture, for sale, consisting of small spoons made from reindeer horn, knives like daggers in reindeer-horn cases, and caps and shoes such as they themselves wore. They spoke Norwegian, and we made them understand by signs and the few words at our command that we would give the half of their asking price, which in time they were glad to accept.
The shops were full of interesting photographs and curiosities; the largest stores contained rich furs, fine wolf and bear skins, and handsome cloaks made from cider down.
Tromsö has several hotels, schools, churches, a bank, telegraph office, and its wide streets are lined with comfortable houses mostly built of wood: altogether it impressed us as an active and thriving place. We were followed by a throng of Lapps to the wharf, who offered us great bargains as we stepped into small boats and were rowed out to the steamer.
As we left Tromsö, at about twelve o’clock, the subdued light of the midnight sun, veiled by a fleecy cloud, shone upon the long range of snow-clad 116 mountains across the fjord; the magnificent sight chained us in rapturous contemplation, and we remained on deck until the glistening mountains vanished from view.
In the quiet midnight hour, when all nature is awake, when bright daylight illumines imposing views of mountains and sea, one loses all thought of sleep, and it is a struggle to leave the enchanted scene for your state-room, and, shutting out the light with thick curtains, seek needed rest and sleep.
The next morning we were called before six o’clock, and in small boats were rowed to an island to visit a whale-oil factory. We rowed in and out among seven whales, several of them fifty feet long, floating like great hulks in the water; two whales had been cut up and their blood had colored the water for quite a distance; so as we pulled for the landing we seemed to advance through a sea of blood.
On a great platform, surrounded by deep pools of blood, lay two immense leviathans of the deep; the skin and thick layers of flesh had been stripped from them and lay about in oozing piles; men, their clothing from head to feet reeking with gore, chopped and slashed away like demons inside the great carcasses, which seemed like bloody wrecks; the crash and noise 117 of the machinery used in moving and denuding the monsters was deafening; it was a carnival of blood and slaughter, and we grew sick and faint at the sight. Picking our way amid the pools of blood and piles of flesh, we went into the oil factory, where the great rolls of blubber and flesh are cut by machinery into pieces, and then placed in boilers; much of the flesh looked clean and white like thick strips of very fat pork. By steam the contents of the boilers are tried, until all the oil contained in the blubber and flesh has run through pipes into large tanks. Some whales will produce sixty barrels of refined oil.
The best of the flesh is canned and placed on the market bearing French labels; some is cured and smoked, and other choice bits are made into sausages.
The residue in the boilers, after the oil has run off, is dried and ground into a feed for fattening cattle, who eat it readily; it has the color and appearance of ground coffee. The bones are made into fertilizers, and it will thus be seen that, when a whale has passed through this factory, nearly every part has been utilized. We took as a souvenir a whale’s inner ear, a bony structure somewhat resembling in shape a snail’s shell nearly closed, six inches long.118
We saw the inside arrangement of a whale’s mouth. On each side of the upper jaw are long thin plates of whalebone set close together like the teeth of a comb, and fringed at the edges with a substance resembling thread. These plates, which furnish the whalebone of commerce, extend along the jaw from six to twelve feet, according to the size of the whale, their use being to retain the great assortment constituting the whale’s food. A whale opens his capacious jaws, taking in a mouthful of water, fish, and many forms of sea life; the water is forced out between the whalebone plates, which keep back the solids, and down goes the living collection à la Jonah, without chewing, into the whale’s big belly.
The harpoon, with which the whales are killed, is a stout iron rod or spear five feet long, with an iron ring at one end; it is shot from a cannon on the ship, which sometimes approaches within forty feet of the whale. When it enters, an immense cartridge explodes, killing the whale, and lifting four arms near the point of the harpoon which fasten into the whale, and it is towed ashore by ropes attached to the harpoon’s ring. From April till August, a great many whales are killed off the north coast of Norway, which are attracted by the schools of fish swarming there at that season.119
It is perhaps needless to say that though the visit to this whale factory was intensely interesting, it was also extremely disagreeable. The smell of the boiling blubber, the great tanks of oil, and the heaps of fertilizers, is beyond description. It was only by holding our noses and stuffing handkerchiefs into our mouths that we were able to complete the tour of inspection. We returned to the steamer unable to eat any breakfast, though we had taken but a roll and cup of coffee on leaving, and several of the ladies ended by being sea-sick. The terrible odor clung to our clothes even after we had spread them on deck in the fresh air; the trophies of whalebone and whale’s ears which we brought back to the steamer converted the air of our state-rooms into miniature whale factories, and for the remainder of the voyage it was only necessary to say “whales,” to send a look of disgust over every countenance.
Hammerfest, the most northern town in the world, is situated in latitude 70° 40’, and contains twenty-one hundred inhabitants.
The wooden houses comprising the town are mostly built upon a small promontory jutting into the sea, back of which rises abruptly a high hill whence have fallen avalanches of rock, altogether too near the houses, one would judge, 120 for the peace of mind of their occupants. In fact, the hills and boulders have left little room for the town that extends along the shores of the bay, where are situated numerous fish houses, and long wooden frames on which are hung fish to dry, with occasional figures, dressed like scarecrows in a New England cornfield, perched among the fish to frighten away the sea fowl and prevent their devouring it. A few little stone huts with turf roofs are the abode of some half-civilized Lapps; there are shops for the sale of Lapp costumes, furs, walrus tusks, and quaint Norwegian boxes; the windows of many of the houses were bright with flowers and potted plants; we heard the notes of a piano; and even here, at the north end of the world, the people seemed to have many of the comforts and enjoyments of civilized life.
The harbor was full of steamers and sailing vessels loading with fish and oil, and the pungent odor of cod liver oil and of the fish drying along the shores pervaded the place.
Out upon the north promontory a granite column has been erected to commemorate the measurement of the number of degrees between Ismail, at the mouth of the Danube, and this point, by the geometers of three nations, under order of Oscar I. and the Czars Alexander I. and 121 Nicholas. Seaward is a continuous line of snowy mountains rising one above the other, and thickly dotting the bay are islands and rocky reefs.
We remained but a few hours at Hammerfest, and then continued on our way to the North Cape, a journey of about four hours. On reaching the island of Hjelmsö, with high barren cliffs rising straight from the water, the steamer stops, the shrill whistle is blown, and two small cannon on the steamer’s prow are fired. Immediately thousands of sea fowl, the sole occupants of the island, fly from the cliffs uttering shrill cries; the air is filled with them as they circle wildly around until they return to the cliffs, filling every crevice and space on the rocks, the gulls looking like white dots on the black surface.
When all is quiet the cannon are fired again, and the birds rise in a cloud, filling the air like so many great snow flakes, flying around the ship uttering plaintive cries, then settling back to their rocky home. Four times was the whistle blown and the cannon fired, and as the echoes died away we heard the whirr of thousands of wings cleaving the air, and watched the wild fright and disorder of the great collection of sea fowl; then leaving them in peace we steamed out upon the Arctic Ocean.122
The long sweeping waves pitched our good ship about, yet we kept onward amid desolate scenery, till rising before us we saw the huge form of the North Cape—the goal of our long journey. This great mass of rock, its seamed and furrowed sides destitute of vegetation, rising almost perpendicularly nearly one thousand feet above the dark water, is an imposing sight, and the impression is one never to be forgotten.
The captain intended to anchor and we were all to fish for codfish, which he described as exciting sport, as the fish are large and abundant, and at times they are pulled in so rapidly that the deck is covered with them; but though the lines were set, the pitching motion began to affect many of the passengers so severely that we decided to abandon the fishing, and to run into a little bay formed between two projections of the Cape, and to land. The small boats were lowered, and it was an exciting scene as we descended the steps at the side, stepped into the pitching boats, and were rowed landward, the great waves bearing us in upon the shore among the rocks and dashing surf.
What was our surprise to find at the base of the North Cape, extending from the border of rocks along the shore, a narrow grassy slope, where were growing beautiful violets, forget-me-nots, 123 buttercups, and many flowers we had never seen before. It was six o’clock in the afternoon, the weather was the finest of any time during the whole voyage, the sun shone from a cloudless sky, and we marvelled to find it so warm that overcoats and wraps were uncomfortable. The stewards brought dishes and food from the steamer, and sitting upon the grass, with the waves dashing upon the rocks at our feet, we enjoyed a delightful picnic supper. We gathered flowers, searched for pebbles, peculiar-shaped stones, or anything of interest cast up by the sea, and at nine o’clock began the steep climb to the summit. The only building at the North Cape is a little hut, in which a man lives in summer during the tourist season, who has a supply of wine, mostly champagne, which he carries to the summit and sells to visitors to celebrate their view of the midnight sun, or to console them in their disappointment at not seeing it. Letters have been received from foreign countries directed Poste Restante, North Cape, but their delivery was about as impossible as if directed Post Office, North Pole.
A rough and narrow path ascends the side of the Cape in steep zigzags, at the sides of which are long ropes, attached at the ends to the rock, which are a great assistance in pulling yourself 124 up; great banks of snow lay beside the path as we ascended; and in places steps had been cut in the steep rock. As we rested on our upward way, extended views of the ocean were spread out before us, in which the only sign of life was our steamer in the bay far below, dwarfed into diminutive proportions.
The summit of the North Cape is a long, level, barren plateau, across which we walked to a granite column at the north end, erected to commemorate the visit of Oscar II. in 1882. A wire, attached to low posts, marks the way; it is a necessary precaution, as people are often overtaken by thick mists and fogs, who would wander completely bewildered, and perhaps fall down the precipitous sides, without this guiding wire.
At last we stood at one end of the world, for the North Cape, in latitude 71° 10’, is the most northern point of Europe, and going to the edge of the steep cliff and looking downward we saw the waves breaking at its base, a thousand feet below. It was eleven o’clock in the evening on the 28th of June; the sun was behind a cloud, but its rays fell upon the water, and the mountains glowed in the subdued light. The ocean lay at our feet calm and almost motionless; southward extended long lines of barren mountains, 125 until their dim outlines blended with the distant horizon; northward the unbroken expanse of the unknown Arctic Ocean stretched toward the unexplored polar regions. Only to a little over a dozen degrees of latitude north of this point has man penetrated, for Lieut. Lockwood, in latitude 83° 24’, attained the highest point reached, which is four hundred and fifty-six miles from the north pole, and eight hundred and fifty-four miles nearer the pole than the North Cape is. Yet how great has been the cost of these polar expeditions! How many victims have perished in the frozen North, or escaped from its clutches ruined in health!
Not a ship, not a sail, could we see; not a sign of vegetation save a few lichens and short moss clothed the barren rocks; not a sound nor indication of life save the cry of the sea-gull, as it circled round its rocky home, broke the eternal silence. It was a sublime sight, but oh how desolate! Never before did the world and all it contained seem so far removed, as when we looked out upon this silent, dreary, and lifeless scene.
A gentle breeze came up from the ocean, the air was neither cold nor penetrating, as we sat upon the rocks awaiting the hour of midnight. The clouds were ever changing; soon after 126 twelve o’clock they parted, and for a few minutes we gazed upon the full disk of the midnight sun. Never can we forget that sight! The sun was high above the horizon, less glaring and brilliant than by day, its mellow light flooding ocean and mountain.
It seemed to have paused in its course, and a slight glow betokened the mingling of sunset and sunrise, and marked the dawn of another day. We stood spell-bound, enchanted by the magic scene, until a cloud covered the sun and the mist crept up from the sea; then relinquishing all hopes of another view of the sun, we started across the desolate plain and began our descent.
The steamer’s whistle blew, the loud and oft-repeated echoes reverberated from the rocky walls of the little bay, the descent was quickly accomplished, we were rowed out to the steamer, and soon started on our journey south.
As we stood on deck for a last sight of the North Cape, the sun came forth and shone as brightly as at midday—high in the heavens. It was then half-past one in the morning, but it was difficult to realize, except from the position of the sun, that it was not one o’clock in the afternoon.
We retired to our state-rooms with thankful 127 hearts for the glorious sight we had seen, and that we had not been disappointed in this, the crowning experience of our travels in the North. Often the weather is so bad that even the outlines of the North Cape cannot be distinguished, and travellers return to Hammerfest to wait for another steamer and make the journey a second time, perhaps to be greeted with fog and mist. The captain said that during his previous trip there was such a succession of rainy and miserable weather, they did not see the sun once during the entire trip of eleven days, and several tourists were so disgusted that they vowed the midnight sun was a grand humbug, and doubted if in the North there was even a sun at midday. It is a very rare occurrence when it is perfectly clear at the North Cape. If one could remain there twenty-four hours under a cloudless sky, he would see the sun go round in a circle; at midnight it would appear to almost stop, as it moved slowly along on a line with the horizon, and then would begin to gradually ascend.
The whole disk of the sun at midnight (in pleasant weather) can be seen from the
After the longest days it descends every day nearer the horizon, until it disappears below, at first only for a few hours; but the days grow shorter, until the season of constant night comes on, as an offset to that of perpetual day. The sun is not seen at the
The interesting phenomenon of the midnight sun is due to the fact that the two revolutions of the earth, one on its axis, the other around the sun, are in different planes, the equator and the ecliptic making an angle with each other. Thus during a certain season the north pole is inclined towards the sun, so that all parts of the polar circle are constantly beneath the sun’s rays, while the south pole is turned as far as possible into the shade; as the earth continues in its course around the sun the south pole comes within the circle of perpetual illumination, and the north polar circle, for an equal period, is in darkness.
During the period of darkness, Hammerfest has no regular steamer communication with the outer world, for in winter the mail steamers do not go beyond Tromsö, a month being allowed 129 for the round trip from Throndhjem. The first of the voyage there are a few hours of daylight, and as they advance northward the moon and the brilliant aurora borealis at times furnish light, but often the steamer can run but a few hours, and anchors until there is light, as the coast is so dangerous, and navigation so intricate, that it is impossible to run by the compass. How dreary and tedious must it be through the dark winter, and with what delight must the inhabitants of these Northern regions hail the first appearance of the sun!
Certainly the days of perpetual daylight are most confusing to one who has been accustomed to a division of the twenty-four hours into day and night.
During the entire voyage we never saw a lighted candle nor lamp; all hours of the night and day were the same for every practical purpose; at midnight we have written letters, and read on deck, and often at night, after having tried in vain to get to sleep, I have sat up in my berth, and read in the bright daylight, until from mere exhaustion I would fall asleep.
It was almost impossible to tell whether it was eight o’clock in the morning, or eight o’clock in the evening, and the early risers were sometimes in doubt as to whether they were 130 eating their supper or breakfast; my state-room mate and myself never got mixed on the latter, as we were always soundly sleeping in our berths when the last bell rang; for if the midnight sunbeams had a wakeful effect, the morning sunbeams were the same as in other parts of the world, where the breakfast bell always rings too early.
Added to our perplexity in distinguishing day from night was the constant change of time, for as we sailed toward the North Cape we were continually going eastward. Tromsö is on about the same degree of longitude as Stockholm, and Hammerfest is farther east than Riga in Russia. We started with Throndhjem time, but in the far North we travelled east so rapidly in the contracted degrees of longitude, that no one was ever sure of the time except once a day, when the clock was set. One day at the dinner table fifteen watches were consulted, and each one denoted a different time. I did not change my watch, but kept it at Throndhjem time, and daily made my calculations to arrive at local time.
A gentleman who was impatiently waiting one day for the dinner bell to ring, inquired the time, and was amazed that my watch showed it was just about the breakfast hour. He was sure he had eaten his breakfast, but we nearly 131 talked him into believing he had not, and that my watch had local time, and we ended by almost convincing him that he had received a midnight sunstroke.
The irregularity regarding sleep becomes terribly demoralizing to methodical mortals, but there is so much of interest to be seen at all hours of the day and night that one gets into the habit of sleeping only for a few hours, when there is nothing of especial interest to do or see.
The Hamburg steamers run beyond the North Cape along the north coast of Norway to Vadsö, occupying over two days for the journey, which we were told was monotonous and uninteresting. The mountains dwindle into vast and barren plateaux, and the land ceases to be an object of interest. A few bird islands are passed, but the island belt has disappeared, and one is left at the mercy of the full sweep of the waves of the Arctic Ocean. The scenery is bleak and dreary, fogs often detain the steamer, and the journey is not to be recommended, as there is not enough of interest to be seen to repay its discomforts.
The North Cape is a fitting termination to the voyage, and one who has obtained a good view from its summit and seen the midnight 132 sun, can turn southward, satisfied that he has seen the most striking features of the Norwegian scenery, and the most imposing sight in the world.
a little more civilized
[Reminder: In 1888, this word—which crops up several times in the course of the chapter—meant “technologically advanced”, with no implications about conduct or morals. The other two technological levels were “savagery” and “barbarism”.]
the steps at the steamer’s side
Riga in Russia
The Lyngen Fjord—Lapp Encampment in the Tromsdal—A Smuke Pige—Lapp Huts and Babies—Reindeer, and their Manifold Uses—Loading Cattle—Farewell Appearance of the Midnight Sun—Scenes among the Steerage.
The steamer remained a few hours at Hammerfest on our return from the North Cape, to take on a cargo of oil and dried fish. As we proceeded down the Sörö fjord we remained nearly the whole afternoon on the captain’s bridge. The surface of the fjord was as smooth as oil, and the grand panorama of snow-covered mountains was reflected in the transparent waters.
There is much sameness to the mountain scenery, the formation and outlines of the various peaks being much alike, lacking the individuality found in Switzerland in the monarchs of the Bernese Oberland, or the circle of mountain peaks around the Corner Grat, Piz Languard, or 136 about Chamonix. The Norwegian mountains do not rise to half the height of the Alpine peaks, but as one views them nearly from base to summit, rising from the ocean crowned with snow and ice, the effect is fully as imposing.
The most magnificent mountain scenery we saw in the North was along the Lyngen fjord, where an unbroken chain of mountain peaks from five thousand to six thousand five hundred feet high rise from the ocean, some with sharply cut outlines and abrupt rocky sides, others covered with snow, with glaciers descending far into the valleys. It was a sublime sight as we viewed them at eleven o’clock in the evening, the glistening ice streams extending down their barren sides, and the crystal heights contrasting with the dark rocks and water at their base.
If one makes the trip to the North Cape the last of June he enjoys the mountain scenery in all its glory, as the mountains are then covered with snow, and newly fallen snow clothes their sides, extending at times almost to the water. The long unending days then add an especial charm, but the view of the midnight sun, which appears high in the heavens much like the sun the latter part of a June afternoon, is not so impressive as when seen the last of July, when it descends near the horizon. The first part of 137 August, when within the Arctic Circle the sun begins to go below the horizon, is the time for viewing the glorious sunsets and the gorgeous coloring of the Northern skies. In June, even when the sun is shining brightly, the air is generally cool, and one needs thick clothing, while at times rain, mist, and penetrating ocean breezes necessitate an abundance of wraps.
Although there is a sameness, yet the constant succession of fjords, mountains, and glaciers never becomes monotonous to a true lover of nature, and there is always something to awaken fresh interest aside from the scenery, as the spouting of whales in the distance, the reindeer browsing high up the sides of the precipitous walls of rock, or the numerous sea fowl on the islands and cliffs.
On arriving at Tromsö we visited the Lapp encampment, which is one of the show-places of the North. The Lapps are notified by the steamship companies, and hired to drive down a portion of their reindeer into an enclosure near a little settlement of Lapp huts, where they are shown to the tourist free of charge.
We met one of the tourist steamers at Tromsö, and together with its passengers visited the encampment, which is situated in a valley called 138 the Tromsdal. We embarked in small boats and were rowed across the wide fjord to the shore, where a collection of boys and men, with saddle horses, gave us a warm welcome and interviewed us, till they found we were determined to walk.
Our party were glad of a chance for an hour’s walk, after the confinement of the steamer, and starting up the valley we soon came to a few tents covered with reindeer hides. Several Lapps came out to sell us articles of their manufacture, among whom was an old woman clothed in reindeer skins worn with the hair turned inward, and her greasy, furrowed face framed in a bright-colored close-fitting cap.
She was hardly a “nut-brown maid,” but rather a smoked bacon hag, and as she took a reindeer girdle and bound it around the waist of the old bachelor of the party, in answer to his question as to its use, he shook his forefinger at her, and with a fascinating smile in his beaming eyes uttered, Smuke Pige, which doubled up the Lapps, old and young, and also the steamer party, with laughter; for Smuke Pige does not mean smoked pig, as its sound and orthography might imply, but is the Norwegian for pretty girl. It was many a decade since that old, oily, unwashed Lapp woman had 139 been a Smuke Pige, even if ever, at the remotest period of her existence, by the greatest stretch of the imagination, she could have been thus designated; but woman’s nature lay dormant beneath the accumulated layers of dirt, and she smiled and smoothed down the folds of her reindeer polonaise, so pleased by the compliment that she sold the girdle for half price.
Our way led through woods, where the leaves of the trees were just unfolding, and it seemed like the first of April in New England. The path at first was very good, but as we advanced it became wet and muddy, we had to cross wide streams, and were forced to leave the path and pick our way among the trees, so that the ladies began to repent of their decision to walk. One young lady, in crossing a wide brook, slipped from the pile of stones in the centre, and dancing a despairing can-can while endeavoring to regain her slippery foothold, landed in the water before any one could aid her. This was the only accident, and we were glad to arrive at the collection of Lapp huts, where men, women, and children of assorted ages and sizes crowded around us with articles for sale.
The Laplanders are of diminutive stature, ill developed, with small eyes, low foreheads and high cheek-bones. Their complexions have a 140 close resemblance to smoked bacon; in their greasy reindeer skins they look as if the use of soap would be as much of a mystery to them as the telephone; a Russian peasant is cleanliness itself compared with them; and their oil-soaked appearance would seem to indicate that they subsisted on a steady diet of whale sausages, washed down with copious draughts of cod liver oil.
Their huts are dome shaped, built of stones and covered with turf; a rude wooden door less than four feet high admits to the interior, where in the centre was a wood fire on a circle of flat stones, above which was suspended an iron kettle; above the fire is an opening in the roof for the admission of light and the escape of smoke, most of which circulated in the hut; upon the ground was a little hay, over that were spread reindeer and other skins, upon which the Lapps were sitting around the fire.
There were several babies in cradles made of a frame of wood two feet and a half long, covered with reindeer hide, in shape resembling a coffin with a little hood; the baby is placed inside, the covering laced across the front, and a cloth can be drawn down from the hood over the baby’s face as the cradle is leaned against the side of the hut, or placed before the fire. 141 The babies are kept in the cradles until they are old enough to learn to walk, the mother carrying the cradle swung across the shoulder by a cord.
We saw several babies laced in their cradles, blinking their bright eyes in the thick smoke; a great many Lapps had sore eyes, and eye troubles seemed to be prevalent; which is not to be wondered at considering the smoky atmosphere of their huts, and the dazzling glare of the snow in winter.
The dogs appeared to be even more abundant than the children, and they were all mixed up promiscuously as they lay on the skins about the fire. The intimate fellowship existing between the Lapps and their dogs accounts for the frequent scratching they indulge in, and warns one to flee from the “wicked flea.”
The Laplanders enjoyed a thriving business that day, selling many of the spoons, knives, needle-cases, and other articles made from reindeer horn, and shoes, belts, and bags manufactured from reindeer skin. They also disposed of several pairs of branching antlers, and the skins of animals they had killed.
The Lapps have straight black hair, and in many of their features resemble the American Indian. Like the Indians they were once a 142 powerful race, the ruling one of Scandinavia, but they were compelled to retreat before civilization and the more powerful inhabitants of the southern part of the peninsula, until they now occupy the northern part of Norway and Sweden and the northwest corner of Russia, and have dwindled in population to thirty thousand souls, of which over one-half dwell in Norway. They were originally all nomadic, but their circumscribed limits, from the advancing of their civilized neighbors, have led many to settle by the larger lakes and rivers, where they successfully follow hunting and fishing.
In religion they conform in general to the faith of their neighbors,—the Norwegian Lapps belonging to the Lutheran, the Russian Lapps to the Greek, church. It is estimated that there are still in Norway seventeen hundred Lapps who lead a nomadic life.
The reindeer constitutes their chief wealth, and serves them as their horse, cow, and source of their food, raiment, and the material for the few articles they manufacture. Harnessed to a pointed sledge he draws them over the frozen rivers, lakes, and plains; reindeer milk and cheese and the fresh and cured meat provide them with their staple articles of food; they are clothed from its skin made into long loose 143 garments, leggings, and shoes; its skin also furnishes their only bed and bed covering; its sinews give them thread and ropes; from the horns are made the spoons, handles of knives, and such articles as they fashion in their rude way, so that the reindeer supplies all the needs and wants of the Laplander, and is to him what Whiteley with his vast establishment is to Londoners,—“a universal provider.”
The Lapps of this encampment are said to possess nearly five thousand reindeer, about a hundred of which were driven down from among the mountains into an enclosure, for our inspection. The stags had fine branching antlers, but most of the reindeer had short, jointed horns covered with a soft fur; they were shedding their long white hairs, beneath which was a coat of dark hair; they are extremely quick motioned, and seemed very wild, the whole flock running from one side of the enclosure to the other, their knee joints making a peculiar cracking noise. One of them was caught by a lasso skilfully thrown over the horns, and held while milked. The milk is very rich, is drank diluted with water, and is said to resemble goats’ milk in taste; we did not partake of it, for neither were the milkmaid nor cup sufficiently clean to tempt us.144
An enterprising photographer endeavored to induce us to pose before his camera, with the Lapp huts and reindeer in the background; he showed us photographs he had previously taken of tourists, holding Lapp babies laced in their cradles, or sitting between Lapp women; but he could not persuade us to immortalize ourselves in that manner—even the bachelor had no desire to be taken with his Smuke Pige by his side.
Laden with purchases from the Lapps, as souvenirs of our visit, we started on our walk back to the fjord, and were rowed to the steamer in a pouring rain, and over a heavy sea, reaching at last our floating home with a feeling of gladness. The remainder of the day it rained incessantly, but we rejoiced at this opportunity to sleep after such a series of interesting and novel experiences, that had lately occupied most of our time night and day. No midnight sun put in an appearance that night, but the rain came down steadily; still it was light enough to read and write, and none of the lamps were lighted.
We stopped at many small stations, taking on freight and passengers. We had a great quantity of lumber aboard, which we left at one of the stations; the long pieces of timber were 145 thrown into the water, causing much noise and splashing, and were collected by men in row boats as they came to the surface, and made into a raft to be floated to the shore.
Two large boats containing fat steers rowed out to meet us; the steam hoisting apparatus swung its long arm out over the steamer’s side, a wide belt was adjusted under a steer’s belly, and he was raised high in the air. As he found himself moving upward, his front and hind legs sticking out straight, he vainly tried to struggle, for he was perfectly helpless; the comical figure he cut as he soared heavenward, and was swung over into the middle of the steamer, and lowered to the second deck, caused the passengers to roar with laughter.
One lady, as she watched the loading of the steers, exclaimed, “Oh, I am so glad they have taken those cows aboard, for now we can have plenty of fresh milk for supper!”
We spent an entire day cruising along the Lofoden Islands, and enjoyed again their magnificent scenery under a smiling sky. At one of the ports there we met a Hamburg steamer with a few passengers, bound for Vadsö, beyond the North Cape. Great clumsy sailing craft, with high pointed prow and stem, with towering square sails, the same as those in which the 146 Vikings of old used to cruise, lazily pass us on their way north, and for a long time their tall sails are visible on the horizon.
In places far up the rocky cliff, or part way up the mountain side, where there is a level place large enough for a few acres of grass, you will see a little farm house. The farmer has a few sheep, goats, and cows which furnish part of the food and materials for the homespun clothing of his family, and with the ever-abundant fish they have enough to supply their moderate wants. Even as far north as Tromsö we passed these solitary farm houses, and for hours would neither see another house nor sign of life. It is impossible to conceive how one can live so far removed from mankind, spending the long winters, with over two months of darkness, away from every living being except the limited family circle, exposed to the terrible storms and severe cold of the Arctic region.
Our farewell view of the midnight sun was the grandest of all. We had just passed from the Arctic Circle, and shortly before midnight the sun, a great blood-red ball, hung upon the horizon while the heavens blazed in a glory of crimson and gold. So slow was the sun’s motion that at first it seemed to rest upon the horizon, then it slowly sank until half its disk 147 was obscured. Gradually the coloring of the burning heavens paled, until the glowing red faded into a golden tint, heralding the approach of another day, and sunset and sunrise were blended in one.
The steamer as we continued southward became crowded with passengers, both first class and steerage, bound for an annual fair held upon one of the islands, and also for an exhibition at Throndhjem.
Both the upper and lower decks were packed with steerage passengers, among whom were several Lapp women, accompanied by their children, who were particularly grateful for the gift of some fine cut tobacco; and as they sat puffing their short black pipes, a look of perfect content o’erspread their greasy faces. The children were abridged editions, both in clothing and looks, of their mothers, and each had a snarling dog.
The Norwegian peasants are deeply religious, being Lutherans in their belief. On Sunday morning the steerage passengers held a service, one of their number preaching and exhorting, and they sang many hymns. They often sang their folk songs, through all of which runs a sad and melancholy refrain; but one expects to find great seriousness and depth of feeling in 148 a people living amid such grand and awful manifestations of nature.
A young girl with a shock of golden hair played upon a harp, and in a fresh sweet voice sang plaintive melodies, accompanied at times by a man with a violin,—both wandering minstrels bound for the fair.
Late one evening we arrived at the little island of Dynnaes, where the most important fair in the Nordland is annually held on July 2nd; over two hundred passengers left us here, and an interesting and animated scene ensued.
As we approached up the fjord numerous small boats rowed out to meet us; they swarmed on both sides as the steamer stopped, and there was great contention among the boatmen, as they pushed back each other’s boats and shouted and gesticulated in their struggle to get close to the steamer’s side and load with passengers. The boats were in lines, five deep on each side, and the passengers piled into them pell mell, lowering themselves down the sides of the steamer, throwing their boxes into the boats, jumping from the lower deck, and leaping from boat to boat, until, amid much uproar and an indescribable confusion, the last passenger had left the steamer and was rowed ashore.
Just outside the little settlement, extending 149 along the shore, were long rows of new boats, many gayly painted, bundles of fishing nets, and a great collection of barrels of fish; that was all we saw of the fair, which is of the nature of a market.
The last day of our journey was warm and sunny, especially enjoyable after the cold rainy weather we had had the greater part of the time since leaving Tromsö. The steamer wound in and out among the islands, and proceeded up the narrow fjords, calling at many little hamlets. The scenery, even after the grandeur of that within the Arctic Circle, was ever beautiful and inspiring.
We passed again the Seven Sisters, still “wearing their nightcaps,” and the lofty Torghätta pierced by the mythical arrow, and lived over again the delightful experiences at the beginning of our journey.
Our fellow-travellers on the steamer, who after all these days of close companionship seemed almost like old friends, gathered with us for the last time, as we steamed up the Throndhjem fjord, at the breakfast table, with its familiar cheese, sausage, and cold meat exhibitions. For the last time we broke bread and ate salmon together on the “Kong Halfdan,” which during eleven days had been such a comfortable 150 home, and had safely borne us amid more magnificent scenery, and furnished us more interesting and novel experiences, than could any other journey of equal extent in the world.
[Even with old-fashioned orthography, it should probably be smuk pige. But the author can’t be expected to know this.]
[I couldn’t find a locus classicus, but the pun must date to approximately five minutes after the publication of the King James Bible: “The wicked flee when no man pursueth” (Proverbs 28.1). Then again, the critters may really be lice, as in Egede’s Greenlandic proverb, “He remarried before his first wife’s lice were dead”.]
neither were the milkmaid nor cup sufficiently clean
Word order unchanged.
Christiansund—Resting at Molde—Leprosy in Norway—First Carriole Drive—Struggling with the Norse Language—Walk through the Romsdal.
The “Kong Halfdan” remained part of a day at Throndhjem. We visited again the interesting old cathedral, and walking outside the city we watched in a large field the drilling of some soldiers, whose lack of discipline would have caused a Prussian to faint at the sight. The town was decorated with triumphal arches of evergreen, rows of fir and pine trees bordered the sides of the streets, festoons of bunting and flags adorned the buildings, all in honor of the king and royal family, who were expected to arrive the next day to visit the exhibition which had been formally opened that morning.
We saw nothing new nor striking at the exhibition, except the fine display of fish, and 154 the pretty costumes of the cow girls. Each cow, on exhibition in the department devoted to live stock, had for an attendant a girl dressed in an ample skirt, bright red bodice over a white waist, a jaunty cap on her head, and silver trinkets at her throat; she ministered to the wants of the cow, bringing pails of water and armfuls of hay, stroking her sleek blanketed sides with as much pride and affection as though the cow were her child.
The crowds thronging the streets were interesting, but we were disappointed at finding so few costumes of any striking effect or beauty worn by the peasants, who had flocked in from the neighboring districts.
We went to a restaurant for supper, hoping to escape the everlasting salmon, but it was the first dish to greet us as we sat down to the table; and we gave up struggling against the inevitable and ate it with the best grace we could command.
In the evening we said good-bye to our steamer party, who left us here, and returned to the “Kong Halfdan,” as she was to sail early in the morning for Molde. At the breakfast table we found many new faces, and the familiar cabin did not seem wholly natural; the scenery, also, through which we passed during the day was very tame and uninteresting compared with 155 that we had so recently enjoyed, and we devoted the time to arranging the details of our future journey through the country.
At Christiansund the steamer remained for several hours, and we went ashore in a rowboat. It is a town of twelve thousand inhabitants, most picturesquely built upon four islands, upon the largest of which we landed. It has steep streets running at haphazard, and leading finally to a church, and some pretty gardens and promenades upon the heights, from which there was an extended view of the hills and masses of rock; but little of the ocean could be seen.
Many of the windows of the houses were filled with potted plants in blossom; some houses four stories high, evidently divided into tenements, had every window, even to the topmost, filled with bright flowers, furnishing a pretty and a cheerful sight, and one that in our travels through Norway we often saw repeated; for the natives are very fond of flowers, and, as they will flourish but a short time out of doors, they grow them in their houses.
Many wealthy fish merchants reside here, who carry on a large trade with Spain in Klipfisk (dried codfish), the preparation of and trade in which forms the chief industry of the place.156
On leaving Christiansund we also left the island belt, and the remainder of the journey, until we entered the Moldefjord, was very disagreeable.
Molde is one of the most charming places in Norway, and is “well adapted for a long stay,” as Baedeker puts it. It is a trim and clean little town of less than two thousand inhabitants, situated on the fjord of its own name, facing the south, and lying at the base of high hills sheltering it from the cold north and west winds. The vegetation is luxuriant; numerous gardens were bright with roses, honeysuckle, and other flowers; and the fields brilliant with wild flowers, many of which were strangers to us.
The Grand Hotel stands upon a small promontory, a little removed from the town, commanding a lovely view of the fjord, surrounding hills, and distant mountains. It is a new structure, most comfortable in all its appointments and reasonable in its charges, and in our opinion fulfils the claim of its proprietor of being “the best hotel in Norway.” Certainly no pleasanter place than Molde could be found for a few days’ stay, where the traveller can rest and take things easy after his long sea voyage north, or his drive across country in coming from Christiania or Bergen. It is quite a central 157 point, from which radiate several lines of steamers, and, lying directly in the line of travel north and south, its hotels in summer are well filled.
The town itself has no especial interest, though we enjoyed visiting the little shops, and looking at the queer silver rings and brooches with many pendants, and the bridal crowns of gold and silver worn by the peasant girls; we also saw interesting old coins, weapons, knives, drinking cups, and other articles, but the time has gone by when Norwegian curios and antiquities can be bought for less than a good round sum.
It is an extremely rough path by which one climbs to the Moldehei, through fields and woods, and after a rain it is like the bed of a torrent; but once upon the summit one is rewarded by a beautiful view, embracing the little town at your feet, the blue fjord dotted with islands, and a magnificent range of mountains partly covered with snow, the lofty peak of the Romsdalshorn dominating all others.
A good road extends east and west along the fjord, affording agreeable walks, especially during the long bright twilight, when the fjord reflects the dark islands and shores in its clear waters, while over distant snow-capped mountains, 158 and hills close at hand, is the beautiful, almost unnatural, light, rendering everything ethereal and unsubstantial.
In our walks, every one greeted us with a God Dag (good day) or a God Aften (good evening); and if by chance we gave anything to a child he took our hand and shook it, without saying a word, as an expression of thanks; certainly a most sincere and natural way, and one that goes directly to the heart. Whoever objects to shaking hands with old and young, rich or poor, should stay away from Norway, for whenever money is paid or anything is given to a Norwegian, it is followed by a shake of the hand.
We were astonished to find at one end of Molde a hospital for lepers. Leprosy is the most terrible curse of Norway, and for the treatment of its victims five hospitals have been erected, of which the largest are at Molde and Bergen. The lepers mostly come from the fishing districts in the north, where the disease is caused by a continued fish diet and absence of fruit and vegetables. It is said that some victims when first brought to the hospital appear to be perfectly well, but as the disease advances the fingers, toes, or nose drop off, the bones in the hands and feet disappear, rendering them helpless; some become blind; the face and 159 body are covered with spots, and the victims become white as chalk. It is a slow and torturing death by inches, as member after member decays and drops off. It is not considered contagious, and visitors are even allowed to mingle with the victims at the hospital. Being regarded as hereditary, it is hoped at least to prevent the propagation of the disease by the marriage of its victims, and whenever a person is known to be tainted with leprosy he is sent to a hospital.
From Molde we travelled up the winding Romsdalsfjord, every turn of the steamer developing new beauties of cliff and mountain scenery. The farther we advanced the narrower grew the fjord, and the nearer approached the mountains. Landing at Veblungsnaes, a little settlement at the end of the fjord, a crowd of men and boys surrounded us, all anxious to furnish a horse and carriage for a drive up the valley.
I left my friends here for a few days, and started alone on my first carriole drive. The carriole is an open, two-wheeled vehicle resembling a gig, with a small seat for one person, who drives himself; you hang your legs out at the sides of the very narrow body of the carriole, resting your feet upon braces; at the 160 back, on a narrow cross bar, is strapped your baggage, which is necessarily limited in quantity, and upon it sits the Skydsgut (post-boy), who always accompanies you and returns with the horse and carriole when you take a fresh one at the next station.
It began to rain, but donning my rubber coat (a prime necessity in Norway), and buttoning the leather boot tightly to the back of the seat keeping me warm and dry, we started on a twenty mile drive up the Romsdal. The horse was small, sure footed, and tolerably fast, the springs of the carriole rendered it an easy riding vehicle, and as the rain soon ceased it proved an enjoyable drive up the grand valley, with its steep rocky sides, and a river foaming far below the smooth and solid roadway. The boy’s English was confined to “Oh, yes!” which he fired at me in answer to every question; therefore our conversation was limited.
We stopped at a little posting station to feed the horse, and I improved the chance to take supper. I was served with a quart of cold milk, four boiled eggs, with bread, cheese, fancy crackers, and crullers, ad libitum, and was charged fifty öre (about thirteen cents). The long drive and mountain air had given me a good appetite, so I left very little food upon the table, 161 and felt decidedly guilty as I thought how much the poor people must have lost on my supper, as I paid the modest charge, and received a hearty hand shake from the assembled household. A small station called Flatmark was my objective point, and we arrived there early in the evening. Paying the boy the fixed charge of so much per kilomètre (five-eighths of a mile), and a few cents extra as a fee for himself, he shook my hand and then returned with the horse.
The inn, which was only a common farm-house, was not very inviting on its exterior; no one about the place could understand a word of English, so I racked my brain trying to recall the few Norse words I knew, and at last had recourse to my phrase book; but I cast it aside in despair, for it always opened to this sentence, Jeg har voeret gift og har et Barn (I am married, and have one child). Now, for a confirmed bachelor of many years’ standing, seeking a bed for the night, and striving to arrange for breakfast in the morning, what could be more useless than such a sentence, torturing him with the recollection of unattained connubial bliss, and if uttered, causing him to sail under false colors into the sympathies of this daughter of the midnight sun? Therefore, without going into 162 details of my family relations or heart’s aspirations, I managed to select from the twenty Norwegian words at my command a few which, when uttered, resulted in my being conducted into a neat and plainly furnished room, from which opened two bedrooms. I placed my knapsack in one of them, and then, as it was yet early in the evening, started to walk up the valley towards Ormeim.
The rocky sides of the valley are almost perpendicular, and over them came waterfalls and cascades precipitated from rock to rock, a distance of over two thousand feet; great mountain peaks towered in the background; the river Rauma rushed o’er its rocky bed, the whole forming a most imposing scene, tempting me to prolong my walk until nearly midnight.
Returning to the farm house I found that my bed was of straw, and the bedstead about a foot shorter than myself; but the bed linen was fresh and clean, and my long walk in the clear air quickly sent me to the arms of Morpheus.
A breakfast of fresh eggs, coffee with rich cream, good wheat and rye bread, and cheese, was neatly served, and paying forty cents for my lodging and breakfast, which was received with a thankful shake of my hand, I started on my 163 twenty mile walk down the valley to Veblungsnaes, whence I had driven the previous day. The sky was cloudless, it was a warm and sunny day, and every breath of the sweet fresh air was as exhilarating as champagne.
The Romsdal is the finest valley in Norway, and the road running through it is one of the most celebrated routes in the country. Beyond Flatmark the valley broadens into a large basin, where the road and the river wind among a bewildering collection of boulders and great masses of rock, piled up in the wildest confusion, which during the flight of time, have been brought down by tremendous landslips. One would think that a great mountain had been split up, and its fragments scattered broadcast over the valley, and it seems the realization of chaos as one walks amid this maze of boulders, among which the river threads its way, lashing them with its foam. This wild and imposing scene was followed by quiet stretches of valley, where little farm houses nestled in the midst of green fields, and the river gleamed brightly in a grassy plain.
The station inn at Horgheim was in full possession of a large excursion party from Scotland, who had arrived the previous evening at Veblungsnaes, in the steamer that was taking them 164 on a two weeks’ trip to the most accessible points in Norway.
They had swarmed up the valley that morning in a long procession of vehicles, and had halted at the little inn, where the inmates were almost distracted while trying to understand the many questions and satisfy the demands of the noisy crowd, amid the sound of bagpipes and the confusion of fifty voices talking all at once in a foreign tongue.
The rational traveller who visits a foreign country, not simply for the sake of saying he has been there, but to become acquainted with the life and customs of its inhabitants, and who finds one of its chief charms in the open-hearted, unsophisticated nature of its common people, views with dismay and sorrow its invasion by large conducted parties, whose members rush through the country like a flock of sheep, all crowding close to the leader. The simple natives are at first appalled at the sight of the noisy clamoring crowd, whose inquisitive glances and prying questions wound their honest pride and open nature, and they shrink from being made spectacles for the curious; their straightforwardness then changes into a cold, calculating nature, and they grow to consider their visitors as their reasonable prey, and in 165 time, instead of finding a people who in a sincere unaffected manner receive you as a friend, and render your stay at an inn similar to a visit in a private house, you are met by a people who gauge all attentions by their money value, and extortion and overcharge, in modern hotels, follow the homelike cheer of the primitive inns. Happily, the greater part of the interior of Norway is yet inaccessible to large parties of Cookies and the “personally conducted,” and the unspoiled natives still minister in their simple way to intelligent, travelling, free moral agents.
Horgheim lies in the midst of the grandest scenery of the valley. The Romsdalshorn here rises with its huge pointed peak 5090 feet high, its granite sides in places as straight and smooth as if it were an immense cheese, and a knife had been used to cut off the blocks of granite, which lie piled up at its base and scattered over the valley. Opposite the Romsdalshorn are the Trolltinder, 5880 feet high, rearing their sharp-cut jagged pinnacles in such weird and fantastic forms that the name “witches’ pinnacles” has been applied to them. The deep crevices of this wall of rock are filled with snow; high up the mountain lies a crystal mass from which rise the clear-cut rocky shafts, and at times is heard the rumble and roar of the falling avalanche, as 166 a great body of snow slides down the smooth surface of the rock, until caught in some deep depression or its course is arrested by a projecting ledge. In the narrow space between these scarred and rugged walls leaps and foams the river Rauma, adding life and animation to the grand and desolate scene. In the grandeur and abruptness of its rock formations, the Romsdal almost equals the far-famed Yosemite. The Romsdal is 235 feet above sea level, while the Yosemite is 4060 feet; for that reason the mountains here appear much higher. The Romsdalshorn rises 1500 feet higher above its valley than does El Capitan, and in places its sides are nearly as abrupt and clean cut; but the magnificent waterfalls, and great variety of peaks and domes of the Yosemite far surpass those of the Norwegian valley in beauty and grandeur.
Back of the Romsdalshorn are still more lofty peaks; and viewed that day, when every outline of the mountain tops and sharp-cut pinnacles stood out against the blue vault of heaven, with the great Horn towering above, its seamed walls of rock destitute of every form of vegetation, with no sound to break the stillness save the rushing river and falling avalanche, it was a sublime sight.
At Aak, whence one obtains the most striking 167 view of the mountains of the Romsdal, the little inn has been purchased by an English gentleman for a summer residence. One could not find a more charming spot, for there are also lovely views up the Isterdal, a valley lined by mountain peaks opening into the Romsdal at this point, and westward the view is closed by the village of Veblungsnaes and the fjord encircled by mountains.
The valley here becomes wider, with tracts of cultivated land, and cosy farm houses, among which winds a good road to Veblungsnaes, whose scenery and surroundings are its only attractions.168
the bridal crowns of gold and silver worn by the peasant girls
[Modern mythology holds that a girl was only entitled to wear a wedding crown if she was virgo intacta. In practice this was about as meaningful as the analogous “rule” about white wedding gowns in the English-speaking world.]
Leprosy is the most terrible curse of Norway
[Leprosy’s alternative name, Hansen’s Disease, honors a Norwegian doctor, Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen (1841-1912).]
caused by a continued fish diet and absence of fruit and vegetables
[The leprosy bacillus was discovered (by Hansen) in 1873, but apparently nobody told our author.]
It is not considered contagious
[This is not as horrifying as it sounds, since leprosy ranks among the least contagious of all infectious diseases.]
The carriole is an open, two-wheeled vehicle
[Revelation: I had never before seen this word in English. In Norwegian it is spelled karjol. It must have been especially popular in Norway; back in 1849, W. A. Ross in A Yacht Voyage to Norway, Denmark, and Sweden went into detail:
“The carriole is an elegant, comfortable, but most unsociable vehicle; for it is as unfit to hold two persons, as an ordinary arm-chair. To sit properly in a carriole, you should be rather round-shouldered, as its shape is not unlike half a walnut, scooped out. The post-boy sits behind, or stands up, as a groom does in England; but his position must be uncomfortable in the extreme, as the carriole has no springs, and bounds and jumps heavily over ruts and pebbles, causing him to fidget at intervals, and make an exclamation of discomfort most irregularly. The shafts and wheels are slight, and the body painted uniformly of a chocolate colour. The foot-board is not larger than a tea-tray, about six inches square, and in order to reach it, the legs are so extended as to bring the tip of the toes and the apex of the knees on the same plane. Nor does the driver look down on his horse, as he would in England; but the eye has a level view along the back of the animal . . . .”
The design seems to have improved somewhat over the ensuing decades. But I do not believe that tea-trays—in 1849 or any other year—were only six inches square.]
the sound of bagpipes
[Oh, come on, Edwin. You’re making that up.]
Steamboat Service—A Night in a Mountain Sæter—Primitive Accommodations—A Talkative Farmer—Riding Horseback under Difficulties—An Exhausting Tramp and a Trial of Patience—Up the Geiranger Fjord to Merok—Approach to Hellesylt.
The steamboat service in Norway is excellent. The larger steamers run along the coast, and up the principal fjords, carrying the mails and freight, and are fitted with comfortable passenger accommodations.
The captain, mates, and purser all speak English, and often the stewards and others employed about the steamer understand English; we found them social and obliging, always ready to answer questions and impart information, and the captains were especially agreeable and well informed. These steamers run at frequent and regular intervals, and it is the boast of the Norwegians that their steamers deliver their 172 mails with as much regularity, and as little interruption, as the railway mail service in other countries.
Upon the numerous narrow fjords penetrating far inland is a service of smaller steamers, mostly running during the summer months, occasionally taking extra routes for tourists. They run at stated but not frequent intervals, and in planning a trip through Norway it is necessary to give considerable study to the “Norges Communicationer,” a publication giving the time tables and routes of all steamers and the few railways in the country; and happy is the man who can arrange his journey so as not to lose a few days while waiting, at a little out-of-the-way place, for a steamer.
I had planned a three weeks’ trip, in which everything followed along serenely, provided I could walk across the country in one day between Vik on the Indfjord, and Sylte on the Norddalsfjord, a distance of twenty miles on the map; whereas, if I went by steamer down the Romsdalsfjord and drove across country, I must wait for two days for a steamer up the fjord, and my whole future journey would be disarranged; therefore I decided, if possible, to walk across to Sylte and there take the steamer. On inquiring I was told it was a pleasant walk 173 through mountain valleys, easily accomplished in six hours; but I concluded afterwards that my informers knew no more about it than do you, gentle reader.
The innkeeper’s son at Veblungsnaes, a bright lad who was studying English, who had ordered a nice dinner for me, also engaged two boatmen. There is a fixed tariff for boatmen at so much per kilomètre, according to the number of rowers. Two hardy farmers rowed me down the fjord, keeping close to the rocky cliffs, over whose sides flowed numerous cascades; then we turned up the contracted Indfjord, with farm houses nestled amid green fields at the base of the rugged mountains, and arrived at a cluster of houses called Vik. For the row of an hour and a half the boatmen were perfectly satisfied with sixty-five cents, which included a fee to each of them besides the fixed tariff, and they were to return at their own expense. They both gave me a hearty hand shake, and conducted me to the principal gaard (farm house), where I made the old farmer understand by means of a map in my Baedeker, and a volley of Norse substantives and infinitives fired at him at random, that I must reach Sylte at four o’clock the next afternoon; and he consented to act as my guide.174
He brought me a bottle of home-made beer, compounded of roots and herbs, which tasted like fermented thoroughwort tea, to brace me up for the arduous journey, and then harnessed his jaundice-colored mare into the stolkjærre, a two-wheeled cart, the body resting directly on the axle, the only spring being in the wooden supports of the seat branching backward from the shafts. The seat, wide enough for two, was without cushions, with a low railing for a back, and as we rattled down the slope over the stones, on our way to the road in the valley, it would have been certain destruction to false teeth, and there was a spine-shattering sensation that brought before the vision groups of twinkling stars. The valley road proved much better, and in time one can become accustomed to the motion of a springless cart, as well as to that of an ocean steamer, and it was really an enjoyable drive up the narrow valley, whose lofty sides shut out the rays of the setting sun. In the deepening twilight we gradually ascended through forests until, after slowly climbing in steep zigzags a wall of rock, farther progress in the cart ended at a collection of rude timber-built sæters.
We had accomplished eight miles of the journey, and were to pass the night here. We 175 entered the largest of the sæters, consisting of two rooms, and I was given to understand I could have one of them. In one corner was a rude box-bed; around the sides were straight-back wooden benches, under and upon which were cheeses and tubs of butter; husband’s Sunday coat, with its rows of big shining buttons and mother’s best gown and cap, hung from a beam above the benches, while the family collection of go-to-meeting boots and shoes protruded from beneath the bed. The men from the other houses, and the children of assorted sizes, gathered in the room to keep away all feeling of lonesomeness, and plied me with questions I could neither answer nor understand.
As each man puffed away at a black pipe, while a woman, in a homespun gown, tight-fitting cap much like a nightcap, and heavy shoes, was removing the dairy exhibition from the benches and preparing the bed, the air became so thick that I sought relief out of doors. Returning soon after to find the assembly still seated in the room, as it was approaching midnight I made them understand by pantomime that I wanted to go to bed, and they finally withdrew.
I disrobed while the children were running to and fro before the curtainless windows, and, 176 warned by the approaching tramp of the heavy shoes, had just time to dive between the bedclothes as the woman entered for the last cheese. There was no lock upon the door, but though I had what for these poor peasants would have been quite a large sum of money, I had not the least anxiety; for in Norway among the honest country folk robbery is unknown, and I reposed, doubled up like a capital letter S in the short bed, beneath a smothering eider down quilt, with my mind more at ease than my body.
Before five o’clock my farmer guide descended from the loft and awakened me. For the preparation of my toilet he brought a bright milk pan, filled with water, and placed beside it, on a bench, a long comb with eight teeth rising at irregular intervals from among their shattered companions; as my toilet articles were in my knapsack, I dispensed with the use of this ancient heir-loom.
We sat down to breakfast in the other room. At one side of the table was a bed containing three sleeping children, all wearing tight-fitting night-caps; on the other was the bed which had been occupied by the farmer and his wife. We were served with a peculiar-tasting liquid supposed to be coffee, and piles of fladbrod and butter and cheese graced the table. Fladbrod 177 is made from a mixture of barley and oat meal; the unfermented dough is rolled into thin sheets and baked on iron plates over a slow fire. The sheets are round, about fifteen inches in diameter; are piled in cylindrical heaps and kept for six months, and it is said they can even be kept for a year. They are dark brown, crisp and brittle, but without much taste, and it seems like eating so many sheets of thick brown wrapping paper. In addition to the fladbrod was an equally high pile of wafers, the size of a tea plate, of the consistency of thin tissue paper; one might devour them by the hundred and yet perish from hunger. It was not a substantial preparation for our hard tramp, but the worthy couple had given us the best their humble home afforded, and received the fifty cents, including the charge for us both, with a strong grasp of the hand, which was repeated with many a Farvel as we left them and started upon our walk.
The path at first was good and the exercise in the fresh morning air very exhilarating, as we proceeded up the narrow valley, but soon the path grew rough until it became like the bed of a mountain torrent, with running water and loose rocks, among which we had carefully to pick our way. Ascending until we came to some firm 178 ground, we found fresh bear tracks in the path, which we followed for a distance until they disappeared.
The old farmer, like all the sociable Norwegians, was simply aching to talk, and was delighted when I brought forth a few words from my phrase book, or showed that I caught at the meaning of his oft-repeated sentences; on learning that I was from America he was more anxious than ever to talk, as he had a brother living in Wisconsin, but the conversation was limited, as my simple vocabulary was soon exhausted; though it is surprising to find how much one can accomplish with only a few words of a foreign language, and how well one can make himself understood by signs and motions.
We continued on our laborious way until we came to a mountain stream, which was almost a river. While wondering how we were to cross, I saw the guide drive some horses, feeding near by, to the river, and, mounting one of them, he rode to the other side. I caught an old mare, and, succeeding in mounting, urged her into the water, every step as she plunged among the rocks nearly sending me off; when in mid stream, where the swift-running water was up to her belly, the neighing of her colt, who had remained behind, caused her to suddenly whirl 179 about, and as I frantically clung to her mane, my feet dragging in the water, she returned to the shore; driving the colt into the stream and remounting the mare, I succeeded after shouting and flourishing my walking stick in riding her across, and on reaching the opposite side slipped from her back with a thankful sigh.
The narrower streams that we afterwards came to we forded, and in a decidedly demoralized condition we reached a cluster of rude sæters, the homes of girls who had gone thither with the goats and cows for the summer, where the butter and cheese are made; but we found them deserted, the girls being away with their herds.
It now began to rain as we proceeded down a marshy slope, the springy soil slipping from beneath our feet; and extricating ourselves from a forlorn swamp, we ascended by precipitous zigzags a spur of the mountain. It was then noon, and I had had nothing to eat since my five o’clock breakfast of wrapping-paper fladbrod and tissue wafers. The guide took from his pocket a piece of hard black bread he had brought from his home, and sitting in the rain, on the side of the barren mountain, amid a scene of absolute desolation and eternal silence, that dry bread was the sweetest morsel I had ever tasted.180
Willingly would I have lingered and rested, but the guide urged me onward up the mountain, and then, as we descended on the other side, we came to a long extent of snow, where as we walked we slumped down much above our knees, first with one leg then with the other, until it became so tiring that we climbed higher up the mountain side covered with fragments of rock, and jumping from rock to rock continued our weary course. I began to think the guide had lost his way, as there was neither indication of a path nor sign that any one had been in this dreary place before, but he answered my anxious inquiry, Til Sylte? (To Sylte?) with, Ja, ankommen der strax (Yes, we arrive there immediately).
Still onward we go through woods and swamps, till at last, as we pass through an oozing, clinging loam, I am about to give up in despair, when in the distance I perceive a road and a farm house. Weary, lame, and footsore, I reach the farm house, and dismissing the guide, hire a farmer to take me the few miles which still must be travelled before Sylte is reached.
The springless seemed like the easiest riding and most luxurious of coupés, and as we climbed the narrow way high up the cliff 181 above the fjord, and descended the winding road to Sylte, a delightful sensation of rest stole over my weary frame.
The main street of the little village was filled with men, who had come in from the neighboring farms to vote for county officers, the largest groups being gathered before the little inn. The innkeeper’s knowledge of English was even more limited than mine of Norwegian, so he gave up the former, and I proceeded to order a dinner in Norwegian: Suppe, Lax, and Bifstek med Potetes were mutually understood, and while they were being prepared, I renewed my exhausted strength with bread, cheese, and beer. The Norwegians possess many virtues, but they certainly lack those of quickness of motion, and of hurrying in an emergency. One hour, two hours, went by, and still to my anxious inquiries for dinner nothing appeared but a few plates and some salt and pepper. The time was rapidly approaching for the arrival of the steamer, and it looked as if I must depart dinnerless, when the woman, whose every movement was only performed after mature deliberation, entered with the soup, and the remainder of the dinner was brought on before the steamer appeared far down the fjord.
As a steamer is considered to be on time if 182 it arrives an hour before or an hour after the advertised time, one is liable to wait two hours and still be told that the steamer is exactly on time; fortunately the steamer that day was an hour behind that denoted by the time table. While waiting on the shore of the fjord for the steamer slowly making its way toward Sylte, two farmers entered into conversation with me in English, and a crowd gathered around us to hear the strange language. The farmers had been to America and had spent several years in Wisconsin, but while living on the level monotonous plains they had had such intense longings for the mountains and fjords of their native land, that, disregarding all material benefits, they had returned to Norway.
As I was rowed out to the steamer by a bright young boy, my friends, whom I had arranged to meet here, greeted me from the deck, and, as I climbed up the steps on the steamer’s side, gathered to welcome me and hear the account of my tongue-tied wanderings of the past three days.
The rain had ceased, and we steamed up the fjord beneath a bright sun, amid a glorious panorama of ever-changing mountain views. At one village two spirited horses were rowed out to us in a small boat, from which they calmly 183 walked up two planks to the lower deck of the steamer.
The Geiranger fjord is conceded by the majority of travellers to be the most magnificent fjord in Norway; its sides of barren rock rise from the water almost perpendicularly to the height of four thousand feet, with scarcely space for even a foothold at their base, the water beating directly against the precipitous rock. The sides are worn and chiselled smooth by nature, and have but scanty growths of vegetation in occasional depressions, and upon their receding summits. The fjord is in places a mile wide; a lofty peak guards the entrance on the right, and in winter its falling avalanches break by concussion the windows in a farm house perched high on the opposite side of the fjord.
Beautiful waterfalls stream down the sides, fed by the mass of snow on the mountains above, and as the rocky walls are at times capped with mist, the water then has the effect of falling directly from the clouds.
Over the side of a cliff descend a series of silver cascades, called the “Seven Sisters,” leaping from ledge to ledge, until in unbroken streams they reach the fjord, whose transparent waters reflect their entire course. At one point is a little clearing, with a farm house, sixteen 184 hundred feet above the water, reached by a dizzy path in zigzags up the cliff; back of it towers a wall of rock two thousand feet high, and one wonders how a human being can choose such a place for a habitation, midway between heaven and earth, exposed to falling avalanches from above, and to sliding down the yawning precipices into the fjord below. It is said that the parents here tether their children with ropes, to keep them from the edge of the cliff, and from “taking a header far down below.”
The fjord contracts as we advance, and the rocks upon the sides assume fantastic shapes when viewed at the proper angle; high up the cliff we saw goats, in apparently inaccessible places, browsing upon what seemed to be barren rocks, and heard the shouts of a solitary goatherd, as he waved his hat in salute.
At the head of the fjord, ten miles from its entrance, is Merok, where the mountain sides slope more gradually to the water. The inns and small houses composing the little settlement extend along the shore, with a background of lofty mountains, and the situation is most beautiful, although on account of the winding course of the fjord not much of its extent can be seen.
After leaving freight and passengers here, we 185 returned down the fjord, all the grand scenery passing once more in review, and proceeded to Hellesylt, at the head of the Sunelvfjord.
A landing pier extends into the water, the approach to which is very interesting, as the pier is close beside a wide and imposing cataract falling into the fjord, into whose foaming waters we seemed to be headed, and its spray was blown in our faces as we drew up at the pier and stepped from the steamer.
Hellesylt lies in the midst of scenery almost as grand as that along the Geiranger fjord; but we preferred to feast upon something more material than mountain views, and hastened to the inn, where the genial landlord, Herr Tryggestad, provided us with a delicious supper and comfortable beds.186
The springless stolkjærre
one wonders how a human being can choose such a place for a habitation
[Norwegians themselves have wondered the same thing, leading to the 1865 pseudo-folk song
Vi bur oppå en plass der som ingen skulle tru
At nokon kunne bu ]
Posting System and Manner of Travelling in the Interior—Characteristics of the Norwegians—A Day’s Carrioling—A Morning Walk—Rival Innkeepers—Scenes in the Hay Fields—Our Third Day’s Ride—Resting at Sande.
There are but few railways in Norway. From Christiania are several short railroads to places in the immediate vicinity; two lines go into Sweden; and extending northward to Throndhjem is the longest railroad in the country; on the west coast a railroad extends inland a distance of about sixty miles, both from Bergen and Stavanger, and this completes the railway system of Norway, which reaches but a very small portion of its area.
Its well-organized system of steamers penetrates far inland through the network of winding fjords, forming a reliable and comfortable means of communication, but in the country lying between the fjords, and in immense tracts unreached 190 by steamers, the sole means of conveyance are the stolkjærre and carriole, drawn by the hardy Norwegian ponies.
The roads are built by the Government, but are kept in order by the farmers through whose land they pass, which must be quite a burden upon them. Many of the roads are excellent, though in the more mountainous districts they are naturally rough and hilly. They are divided into Skydsstationer (posting stations), at intervals of from seven to twelve miles, at which the farmers are obliged by law to have a certain number of horses in readiness for travellers, who enter their names in a book, the number of horses wanted, and the station to which they are going. There is a fixed charge, the distance being reckoned in kilomètres (five-eighths of a mile), which amounts to about seven cents per mile; the distance from one station to another, and the amount to be paid, are always given in the station book.
The stations where they are bound by law to give you a fresh horse within half an hour are called fast, in distinction from others called slow, where the farmers do not have the horses on hand, but must send to the neighboring farms for them, and the traveller is sometimes kept waiting several hours. The charge at the slow 191 stations is a little over four cents a mile; the horses are equally good and fast, but it is often very tedious waiting for them. The slow stations are now rarely found except in out-of-the-way districts.
The station is generally a large farm house, which in more frequented places has grown into an inn or hotel; and at most of them one finds good food and lodging, everything neat and comfortable, and the charges extremely reasonable.
The stolkjærre is an open two-wheeled cart, generally destitute of springs, with a seat accommodating two persons. The baggage is of necessity limited in quantity, and is placed in the rear, with a bag of oats for the horse strapped on top, and above all is perched the Skydsgut (post boy) or Pige (girl), ranging from twelve to twenty years old, and at times a woman or a man takes the place of the boy or girl, who jump down to open gates, walk up the hills, getting on again with surprising ease, no matter how fast the horse is going. Two persons in a stolkjærre pay a fare and a half; if alone you pay a single fare, and the boy or girl sit beside you and drive if you desire them to, but they always offer you the reins on starting. In case two ladies occupy the stolkjærre, who are unaccustomed to driving, the boy or girl drives from behind the seat. The 192 carrioles are genuine bachelor arrangements, with a small seat for one person, the baggage strapped on a bar behind, upon which sits the boy. The carrioles are much easier riding than the stolkjærre, and being lighter the horses travel much faster, but they seem to be disappearing from many sections, and the solitary traveller is often forced to take a stolkjærre, which is the same price for one person.
It is said that the natives themselves are giving up the use of the carrioles, but their scarcity is partly due to a firm of tourist purveyors in Bergen, called Bennett, who have obtained control of all the carrioles along many of the routes of travel, and furnish carrioles of their own, which are really superior to, and more comfortable than, those belonging to the natives. You must pay an extra charge for a Bennett carriole. Many travellers rent them for their whole tour through Norway, but they generally prove an elephant which eats its own head off, from the numerous charges for transportation across fjords in row boats and steamers, and the expense of returning them to the starting point when the journey is finished.
Many ladies seem especially to enjoy carrioling, and if they do not care to drive, the boy in the rear drives for them.193
The horses are small, generally of a light cream color, the manes trimmed short and standing up straight like a zebra’s; they are wonderfully sure footed, and it is seldom that one shies, or that the driver has any trouble or any accident occurs. They are slow walkers and not very fast travellers, five to seven miles per hour being the average gait on a tolerably level road; they travel much better when following a good leader than when by themselves, and know at once who holds the reins, showing better speed when the boy or girl is driving and talking to them in Norse, than when urged on with the whip by a tourist talking in a foreign tongue. The natives treat them very kindly and stop any attempt at abuse or overdriving by strangers. Towards the end of the travelling season the horses naturally become tired and lazy, but you are often given a fine animal which it is a delight to drive.
By this old-fashioned way of travelling one becomes quite well acquainted with the simple, kind-hearted people, and their mode of living; also in passing through the country in this leisurely manner, its grand scenery and striking characteristics are indelibly fixed upon memory. There is a delightful feeling of independence, and freedom from all hurry and anxiety; 194 when you come to a fine bit of scenery or anything of especial interest, you stop as long as you desire; and in climbing the hills you have plenty of time to enjoy the views, or a chance to rest yourself by walking, if cramped from riding. In fact, a journey by stolkjærre or carriole has all the advantages of a pedestrian tour, without the attendant fatigue.
But the greatest charm of a trip through Norway lies in the people themselves. They inherit their free, independent nature from the Vikings and Norsemen of old, and are as democratic in character as in government; they have an independent parliament, regulating everything pertaining to the affairs of the country, and are like a republic owning allegiance to Sweden. The absence among them of the servility and obsequiousness that one finds among the common people of most of the European nations is refreshing, especially to an American; but though they impress you with the feeling that they are men, with rights and privileges which should be respected, they are neither familiar nor presuming in their intercourse with strangers. They are as unsophisticated and genuine as children, sincere and honest in their dealings, and extortion is almost unknown.
They lack the outward politeness of the bowing 195 and fawning hotel keepers and waiters, so often encountered among other nations, nor have they an unending supply of polite words and forms; but you are always received with a true politeness, which is the expression of genuine kindness coming from the heart, and the best of everything available is placed at your disposal. They are intelligent, well educated, and uniformly religious, and to one who could speak their language, the journey would have an added pleasure, as they are very sociable and communicative; even across the barrier of a foreign language they send the impression of an especial interest in you, and a desire that you should be favorably impressed with their country; those who can speak English, or who are able to understand your feeble Norwegian, are ever ready to impart information.
It seems to be the universal verdict of all travellers in Norway, that its people are more delightful and truer hearted than in any other country in Europe; and many Englishmen, after their first summer in Norway, return home to a diligent study of Norwegian, and in successive summers revisit the country, to become more intimately acquainted with its people, who have so deeply impressed them by their straightforward, kindly nature.196
Although of late years a great stream of travel has flowed over Norway, yet its people do not seem to have been spoiled by modern civilization; and whoever goes to Norway to-day, with a disposition to treat the people with politeness and consideration, will receive the kindest and most sincere attentions.
From Hellesylt we started on a three days’ drive of eighty miles across country to the Sognefjord. As there were no carrioles to be had, we selected, from the row of stolkjærres, one having the most spring to the supports of the seat, and entering our names in the station book, paid for the horse to the second station, twelve miles distant, the fixed price given in the front of the book. On leaving the inn we slowly wound up an ascent crowned with a picturesque church, overlooking the sparkling fjord; then the road mounted a rocky gorge, in whose depths foamed a noisy river, until we came into a mountainous region, with views of several glaciers and deep valleys. The road was tolerably smooth and hard, but extremely hilly; the bright-eyed boy of fourteen perched on our baggage behind jumped down to walk up all the hills, and to open the numerous gates across the way. As our horse was fresh and active, the twelve miles were soon accomplished, and 197 we reached a forlorn station, where we gave the boy a fee of five cents, and after shaking hands he started back with his horse. We now changed into two carrioles, with fresh horses, and both of us had a Smuke Pige, a pretty little maiden of twelve summers, sitting on behind.
Two stolkjærres started off at the same time, one of them with a very fine horse leading. I came next with a dilapidated carriole, and a small, slab-sided animal, with a great wound on one side, which in healing had drawn the horse out of shape. His whole internal arrangements seemed to be loose, for as he travelled there was a most appalling rumbling and rattling; he was stiff and lame, and broken-winded, and was the greatest wreck of a horse I had ever seen; nor did I ever come across such a miserable one again while in Norway. I refused at first to take him, but he was the only one available, and as it was but five miles to the next station, most of the way being down hill, I thought he would be able to reach it. He started out apparently with hardly strength enough to keep himself from complete disorganization, but the spirit and pluck of an old race horse lay dormant, and was soon aroused; he was determined to keep up with the spirited leader, who was going at a tremendous pace, 198 and we tore down the steep hills as if the evil one were after us. I could not hold him back, and expected any moment that the rickety carriole and wheezing horse would collapse. The horse in the rear was pressing hard upon us, and his mouth at times almost rested on the golden-haired Pige’s head, which so filled her with alarm that she shouted to the horse, serving to increase his speed. Thinking he might drop dead in the road if he continued at this pace, I turned out at one side and let the others pass, but even then I had hard work to keep him down to a gait suited to his bodily infirmities, and I arrived at the station not long after the others.
We waited an hour for dinner, but the time passed quickly, as the little village of Grodaas is most charmingly situated, at the head of a narrow fjord within a circle of the ever-beautiful mountains. The distance to the next station is six kilomètres, but the whole way being an ascent of steep hills we were charged for eight, this means being adopted to recompense the farmers for the extra work and time of their horses; in coming in the reverse direction only six kilomètres are paid for.
The horse and Pige walked most of the way, it being all the horse could do to pull us up, and 199 it soon became so steep that we likewise got out and walked. The Pige was a demure little girl, who modestly lowered her eyes every time we spoke to her, and when we gave her a few cents as she left us at the next station, she took us timidly by the hand and dropped a pretty courtesy.
Here we both started in carrioles for Faleide, most of the way being a rapid descent. I had a strong, sure-footed horse, which I at first held back with a tight rein, as we descended a steep hill strewed with rocks; but he behaved so strangely that the boy looked over from behind to see what was the matter, and taking the reins, which he allowed to dangle at the horse’s side, uttered a Viking yell, starting the horse almost into a run, and down the hill we went as if coasting down a toboggan slide. I held my breath, thinking we might come to an untimely end, but the horse never made a misstep. After that I allowed the reins to lay loose, and the horse took his own gait in descending the hills. They really seem to enjoy going at their utmost speed descending, but at the slightest rise they settle into a walk.
At Faleide we found a modern hotel, built out from a wall of rock high above the road, its wide piazza commanding extensive views of the 200 fjord and the grand mountains, with glaciers descending into the valleys. While waiting for the arrival of two boatmen, for whom the landlord sent to a neighboring farm, we had an inviting supper, served by a maid in national costume, with snow-white head-dress, in a dining room whose windows looked out upon the beautiful panorama of mountains and fjords; then we were rowed, in an hour and a half, past the numerous farm houses amid pleasant fields sloping down to the water, to Utviken, which we reached in the twilight hour, as a peaceful calm rested on the dark mountains, and the rippling fjord gleamed with the vanishing coloring of a vivid sunset.
Leaving the little inn at six o’clock the next morning, we started to walk to Red; between the two places is a steep hill, over two thousand feet high, which is so abrupt, that even the Norwegian horses are obliged to descend from its summit the greater part of the way at a walk, instead of at their usual breakneck speed; so it is more enjoyable to walk, and the distance can be accomplished in less time than by stolkjærre.
We needed all the bracing effect of the morning air, as we proceeded up the steep zigzags of the well-made road, every few steps unfolding more extended views of the fjord, with little 201 settlements clotting its green sides, and with its rear guard of eternal mountains. We left the path and visited a cluster of sæters, but found the rude huts deserted.
The summit of the hill is a dreary plateau strewed with great boulders, from which is a striking view of mountain peaks, with valleys branching in various directions closed by glistening glaciers, while gleaming among their barren surroundings are lakes and fjords.
We sat down to eat the lunch that the innkeeper’s thoughtful wife had placed in our pockets on departing, but in the warm sunlight we were surrounded by a swarm of flies, which nearly devoured us, lunch and all; such bloodthirsty and persistent flies we never encountered before, and they fully demonstrated their ability to accomplish their year’s work during the few weeks of the short Norwegian summer.
At the little hamlet of Red we found two rival hotels, the Victoria and the Wictory, the proprietor of the latter being as mixed in his orthography as was Sam Weller. The rival innkeepers are engaged in a bitter warfare, which is participated in by the guests of the hotels, for in all the station books on the roads to and from Red were comments of travellers, praising one hotel, and denouncing the other. These comments 202 were so exaggerated and contradictory that they defeated their object, and caused one to decide, if possible, to give both hotels a wide berth. We stopped at the Victoria, as it was the first we came to, and ordered a lunch and two boatmen to row us down the lake, as the proprietor said there was no steamer; no sooner had he disappeared than the keeper of the Wictory across the way walked over and informed us that his steamer left in half an hour. We immediately countermanded both the order for the lunch and the boatmen, and giving the keeper of the Victoria our opinion of him, embarked on the steamer, concluding that the Wictory’s landlord must be the saint, and the Victoria’s the sinner. This was one of the few instances where we found the Norwegians’ simple nature had been perverted; whether by inherent depravity or by foreign travellers we know not.
The steamer was a small craft manned by two men, the captain combining every position on board except that of engineer. It was a much preferable way of making the journey to being rowed ten miles across the lake. The rocky cliffs and mountains rose to dizzy heights, and numerous waterfalls leaped down their sides into the clear waters of the lake.203
Our next post by stolkjærre was an extremely interesting one. The rough and hilly road led through a narrow gorge thickly strewed with huge blocks of rock, a small river dashed and foamed below us, and shutting us in on both sides were the lofty mountains. Then we came out into a broad valley with views of several offshoots of the great Jostedalsbræ, the largest glacier in Norway, descending from an immense plateau of snow and ice into the valley. The road skirts the Jölster Lake, a beautiful expanse of clear water, with its sides studded with farms. The fields were full of haymakers, the girls dressed in the pretty costume of blue homespun skirt, white waist and bright bodice, some with their flaxen hair coiled into a knot on the very top of the head, others wearing jaunty peaked caps, all being barefoot, with black gaiters buttoned around the ankles.
The hay is dried on racks, like a section of rail fence, composed of six or eight rails, sometimes wire being substituted for the rails, built at the sides and down the centre of the hay fields; the grass is mown by hand, and much of it, on account of the numerous rocks, has to be cut, a handful at a time, with a sickle; the girls hang the grass upon the rails of the racks so as to allow a free circulation of air, which during 204 the cloudy days hastens the curing process, and even after a long rain only the outside of the grass on the upper rails is spoiled. The haymaking is a long and laborious process, and as there is much bad weather and rain, the haying season extends through the greater part of the Norwegian summer, and it is often weeks after the grass is hung upon the racks before it is sufficiently dried, and ready to be removed and carted to the barns.
We frequently saw what is called the “hay telegraph,” a stout wire stretching into the valley from a clearing high above. The grass is cut, dried, and made into bales, which are attached to an iron ring, and sent down the wire, high above the trees, into the valley below.
Wherever there is a level tract of land, and grass and oats will grow, even though it is restricted in dimensions and is located high up the mountain side, there we would see the solitary farm house. With what astonishment must the Norwegians who yearly emigrate to Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Dakota view the level boundless prairies, after living on these contracted farms, where only with much labor can they gather a scanty crop from among the rocks!
At the next post station we found every 205 horse out, for a prolific English vicar, accompanied by his wife and seven daughters, the long list of whose names—Deborah, Rachel, Olivia, etc.—were entered in the station book, had just passed through, sweeping away every available horse. All the horses near by were at work in the hay fields; the Pige refused to go farther with her horse; and as it would require an hour to send to a distant farm for one, we decided to walk to the next station.
A beautiful, hard, level road extended along the edge of the lake, through pleasant pastoral scenes, with picturesque little villages with rustic churches, and fields near the road from which the haymakers sent us cordial greetings.
After our long ride the ten-mile walk was an agreeable change, and with appetites such as only the bracing and sweet scented air can give, we arrived at sunset at Nedre Vassenden.
The inn was an old, rough house, unpainted on the exterior, situated at the end of the lake, with charming views of its placid water and background of blue mountains; but the interior was neat and inviting, and a motherly old woman gave us a hearty welcome, and soon served us with a supper of fried trout, fried eggs, rich milk and cheese, some delicate marmalade, and wheat, rye, and graham bread.206
At all the inns in Norway we found three kinds of bread, which were invariably good.
Our room overlooked the fine rapids formed by a river flowing from the lake, and in comfortable beds we were lulled to peaceful slumber, by the sound of rushing waters. After a substantial breakfast we left the dear old lady, who had won our hearts by her kindness, as well as by her culinary skill, and she gave us a warm handshake as we paid our moderate bill of three crowns (eighty cents) each.
An old farmer was perched on the back of the stolkjærre, who was very talkative and the embodiment of good nature, so that we regretted more than ever our imperfect knowledge of the language, and inability to understand him. The road followed the banks of a river, and skirted occasional lakes amid park-like scenery, with beautiful waterfalls coming down among the dark pine trees. Every few minutes the farmer would point to the water and utter Mange Lax (Many salmon), which to him was the chief attraction. It began to rain and we put on our rubber coats, which filled the farmer’s heart with unbounded admiration, and as he reached forward and softly stroked them with his hand, he asked how much we paid for them, like a simple unsophisticated child.207
The rain came down in torrents as we drove up to the inn at Forde, and we were glad to avail ourselves of its shelter and treat the farmer to beer. We then toiled up some terribly steep hills, from which all views were obscured by the thick clouds, and arrived at a rude station where the farmer left us; it was a slow station, and we were forced to wait in a miserable building for over an hour, while a horse was sent for to a distant farm. Starting once more, we drove down a steep descent through the blinding rain, till we came to Sande. We had intended continuing our journey ten miles farther, to a pretentious hotel at Vadheim, but the moment we stepped inside the inn we fell in love with it,—the impression was so cosy and homelike.
From the hall—which seemed like a reception room, as no stairs were visible—opened through wide doors, on one side the parlor, on the other the dining room; ivy climbed over the doorways and around the rooms; flowers and birds, cases filled with English and Norwegian books, racks with pipes and ornaments, tables covered with English newspapers, near which were drawn easy chairs, were about the rooms, and everything was so neat and inviting, with such an air of comfort and restfulness, that we decided at once to remain several days. Herr Sivertsen, the 208 proprietor, although a University-educated man, does not speak much English, but he made us welcome and sent a maid to take our orders, who had lived several years in America, and who greeted us in our native tongue.
We were soon served with a good dinner and met some pleasant people, as pleased with the inn as ourselves, who on their arrival intended simply to stop for dinner, but had remained several days.
During four days it rained almost incessantly, and we congratulated ourselves on being so comfortably housed. The irregularity regarding sleep which attends a tour in Norway, where during the perpetual daylight one is led into constant travelling and sight-seeing while the weather is pleasant, calls for occasional periods of rest, to enable one to “lay off,” and to store up a fresh supply of sleep and strength, and also to mentally digest the impressions and information one gathers so abundantly.
We found Sande a perfect haven of rest; our rooms and beds were clean and comfortable, the food abundant and well cooked. The pleasant acquaintances we made, and the genial home feeling pervading the place, rendered our stay there one of the most enjoyable of our experiences in Norway. Often during the day travellers 209 would arrive, either to take fresh horses and continue their journey, or to stop for a meal or the night, which would call us from our reading and writing, and animate the otherwise quiet place. At one end of the house was a room used as a shop, containing an assortment of hardware, gingerbread, boots, soap, jewelry, in fact everything to satisfy the moderate wants of the natives, who drove up in their stolkjærres to do their trading, their costumes and quaint ways furnishing interesting studies.
One day as I was walking in the rain a farmer stopped and spoke to me, then putting his hands on my rubber coat, tried to unbutton it; thinking he wished to know what time it was, I opened my coat and showed him my watch, at which he shook his head, and taking my coat in his hands carefully examined it, inside and out, and with a look of great admiration uttered, Hvad koster det? (What did that cost?). When I told him fifteen crowns, he shook his head at such extravagance, and saying something which far exceeded the bounds of my Norwegian vocabulary, gave me a handshake and went his way.
When the rain ceased and the sun reappeared, we were more than ever charmed with the place, for we then saw the beauty of its surroundings. 210 Across a swift, flowing river before the inn was a range of low mountains flecked with snow; while mountains towered in the rear, enclosing the fertile valley with its fields and farm houses.
In every direction we found pleasant walks; up the valleys extending among the mountains; along the river’s bank by a road winding among fragrant pines and up the mountain sides for the extensive views. But the favorite excursion was to a series of lakes flowing into each other, and forming imposing waterfalls as the water leaped over a high ledge into the lake below, and seethed and foamed as it flowed onward for another plunge.
Several of the guests were sportsmen, who returned at night with a good supply of trout caught in the lakes, and an occasional salmon taken from the river,—which graced the breakfast table.
In these delightful surroundings the days, both sunny and rainy, flew quickly by, and we were prepared to start with new zest for other scenes.
in all the station books on the roads to and from Red were comments of travellers, praising one hotel, and denouncing the other
[Yelp is evidently older than anyone suspected.]
A Day on the Sognefjord—Evening Scenes at a Norwegian Hotel—Carrioling through the Laerdal—Borgund Church—The Grandeurs of the Naeröfjord and Walk Through the Naersdal—Our Drive to Vossevangen—A Morning Walk to Eide.
We were awakened at five o’clock one morning, by the boy who drove up with the stolkjærre that was to take us from our dear Sande, and before six o’clock we had shaken hands with Herr Sivertsen and the whole family assembled to bid us farewell, and had started down the valley towards Vadheim. The road was a descent nearly the whole distance of ten miles, skirting the shore of a dark lake, and crossing and recrossing the river, which flows through the narrow valley enclosed by rocky walls two thousand feet high. In places there was just room for the road between the overhanging 214 cliffs and the river, and in others it wound among masses of débris brought down by land-slides.
Our horse travelled at a good pace, making the gravel fly, and we arrived at Vadheim, where we were to take the steamer, an hour before the advertised time of its departure, prepared for the possibility of its arriving thus early.
In the hotel parlor we saw another instance of the Norwegian’s high estimate of human nature, and perfect trust in the traveller’s honesty. On the table were a number of books, filled with several hundred unmounted photographs of the scenery of the locality, which were for sale; every one looks over these books, selecting the photographs he desires, and then generally has to hunt up some one to receive the pay for them; so there is nothing to prevent one from helping himself, and making an extensive collection at the expense of the innkeeper. We found these books at most of the inns and stations, and concluded the photographs were not taken without being paid for, but we doubt if many people would care to leave them thus to the stranger’s sense of honor. Norway is emphatically the land of honest people, and the traveller soon falls into the habit of neither locking up his belongings nor his room, 215 and the Norwegians trust strangers to an equal extent.
The Sognefjord is the longest of all the Norwegian fjords; its numerous arms, branching off in all directions, penetrate far inland, running up among lofty mountains, until in places they are stopped by immense glaciers. It is not only an important highway of traffic, but during the summer months the steamers are crowded with tourists, attracted by the grand scenery, to whom a day spent upon the steamer, touching at all the little settlements, the scenery growing grander as one advances inland, is full of rare enjoyment.
The Norwegians, perhaps with the laudable desire to lighten the burdens of a married man, and induce him to travel with his family, charge on their steamers but a fare and a half for a man and his wife, and for each member of the family a reduction ranging from twenty-five to fifty per cent. is made. As a couple are reckoned as one and a half, there may be some discussion among them as to which is to be regarded as the vulgar fraction, but the feminine constituent may reason, that as in other countries a married couple are considered one, in Norway, where they count for one and a half, the extra half belongs to the wife, who should 216 be reckoned as the integer, and the husband as the fraction. Two bachelors must pay full fare on the steamers, yet in the stolkjærre they go as one and a half; at hotels there is no reduction, and the benedict and his integer must pay the same as a brace of “unmated blessings.”
From Vadheim the steamer proceeded down a narrow arm of the fjord, and then out upon the broad Sognefjord proper, with its grand cliff and mountain scenery, and occasional settlements on the water’s edge. At the little village of Balholmen, with its background of imposing mountains and glaciers, one has a beautiful view of the numerous arms of the fjord, branching off at this point; the fjord here seems like a large lake, and bears some resemblance to Lake Lucerne, with its circle of blue mountains and wooded shores. Then the steamer turns up a narrow branch, called the Sogndalsfjord, with waterfalls coming over its smooth sides, and proceeds to Sogndal at its head, shut in by lofty mountains, but with fertile slopes coming to the water’s edge, abounding with cultivated fields and comfortable farm houses. The little village is built upon both sides of a turbulent river, and high up the slope is a handsome timber-built church and several fine houses; in the bright afternoon sunlight it appeared 217 to be the most attractive place we had seen on the fjord.
Regaining the main fjord we enjoyed a most lovely view in our rear. In the distance were pale blue mountains rising one above the other, with crystal glaciers streaming down their sides; nearer were mountains of a deeper blue, and at their feet the dark-green, pine-clad hills rising from the fjord, whose waters appeared like a sea of gold gleaming in the sunlight.
The sides of the fjord grew more wooded, with farm houses among small clearings, and occasional shoots for conveying lumber from the heights to the water’s edge, while smiling slopes replaced the barren and abrupt walls through which we had journeyed the greater part of the way. As we advanced up the branch called the Laerdalsfjord, we were once more amid the rugged rock formations, and the fjord became a narrow passage running inland between lofty walls of rock, at the end of which is the little town of Laerdalsören, the limit of our day’s journey. The hotel is over a mile from the pier, but we were eager for a walk and refused to accept the proffered conveyance.
We found Lindström’s Hotel very comfortable, and as we sat on the piazza in the evening we seemed to be in Chamonix or Zermatt; not on 218 account of the scenery, for it is neither striking nor interesting, but from the bustle and movement and scenes about us. Young men in knickerbockers, and maidens in Scotch helmets and stout shoes, were coming in from walking excursions; sportsmen were returning from a day’s fishing or hunting; travellers who had driven from Christiania were constantly arriving until every room in the hotel and the large annex was taken; guides were before the hotel interviewing the guests, and men and boys with carrioles and stolkjærres were all striving to secure a passenger for the next day.
Laerdalsören wholly owes its importance to being situated at the terminus of two important land routes from Christiania, and the point of departure for steamers, by way of the Sognefjord, for Bergen and the north.
The greater part of the hotel guests were English. Perhaps it is owing to the sociability and good nature of the Norwegians that the travelling Briton in Norway casts aside his natural reserve and stiffness, and becomes the most genial and delightful of companions; certainly, neither in England nor in any country in Europe have we met such charming and sociable English people as we encountered everywhere in Norway, and that evening we soon 219 made some pleasant acquaintances and arranged with them an excursion for the morrow.
In the morning, quite a procession of carrioles and stolkjærres started up the valley on a seventeen mile drive. I had a nimble horse, an easy riding carriole, my Skydsgut was a bright boy speaking a little English, and with the added features of a warm sunny day and pleasant companions, I had all the requisites for a day of enjoyment.
The Laerdal is at first a wide valley, well cultivated and sprinkled with farm houses; it is enclosed by mountains with snow-capped peaks, and many fine waterfalls gleam on their dark sides. It gradually contracts, and the road ascends until we enter a wild rocky ravine, with hardly space for the roadway at the base of steep cliffs, on the edge of a tumultuous river. In many places the road is blasted into the precipitous cliff, passing beneath overhanging rock, while far below among great boulders dashes the rushing river in foaming rapids; then it skirts the edge of projecting cliffs, and you look down a hundred feet into the great “giant cauldrons,” worn by the water in the solid rock, as it works onward in its resistless course. A magnificent waterfall, fringed with many small cascades, comes over the wall of rock on the 220 opposite side; the foam and thunder of its waters, added to that of the river, the grand rock formations of the narrow gorge, and the great boulders scattered in wild confusion all around, form an imposing scene.
We left our horses at a small station and walked, by what is called the old road, to Borgund church. It was formerly a well-built road ascending a cliff in tremendously steep zigzags, but it is now disused, and one would tremble at the thought of riding over it. From the summit, after resting and enjoying the view, we descended through pastures to the Borgund church, the most interesting church in Norway. It dates from the twelfth century, and is a curious, small, timber-built structure somewhat in the style of a Chinese pagoda, with a series of roofs, with many projecting gables, diminishing in size as they rise one above the other; they are surmounted by a graceful tapering tower ending in a slender spire, which is crowned with a weather vane and a cross. The sides and the roofs are covered with long pointed shingles of a deep black hue, produced by a coating of tar applied for their preservation. From the ridges of the two upper roofs project grotesque carvings, somewhat resembling horns, while the west doorway is carved with two entwined snakes, and the south doorway 221 has elaborately carved columns and griffins’ heads. Around the exterior is a low arcade; the lower part is closed, while the upper part is open and supported by small columns. It was probably built as a protection against snow and cold. Above the roof of the arcade, on the sides, are small round holes to admit light and air, for the church has but one small window, and the interior is dark and open to the roof. The interior contains little of interest, save the rich dark coloring of the ancient wooden walls and pillars; there are the remains of an old stone altar and font, and a dilapidated altar picture which it is impossible to form much idea of, as it is too dark to permit of its being seen, and no lights are allowed in the church. It is many years since the church has been used for service, and it now belongs to the Antiquarian Society of Christiania, who preserve it as one of the architectural monuments of the country.
Near by is the quaint timber bell tower, its bells all in good working order, as was tested by one of our party. One wonders how these simple Norsemen, so plain and severe in their tastes, ever happened to build such a fantastic and grotesque church, which seems the expression of the vivid imagination and luxuriant fancies of a southern clime. We returned to Husum by 222 the new road, following the banks of a river forming a series of effective rapids and waterfalls, as it winds through a narrow defile amid wild and striking scenery. We then drove back to Laerdalsören through the grand gorge, and at ten o’clock in the evening embarked on the steamer bound for Gudvangen. It grew dark at eleven o’clock, and we retired to the cabin and slept until two in the morning, when we were called and went on deck to find bright sunlight.
The Naeröfjord, which the steamer was entering, is a worthy rival of the celebrated Geiranger fjord; lofty mountains, many with snow-crowned summits, bound it on either side, rising precipitously from the water. The fjord is winding in its course, and in places the mountains close it in so that it appears to be a small lake, the great headlands of granite forming grand and imposing boundaries. Many waterfalls—some over a thousand feet high appearing like threads of silver as they descend in a broken course from the snow-fields above, others with more volume of water from lesser heights—plunge into the fjord below. Every turn of the steamer unfolds new grandeurs of rock formation and a fresh supply of waterfalls. At last we come to a little hamlet, with scarcely room for its few houses on the narrow strip of land between the 223 base of the mountains and the water, a short distance beyond which is Gudvangen, at the end of the fjord, so completely shut in by the mountains that the sun’s rays do not reach it throughout the entire winter.
It was half-past three o’clock in the morning when we landed, yet many were at the wharf to meet us (for little distinction is made between day and night), among whom were the innkeepers, and men and boys with carrioles and stolkjærres, which they tried to persuade us to hire for a drive up the valley. But we sought the nearest inn, and shutting out the sunlight to the best of our ability with the curtains, retired and slept soundly till ten o’clock; then having partaken of a good breakfast we started on a six mile walk up the grand Naerödal, a valley bounded by mountains. A smooth, well-made road passes through the valley; on either side the roar of waterfalls greeted us as they fell hundreds of feet and dashed their spray against the rocks, and as we advanced the Jordalsnut, nearly four thousand feet high, an immense cone of light-gray feldspar, its sides and summit as smooth as if trimmed off with a knife, projected into the valley. The effect is strange in the extreme as one views this great cone from base to summit, standing far out from the 224 other mountains, like a gigantic monument set down in the valley.
At the base of the abrupt precipices forming the sides of the Naerödal, are great masses of rock brought down by avalanches and landslides. The valley ends in a precipitous cliff, a thousand feet high, called the Stalheimsklev, on one side of which is the Sevlefos, on the other the Stalheimsfos, two fine waterfalls, carrying on a continual and thundering rivalry.
The road ascends by exceedingly steep zigzags (every one dismounting from their stolkjærres, and walking up or down) to Stalheim, on the summit of the cliff, where a large modern hotel has been lately built. Its wide upper piazza commands a beautiful view of the whole extent of the magnificent Naerödal, a view almost equalling that of the Yosemite from Inspiration Point. The lofty sides of the valley, with their tracery of silvery waterfalls, appear but a few hundred feet apart; the great Jordalsnut seems to have stepped forth from its mountain environment and stands alone in solemn grandeur, while winding through the valley beside the foaming river, like a coil of white thread, is the road to Gudvangen.
The hotel at Stalheim is called a sanitarium. Certainly the situation is one of the healthiest, 225 its pure air and grand view must be restful and restoring to both tired mind and body, and, judging from the excellent dinner we were served with, the hotel can furnish many bodily comforts. For the drive to Vossevangen we engaged an easy riding stolkjærre and a young horse, of a communicative and intelligent young man named David Larson, who spoke excellent English. David told us that every Norwegian must learn to read and write; in the higher schools English is taught but as he lived in a small village, he had spent the previous winter in Bergen, where he had studied English. A young man becomes of age when twenty-five; if able-bodied he enters the army at twenty-three, serving six months the first year, and one month during each of the two succeeding years.
We stopped at several stations along the way, and while the horse was resting and being fed we walked on, telling David to overtake us. The road led through a pleasant, fertile valley, dotted with comfortable farmhouses, with fields filled with haymakers. The distant mountains were not as lofty and grand as those we had just viewed on our walk through the Naerödal, but there was the customary supply of fine waterfalls, and the usual turbulent river flowed 226 through the valley. High up the sides were rough wooden structures and clearings, which were filled with hay, stored there until winter, when the farmers make a road over the snow, and draw it down on sleds with oxen.
The ride of twenty miles amid these pleasant scenes, along the river and by a series of lakes, and the descent by a steep road into the village of Vossevangen, was accomplished all too quickly. It was the height of the summer travel, and finding both of the large hotels full, we went to Dykesten’s inn, which is unpretending but very comfortable.
Vossevangen is connected by railway with Bergen, sixty-six miles distant, and the evening train brought many guests to the little inn, who sat down to the supper table perfect strangers, but they quickly became acquainted with their neighbors, right and left; for all reserve is cast off, and one becomes as natural and genial as the Norwegians themselves. An abundance of material for conversation is furnished in the comparison of travelling experiences, and the imparting and receiving of information concerning routes and places to be visited, and each one seems anxious that others shall enjoy their journey in Norway equally with himself.
The pleasant little village is charmingly situated 227 at the end of a large lake, across which rises a range of snow-capped mountains over four thousand feet high; a small stone church with picturesque wooden steeple, dating from the thirteenth century, stands in the midst of a quiet churchyard, and extending up the sides of the hills, in the rear of the village, are numerous farms with well-tilled fields. Vossevangen is often spoken of as “the kitchen garden of Bergen,” its environs having a large area of land, for Norway, under cultivation, and it forms one of the chief sources of supply for the Bergen market.
The next morning, after being fortified with a hearty breakfast of delicious trout, eggs, and Scotch marmalade, we shouldered our knapsacks, and began the process of hand-shaking with the crowd assembled to see us off, which included not only the Norwegians connected with the inn, but a dozen English and Scotch people whose acquaintance we had formed the previous evening; at length, after many hearty farewells and good wishes, we started on a nineteen mile walk to Eide, on the Hardangerfjord.
In pleasant weather, walking, over a fine road in the bracing air, with ever-changing and delightful views of interesting scenery, is the perfection of enjoyment. The road leads at first 228 beside a small river, through a pleasing and well-cultivated country, then ascends through fragrant woods, till it suddenly terminates as at Stalheim, on the brow of a high cliff, the view from which into the profound valley is most striking. The road descends in sharp zigzags down the face of the cliff, and winds among the masses of detached rock; over the cliff falls the Skjervefos, its foam and spray bathing the black slate rock, and forming a mountain torrent which soon becomes a river as it flows onward to the lake.
At a little village overlooking the lake we entered an inn, and after repeated knocking, calling, and exploring the whole house, we found the landlady at a neighboring cottage, who soon served us with some bread, cheese, and beer, which we particularly relished after our morning walk. We continued our way along the side of the lake, and through a rocky defile, ever amid picturesque scenery, and came to a small house, where a lady who had just been thrown from her carriole was sitting by the roadside, the horse having suddenly turned up a steep path at the side, doubtless leading to the farm to which he belonged. The carriole was broken, that being the only damage, and the Skydsgut had gone back for another. The lady informed 229 us that she had been driving through the country for several weeks, and this was the first accident she had met with; it was the only one we heard of while in Norway.
When one considers the constant change of drivers, many of them very inexperienced, to which the horses are subjected, the comparative freedom from accidents shows they are gentle and reliable animals.
Eide is situated at the head of a narrow arm of the Hardangerfjord, completely shut in by mountains, which are wooded near their base. It consists of but a handful of houses and three hotels. We were particularly pleased with Moeland’s Hotel, with a large garden in which roses and other flowers were in bloom, with inviting seats in shady nooks, with a river flowing at one side, while at one end the garden sloped to the fjord’s edge. It was a pleasure to lie upon the grass that perfect summer afternoon resting after our long walk, listening to the murmuring water, and watching the fleecy clouds drifting over the dark mountains.230
the most interesting church in Norway
[It may be the only stavkirke the writer saw, but it certainly isn’t the only one in the country, or even in the rest of the world. Thanks to some early immigrant, there’s even one just down the road from me.]
A Sabbath at Vik—Road Building—Visit to the Vöringsfos—Odde on the Sörfjord—Excursion to the Skjæggedalsfos—The Bruarbræ—From Odde by Steamer to Bergen.
We met at Eide a Norwegian-American, a gentleman of wealth and intelligence from Wisconsin, who was revisiting his native land accompanied by his American wife, after an absence of twenty-six years; and during all our stay upon the Hardanger fjord we enjoyed the pleasure of their company, which was of especial benefit, as Mr. L. still spoke Norwegian as well as when he first left his native land.
We left Eide on a small steamer at eight o’clock in the evening, and steaming down a narrow branch of the fjord came to a beautiful point of view at Utne, where four arms of the Hardanger fjord branch out in as many different directions. We proceeded up the east arm, 234 called the Eidfjord, its shores rocky and abrupt, with the ever-grand mountain background, and in the mellow twilight, softening the sharp outlines of cliff and peak, steamed onward for two hours until we arrived at a little village called Vik.
The next day was the Sabbath, and as we sat before our comfortable inn, there appeared far down the fjord, first one row boat and then another coming from the little bays at the sides, until there was a long procession of over twenty boats, some containing a dozen people; each boat was rowed by six or eight oars, with a man or woman at each oar, keeping perfect time, and furnishing a beautiful sight as the oars dipped, and then rose from the water, all together. The boats slowly advanced up the fjord, bringing the farmers and their families from their isolated homes scattered along the mountain sides, to the simple service in the little stone church at Vik.
The women wore the prettiest of all the Norwegian costumes, the most striking feature of which is the head covering of snow-white linen stiffly starched and plaited into narrow flutings, forming a small cap on the crown of the head with a wide protruding fold at each side back of the ears; it then extends down 235 the back, gradually tapering to a point. The usual sleeveless red bodice, gayly embroidered, was worn over a loose white waist fastened at the throat with quaint silver brooches with many pendants. The boats were drawn up along the shore, and the women and girls, after landing, before going to the church, stopped to adjust their caps and put the finishing touches to their toilette, the same as their sisters in all parts of the world. After the service, the men and women, old and young, gathered in groups on the shore or before the little houses, and passed a few hours in gossip concerning the meagre events of the week; then one boat after another received its occupants and was rowed down the fjord, the families returning to their lonely homes, probably not to leave them during the week.
The chief attraction near Vik is the Vöringsfos, a magnificent waterfall (the word fos meaning fall), which requires from eight to ten hours, on the part of good walkers, for an excursion there and back. We started early one morning, and after a walk of twenty minutes over a neck of land between the fjord and the lake, were rowed in an hour to the opposite end of the lake. The mountains enclosing the lake rise precipitously, and along one side a 236 road is being built, which seemed to us an immense undertaking; but the Norwegians are as good road-builders as the Swiss, and are nothing daunted by the obstacles of nature.
They had blasted great sections of rock from the base of the mountain, and breaking them into smaller fragments, piled them up so as to form the foundation of a road bed rising out of the water; in places they had tunnelled through great masses of rock that had slipped from the mountain side and were too large to be removed by blasting, and in others had blasted into the mountain, so that the road passed beneath masses of overhanging rock. One hundred men had been at work for six months, and had constructed about two miles of road. A man has a contract for clearing the mountain side of all boulders and detached rocks, which are liable to fall upon the road when completed and destroy life; we saw a group of men, high up the mountain, who were evidently making arrangements to topple a massive boulder into the lake below. This part of the enterprise seems a responsible undertaking, particularly if the blame of future landslides is to be laid to the contractor.
The road is projected to extend for fifty miles until it joins a road in the south; and 237 they pointed out its intended course, over and among the mountains, where no one would imagine it could be built; yet had we viewed some of the famous Alpine passes before the present well-made roads crossed them, we would probably have equally doubted the accomplishment of the undertaking.
From the lake it is a walk of over two hours to the fall; after passing a cluster of farm houses, the path ascends an old moraine, and continuing beside a river with many foaming rapids, we came to the rough path constructed by the Norwegian Tourist Club. We ascend over smooth ledges and through a wild gorge, in which are scattered great boulders; then the path mounts the side of a rocky cliff, at the base of which flows a river, and as we advance we hear the roar of falling water and finally the upper part of the fall comes into view; we here cross the river by a frail swinging suspension bridge, and the grand waterfall is before us.
It comes over the head of a ravine in one perpendicular leap of four hundred and seventy-five feet, into a great basin, enclosed on three sides by bare and lofty walls of rock; the rush and roar of the white mass of foaming water is tremendous, especially as one descends over the 238 loose, slippery rocks towards the bottom of the ravine on the opposite side of the fall, where the perpendicular walls send back the reverberations of the falling water. A dense cloud of spray rebounds against the wall, appearing, as it rises, like another fall; as we climbed over the rocks towards it, the suction of the air currents nearly bore us from our feet, and we could hardly breathe. The Vöringsfos is considered the second finest fall in Norway, and fully does the view of it repay the fatigue of the long walk.
The fall is formed by a large mountain stream, flowing over an elevated plateau until it plunges into the gorge. The natives had observed the column of spray rising above the fall, and this led to its discovery in 1821; it was always viewed from above until the Tourist Club constructed the path up the ravine.
Near the fall is a rude wooden house of two rooms, where a woman lives during the summer to sell refreshments to visitors. As we sat at the table enjoying our lunch, Mr. L. entered into conversation with her in Norwegian, and learned she was a widow; with much feeling she told him that her son, her only child, had gone to America, and was then attending Northfield College in Minnesota. When Mr. L. informed her 239 that Northfield was not far from his home, that on his return he would visit her son and tell him of this meeting, and also promised to assist him, the mother’s joy was unbounded, and with repeated expressions of thankfulness she sent messages to her far distant son.
The horses in Norway are as sure-footed as those in Switzerland. One can make the journey on horseback both to and from the fall; it seemed a difficult undertaking for a horse to travel over such a path as we came up; on our return, as we stepped down from rock to rock like a flight of steps, and descended over steep slippery ledges, it seemed very hazardous to think of riding over them; but the horses are accustomed to the path and never fall, nor do accidents occur.
A rough and narrow path ascends the side of the ravine in such steep zigzags that it appears utterly impossible for a horse to go over it, yet our guide told us that horses came down the path loaded with great bundles of hay, cut on the plateau above.
We reached Vik just eight hours from the time we started. We returned to Eide by the same steamer, this time enjoying the scenery by the bright morning light, and, changing to a larger steamer, we proceeded down the 240 most beautiful arm of the Hardanger, called the Sörfjord. This fjord is in great contrast to the Sogne and more northern fjords, for their walls of bleak and barren rocks are here replaced at many points by fertile and wooded sides, and the scenery is much softer and milder in character, though there are not lacking elements of grandeur, from the snowy mountains and overhanging glaciers. The beauty and variety of its scenery render it one of the most enjoyable of all the fjords. Its sides are dotted with many farm houses, some perched upon apparently inaccessible heights amid a little patch of green, their inmates living a happy and contented life, their few wants all supplied; on the east side are several pleasant settlements, with hotels for summer travellers, and well-cultivated fields sloping to the water; on the west side the great Folgefond glacier, spreading over a plateau thousands of feet high, crops over the grey rock in places, extending its crystal mass towards the fjord, while cascades formed by the melting snow flow down the lofty cliffs.
At last we perceive in the distance a small church tower; the fjord gradually narrows till it is but a few hundred yards wide, and ends at the village of Odde.241
The Norwegians are very primitive in their nomenclature, applying to a place a name signifying its geographical description; thus Odde means a tongue of land, and we find it is built on a small extent of land between the fjord and a lake; Eide signifies an isthmus, Vik a creek, Naes a promontory, Mo a plain; and, the same names often recurring, in speaking of a place one must always mention the fjord upon which it is situated, to distinguish it from many others of the same name.
Odde is a favorite resort of all travellers in Norway, and its hotels are filled with guests during the summer, for it is but a day’s journey by steamer from Bergen, and is the terminus of the land route from Christiania, through the province of Thelemarken. It consists of a few houses and stores, scattered along its main street and the shore of the fjord; a small church stands in a green churchyard, and there are two hotels—one a large modern establishment, the other an enlarged inn near the steamboat pier, kept by Ole Proestsgaard, a good-hearted old farmer, where we found excellent food and comfortable rooms, with beautiful views down the fjord, and of the snowy Folgefond and encircling mountains. In the evening, as we promenaded the chief street of the village, the travellers driving up in 242 stolkjærres, the groups about the hotel piazzas brightly illuminated with lights in colored globes, and the guides and carriole boys in the street, formed an animated scene.
In the large show windows of two shops were life-size figures of peasant girls dressed in bridal costumes, with the heavy bridal crowns of gold or silver upon the head, and an abundance of brooches with pendants, with which they are adorned for the occasion; there were also figures in the national costume, with the pretty plaited head-dress. It is said that the peasants view with disfavor this reproduction of themselves in shop windows; and many of the younger women have cast aside the national costume, and have imitated the dress of their city and foreign visitors.
Within the stores were costumes, wood carvings, antique jewelry, furniture, and many interesting articles for sale,—all at high prices; for Odde is altogether too frequented a resort, and its inhabitants have enjoyed the patronage of travellers during too many seasons, to enable one to purchase at less than three times the cost of similar articles in more out-of-the-way places farther north. The graceful head-dress was for sale arranged in a compact roll, but we found it such a complicated affair, that without 243 a Norwegian girl to put it together, we knew our manly intellects could never sufficiently grasp its mysteries of arrangement to enable us to show it to home friends; and as none of the girls would agree to go to America with us, or throw themselves in like a chromo with the head-dress, we relinquished the idea of buying one. The bridal crowns are handed down from generation to generation, and as they are made of genuine gold and silver, with much elaborate workmanship, they are often valued at over $200.
On returning to our hotel we heard a lady upon the piazza exclaim, “Why, here are some old friends!” and we were greeted by a party of sociable Scotch people, with whom we had previously travelled in the North, who appeared so rejoiced to see us that it seemed almost like meeting home friends, and gave an added pleasure to our stay at Odde.
During the day Odde is almost deserted, for nearly all the guests at the hotels take their lunch and go fishing, or start on an excursion, early in the morning, returning at seven o’clock to dinner.
It numbers many attractive excursions and places of interest to be visited, at the head of which properly stands the trip to the famous 244 waterfall called the Skjæggedalsfos, a word that no one is expected to pronounce except after patient practice with a native. A bonnie Scotch lassie called it the Skedaddle fos, which showed she was acquainted with American colloquialisms; yet as Noah Webster states that the word “skedaddle” is of Swedish and Danish origin, it may be first cousin to this lengthy Norse word.
The hotels furnish guides for the trip to the Skjæggedalsfos, a guide going with each boat-load of not more than six persons, and lunches are put up for the entire party. The day we made the excursion two parties went from our hotel, and three from the other, making a company of thirty people in all, including the guides; the parties started at different hours, so we were not all at the waterfall at the same time. We left at eight o’clock in the morning, and were rowed down the fjord for an hour, crossing the mouth of a river flowing into the fjord in a wide cascade, just beyond which we landed, and, mounting a steep bank, began our walk of two hours and a half over a rough path, continually ascending, until it reaches an elevation of eighteen hundred feet above the fjord.
There are beautiful views backward of the fjord below, and the mountains rising heavenward till they are crowned by the pure snow mantle 245 of the Folgefond, with its numerous glaciers descending over the mountain sides; as the path ascends high up the sides of the ravine, we have charming views of the river rushing below, with its series of cascades. Part of the way our course is through woods, and then we mount over smooth ledges and steps cut in the rock, a long and wearisome walk amid grand but desolate scenery, till the path descends, and we arrive in a field where haymakers are at work, near a small lake, across which we are rowed.
We land near a roaring cascade, the discharge of the large lake beyond, and, walking over the narrow neck of land, we embark in boats with extra oarsmen, for a row of an hour and a half up a lake, five miles long, situated fifteen hundred feet above the level of the fjord.
The lake is surrounded by lofty mountains, in places covered with snow, rising abruptly from the dark water. There is no sign of life, save now and then a fish leaping for a second out of the water, and a few birds cleaving the air; the eternal stillness is only broken by our voices and the resounding echoes sent back by the walls of rock. As we slowly advance up the lake, we see, at the end of a gorge at the left, two waterfalls called the Tyssestrenge, coming 246 over the side of a precipice more than five hundred feet high, which midway in their course unite in one fall, resembling in the distance two strings, as their name implies; their rocky surroundings are very grand and abrupt in formation, and they appear to be inaccessible.
As we round a projecting headland, the never to be forgotten view of the Skjæggedalsfos bursts upon us, descending in one unbroken leap of five hundred and thirty feet, the water as it comes over the cliff shooting out into the air like rockets, then falling in a white drapery of foam over the dark rocks, and rebounding in clouds of mist. Approaching nearer, we perceive the numerous smaller cascades at the sides, and the opposite cliff, whose smooth surface, bathed in eternal spray, gleams in the sunlight like molten silver.
We land and advance over a rocky path by tedious climbing, till we stand near the base of the fall, drenched with its mist, and nearly stunned by the deafening roar and rush of the seething water; but the rebounding mist prevents one seeing the whole extent of the fall, and the distant view is, by far, more beautiful. The water at last reaches the lake by a wide cascade of deep green color, falling over a high ledge of rock, where it is churned into foam.247
We gathered on the grass near the rude sæter, and ate our lunch with appetites stimulated by our hard walk, with a view of the finest waterfall in all Europe before us, surrounded by imposing mountain scenery; then embarking in the boat we were rowed down the lake, our eyes, until the last moment, fastened upon the grand cataract, whose foam appeared whiter from the contrast with its dark background and savage environment.
We returned over the rough path, which seemed more fatiguing than before, as the bright afternoon sun shone upon us, and the incentive that had urged us on was now removed. In the various parties were several Scotch and English girls, who were splendid pedestrians, enduring the tiring walk much better than the gentlemen, and who, with glowing cheeks and sparkling eyes, were the first to reach the boats on the fjord. We were rowed back to Odde, arriving at the hotel just at dinner time, having occupied eleven hours in the trip; though the trip is very fatiguing, and should not be undertaken unless a person is a tolerably good walker, yet the labor and exertion are fully repaid by the view of the magnificent waterfall, and the beautiful scenery along the route.
A visit to the glacier called the Bruarbræ 248 requires five hours for the round trip. A winding road ascends from Odde, beside a small stream full of rapids, till it reaches a lake across which you are rowed and enter a narrow valley with several farms, while a river flowing through it foams among the rocks. Before you, closing the head of the valley, is the Bruarbræ, descending from the great Folgefond, a projecting ridge of rock dividing the glacier as it flows downward into two streams, which afterwards unite, thus forming a large central moraine. The glacier is traversed by deep crevasses, is very dirty, and covered with stones, and in beauty bears little comparison to the pure-white Svartisen in the far North.
At the sides and in the stream are great piles of rocks, brought down by the glacier as it has crowded its way between the green sides of the valley; it ends in an ice arch whose depths are a beautiful deep blue, whence issues the turbid stream which later forms a river flowing to the lake. The distant view of the glacier is by far the finest, as one looks upon its whole extent, stretching from the ice regions into the fertile valley, the mass of snow and ice glistening in the sunshine, appearing much cleaner and whiter than when viewed close at hand.
We enjoyed many pleasant walks by the 249 mountain-locked lake, over the smooth road extending along its side, in places blasted into the precipitous rock, and with numerous waterfalls coming over the cliffs. This road extends into Thelemarken, an interesting province, that the time at our disposal would not permit us to visit.
In walking along the shore of the fjord, among the scattered houses comprising the village we saw long pieces of the strong homespun cloth, many yards in length, swaying back and forth in the breeze as they hung outside the house, suspended from a beam projecting from an attic window. They had been dyed a dark blue, and were left in the open air to dry until the color became fixed. The Norwegians, both men and women, were clothed in this stout homespun, and it not only looked well, but appeared to have excellent wearing qualities.
One night a steamer arrived soon after midnight, and we were awakened from peaceful slumbers by a great commotion and rushing about; our first thought was that the hotel was on fire, but we soon discovered that the excitement was caused by the arriving guests; the tramping up and down the uncarpeted stairs and over our heads was deafening, the thin partitions and floors rendering every sound audible. 250 We heard every movement of the occupants of the room above us, walking about in their heavy boots, and we drew a sigh of relief when the last tramp had sounded and the boots were pulled off; then silence reigned until we were awakened to take an early steamer, and in turn awoke the late arrivals.
We left Odde at seven o’clock in the morning, on a twelve hours’ journey to Bergen. We passed down the lovely Sörfjord with its grand and varied scenery, stopping at the most important stations, and finally reached Eide, which was our third visit to the place, as all the steamers on the branching arms of the Hardanger fjord include Eide in their route. Then we proceeded down the main arm of the fjord, stopping at Norheimsund just long enough to give us a good view of its charming situation, amid picturesque scenery, causing us to wish we were to remain there several days.
As we continued upon our journey we passed a bridal party of several boat-loads of peasants, from the little farm houses up the mountain side, who were rowing to the nearest village for the celebration of the ceremony. In the stern of one of the boats rowed by six oarsmen, sat the bride, adorned with her golden crown, and beside her the bridegroom, who wore 251 a short coat with many bright buttons; the musicians stood at the prow and the sound of music and singing floated across the water.
At a small island called Terö we had a most striking view of the crystal mass of the Folgefond, spread out upon a plateau five thousand feet above the fjord, with offshoots from the immense glacier cropping over the sides of the steep cliffs. We passed through a very narrow channel, and among a multitude of islands, where the intricate navigation demands great skill on the part of the pilot; and thus the day was spent in journeying among islands, grand rock formations, and barren mountains, till we entered a wide fjord, and the houses and shipping of Bergen appeared in the distance.252
its discovery in 1821
[That is, its first sighting by literate white male Europ— Oh. Right. Sometimes “discovery” really does mean “discovery”.]
[The college was renamed Carleton in 1871—a year after enrolling its first class—so one can only hope the poor widow’s son was really a student there. Incidentally, Carleton’s history tells us that in 1874
James J. Dow and Myra A. Brown are the first two students awarded bachelor’s degrees. Six months later, on Christmas Day, they marry.
Our Experiences in the “Weeping City”—Scenes in the Fish Market—Rainy Walks about Town—A Beneficial Licence System—Voyage across the North Sea—Up the River Maas to Rotterdam.
We had travelled from the North Cape to Odde, nearly the entire length of Norway, and everywhere had met most honest and goodhearted people, to whom overcharge and extortion seemed unknown; but the moment we stepped from the steamer at Bergen we landed among a race of land sharks who appeared to possess none of the qualities we had admired so much in the Norwegians among whom we had sojourned during the past five weeks, but whose sole aim seemed to be the extortion of money from travellers.
We had been repeatedly warned against Holdt’s Hotel, so we went to the Hotel Norge, 256 a new and large establishment, where, at about four times the price, we found fewer real comforts than in the village and station inns; in fact, the only poor bread we ate in Norway was served us here.
Several lines of steamers connect Bergen with England, Scotland, Germany, and other European countries, and the chief steamboat lines of Norway centre here, so every traveller is almost certain to arrive at Bergen during some part of his journey. We were thankful our first impressions of the people and country were not received here, and that we could soon forget the closing experiences of our journey, and remember only the delightful ones we had previously enjoyed.
Certainly the chief hotels, as well as the porters at the steamboat landings, and the class with whom travellers come in contact, bear a most unenviable reputation, though the residents may be the most delightful people in the whole country.
As we had found Norway a land of almost perpetual daylight, we had had no use for lamps nor candles, but on our first night at Bergen the heavens were covered with such thick clouds that it grew dark early, and we prepared to retire by the flickering light of a candle. To show 257 how quickly one becomes wonted to what at first seems unnatural, it is only necessary to state that it was a strange sensation, after five weeks of almost constant daylight, to once more come back to artificial light. Under the circumstances, the innkeepers in Norway have not the slightest ground upon which to take in the traveller with the bougie gouge, which is so dear to all European hotelkeepers’ hearts, and thus far, as we had seen no candles, we had been charged for none. But we found, on our bill at the Hotel Norge, candles charged at the regular Parisian price of thirty cents apiece, and as you can purchase a dozen for that sum at a shop in Paris, very likely you would be furnished with a dozen and a half in Bergen, a small city of thirty-three thousand inhabitants, where everything is naturally much cheaper; so the landlord’s profit on candles was equal to that of a heartless monopolist’s.
The average yearly rainfall in Bergen is seventy-two inches, and it easily heads the list of rainy towns. Every babe who is born in this “weeping city” is provided with a waterproof and umbrella immediately upon its arrival, which are renewed at frequent intervals during its municipal existence. The sun shines occasionally, but the rainy days far outnumber the pleasant 258 ones. The two days we spent there it rained almost continuously, the water coming down in torrents, flooding the streets and making it very disagreeable getting about, which partly accounts for our unpleasant recollections of the place and our frequent fervent exclamations, “From Bergen, henceforth and evermore, good Lord, deliver us!”
We visited the weekly fish market, held upon Friday morning, and found it an interesting scene. At stands in the large market place, or from baskets on the pavement, women in costumes, and wearing a striking white headdress, were selling an endless variety of fish, and on a few stands there was a limited display of vegetables and flowers.
An immense collection of boats, of all kinds, were closely packed in together along the sides of the quays, containing an apparently inexhaustible supply of fish of all sizes and varieties, from large cod and salmon down to silvery little fish, a few inches long, sold by measure. The vendors stood knee deep in fish, passing them up to the purchasers on the quays, and during the day the whole supply disappeared. Every housekeeper in Bergen must have been present on the scene, each filling a large basket with a varied assortment of fish, purchased from the 259 women in the market place, or from the boats at the quay, until they appeared to have a sufficient supply for a week’s consumption. Later in the morning small steamboats loaded with peasant girls and women steamed down the harbor to neighboring settlements, and before night all the fish-laden boats had disappeared.
We spent a large part of our time in the shops along the Strandgaden, the principal business street of the city, which contain many articles the traveller will wish to carry with him as souvenirs of his visit to Norway; among which are small models of carrioles and stolkjærres, and peculiar oval wooden boxes, gayly painted, or decorated with figures burned into the wood with hot irons; there are also dagger-shaped knives, such as are carried by the peasants, wood-carvings, figures in costume, ancient silver jewelry, pretty silver filagree, quaint tankards, and rich furs.
During our journey through Norway the advertisement of Beyer’s photographs had greeted us everywhere—from rocks, fences, and barns, much like the patent medicine announcements in America; the best memento of one’s journey is a collection selected from the finely finished photographs in Beyer’s large store in Bergen.
The museum is a handsome building standing 260 upon the brow of a hill, and contains a valuable collection. There we saw the interesting carved wooden portals of an old church, dating from the sixteenth century, several Runic monuments, domestic and ecclesiastical furniture, silver tankards and drinking horns, a variety of old style weapons, and an array of figures in Norwegian and Laplander costumes.
The natural history department comprises a most complete collection of Norwegian fish, sea fowl, and marine animals, and we were particularly interested, since our visit to the whale-oil factory, in inspecting the skeletons of several immense whales, and numerous baby whales, of various sizes, preserved in tanks filled with liquor. We found the museum a most comfortable and instructive place in which to spend a rainy morning, and as the young lady attendant who showed us about spoke excellent English, the visit was especially enjoyable.
Formerly there was scarcely any restriction placed upon the sale of liquor in Norway, and in 1833 the consumption of strong liquors amounted to twenty-eight quarts per head of the entire population of the country, and there was a vast amount of drunkenness, with its attendant misery, poverty, and crime. But, owing to the 261 raising of the duty upon liquor, and the work of temperance societies, the consumption was greatly lowered, and the introduction of what is called the “permissive bill” has still farther reduced and restricted the traffic. By this law the authorities of a district may, by a majority vote, refuse to grant a licence for the sale of liquor, or they can give the monopoly of the liquor trade to a company, who are bound to pay them all profits, after deducting expenses and the payment of a dividend of five per cent. In many of the country districts no licences have been granted, with the result that drunkenness is almost unknown.
In Bergen, and some of the other cities, the licence is given to a company, who control all the shops where liquor is sold, and the surplus profits of the business are turned into the city treasury. A fine road, called the Drammensvei (dram road), extending along the side of a hill back of Bergen, high above the town, has been constructed wholly from the profits of the liquor traffic paid into the municipality; it is one of the pleasantest drives in the vicinity, in fine weather commanding most extended views of the city and surroundings.
Many of the captains and officers of the steamers are teetotallers; such was the captain 262 of the “Kong Halfdan,” a North Cape steamer, who told us that his chief steward had a licence for selling to regular passengers, but no one could come from the shore, or board the steamer while in port, and purchase liquor. The sale of beer and wine is permitted at all hotels and restaurants, though under certain restrictions. During the whole time we were in Norway we never saw a drunken person, but in Sweden, where the liquor traffic is not restricted to the same degree, we saw quite a number.
The harbor of Bergen extends inland, like a deep bay, and furnishes a busy scene from its many large sea-going steamers, and the smaller carrying vessels anchored in the stream or drawn up along the quays. West of the harbor is a hilly peninsula covered with houses; extending its entire length is the chief street of shops, with very narrow alley-ways branching down to the water, and upon the other side are steep streets mounting to the summit of the hill. The situation of the city is very picturesque, being built along the harbor and two small inland lakes, and rising on hills, with a background of barren mountains.
Once more, after so many weeks, we heard the puff of the railway engine and the noise of a train as it rolled into the station from Vossevangen, 263 sixty-six miles distant, at the terminus of the road. We walked through the modern promenades and around the lakes, and visited the newer portions of the city adorned with handsome modern residences, but the rain continued with but short intermissions, and we could obtain but a general idea of the city.
We would have much preferred to have driven from Odde, through Thelemarken, to Christiania, and there taken a steamer to Copenhagen, and proceeded thence by rail; but we were limited for time, as we were already due in Paris, and so chose the shortest route thither, by steamer to Rotterdam and then by rail. Our courage nearly failed us as we boarded the diminutive steamer in which we were to cross the North Sea. It was chiefly constructed for carrying freight, its first-class passenger accommodations being limited to five state-rooms and a small saloon, all situated in the stern; yet as but four passengers were booked for the voyage, we knew we should have plenty of room.
We left Bergen at night, after being rowed out to the steamer in a small boat under a perfect deluge of rain; and during the first night and until after dinner on the first day we had a comfortable passage, as our course lay within the girdle of islands extending along the coast. 264 The scenery was tame and uninteresting after all the grandeurs of nature we had viewed, but we were thankful for our protecting “island belt” and enjoyed the sunshine after our experience of Bergen weather.
As we stood on the lower deck, leaning against a large case covered with a sail-cloth, we heard a savage growl, and sprang back in alarm; on inquiring as to the contents of the case, the sail-cloth was removed, and our astonished gaze rested upon a large white polar bear, lately captured in the Arctic regions, which was being shipped to the Zoological Garden at Rotterdam. After this sight, we no longer carelessly kicked our heels against that case.
Soon after leaving the small town of Haugesund, with its red-painted houses and large wooden fish houses, we left the “island belt,” and all too quickly the barren Norwegian coast disappeared from view, and we were out upon the North Sea, which fully deserves the epithet of nasty, in the English, and not in the American, sense. Our little steamer bobbed about like a cork on the water, pitched, and rolled, and buffeted by the long sweeping waves and tremendous swell of the northern sea, so that we were soon forced to pay tribute to Neptune, and retire to the secrecy of our state-rooms. 265 The entire journey from Bergen to Rotterdam occupied fifty-two hours; every hour of the second day and night seemed interminable, and it was with a blessed feeling of relief that we awoke the third morning to find that the steamer had ceased rolling, as we had entered the river Maas and were advancing over the smooth waters towards Rotterdam.
Upon going on deck we were greeted with a warm land breeze, and found it was a sultry morning; our thick clothing and spring overcoats, which we had worn nearly every day in Norway, began to feel uncomfortable, and it was our first experience of real summer weather, although it was then the first day of August. The warmth was an agreeable change from the cool winds of the Arctic Ocean and the Norwegian fjords, and as we sat without our overcoats we enjoyed the transition to summer’s heat, after five months of cool spring weather.
We looked out upon the flat landscape, extending in an unbroken level plain for miles, traversed by long rows of stiff trees, with sleek cattle feeding in green fields divided by narrow canals, with rows of dark windmills lazily turning their gigantic arms in the gentle breeze, and sleepy Dutch villages composed of brick houses with bright red-tiled roofs, with the tower of a 266 distant church standing out distinctly against its background of blue sky. Every foot of land was cultivated, or was covered with grass, and we looked in vain for rock or boulder. Contrast could not be greater than between this scene and the grandeurs of cliff and mountain, waterfall and glacier, fjord and valley, in the land we had just left.
We steamed slowly up the river past the great manufactories along the shores, meeting many outgoing steamers and sailing craft, passing a war-ship anchored in mid stream; then the towers and roofs of Rotterdam appeared on the horizon, ever growing nearer, till we were moored beside a broad quay and landed in Holland. It was just eight weeks since we left Lübeck; we had completed a wide circuit in the North, embracing three countries, a host of enjoyable and novel experiences, and a vast series of grand views of Nature’s sublimest handiwork.
What Did it Cost?—The Route and Time Allowed for the Journey—Clothing and Food—Ladies Travelling Alone—The Result of Politeness and Consideration—Conclusion.
The expense of a journey through Norway, Sweden, and Denmark is very moderate. We did not limit ourselves to a fixed amount, nor practise any especial economy; we travelled first class on steamers, and second class on the railway, that being the best accommodation furnished, as there is no first class; we stopped at the large hotels in the cities, and in the smaller places there was generally no choice of inns, for as a rule there was but one. We could easily have spent much more money than we did, but as we had previously visited most of the countries in Europe, thereby gaining experience, and learning how to travel and to get the most in return for our money, we had every comfort 270 we cared for, saw everything to our complete satisfaction, and yet the journey of eight weeks, including every expense of travelling, hotels, and sight seeing, from Lübeck to Rotterdam, cost but two hundred dollars. We were surprised at the amount, for we had reckoned much more for the journey. In this amount is not included what we spent for photographs and articles purchased as souvenirs of the countries visited, which extra expense will of course depend wholly upon the individual; but every item that should properly come under the head of travelling expenses is included in the above amount.
I copy the expense of the trip from my cash account, giving the values in krone and öre, also in dollars and cents, reckoning the krone, the unit of value in the monetary system of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, at twenty-seven cents:—
|Ticket on steamer from Lübeck to Copenhagen, 1st class||16.||4.32|
|Ticket on steamer from Copenhagen to Gothenburg, 1st class||16.35||4.41|
|Ticket on steamer from Gothenburg to Stockholm, 1st class||30.||8.10|
|Meals on steamer from Gothenburg to Stockholm||9.50||2.57|
|Ticket on railway from Stockholm to Throndhjem, 2nd class||45.20||12.20|
|271 Ticket to North Cape and return, 1st class||111.||29.97|
|Meals during voyage of eleven days||60.50||16.34|
|Ticket on steamer, Throndhjem to Molde, 1st class||14.||3.78|
|Carriole drives in Norway||45.||12.15|
|Steamers on fjords between Molde and Bergen||37.25||10.06|
|Bergen to Rotterdam, including meals||48.75||13.16|
|Forty days board (not included on steamers), fees, etc.||307.45||83.01|
At so small an expense, one who can spend a summer in Europe can obtain no better return for the money, than in devoting it to a trip through Norseland.
June is the most favorable time for a visit to Denmark and Sweden, as one can then enjoy the almost unending days, while the latter part of June and the month of July is the best season for Norway, as the weather is then more liable to be pleasant, the rainy season often commencing soon after the opening of August.
We made the trip to the North Cape the last of June, but I think it would be better to defer it till the latter part of July, leaving it for the last of the journey.
After one had visited Sweden he could go direct from Stockholm to Christiania by rail, then 272 drive to Odde and proceed north to Molde; following this course the scenery grows grander as you advance northward, culminating in the voyage to the North Cape, which is a fitting termination to the trip, as on returning to Throndhjem one could go directly by rail to Christiania, then by steamer to Copenhagen, and thence southward. We would advise, that in place of the journey by steamer from Molde to Throndhjem, the route through the Romsdal and over the Dovrefjeld be substituted, as it is represented as being a fine drive amid beautiful scenery, while the steamer trip has few attractions; also, instead of going from Odde to Bergen and thence across the disagreeable North Sea to Rotterdam, we would recommend one to drive from Odde through Thelemarken to Christiania, or vice versa, and not visit Bergen, which contains little of interest compared with the attractions of the interior of the country.
One could devote several summers to Norway without exhausting it, for there is an endless number of fjords, valleys, waterfalls, and places interesting from their fine scenery. The intending traveller will at first be confused by the multiplicity of routes in Baedeker; and it requires much attentive and intelligent study to select, from this abundance, those taking one to 273 the most interesting features of the country; especially is discriminating selection necessary if one’s time is limited and he cannot spend the whole summer there.
We saw the most prominent points of the countries visited, and enjoyed most of their grandest scenery during our journey; and our route, and time devoted to each place, may be of assistance to those who intend to visit these countries:—
|Eight weeks—Lübeck to Rotterdam.|
|Copenhagen and environs||5|
|Across Sweden, via Gotha Canal||2½|
|Railway journey to Throndhjem||1½|
|To North Cape and return||11|
|Steamer to Molde||1|
|Drive across country from Hellesylt to Sande||3|
|To Odde, via Sognefjord, Naerödal, Vossevangen, Eide, Vik, and Hardangerfjord||6|
|Steamer to Bergen||1|
|Steamer to Rotterdam||2½|
|June 7 to Aug. 1 inclusive.|
Norway is not a country adapted to pedestrian tours like Switzerland, as the distances are too great, and the places of interest are too widely scattered; and as one can travel in carrioles and stolkjærres, most of the advantages of a pedestrian tour are obtained. Yet there are no more delightful walks in Europe than through the Romsdal, Naerödal, and Laerdal,—three valleys, with smooth hard roads winding through them, closed in by the grandest of mountain scenery. On a pleasant day one will find it a great rest, as well as pleasure, to leave the stolkjærre at a station and walk to the next, where he can continue his drive with a fresh horse.
In driving through the country one’s baggage must be limited, unless you hire an extra horse to carry it. It is far better to send all heavy baggage ahead by steamer, and, in the case of gentlemen, take only a knapsack, which is easily swung across the shoulder, and renders one perfectly independent, and free to take a tramp whenever fancy dictates.
One should be provided with thick, warm clothing for a journey in Norway, for even in July the weather is not very warm among the mountains; and as considerable time is spent upon the steamers on the fjords, and on the 275 voyage to the North Cape, where there are cool ocean breezes, one should wear warm underclothing and a thick, serviceable suit. Ladies will need plenty of wraps and plain, heavy clothing that will stand all kinds of weather, and should be provided with waterproofs, and a tweed helmet in place of a hat or bonnet.
Gentlemen will find it necessary to wear their spring overcoats almost constantly, and a most important requisite is a rubber overcoat, to be worn when driving, visiting waterfalls, and during the frequent rains. We did not find it as cold as we anticipated in the Arctic Ocean, the day that we were at the North Cape being the warmest and pleasantest of the whole voyage; but during the trip there were many cold winds, yet we kept very comfortable by wearing a rubber coat over our spring overcoats, though some of the passengers had heavy winter overcoats, and one would find an ulster very acceptable at times.
Hardships, while travelling in Norway, will not be endured unless sought for in very remote districts, for on all the regular routes of travel, even at the smallest station inns, one finds comfortable beds and wholesome food.
Those who have travelled to any extent in America, who know the taste of the sandwiches 276 and coffee often furnished at railway restaurants,—who, for instance, have crossed the continent to California, or in Southern and Western towns have vainly sought for palatable food at many of the meal stations and hotels, where “the Lord had sent an abundance of food, but the devil had sent the cooks,”—will have no cause to complain of the delicious coffee, rich cream, good butter and cheese, nice wheat, rye and graham bread, eggs, trout, and salmon, with which one is everywhere served, even at the smallest country inns. The meat is not of the best, and one misses the varied fruits and vegetables of other lands, but we never found a place in Norway, except at a sæter among the mountains where there was a lack of good bread and palatable food.
We met many English and Scotch ladies travelling without gentlemen in Norway, and saw several ladies who were travelling singly by themselves. Two ladies can go all over the route we took without the slightest trouble or inconvenience. In travelling through the country by stolkjærres, if they are not accustomed to driving, the boy who always accompanies them will drive from behind the seat; on the steamers, the officers who speak English will look out for their comfort, and at all of the 277 large hotels and most of the little inns they will be sure to find some one speaking English, and if not, the natives know just what the traveller’s wants are, and will supply them; while from the little phrase book in the back of Baedeker one can easily learn a dozen Norse words that will make one understood and accomplish wonders.
A gentleman, alone, should not be deterred from taking the journey, for he is sure to make pleasant friends while travelling on the steamers or driving through the country, for in no land are travellers more sociable, or acquaintances more easily formed, than in Norway. In Sweden, on the regular routes of travel, and in Stockholm, English is quite generally spoken, and ladies alone will have no trouble. No one needs to be “personally conducted,” for if competent to travel anywhere by themselves, they can easily do so in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
Perhaps some may think that I have decidedly rose-colored views of Norway and its people, but I have simply given my own experiences, and I find they coincide with those of many other travellers. We were fortunate in having good weather the greater part of the time, which is the chief essential for the enjoyment of the journey; we made pleasant friends everywhere, 278 and nothing happened to mar our pleasure.
The Norwegians whom we met, until we arrived in Bergen, were the nicest people we have ever been among. We were treated politely by every one, and there was such a personal interest in their attentions, such a desire that we should enjoy our stay in their country, and see its finest features, that we felt at times as though we were visiting among old friends.
It is said that the Swedes are a little jealous of the favor with which the Norwegians are regarded by travellers, but one naturally spends much more time in Norway, as its scenery is much finer, and its attractions far greater and more varied than those of Sweden; and while travelling through the country in such a leisurely old-fashioned way, one grows to know its people far more intimately than the Swedes or the Danes.
There is a certain independence in the Norwegian’s character that quickly rebels at being ordered about and commanded by a lordly domineering disposition, and the traveller will find that in Norway, as in all other lands, politeness, which costs but little, accomplishes much; and if you travel through the country with kind words, and the happy disposition to make 279 the best of everything, the natives will give you no cause to complain of their treatment, and you will leave their land with the warmest regard for their kindness and hospitality.
Whoever has the time at his disposal, and the inclination to make a journey through Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, will return much benefited in health by the pure and invigorating sea and mountain air, with a rich store of unfading memory pictures of beautiful waterfalls, valleys with grand rock formations, winding fjords, stupendous glaciers, and a combination of ocean and mountain scenery such as is seen in no other land,—all illumined by days of unending light, and the midnight sunbeams of a sun which has no setting. The added remembrance of the interesting life and customs of the inhabitants of the North and their kindly treatment while sojourning among them, the pleasant memories of the charming city of Stockholm, with its unrivalled surroundings, Copenhagen with its treasury of art, and the historical and legendary souvenirs clustering around the old castles of Denmark, will always prove a source of unfailing enjoyment which neither time nor adversity can take away.
the Lord had sent an abundance of food, but the devil had sent the cooks
[Volume 1 of A View of England Towards the Close of the Eighteenth Century by Gebhard Friedrich August Wendeborn, originally published in German. Author’s own translation (1791):
“The art of cooking is in general not much advanced in England, and that of dressing vegetables the least of all. I have heard Englishmen, who had mended their taste in foreign countries, say in jest, that heaven had given them good things for the kitchen, but that the devil had sent the cooks.”
The “art of cooking” in England had not simply failed to advance. By the time Wendeborn visited, it had regressed. English cookbooks dating from any time before the mid-18th century use an entirely different culinary language, as if written in a country that no longer exists.]
the interesting life and customs of the inhabitants
[I counted. The word “interesting” occurs 43 (forty-three) times in the course of the book. Throw in other forms of “interest” and the total climbs to 64.]
The list of subscribers was printed at the beginning of the book, covering pages i-xii in single columns. The text used ditto marks for any repeated “Mr.”, “Mrs.”, “Miss”. I have replaced all dittos with the full word, and added the heading “Other Places in the U.S.” where the original had only a printed rule. Apart from the expanded ditto marks, all names are printed as shown. I have some doubts about the spelling of names in the “Foreign Countries” section.
“Hon. Nathan S. Kimball” is the Massachusetts State Representative born in 1821, not the Civil War general of similar name and age. “Albert Kimball” and “Albert L. Kimball”—who signed up for five and four copies, respectively—are presumably the author’s father and brother. I couldn’t identify his sisters; they might be hidden behind their married names (“Mrs. John Smith”).
The book also included eight pages of publisher’s advertising for Cupples & Hurd. I have omitted this section on the sober, scholarly grounds that I’d never heard of any of the titles, and none of them sound very interesting.
The original of this text has been in the public domain for years
in the U.S. and most other parts of the world.
All I’ve done is put it online.