The Doge's Palace is full of historic interest. We wander with mingled feelings through its various apartments, visiting the halls of the Council of Ten, and the still more tragic chambers of the Council of Three. Many secret passages are threaded; we cross the Bridge of Sighs, and descend into the dungeons in which Faliero, Foscari, and other famous prisoners are said to have been incarcerated. These mediaeval dungeons are wretched beyond belief, and how human beings could live and breathe in such places is the marvel of every one who visits them in our day. Here we are shown the apartment where the condemned prisoners were secretly strangled, and the arched windows by which their bodies were launched into boats on the canal, to be borne away, and sunk in the distant lagoons. Trial, sentence, fate,—all in secret, and this was done under the semblance of justice and a republican form of government.
The church of the Frari, whither we will next turn our steps, is in an American's estimation quite as much of a museum as a church. It is the Westminster Abbey of Venice, and is crowded with the monuments of doges, statesmen, artists, philosophers, and more especially is ornamented in a most striking manner by the tombs of Titian and Canova. These elaborate marble structures face each other from opposite sides of the church—monuments raised in memory of rarest genius, and which for richness of design and completeness of finish exceed anything of the sort in Italy.
In the square of St. Mark we have an opportunity for studying the masses, the well-to-do classes, but not the refined and cultured; these maintain a certain dignified exclusiveness. The uniforms of the police, each one of whom is bedizened equal to a militia general, are a standing caricature. One notes the many Jews among the throng; here a turbaned Turk sits before a cafe smoking his pipe, and near by a handsome Greek, with his red fez, smokes a cigar. There are Orientals of all types, with jaunty Englishmen, and gay parties of Americans.
We will now pass on to Milan, once considered the second city of Italy in importance, but it was totally destroyed in 1162 by Barbarossa, and we therefore see a comparatively modern capital. In the olden time it was filled with temples, baths, amphitheatres, circuses, and all the monuments common to great Italian cities. Seven hundred years and more have elapsed since its destruction, during which it rapidly sprang into life again as the capital of Lombardy, and is still a growing metropolis. True, it can offer no such attractions to the traveller as abound in Naples, Rome, and Florence, though there are some art treasures here which are unique. Were it not that the city is so near to Lakes Como and Maggiore, and in possession of half a hundred remarkable pictures, with a score of choice original pieces of sculpture, together with its wonderful cathedral, the traveller would hardly care to pass more than a day in Milan. The present population is about two hundred and forty thousand. It is thrifty and devoted more to successful branches of business than are the cities of Southern Italy.
The Milan Cathedral is regarded as one of the wonders of the world, being also next to the cathedral at Seville and St. Peter's at Rome, the largest church in Europe, though this matter of size is of insignificant consideration compared with its other marvels. The interior is nearly five hundred feet in length and but a fraction less than two hundred in width, while the dome is over two hundred feet in height. Its loftiest tower is over three hundred and sixty feet above the ground; there are a hundred pinnacles in all, and no less than four thousand five hundred marble statues ornament the exterior. The interior consists of a nave with double aisles, and is supported by fifty-two pillars, each fifteen feet in diameter, the summits of which are decked with canopied niches presenting statues in place of the customary capitals. The pavement is finished in marble and mosaic. The edifice was in course of construction for five hundred years, and to look at it one would hardly suppose there was white marble enough in Europe to furnish the raw material of which it is built. The principal part of the work has been performed during the last hundred years.
One mounts nearly five hundred stone steps to reach the summit of the cathedral, where we stand in the highest pinnacle, nearly four hundred feet from the street. Far below lies the city, the dwellings and churches resembling toy-houses, while the people moving about in the thoroughfares assume pigmy proportions, horses looking like exaggerated insects. We gaze about in dizzy wonder, and are half inclined to believe it all a trick of the imagination. After the first surprise is over, the true aspect gradually dawns upon the stranger, and the labor of ascending those tedious steps is forgotten. The distant view is particularly fine; the green and fertile plains of Lombardy stretching away from the city walls in all directions until they meet the foot-hills of the Alpine range, or mingle with the horizon towards the shores of the Adriatic. Mont Blanc, Mont Cenis, Mont St. Bernard, the Simplon Pass, the Bernese Oberland range, and further to the northeast the long range of the Tyrolean Alps, are recognized with their white snow-caps glittering in the bright sunlight. The forest of pinnacles beneath our feet, mingled with a labyrinth of ornamented spires, statues, flying buttresses, and Gothic fretwork, piled all about the roof, is seen through a gauze-like veil of golden mist.
Milan has several other churches more or less interesting, but the visitor rarely passes much time in examining them. No traveller should fail, however, to visit the Brera Palace, the one gallery of art in this city. It was formerly a Jesuit college, but is now used for a public school, with the title of Palace of Arts and Sciences, forming a most extensive academy, containing paintings, statuary, and a comprehensive library of nearly two hundred thousand volumes. There is also attached a fine botanical garden, exhibiting many rare and beautiful exotics as well as native plants. In the gallery of paintings the visitor is sure to single out for appreciation a canvas, by Guercino, representing Abraham banishing Hagar and her child. The tearful face of the deserted one, with its wonderful expression, tells the whole story of her misery. This picture is worthy of all the enthusiastic praise so liberally bestowed by competent critics.
No picture is better known than Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper," millions of copies of which have been circulated in engravings, oil paintings, and by photography. We find the original in the Dominican monastery, where the artist painted it upon the bare wall or masonry of a lofty dining-hall. It is still perfect and distinct, though not so bright as it would have been had it been executed upon canvas. Da Vinci was years in perfecting it, and justly considered it to be the best work of his artistic life. The moment chosen for delineation is that when Christ utters the words, "One of you shall betray me!" The artist said that he meditated for two years how best to portray upon a human face the workings of the perfidious heart of Judas, and ended at last by taking for his model the prior of this very monastery, who was well known to be his bitterest enemy! The likeness at the period of its production was unmistakable, and thus perpetuated the scandal.
We must not fail to make an excursion from Milan to Pavia, one of the oldest of Italian cities. It lies on the left bank of the Ticino River, and was in the olden times the residence of the Lombard kings, who did not fail to beautify and improve it in their day to such an extent that it was known all over Europe as the "City of a Hundred Towers," many of which are extant and in excellent preservation. Though the finger of time has pressed heavily upon it, and its ancient glory has departed, still Pavia has a population of over thirty thousand, and lays claim to no inconsiderable importance. If it were not a little off the usual track of travellers, we should hear much more of its associations. The university founded here by Charlemagne, over a thousand years ago, is still prosperous; and the famous church of San Michael, erected at even an earlier period, is still an object of profound interest. As we wander about the quaint streets the impress of antiquity is upon everything that meets the eye. Just north of the city, about a league from the walls, is the Certosa, one of the most splendid monasteries in Europe, founded about five hundred years since. It is absolutely crowded with fine paintings, statuary, mosaics, and rich art ornamentation. Private palaces abound, though now largely diverted from their original purposes. There are also theatres, libraries, museums, gymnasiums, still thriving after a moderate fashion. Pavia looks backward to her past glories rather than forward to new hopes. Sacked by Hannibal, burned by the Huns, conquered and possessed by the Romans, won by the Goths and Lombards, it was long the capital of what was then known as the kingdom of Italy. Then came a period of fierce civil wars, when its history merged in that of the conquerors of Lombardy. Taken and lost by the French so late as 1796, it was stormed and pillaged by Napoleon, but once more came into the possession of Austria, until it finally found refuge in the bosom of United Italy. The famous battle of Pavia, which occurred in 1525, when Francis I. was taken prisoner, was fought close to the Certosa.
Our next objective point is Vienna, and we take the route through Innspruck, the capital of the Tyrol, which is most charmingly situated in the valley of the Inn just where it joins the Sill. The town is about two thousand feet above sea-level, and is surrounded by mountains six and eight thousand feet in height. It derives its name from the bridge which here crosses the river—Inn's Bruecke (that is, the Inn's Bridge). We enter Austria through the Brenner Pass, and after a long Alpine journey of three or four hundred miles are very glad to pause here both for rest and observation. There must be about twenty thousand inhabitants, but the town seems almost solemnly silent. At certain periods of the year, known as "the season," doubtless its two or three large hotels are plentifully supplied with guests. Historical associations are not wanting; among them is the Franciscan church of Innspruck, containing the elaborate and costly monument to the Emperor Maximilian I., which, though constructed by order of the monarch himself, does not contain his remains. The structure consists of a marble sarcophagus supporting the emperor's effigy in bronze in a kneeling position, while on the other side of the aisle are rows of monumental bronze figures, twenty-eight in number, representing various historic characters. The mention of this unique group in the old church of Innspruck, by the poet Longfellow, will be remembered.
The Schloss Ambras is of considerable interest, having been the favorite home of the Archduke Ferdinand II. The view from its battlements is worthy of a pilgrimage to enjoy. Innspruck looks like a toy-village, so far below, upon the plain. The broad streets of the new portion of the town lie spread out as upon a map. The three handsome bridges give variety to the scene. The central one, as the guide will tell us, was the scene of a fierce battle, in 1809, between the Bavarians and the Tyrolese. The former could not withstand the superior marksmanship of these chamois-hunters, who picked off the men at the cannon as fast as they came into action, until the Bavarians fled in despair, abandoning their guns.
On resuming our journey towards Vienna, we pass up the constantly narrowing valley of the Inn, through a range of mountain scenery, covered with snow, and grand beyond description, where Alp is piled upon Alp, until all distinctive outline is lost in the clouds which envelop them. Now and then we see a rude but picturesque chamois huntsman struggling up the mountain side in search of the special game which is growing annually scarcer and scarcer. There is a wild interest which actuates the chamois-hunter, amounting to fanaticism. The country is very sparsely inhabited, but we occasionally come upon a cluster of picturesque habitations, quite theatrical in effect, the counterpart of the familiar pictures and photographs we see in America. By and by, after a long day of travel, we reach Salzburg, in the Noric Alps.
Salzburg was the birthplace of Mozart, and is still a musical place, that branch of the fine arts being universally cultivated among the more refined class of inhabitants. There are several public monuments commemorative of the great composer, who played his own compositions before the public here at the age of five years! The massive wall which once surrounded the place is now mostly dismantled, and could only have been of use in the Middle Ages, at which time Salzburg was probably in its greatest state of prosperity. The manufacture of Majolica ware has been a specialty here for a couple of centuries or more, and it has a reputation for the production of fine fancy leather goods. Its connection by rail with Vienna, Munich, and Innspruck insures it considerable trade, but still there is a sleepiness about the place which is almost contagious. It was probably different when the archbishops held court here, at a period when those high functionaries combined the dignity of princes of the Empire with their ecclesiastical rank. It was at this period that the town received its few public ornaments, and the half-dozen fine public edifices, still to be seen, were erected.
In the absence of statistics one would say there was a population of fifteen thousand. Some of the street scenes are peculiar. We see single cows and oxen harnessed and worked like horses, not in shafts, but beside a long pole. The entire absence of donkeys, so numerous elsewhere in Europe, is quite noticeable. The women surprise us by their large size and apparent physical strength—quite a necessary possession, since they seem to perform the larger portion of the heavy work, while their lazy husbands are engaged in pipe-smoking and beer-drinking. We see girls and dogs harnessed together into milk and vegetable carts, which they draw through the streets at early morning, to deliver the required articles to the consumers. When the little team arrives before a customer's door, the girl drops her harness, measures out and delivers the milk or vegetables, while the dog waits patiently.
There is no special beauty observable among the female population. The dark eyes and hair with the lovely faces of the South are left behind, as well as the soft, musical cadence of voice which so charms the ear in Italy. German is not a musical tongue. It is a vigorous language, but not a harmonious one in speech. Doubtless there are pretty blonde Marguerites—like Goethe's heroine—hidden away somewhere among the domestic circles of Salzburg, but their long golden braids of hair and their fair, rose-tinted complexions are not often seen in public.
Undoubtedly Vienna is the finest city on the European continent next to Paris, and it is often called the Northern Paris. It resembles the French capital both in its social life and its architecture. The style of the modern buildings is very attractive, displaying great richness and beauty of outline, while the charming perfection of detail is by no means neglected. At least one-quarter of Vienna is new, presenting broad streets lined with noble edifices. The Ring Strasse is a notable example of this, being an elegant avenue, which takes the place of the old city wall that once surrounded the town, but which it has long since outgrown. This metropolis now contains considerably over a million inhabitants. It is situated upon an arm of the Danube where it is joined by the two small streams known as the Wien and the Alster, from the former of which the city takes its name. Vienna is not lacking in antiquity. It was renowned in Roman times two thousand years ago, and there is an ancient aspect quite unmistakable about its western portion in the vicinity of the Emperor's palace. This imperial assemblage of buildings, with the broad court about which they stand, presents no claim whatever to architectural beauty, being exceedingly heavy and substantial.
One of the principal attractions of the city is its numerous parks, squares, and breathing-spots. Above all else in this regard is the Prater, situated on the verge of the city, forming one of the most extensive pleasure drives or parks connected with any European capital. It was in this park that the famous exhibition buildings were erected, covering twelve or fifteen acres of ground; but the Prater could afford room for fifty such structures. All the fashionable citizens, including the royal family, come here for the enjoyment of their afternoon drive or horseback ride. The sight presented on these occasions is one of the very gayest conceivable, recalling the brilliancy of the Chiaja of Naples, the Maiden of Calcutta, or the Champs Elysees of Paris. One does not see even in Hyde Park, London, more elegant vehicles and horses, or more striking liveries than on the Prater at Vienna. Equestrianism is the favorite mode of exercise here, both with ladies and gentlemen, and the Austrians are better horsemen and horsewomen than the English. Cavalry officers in uniform, as well as representatives of other arms of the service, add much to the brilliancy of this park during the popular hour. It is divided into a broad driveway, a well-kept equestrian track, and smooth walks devoted exclusively to pedestrians. For spaciousness as well as attractive gayety, the Prater is scarcely equalled—certainly not surpassed—by any other European driveway.
There are two noble palaces at Vienna which must not be forgotten; namely, the Upper and Lower Belvedere. They are intimately connected, though divided by a large and splendid garden, and together form an art collection and museum combined, only second to the Uffizi and Pitti palaces at Florence, and the galleries of Paris and Rome. A simple list of the pictures to be found here would cover many pages in print, embracing the names of such artists as Salvator Rosa, Giorgone, Bassano, Perugino, Carlo Dolce, Guido Reni, Rembrandt, Andrea del Sarto, Van Dyck, etc. All of these paintings are high in artistic merit; many of them are admirable, and all are beyond price in money. Various schools are represented in the galleries, and there are among the rest a hundred or so of modern pictures; but the majority are by the old masters or their immediate pupils. The Flemish, Dutch, and Spanish schools are especially well represented. The visitor will find in the Lower Belvedere a marvellous collection of antiquities, perhaps the most curious to be seen in Europe. Among other departments of interest is one in which there are over a hundred warriors of life size clad in complete armor, most of whom are mounted on mail-clad horses, all confronting the visitor, with visor down and lance in rest. All of these effigies are designed to be likenesses, and each is labelled with the name of the warrior-king, emperor, or great general he represents, while we have before us the real armor and weapons which he bore in actual life. Here hangs the tattered banner which was carried through the Crusades, and returned by the hand of the Archduke Ferdinand, beside hundreds of similar tokens.
The Cathedral of St. Stephen's, between five and six hundred years of age, is of very great interest, and forms a rare example of pure Gothic. The Imperial Library contains over three hundred thousand volumes. Vienna has all the usual Christian charitable institutions, schools, and progressive organizations of a great city of the nineteenth century.
From Vienna we continue our journey to Prague, the capital of Bohemia, a quaint old city, founded in 1722 by the Duchess Libussa, and which has to-day nearly sixty thousand inhabitants. It is crowded with historical monuments, ancient churches, and queer old chapels, some of which are ornamented by frescoes hardly rivalled by the finest at Rome and Florence. One is here shown underground dungeons as terrible as those of Venice, and to which historic associations lend their special interest. It would seem that human beings could hardly exist in such holes for a month, and yet in some of these, prisoners are known to have lingered miserably for years. Prague was remarkable for its institutions of learning and its scientific societies. The university, founded by Charles IV. in 1348, had at one time a hundred professors and three thousand students. This university enjoyed a world-wide reputation, but all this has passed away. There are two or three large libraries, a museum of natural history, a school for the blind, and several public hospitals. We find here some beautiful specimens of glass manufacture, for which Bohemia has long been celebrated, though she is now rivalled in this line by both England and America.
Prague has had more than its share of the calamities of war, having been besieged and taken six times before the year 1249. In the war of the Hussites it was taken, burned, plundered, and sacked with barbarous ferocity. The Thirty Years' War began and ended within its walls, and during its progress the city was three times in possession of the enemy. In 1620 the battle was fought just outside of the city in which Frederick V. was conquered, and after which he was deposed. During the Seven Years' War it fell into the hands of different victors, and in 1744 capitulated to Frederick the Great of Prussia. Indeed, until within the last half-century Prague and its environs may be said to have been little better than a constant battle-field. Seen from an elevated position the city presents a very picturesque aspect. A fine view may be had of it from either of the bridges which cross the Moldau, but a more satisfactory one is to be had from the Belvedere, a large public garden situated on an eminence just outside the city proper. This garden forms a beautiful park and is a favorite drive with the citizens. One of the bridges is called the Karlsbruecke (Charles Bridge); the other is the Suspension Bridge, also known as Emperor Francis's Bridge. At the end of the latter is the memorial which commemorates the five hundredth anniversary of the founding of the university. The niches on either side are filled with statues representing the several sciences, added to which are statues of two archbishops. The Charles Bridge, built of stone over five hundred years ago, is the most interesting of the two bridges, and has its two extremities protected by lofty towers. The arches of the bridge are ornamented with groups of saints numbering thirty life-size figures. It is not surprising that Prague appears in decay; but as it is a sort of half-way place between Dresden and Vienna, it is insured a certain amount of business from travellers of all nations.
One prominent feature of Dresden, the capital of Saxony, which strikes the stranger, is that the military appear in such large numbers everywhere, in the streets, the hotels, in the shops and parks. The expense and waste of supporting such large numbers of soldiers is enormous. The student of art, music, and history finds a rich field for educational purposes here, where there are so many choice collections of antiquities, museums, and remarkable paintings. The Zwinger Museum contains among other treasures a collection of three hundred and sixty thousand engraved plates, all of great value. Art treasures and libraries are freely open to the public, as in all parts of Europe. Dresden is a busy city, commanding a large trade, and containing over a quarter of a million inhabitants. Gold and silver manufactures form a large share of the industry; artificial flowers, china ware, and paper hangings also, constitute a large portion of its extensive exports. The Royal Public Library contains four hundred thousand volumes, and is particularly rich in the several departments of literature, history, and classical antiquity. There are many volumes in this Dresden library which are not to be found elsewhere in Europe, and learned men come thousands of miles to consult them.
The Green Vaults, so called from the style of the original decorations, are a portion of the Royal Palace, and contain an extraordinarily valuable collection, belonging to the State, consisting of works of art, jewels, royal regalia, etc., classified in eight connected saloons. One sees here a certain green stone, a most brilliant gem, esteemed of great value. Whether it be really a diamond or an emerald, it is intrinsically of equal worth. The weight of this rare gem is forty carets. The Grosse Garten is the favorite public park of the city, containing about three hundred acres of land. It is very beautifully laid out in ornamental sections, drives, walks, and groves. The historical associations about this park are interesting, it being the spot where the French and Prussians more than once encountered each other in battle, the last time in 1813.
The most attractive portion of this really fine city is the Theatre Platz, about which lie the principal objects of interest to the traveller. Here are situated the Royal Palace, the Zwinger with its choice collections, and the theatre. The old bridge over the Elbe is a substantial stone structure. The palace forms a large square of spacious edifices surmounted by a tower nearly four hundred feet high. The principal picture-gallery of Dresden is the finest in Germany, and contains between three and four thousand admirable examples of high art,—the work of such artists as Raphael, Holbein, Corregio, Albert Duerer, Rubens, Giotto, Van Dyck, and other masters already named in these pages. Among them all the favorite, as generally conceded, is Raphael's Madonna di San Sisto, believed to be one of the last and best examples produced by this great master. We are sure to find a goodly number of Americans residing in this European capital, gathered here for educational purposes in art, literature, and music.
Berlin, the capital of Prussia, contains about a million inhabitants, and is one of the finest cities of Europe. The principal street is the Unter den Linden, and most of the objects of interest centre here between the Royal Palace and the Brandenburg Gate. This thoroughfare is planted in its centre with four rows of trees, having a capacious pedestrian section, an equestrian road, and two driveways, one on each side of the broad street. It resembles Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, both in size and design, though the architecture of the American street is far superior to the German. The Unter den Linden is a hundred and ninety-six feet wide, and receives its name from the double avenue of linden trees extending through the centre. The street is flanked with fine buildings, a few hotels, three palaces, a museum, a school of art, public library, etc. At one end is the famous bronze statue of Frederick the Great. The Brandenburg Gate, where the Linden commences, forms the entrance to the city from the Thiergarten, and is a sort of triumphal arch, erected in 1789. It is seventy feet in height, and two hundred in width, being modelled after the entrance in the gateway of the temple of the Parthenon at Athens. It affords five passage-ways through its great width.
This proud capital, six hundred years ago, was only of small importance, since when it has grown to its present mammoth proportions. Frederick William made it his home and started its most important structures. Frederick I. added to it, and so it has been improved by one ruler after another until it has become one of the most important political and commercial centres in Europe. It is divided by the river Spree, which at this point is about two hundred feet in width, and communicates with the Oder and the Baltic by canal. No continental city except Vienna has grown so rapidly during the last half-century. The late emperor did little or nothing to beautify the capital, whose growth has been mostly of a normal character, greatly retarded by a devotion to military purposes.
The Unter den Linden is the charm of Berlin, so bright, shaded, and retired, as it were, in the very midst of outer noise and bustle. At nearly all hours of the day the long lines of benches are crowded by laughing, flaxen-haired children, attended by gayly dressed nurses, the groups they form contrasting with the rude struggle of business life going on so close at hand. A regiment of soldiers is passing as we gaze upon the scene, accompanied by a full band, their helmets and bright arms glittering in the sunlight; the vehicles rattle past on both sides of the mall; here and there is seen an open official carriage with liveried servants and outriders; well-mounted army officers pass at a hand-gallop on the equestrian division of the street, saluting right and left; dogs and women harnessed together to small carts wind in and out among the throng, while girls and boys with huge baskets strapped to their backs, containing merchandise, mingle in the scene.
The Thiergarten is the grand park of Berlin, situated along the banks of the Spree; it is two miles long by a mile in width, with an abundance of noble trees, well-kept drives, and clear, picturesque lakes. The ponds and canals intersecting this park afford a choice resort for the lovers of skating in winter. In the southwest corner of the Thiergarten is the famous zooelogical garden of Berlin, established nearly fifty years since.
The Royal Palace is an imposing structure six hundred and forty feet long by about half that width, and is over a hundred feet in height. It was originally a fortress, but has been altered by successive monarchs until it is now a very perfect royal residence, containing six hundred rooms and state departments.
We still pursue our course northward, bearing a little to the west, until we reach Hamburg, which contains some three hundred thousand inhabitants, and is one of the most important commercial cities on the continent. It is not only situated on a navigable river, the Elbe,—seventy miles from its mouth,—but is connected by railway with every part of Europe. Hamburg was founded by Charlemagne a thousand years ago, the older portions being dark and dirty; but the modern section of the city is very fine in the size of its streets and its architectural aspect. Its commercial connections with America exceed that of any other northern port, and form its main features of business importance. Vessels drawing eighteen feet of water can ascend the Elbe to the wharves at high tide. The city is intersected by canals and branches of the Alster River, and was once surrounded by a series of ramparts, but these have been converted into attractive, tree-planted promenades. The public library of Hamburg contains over two hundred thousand volumes, and there is no lack in the city of hospitals, schools, colleges, churches, charitable institutions, museums, and theatres. The botanical gardens and the zooelogical exhibition are remarkable for excellence and completeness. It would be difficult to conceive of a more attractive sight than that afforded by the broad sheet of water in the centre of the town known as the Alster Basin, a mile in circumference, bounded on three sides by streets ornamented liberally with trees, while its surface is dotted with little omnibus steamers and pleasure boats darting hither and thither like swallows on the wing. Snow-white swans, tame and graceful, are constantly seen floating over the surface of this attractive city-lake. The environs of Hamburg are rendered very charming by pleasant villas and numberless flower-gardens, with an abundance of ornamental trees.
Our journey northward continues by railway and steamboat via Kiel, crossing an arm of the Baltic to Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, situated on the island of Zeeland. This city, which now contains a population of about two hundred and fifty thousand, was a large commercial port centuries ago, and has several times been partially destroyed by war and conflagration. The houses are mostly of brick, some of the better class being built of Norwegian granite, while the newer portion of the town presents many examples of fine modern architecture. The streets are of good width, laid out with an eye to regularity, besides which there are sixteen public squares. Taken as a whole, the first impression of the place and its surroundings is remarkably pleasing and attractive. As one approaches the city the scene is enlivened by the many windmills in the environs, whose wide-spread arms are generally in motion, appearing like the broad wings of enormous birds hovering over the land. Perhaps the earliest association in its modern history which the stranger is likely to remember as he looks about him in Copenhagen, is that of the dastardly attack upon the city, and the shelling of it for three consecutive days, by the British fleet in 1807, during which reckless onslaught an immense destruction of human life and property was inflicted upon the place. Over three hundred important buildings were laid in ashes on that occasion, because Denmark refused permission for the domiciling of English troops upon her soil, or to withdraw from her connection with the neutral powers in the Napoleonic wars.
As in the Mediterranean, so in the Baltic, tidal influence is felt only to a small degree, the difference in the rise and fall of the water at this point being scarcely more than one foot. Owing to the comparatively fresh character of this sea its ports are ice-bound for a third of each year, and in the extreme seasons the whole expanse is frozen across from the coast of Denmark to that of Sweden. In 1658 Charles X. of the latter country marched his army across the Belts, dictating to the Danes a treaty of peace; and so late as 1809 a Russian army passed from Finland to Sweden, across the Gulf of Bothnia.
The territory of Denmark upon the mainland is quite limited, consisting of Jutland only; but she has a number of islands far and near, Zeeland being the most populous, and containing, as we have shown, the capital. As a state she may be said to occupy a much larger space in history than upon the map of Europe. The surface of the island of Zeeland is uniformly low, in this resembling Holland, the highest point reaching an elevation of about two hundred and fifty feet. To be precise in the matter of her dominions, the colonial possessions of Denmark may be thus enumerated: Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe group of islands, between the Shetlands and Iceland; adding St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John in the West Indies. Greenland is nearly as large as Germany and France combined; but owing to its ice-clothed character in most parts, its inhabitants do not quite reach an aggregate of ten thousand. Iceland is nearly the size of our New England States, and has a population of seventy-five thousand. The Faroes contain ten thousand inhabitants, and the three West Indian islands united have a population of a little over forty thousand.
In the year 1880 the Danish monarchy reached the thousandth anniversary of its foundation under Gorm the Old, whose reign bridges over the interval between mere legend and the dawn of recorded history. Gorm is supposed to have been a direct descendant of the famous Regnar Lodbrog, who was a daring and imperious ruler of the early Northmen. The common origin of the three Baltic nationalities which constitute Scandinavia is clearly apparent to the traveller who has visited Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. The race has been steadily modified, generation after generation, in its more important characteristics by the progressive force of civilization. These Northmen are no longer the haughty and reckless warriors who revelled in wine drunk from the skulls of their enemies, and who deemed death respectable only when encountered upon the battle-field. Clearer intelligence and culture have substituted the duties of peaceful citizens for the occupation of marauders, and the enterprises of civilized life for the exaggerated romance of sea-rovers. Reading and writing, which were once looked upon by them as allied to the black art, are now the accomplishment of nearly all classes, and nowhere on the globe do we find people more cheerful, intelligent, frank, and hospitable than in the three kingdoms of the far North.
The Denmark of to-day, typified by Copenhagen, its capital, is a great centre of science and art. The spirit of Thorwaldsen, the contemporary and brother-sculptor of Canova, permeates everything, and in making his native city his heir, he also bequeathed to her an appreciation of art which her eminent scientists have ably supplemented in their several departments of knowledge. The Thorwaldsen Museum contains over forty apartments, ample space being afforded for the best display of each figure and each group designed by the great master. The ceilings are elaborately and very beautifully decorated with emblematical designs by the best Danish artists. This enduring monument is also Thorwaldsen's appropriate mausoleum, being fashioned externally after an Etruscan tomb. It contains only this master's own works, and a few pictures which he brought with him from Rome. He revelled in the representation of tenderness, of youth, beauty, and childhood. Nothing of the repulsive or terrible ever came from his hand. The sculptor's fancy found expression most fully, perhaps, in the works which are gathered here, illustrating the delightful legends of the Greek mythology. No one can be surprised at the universal homage accorded to his memory by his countrymen.
The Ethnological Museum of the city, better known as the Museum of Northern Antiquities, is considered to be the most remarkable institution of the sort in Europe. Students in this department of science come from all parts of the civilized world to seek knowledge from its countless treasures. One is here enabled to follow the progress of our race from its primitive stages to its highest civilization. The national government liberally aids all purposes akin to science and art; consequently this museum is a favored object of the state. Each of the three distinctive periods of stone, bronze, and iron forms an elaborate division in the spacious halls of the institution.
This government was the first in Europe to furnish the means of education to the people at large on a liberal scale; to establish schoolhouses in every parish, and to provide suitable dwellings and income for the teachers. The incipient steps towards this object began as far back as the time of Christian II., more than three centuries ago, while many of the European states were clouded in ignorance. Copenhagen has two public libraries: the Royal, containing over six hundred thousand books; and the University, which has between two hundred and fifty and three hundred thousand volumes.
Though Denmark is a small kingdom containing scarcely three million people, yet it has produced many eminent men of science, art, and literature. The names of Hans Christian Andersen, Rasmus Rask, the philologist, Oersted, the discoverer of electro-magnetism, Forchhammer, the chemist, and Eschricht, the physiologist, occur to us in this connection. It is a country of legend and romance, of historic and prehistoric monuments, besides being the very fatherland of fairy tales. The Vikings of old have left their footprints all over the country in mounds. It is not therefore surprising that the cultured portion of the community is stimulated to antiquarian research.
The Palace of Rosenborg, situated near the centre of the city, was built by Christian IV., in 1604. It is no longer used for its original purpose, but is devoted to the preservation of a chronological collection of the belongings of the Danish kings, spacious apartments being devoted to souvenirs of each, decorated in the style of the period, and containing a portion of the original furniture from the several royal residences, as well as the family portraits, gala costumes, jewelry, plate, and weapons of war. Altogether it is a collection of priceless value and of remarkable historic interest, covering a period of over four hundred years. One is forcibly reminded of the Green Vaults of Dresden while passing through the several sections of Rosenborg Castle. Many of the royal regalias are profusely inlaid with diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, rubies, and other precious stones, forming all together a value too large for us to venture an estimate. The toilet sets which have belonged to and been in daily use by various queens are numerous, each set embracing a dozen pieces more or less, made of solid gold, superbly inlaid with many precious stones. Among them one is especially interested in the jewelled casket of Queen Sophia Amalie, wife of Frederick III., a relic inlaid with scores of diamonds. Here, too, we see the costly and beautiful bridal dresses of several royal personages, all chronologically arranged, so that the intelligent visitor clearly reads veritable history in these domestic treasures.
The Round Tower of Copenhagen is a most singular structure, formerly used as an observatory. It consists of two hollow cylinders between which is a spiral, gradually inclined foot-way leading from base to top. It is quite safe for a horse to ascend, and the Empress Catharine is said to have reached the summit on horseback. From the top of the Round Tower, the red-tiled roofs of the city lie spread out beneath the eye of the visitor, mingled with green parks, open squares, tall steeples, broad canals, wide thoroughfares and palaces. To this aspect is added the multitude of shipping lying along the piers and grouped in the harbor, backed by a view of the open sea. The Swedish coast across the Baltic is represented by a low range of coast-line losing itself upon the distant horizon. The ramparts which formerly surrounded Copenhagen have been demolished, the ground being now improved for fine garden-walks, planted with ornamental trees and bright-hued flowers, which add greatly to the attractive aspect of the Danish capital. The former moats have assumed the shape of tiny lakes, upon which swans and other aquatic birds are seen at all hours; and where death-dealing cannon were formerly planted, lindens, rose-bushes, and tall white lilies now bloom in peaceful beauty.
No finer scenery is to be found in Europe than is presented by the country lying between Copenhagen and Elsinore, composed of a succession of forests, lawns, villas, cottages, and gardens, for a distance of twenty-five miles. Elsinore is a small seaport, looking rather deserted, bleak, and silent, with less than ten thousand inhabitants. From out of the uniformity of its red brick buildings there looms up but one noticeable edifice; namely, the Town Hall, with a square tower flanked by an octagonal one built of red granite. The charm of the place is its remarkable situation, commanding a view of the Baltic, with Sweden in the distance, while the Sound which divides the two shores is always dotted with myriads of steamers and sailing-vessels. The position of Elsinore recalls that of Gibraltar and the Dardanelles as surely as its name reminds us of the play of Hamlet, and Shakespeare. North of the town, on the extreme point of the land, stands the famous castle of Kronborg, with its three tall towers, the central one overtopping the others to the extent of some forty or fifty feet. The tower, upon the most seaward corner, is devoted to the purposes of a lighthouse. The castle is about three centuries old, having been built by Frederick II. for the purpose of commanding the Sound, and of enforcing the marine tolls which were exacted from all foreign nations for a period of two hundred years and more.
If you visit Elsinore, the guide will show you what is called Hamlet's grave, situated in a small grove of trees, where some cunning hands long ago erected a rude mound of stones. Shakespeare, who had a most royal way of disregarding dates, made Hamlet live in this place after the introduction of gunpowder, whereas if any such person ever did exist, it was centuries earlier and hundreds of miles farther north upon the mainland, in what is now called Jutland. However, that is not important. Do not leave Elsinore without visiting Ophelia's fatal brook! To be sure, this rivulet is not large enough for a duck to swim in, but a little stretch of the imagination will overcome all local discrepancies.
Far back in Danish legendary story, a time when history fades into fable, it is said there was a Hamlet in Northern Denmark, but it was long before the birth of Christ. His father was not a king, but a famous pirate chief who governed Jutland in conjunction with his brother. Hamlet's father married the daughter of a Danish king, the issue being Hamlet. His uncle, according to the ancient story, murdered Hamlet's father and afterwards married his mother. Herein we have the foundation of one of Shakespeare's grandest productions.
The Sound, which at Copenhagen is about twenty miles wide, here narrows to two, the old fort of Helsingborg on the Swedish coast being in full view, the passage between the two shores forming the natural gate to the Baltic. There are delightful drives in the environs of Elsinore presenting land and sea views of exquisite loveliness, the water-side bristling with reefs, rocks, and lighthouses, while that of the land is charmingly picturesque with many villas, groves, and broad, cultivated meads.
One day's sail due north from Copenhagen, through the Sound,—Strait of Katte,—brings us to Gottenburg, the metropolis of Southwestern Sweden. The Strait, which is about a hundred miles in width, is nearly twice as long, and contains many small islands. Gottenburg is situated on the Gotha River, about five miles from its mouth. Though less populous, it is commercially almost as important as Stockholm. The deep, broad watercourse which runs through the town to the harbor is a portion of the famous Gotha Canal, which joins fjord (inlet from the sea; pronounced feord), river, lakes and locks together, thus connecting the North Sea and the Baltic. The two cities are also joined by railroad, the distance between them being over three hundred miles. The country through which the canal passes is not unlike many inland sections of New England, presenting pleasant views of thrifty farms and well-cultivated lands. There are some sharp hills and abrupt valleys to be encountered which are often marked by grand and picturesque waterfalls, wild, foaming rivers, and fierce surging rapids.
Gottenburg is divided into an upper and lower town, the latter being a plain cut up by canals, and the former spread over the adjoining hills. The town is composed of two or three principal streets, very broad, and intersecting one another at right angles, with a canal in the centre. These water-ways are lined by substantial granite borders, with here and there convenient stone steps connecting them with the water. The spacious harbor admits of vessels drawing seventeen feet. The citizens feel a just pride in a well-endowed college, a large public library, an exchange, two orphan asylums, a flourishing society of arts and sciences, a large theatre, and two public parks. In front of the theatre is an admirable reproduction of the Swedish sculptor Molin's famous group of two figures representing "the girdle-duellists" [these duellists, bound together, fought with knives], the original of which stands in front of the National Museum at Stockholm. Gottenburg is not without a cathedral and numerous fine churches, nor let us forget to speak of its excellent schools, attendance upon which is compulsory throughout Sweden. English is regularly taught in her public schools, and is very generally spoken by the intelligent people. Education is more general, and culture is of a higher grade in Sweden than is common with the people of Southern Europe, while music is nearly as universal an acquirement here as it is in Italy. The population is frugal, honest, self-helping, and in many respects resembles that of Switzerland.
The system of inland communication by means of the Gotha Canal is one of the most remarkable ever achieved by man, when the obstacles which have been overcome and the advantages accomplished are considered. Steam-vessels, limited to one hundred and six feet in length on account of the size of the locks, are carried hundreds of miles by it across and over the highlands of Southern Sweden from sea to sea. When we see a well-freighted steamboat climb a mountain side, float through lock after lock, and after reaching the summit of the hills, descend with equal facility towards the coast and sea-level, this great triumph of engineering skill is fully appreciated. The vessels navigating the canal rise in all, three hundred and eighty feet above the level of the Baltic during the passage across country. At the little town of Berg the locks are sixteen in number, and form a gigantic staircase by means of which vessels are raised at this point one hundred and twenty feet.
On the line of the Gotha Canal is situated the famous Troellhatta Falls, which are so remarkable as to attract visitors from all parts of Europe. These falls consist of a series of tremendous rapids extending over a distance of about two hundred yards, and producing an uproar almost equal to the ceaseless oratorio of Niagara. This angry water-way is interspersed by some well-wooded islands, on either side of which the waters rush with a wild, resistless power, tossed here and there by the many under-currents. The whole forms a succession of falls of which the first is called Gulloefallet, where on both sides of an inaccessible little island the waters make a leap of twenty-six feet in height, the rebound creating a constant cloud of feathery spray. Then follows the highest of the falls, the Toppoefallet, forty-four feet in height, which is likewise divided by a cliff into two parts, against which the frantic waters chafe angrily. The next fall measures less than ten feet in height, followed a little way down the rapids by what is called the Flottbergstroem, all together making a fall of foaming eddies and whirls equal to about one hundred and twelve feet.
The marine shells which are found in the bottom of some of the inland lakes of both Norway and Sweden, show that the land which forms their bed was once covered by the sea. This is clearly apparent in Lake Wener and Lake Welter, which are situated nearly three hundred feet above the present ocean level. Complete skeletons of whales have been found inland at considerable elevations during the present century. The oldest shell-banks discovered by scientists in Scandinavia are situated five hundred feet above the level of the sea.
Sweden has comparatively few mountains, but many ranges of hills. Norway monopolizes almost entirely the mountain system of the great northern peninsula, but the large forests of pine, fir, and birch, which cover so much of the country, are common to both. Though iron is found in large deposits in Norway, it is still more abundant in Sweden, where it is chiefly of the magnetic kind, yielding when properly smelted the best ore for the manufacture of steel. It is believed that there is sufficient malleable iron in the soil of Sweden to supply the whole world with this necessary article for centuries. Mount Gellivare, which is over eighteen hundred feet in height, is said to be almost wholly formed of an ore containing eighty per cent of iron.
In approaching Christiania, the capital of Norway, by sea from Gottenburg, we ascend the fjord of the same name a distance of seventy miles. The city, which is built upon a gradual slope facing the south, is seen to good advantage from the harbor. No more appropriate spot could have been selected for the national capital by Christian IV., who founded it, and after whom it is named, than the head of this beautiful elongated bay. It is the seat of the Storthing, or Parliament, and the king, whose permanent residence is at Stockholm, is expected to reside here, attended by the court, at least three months of the year. With its immediate suburbs, the population of the city is a hundred and twenty-five thousand. It should be remembered that Norway is practically a free and independent state though it is under the crown of Sweden, and that the people are thoroughly democratic, having abolished all titles of nobility by enactment of the Storthing so early as 1821, at which time a law was also passed forbidding the king to create a new nobility. Nevertheless, the thought occurs to us that these are the descendants of those Northmen of whom one branch, under the name of Normans, conquered the British Isles, and founded the very nobility there which is the present boast and pride of England.
We find some problems solved in Norway which have created political strife elsewhere. Though its Church is identical with the State, unlimited toleration exists. There is a perfect system of political representation, and while justice is open to all, litigation is earnestly discouraged. The meetings of the Storthing are independent of the king, not even requiring a writ of assemblage from him. Thus it will be seen that although nominally under monarchial rule, Norway is in reality self-governed.
The legal code of Norway is worthy of study, both on account of its antiquity and its admirable provisions. The old sea-kings or free-booters, as we have been accustomed to consider them, had a more advanced and civilized code than any of the people whose shores they devastated. Before the year of our Lord 885, the power of the law was established over all persons of every rank, while, in the other countries of Europe, the independent jurisdiction of the feudal lords defied the laws. Before the eleventh century, the law of Scandinavia provided for equal justice to all, established a system of weights and measures, also one for the maintenance of roads and bridges, and for the protection of women and animals from abuse; subjects which few other European legal systems at that time embraced. These laws were collected into one code by Magnus VII., about the year 1260. They were revised by Christian IV. in 1604, and in 1687 the present system was drawn up. So simple and compact is it, that the whole is contained in a pocket volume, a copy of which is in the possession of every Norwegian family. Each law occupies but a single paragraph, and all is simple and intelligible.
The commerce of Christiania is growing rapidly. Over one thousand vessels enter and depart from its harbor annually, which, however, is closed by ice three months in the year, though that of Hammerfest, situated a thousand miles further north on the same coast, is never frozen, owing to the genial influence of the Gulf Stream,—an agent so potent as to modify the temperature of the entire coast of Scandinavia on its western border.
The university founded here by Frederick VI. in 1811, is a plain but massive structure; the front ornamented by Corinthian pillars of polished granite. It accommodates some nine hundred students, the tuition being free to all native applicants suitably prepared. It contains a noble library of over two hundred thousand volumes, which is freely open even to strangers under very simple restrictions. Beneath the same roof is an extensive museum of zooelogy and geology. The city has a naval and military school, a lunatic asylum, an astronomical observatory, and various charitable institutions. Its botanical garden is situated about a mile from the town, and contains among other interesting and finely arranged specimens, a collection of Alpine plants from Spitzbergen and Iceland.
The parliament house is an imposing building of original design, very pleasing in general effect and style, facing the Carl Johannes Square, the largest open area in the city. It was finished in 1866. The market-place is adorned with a marble statue of Christian IV. Another fine square is the Eidsvolds Plads, planted with choice trees and carpeted with intensely bright greensward. The chief street is the Carl Johannes Gade, a broad thoroughfare extending from the railroad station to the king's palace, halfway between which stands the university. In a large wooden building behind the university is kept that unrivalled curiosity, the "Viking Ship," a souvenir of nine hundred years ago. The blue clay of the district, where it was exhumed in 1880, a few miles south of Christiania, has preserved it all these years. The men who built the graceful lines of this now crumbling vessel, "in some remote and dateless day," knew quite as much of true marine architecture as do our modern shipwrights. This interesting relic, doubtless the oldest ship in the world, once served the Vikings, its masters, as a sea-craft. It is eighty feet long by sixteen wide, and is about six feet deep from the gunwale. Seventy shields, as many spears, and other war equipments recovered with the hull, show that it carried that number of fighting-men.
In such vessels as this the dauntless Northmen made voyages to every country in Europe a thousand years ago, and, as is confidently believed by many, they crossed the Atlantic, discovering North America centuries before the name of Columbus was known. Ignoring the halo of romance and chivalry which the poets have thrown about the valiant Vikings and their followers, one thing we are compelled to admit—they were superb marine architects. Ten centuries of progressive civilization have served to produce none better. Most of the arts and sciences may, and do, exhibit great progress in excellence, but ship-building is not among them. We build bigger, but not finer, vessels.
The burial of this ship so many centuries ago was simply in accordance with the custom of those days. When any great sea-king perished, he was enclosed in the cabin of his galley, and either sunk in the ocean or buried with his vessel and all of its warlike equipments upon the nearest suitable spot of land. We are told that when a chieftain died in battle, not only were his war-horse, his gold and silver plate, and his portable personal effects buried or burned with his body, but a guard of honor from among his followers slew themselves that he might enter the sacred halls of Odin (the Scandinavian Deity) properly attended. The more elevated in rank the chief might be, the larger the number who must sacrifice themselves as his escort to the land of bliss. So entire was the reliance of these Heathens in the demands of their peculiar faith, that they freely acted up to its extreme requirements while singing songs of joy.
A general aspect of good order, thrift, industry, and prosperity prevails at Christiania. The simplicity of dress and the gentle manners, especially among the female portion of the community, are marked features. No stranger can fail to notice the low, sympathetic tones in which the women always speak; but though decorous and worthy, it must be admitted that the Norwegian ladies, as a rule, are not handsome. One sees here none of the rush and fever of living which so wearies the observer in many parts of Southern Europe. The common people evince more solidity of character with less of the frivolities of life. They may be said to be a trifle slow and phlegmatic, but by no means stupid. The most careless schoolboy, when addressed by a stranger, removes his hat and remains uncovered until he has responded to the inquiry made of him.
Upon visiting a new city in any part of the world, one learns much of the national characteristics of the people, and of other matters worth knowing, by mingling unconventionally with the throng, watching their every-day habits and by observing the stream of busy life pouring through its great thoroughfares. More valuable information is thus acquired than from visiting grand cathedrals, art galleries, or consulting guide-books. Years of travel fatigue us with the latter, but never with Nature in her varying moods, with the peculiarities of races, or with the manners and customs of each new locality and country. The delight in natural objects grows by experience in every cultivated and receptive mind. The rugged architecture of lofty mountains, the aspect of tumbling waterfalls, noble rivers, glowing sunsets, broad land and sea-views—each of these has a special, never-tiring and impressive individuality.
While enjoying a bird's-eye view of Christiania, from the heights of Egeberg, a well-wooded hill in the southern suburb, it is difficult to believe one's self in Icelandic Scandinavia,—the precise latitude of the Shetland Islands. A drowsy hum like the drone of bees seems to float up from the busy city below. The beautiful fjord, with its graceful promontories, its picturesque and leafy isles, might be Lake Maggiore or Como, so placid and calm is its pale blue surface. Turning the eyes inland, one sees clustered in lovely combinations fields of ripening grain, gardens, lawns, cottages, and handsome villas, like a scene upon the sunny shores of the Maritime Alps. An abundance of trees enliven the view,—plane, sycamore, ash, and elm, in luxurious condition. Warmer skies during the summer period are not to be found in Italy, nor elsewhere outside of Egypt. As we stand upon the height of Egeberg on a delicious sunny afternoon, there hangs over and about the Norwegian capital a soft golden haze such as lingers in August above the Venetian lagoons.
The summer is so short here as to give the fruits and flowers barely time to blossom, ripen, and fade, and the husbandman a chance to gather his crops. Vegetation is rapid in its growth, the sunshine being so nearly constant during the ten weeks which intervene between seedtime and harvest. Barley grows two inches, and pease three, in twenty-four hours at certain stages of development. It is an interesting fact that if the barley-seed be brought from a warmer climate, it has to become acclimated, and does not yield a good crop until after two or three years.
The flowers of the torrid and temperate zones, as a rule, close their eyes like human beings, and sleep a third or half of the twenty-four hours, but in Arctic regions, life to those lovely children of Nature is one long sunny period, and sleep comes only with death and decay. It will also be observed that the flowers assume more vivid colors and emit more fragrance during their brief lives than they do in the south. The long, delightful period of twilight during the summer season is seen here in perfection, full of roseate loveliness. There is no dew to be encountered or avoided, no dampness; all is crystal clearness.
In the rural districts women are generally employed in out-of-door work, as they are in Germany and Italy, and there is quite a preponderance of the sex in Norway and Sweden. As many women as men are seen engaged in mowing, reaping, loading heavy carts, and getting in the harvest generally. What would our American farmers think to see a woman swing a scythe all day in the hayfields, cutting as broad and even a swath as a man can do, and apparently with as little fatigue? Labor is very poorly paid. Forty cents per day is considered to be liberal wages for a man, except in the cities, where a small increase upon this amount is obtained.
Norway has been appropriately called the country of mountains and fjords, of cascades and lakes. Among the largest of the latter is Lake Mjoesen, which is about sixty miles long and has an average width of twelve. It receives in its bosom one important river, the Longen, after it has run a course of nearly a hundred and fifty miles. At its southern extremity is the port of Eidsvol, and at the northern is Lillehammer. These are situated in the direct route between Christiania and Troendhjem. But the most singular fact attached to the lake is that it measures about fifteen hundred feet in depth while its surface is only four hundred feet above the level of the ocean. Its bottom is known to be nearly a thousand feet below that of the adjacent North Sea, which would seem to show that the lake must be the mouth of some long-extinct volcano.
As to the animals of Norway, the reindeer, the bear, the wolf, the fox, and the lynx about complete the list. The ubiquitous crow abounds, and fine specimens of the golden eagle, that dignified monarch of the upper regions, may often be seen sailing through the air from cliff to cliff, across the fjords and valleys. At certain seasons of the year this bird proves destructive to domestic fowl and young lambs. Magpies appear to be as much of a nuisance in Norway as crows are in India or Ceylon, and quite as unmolested by the people. What are called the wild birds of Scandinavia are in fact quite tame, and they are in large variety. As the traveller passes through the country, he will observe sheaves of unthreshed grain elevated upon poles beside the farm-houses and barns, which are placed there to furnish the feathered visitors with food. These sheaves are frequently renewed throughout the long winters; otherwise the birds would starve. The confiding little creatures know their friends, and often enter the houses for protection from the severity of the weather. Neither man, woman, nor child would think of disturbing them, for they are considered to bring good luck to the premises.
In a journey from the capital to Troendhjem, where the coasting steamer is usually taken for the North Cape, we cross the Dovrefjeld, or mountain table-land. The famous elevation called the Sneehaetta—"Snow Hat"—forms a part of this Alpine range, and it is one of the loftiest in Norway. It should be remembered that one-eighth of the country lies within the region of perpetual snow, and that these lofty and nearly inaccessible heights are robed in a constant garb of bridal whiteness. No known portions of the globe have more extensive glaciers or snowfields, unless, possibly, it be some portions of Alaska or Greenland. There are glaciers in Norway which cover from four to five hundred square miles, descending from plateaus three and four thousand feet in height, down to very near sea-level.
Though the highest point in the peninsula is only about eight thousand five hundred feet above the sea,—an elevation which is reached only by Jotunfjeld, or Giant Mountain,—still no highlands in Europe surpass those of Scandinavia in terrific grandeur. Mont Blanc (Switzerland) is nearly twice as high as this Giant Mountain, but being less abrupt is hardly so striking.
The elevations of Norway are intersected by deep, dark gorges and threatening chasms, roaring with impetuous torrents and grand water-falls, constantly presenting such scenes as would have inspired the pencil of Salvator Rosa. The mountain system here does not form a continuous range, but consists of a succession of table-lands, like the Dovrefjeld, and of detached mountains rising from elevated bases. The length of this series of elevations—mountains and plateaus—is that of the entire peninsula from the North Cape to Christiania, some twelve hundred miles, which gives to the mountains of Norway and Sweden an area larger than the Alps, the Apennines, and Pyrenees combined; while the lakes, waterfalls, and cascades far surpass those of the rest of Europe. It has been said, somewhat extravagantly, by those familiar with the geography of Scandinavia, that could it be flattened out into plains, it would make as large a division of the earth as is now represented by either of the four principal continents.
The ratio of arable land to the entire area of Norway is not more than one to ten, and were it not that the support of the people came mainly from the sea, the country would not sustain one-quarter of its present population. Undismayed, however, by the prevalence of rocks, cliffs, and chasms, the people utilize every available rod of land to the utmost. The surroundings of many habitations seem severe and desolate, even when viewed beneath the summer sun; what, then, must be their appearance during the long and trying winters of their frosty regions?
It is not uncommon to see on the Norwegian coast, farm-houses surrounded by a few low buildings, perched among rocks away up on some green terrace, so high, indeed, as to make them seem scarcely larger than an eagle's nest. To anybody but a mountaineer these spots are inaccessible, and every article of subsistence, except what is raised upon the few acres of available earth surrounding the dwelling, must be carried up there upon men's backs. A few goats and sheep must constitute the animal stock, added to which are generally some domestic fowls. These dwellings are constructed of logs, cut in the lofty gulches, and drawn by hand to the spot, one by one. It would seem that such energetic industry applied in some inviting neighborhood would insure a more desirable result.
Bergen is situated some two hundred miles northwest of Christiania, and may be reached from thence by a carriole (a peculiar native vehicle) journey across the country, over excellent roads, or by steamboat doubling the Naze. The latter route, though three times as far, is most frequently adopted by travellers as being less expensive and troublesome. Another, and perhaps the most common, route taken by tourists is by the way of Lake Mjoesen, called the Valders route. It involves railroad, steamer, and carriole modes of conveyance, and in all covers a distance of at least three hundred and fifty miles.
Bergen was the capital of Norway when it was under Danish rule, and was even up to a late period the commercial rival of the present capital, Christiania. The town rises from the bay nearly in the form of a crescent, nestling at the foot of surrounding hills on the west coast, between those two broad and famous arms of the sea,—the Sognefjord and the Hardangerfjord. The first-named indents the coast to a distance of over one hundred miles, the latter seventy miles,—the first being north, and the last south of Bergen. The excellent situation of the harbor and its direct steam communication with European ports gives this ancient city an extensive commerce in proportion to the number of inhabitants, who do not aggregate over forty thousand. A large portion of the town is built upon a promontory, between which and the mainland on its north side is the harbor, which is rarely frozen over, owing to the influence of the Gulf Stream, while the harbor of St. Petersburg (Russia), in about the same latitude, is closed annually by ice for at least three months.
We see here more of the traditional Norwegian customs than are to be met with either at Gottenburg or Christiania. Some of the old men who come from inland are particularly noticeable, forming vivid pictures and artistic groups, with their long, snowy hair flowing freely about face and neck in patriarchal fashion. They wear red worsted caps, open shirt-collars, and knee-breeches, together with jackets and vests decked by a profusion of silver buttons. The women wear black jackets, bright red bodices, and scarlet petticoats, with white linen aprons. On the street called the Strandgade many Norse costumes mingle like various colors in a kaleidoscope.
The staple commodity of Bergen is dried fish, mostly cod, supplemented by large quantities of cod-liver oil, lumber, and wood cut for fuel. A considerable portion of what is called cod-liver oil is produced from sharks' livers, which, in fact, are believed to possess the same medicinal qualities as those of the cod. At all events, with this object, sharks are sought for along the upper coast of Norway, especially in the region of the Lofoden Islands, and their livers are used as described. An average-sized shark will yield thirty gallons of merchantable oil, but this article would not obtain a market except under the more popular name of cod-liver oil. Catching sharks is not an employment entirely devoid of danger, as they are large and powerful, often measuring twenty feet and more in length. The shark, like the whale, when it is first struck with the harpoon, must be given plenty of line, or it will drag down the fishermen's boat in its rapid descent to deep water. Sometimes the struggle to capture the fish is a long and serious one, as it must thoroughly exhaust itself before it will yield. When it is finally drawn to the side of the boat, a heavy, well-directed blow upon the nose completely stuns the creature, and the capture is then complete.
There are here some neat public squares, a public park, wherein a military band plays occasionally, and half a dozen churches. There is also a theatre, royal palace, musical institute, public library, and museum; but there is hardly a trace of architectural beauty in Norway, with the exception of the cathedral at Troendhjem, which is formed of a mixture of orders, the Norman predominating. The Church of St. Mary at Bergen is only interesting for its antiquity, dating as it does from the twelfth century. Its curious and grotesque front bears the date A.D. 1118.
The shops are filled with odd antique articles, mostly for domestic use, such as old plate, drinking-cups, spoons, and silver goblets bearing the marks of age, and the date of centuries past. A little experience is apt to create doubt, in the genuineness of these articles, which, like those found in the curiosity shops of Japan, are very generally manufactured in this present year of our Lord, however they may be dated.
A drive of a few miles inland upon the charming roads in any direction will fill the stranger with delight, and afford characteristic pictures of great beauty. The farmers hang their cut grass upon frames of wood to dry, as we do clothes upon a rope on washing-days. These frames are placed in the mowing-fields, in rows of a hundred feet in length and a hundred feet apart, and are about five feet in height. Agricultural tools used upon the farms are of the most primitive character; the ploughs in many parts of the country are single-handed, and as awkward as the rude implement used for the purpose to-day in Egypt. The country houses are low and mostly thatched, the roof being often covered with soil, and are not infrequently rendered attractive with blooming heather and little blue and pink blossoms planted by Nature's hand,—the hieroglyphics in which she writes her impromptu poetry. In the meadows between the hills are sprinkled harebells, as blue as the azure veins on a delicate face; while here and there patches of large red clover-heads are seen nodding heavily with their wealth of golden sweets. Further away, in solitary glens, white anemones delight the eye, in company with ferns of tropical variety in form and color. The blossoms of the multebaer, almost identical with that of the strawberry, are abundant. The humidity of the atmosphere favors floral development. All through Scandinavia one meets these bright mosaics of the soil with a sense of surprise, they are so delicate, so frail, creations of such short life, yet lovely beyond compare, born upon the verge of constant frost.
While rambling afield one meets occasionally a peasant who bows low, removing his hat as the stranger passes. Without evincing the servility of the common people of Japan, they yet exhibit all their native courtesy. Now and again the road passes through pine forests, still and aromatic, the soil carpeted with leaves, where, if one pauses to listen, there comes a low, undefined murmur of vegetable and insect life, like the sound that greets the ear when applied to an empty sea-shell. Some wood-paths are found sprinkled with dog-violets, saxifrage, and with purple heart's-ease. Song-birds are rarely to be seen and one cannot but wish for their delicious notes amid such suggestive surroundings.
The country lying between Bergen and Christiania, and indeed nearly every part of Norway, presents great attractions to the angler, who must, however, go prepared to rough it: but if he be a true lover of the sport, this will enhance rather than detract from the pleasure. The country is thinly inhabited, and affords only rude accommodations for the wandering pedestrian who does not confine himself to the regular post-route. The lakes, rivers, and streams, swarm with trout, grayling, and salmon.
Strangers visit with more than passing interest the admirable free school for girls, which is established at Bergen. Here girls from eight to sixteen years of age are taught the domestic industries practically, under circumstances void of every onerous regulation, and they are to be seen in cheerful groups at work upon all sorts of garments, supervised by competent teachers of their own sex. Possessed of these prudential and educational appreciations, it is not surprising that Bergen has sent forth some eminent representatives in science, art, and literature. Among these we recall the names of Ole Bull, the famous musician; Ludwig Holberg, the accomplished traveller; Johann Welhaven, the Norse poet; and J. C. C. Dahl, the celebrated painter.
Troendhjem is situated on a fjord of the same name occupying a peninsula formed by the river Nid, and is surrounded by picturesque scenery. A delightful view of the town and its environs may be had from the old fort of Kristiansten. Here resided the kings of Norway in the olden time. It is now a thriving but small city, having a population of about twenty-five thousand, and is the seat of a bishopric. There is here an academy of sciences, a museum, and a public library. The Cathedral of St. Olaf is famous, being the finest Gothic edifice in Scandinavia, and the only local object of special interest. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries the kings of Norway were buried here.
Troendhjem was founded about a thousand years ago by King Olaf Trygvason, upon the site of a much older city named Nidaros, but there is certainly nothing visible to indicate its great antiquity. The adventurous life of King Olaf, which occurs to us in this connection, may be outlined in a few words, and is more romantic than that of any other ruler of Norway which is generally known. Born a prince, he barely escaped assassination in childhood at the hands of the usurper of his rights, by fleeing from the country in charge of his mother. They were captured at sea by pirates, separated, and sold into slavery. Then followed a period of deprivation and hardship; but at a comparatively early age Olaf was discovered and ransomed by a relative who had never ceased to search for the missing youth. He soon after became a distinguished sea-king, of that class whom we call pirates. His career in this field of adventure is represented to have been one of daring and reckless hardihood, characterized by merciless aggression and great success. Finally Olaf married an Irish princess, embraced Christianity, and fought his way to the throne of Norway, assuming the crown in the year of our Lord 991. From this time he became a zealous missionary, propagating his faith by the sword, and like many other religious zealots he was guilty of outrageous cruelty. Seven years subsequent to the last-named date he destroyed the Pagan temples of Thor and Odin at Troendhjem. Upon the site of this temple he built a Christian church, making the city his seat of government, and so it remained the capital down to the union with Denmark. Olaf was slain in battle while fighting for his throne, and was declared a saint by the Church, his tomb at Troendhjem being a Mecca for pious pilgrims from all parts of Europe for centuries. In such veneration were the memory and services of this reformed pirate held by a certain class of religionists, that churches were erected in his name at Constantinople and elsewhere. His ashes lie entombed beneath the present cathedral of Troendhjem.
A short walk from the town brings one to Hlade, where stands the castle of the infamous Jarl Hakon, whence, in the olden time, he ruled over the surrounding country with an iron hand. He was a savage heathen, believing in and practising human sacrifices, evidences of which are still extant. About a mile from the town, in the fjord, is the island of Munkholm, once the site of a Benedictine monastery, as its name indicates, and which was erected in 1028. The mouldering and moss-grown base of one of its towers is all that now remains. Victor Hugo gives a graphic description of this spot in his book entitled "Han d'Islande." Here the famous minister of Christian V., Griffenfeldt by name, was confined for a period of many weary years. He was guilty of no crime, his incarceration being the result of political intrigue. When he was finally brought to the scaffold for execution, a messenger interrupted the headsman at the last moment and announced a pardon from the king. "The pardon," said the worn-out sufferer, "is severer than the penalty."
The usual route of those who seek to gain a view of the "midnight sun"—that is, of witnessing the phenomenon of the sun passing round the horizon without sinking beneath it—is to depart from Troendhjem by sea, for the North Cape, skirting the ironbound coast for a distance of about seven hundred miles.
As we sail northward, the rapid lengthening of the days becomes more and more apparent. At Lund, in the extreme south of Sweden, the longest day experienced is seventeen hours and a half; at Stockholm, two hundred miles further north, the longest day of the year is eighteen hours and a half; at Bergen, in Norway, three hundred miles north of Lund, the longest day is twenty-one hours. Above this point of latitude to the North Cape, there is virtually no night at all during the brief summer season, as the sun is visible, or nearly so, for the whole twenty-four hours. From early in May until about the first of August, north of Troendhjem, the stars take a vacation, or at least they are not visible, while the moon is so pale as to give no light. Even the Great Bear puts by his seven lustres, and the diamond belt of Orion is unseen. But the heavenly lamps revive by the first of September, and after a short period are supplemented by the marvellous and beautiful radiations of the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. Winter now sets in, the sun disappears entirely from sight, and night reigns supreme, the heavens shining only with a subdued light. Were it not for the brilliancy of the Auroral light the fishermen could hardly pursue their winter business, that being the harvest time with them, and midnight is considered to be the best period of the twenty-four hours for successful fishing in these regions. In and about Lofoden Islands alone, five thousand boats are thus regularly employed, giving occupation to twenty thousand men in the boats and a couple of thousand on the shore.
The coast of Norway is bordered by innumerable rocky islands, and also by deep fjords, winding inland from ten to fifty miles each, among masses of rock forming perpendicular walls often towering a thousand feet or more in height. The turbulent waves of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, hurled against the coast for thousands of years, have steadily worn into the land and thus formed these remarkable fjords; or perhaps after they were begun by volcanic or glacial action, the wearing of the waters has gradually brought about their present condition. The coast of Sweden, on the other hand, is formed by the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, both of which are inland waters, and though there are many islands on the Swedish coast, there are no fjords worthy of mention. Notwithstanding that the extreme length of Norway, from north to south, is hardly twelve hundred miles, yet so numerous and extensive are these peculiar arms of the sea, that its coast-line is estimated to measure over three thousand miles, which gives to these deep indentures altogether a length of eighteen hundred miles.
The peninsula known as Scandinavia is composed of Norway, Sweden, and a small portion of the Russian possessions in the northeast. This division of country supports a population of little less than seven millions, and contains in round numbers three hundred thousand square miles. The mountains of this section of the globe are mostly of primitive rock, presenting as near as possible the same form as when they were first solidified, standing forth as tangible evidence of the great antiquity of this region.
In her course northward the steamer, upon which we embarked at Troendhjem, winds in and out among the many islands and fjords, touching occasionally at small settlements on the mainland to discharge light freight and to land or to take an occasional passenger. The few persons who come from the little cluster of houses, which are not sufficient in number to be called a village, are found to be of more than ordinary intelligence, and many of them speak English fluently. Even in these sparsely inhabited regions education is provided for by what is termed the "ambulatory system"; that is, one able teacher instructs the youth of three or four neighboring districts, meeting the convenience of all by suitable variations regarding time and place in holding school sessions.