At dusk, we landed under the battlements of Copenhagen. "Are you travellers or merchants?" asked the Custom-house officers. "Travellers," we replied. "Then," was the answer, "there is no necessity for examining your trunks," and we were politely ushered out at the opposite door, and drove without further hindrance to a hotel. A gentleman from Stockholm had said to me: "When you get to Copenhagen, you will find yourself in Europe:" and I was at once struck with the truth of his remark. Although Copenhagen is by no means a commercial city—scarcely more so than Stockholm—its streets are gay, brilliant and bustling, and have an air of life and joyousness which contrasts strikingly with the gravity of the latter capital. From without, it makes very little impression, being built on a low, level ground, and surrounded by high earthen fortifications, but its interior is full of quaint and attractive points. There is already a strong admixture of the German element in the population, softening by its warmth and frankness the Scandinavian reserve. In their fondness for out-door recreation, the Danes quite equal the Viennese, and their Summer-garden of Tivoli is one of the largest and liveliest in all Europe. In costume, there is such a thing as individuality; in manners, somewhat of independence. The Danish nature appears to be more pliant and flexible than the Swedish, but I cannot judge whether the charge of inconstancy and dissimulation, which I have heard brought against it, is just. With regard to morals, Copenhagen is said to be an improvement upon Stockholm.
During our short stay of three days, we saw the principal sights of the place. The first, and one of the pleasantest to me, was the park of Rosenborg Palace, with its fresh, green turf, starred with dandelions, and its grand avenues of chestnuts and lindens, just starting into leaf. On the 11th of May, we found spring at last, after six months of uninterrupted winter. I don't much enjoy going the round of a new city, attended by a valet-de-place, and performing the programme laid down by a guide-book, nor is it an agreeable task to describe such things in catalogue style; so I shall merely say that the most interesting things in Copenhagen are the Museum of Northern Antiquities, the Historical Collections in Rosenborg Palace, Thorwaldsen's Museum, and the Church of our Lady, containing the great sculptor's statues of Christ and the Apostles. We have seen very good casts of the latter in New-York, but one must visit the Museum erected by the Danish people, which is also Thorwaldsen's mausoleum, to learn the number, variety and beauty of his works. Here are the casts of between three and four hundred statues, busts and bas reliefs, with a number in marble. No artist has ever had so noble a monument.
On the day after my arrival, I sent a note to Hans Christian Andersen, reminding him of the greeting which he had once sent me through a mutual friend, and asking him to appoint an hour for me to call upon him. The same afternoon, as I was sitting in my room, the door quietly opened, and a tall, loosely-jointed figure entered. He wore a neat evening dress of black, with a white cravat; his head was thrown back, and his plain, irregular features wore an expression of the greatest cheerfulness and kindly humour. I recognised him at once, and forgetting that we had never met—so much did he seem like an old, familiar acquaintance—cried out "Andersen!" and jumped up to greet him. "Ah," said he stretching out both his hands, "here you are! Now I should have been vexed if you had gone through Copenhagen and I had not known it." He sat down, and I had a delightful hour's chat with him. One sees the man so plainly in his works, that his readers may almost be said to know him personally. He is thoroughly simple and natural, and those who call him egotistical forget that his egotism is only a naive and unthinking sincerity, like that of a child. In fact, he is the youngest man for his years that I ever knew. "When I was sixteen," said he, "I used to think to myself, 'when I am twenty-four, then will I be old indeed'—but now I am fifty-two, and I have just the same feeling of youth as at twenty." He was greatly delighted when Braisted, who was in the room with me, spoke of having read his "Improvisatore" in the Sandwich Islands. "Why, is it possible?" he exclaimed: "when I hear of my books going so far around the earth, I sometimes wonder if it can be really true that I have written them." He explained to me the plot of his new novel, "To Be, or Not To Be," and ended by presenting me with the illustrated edition of his stories. "Now, don't forget me," said he, with a delightful entreaty in his, voice, as he rose to leave, "for we shall meet again. Were it not for sea-sickness, I should see you in America; and who knows but I may come, in spite of it?" God bless you, Andersen! I said, in my thoughts. It is so cheering to meet a man whose very weaknesses are made attractive through the perfect candour of his nature!
Goldschmidt, the author of "The Jew," whose acquaintance I made, is himself a Jew, and a man of great earnestness and enthusiasm. He is the editor of the "North and South," a monthly periodical, and had just completed, as he informed me, a second romance, which was soon to be published. Like most of the authors and editors in Northern Europe, he is well acquainted with American literature.
Professor Rafn, the distinguished archaeologist of Northern lore, is still as active as ever, notwithstanding he is well advanced in years. After going up an innumerable number of steps, I found him at the very top of a high old building in the Kronprinzensgade, in a study crammed with old Norsk and Icelandic volumes. He is a slender old man, with a thin face, and high, narrow head, clear grey eyes, and a hale red on his cheeks. The dust of antiquity does not lie very heavily on his grey locks; his enthusiasm for his studies is of that fresh and lively character which mellows the whole nature of the man. I admired and enjoyed it, when, after being fairly started on his favourite topic, he opened one of his own splendid folios, and read me some ringing stanzas of Icelandic poetry. He spoke much of Mr. Marsh, our former minister to Turkey, whose proficiency in the northern languages he considered very remarkable.
RETURN TO THE NORTH.—CHRISTIANIA.
I was obliged to visit both Germany and England, before returning to spend the summer in Norway. As neither of those countries comes within the scope of the present work, I shall spare the reader a recapitulation of my travels for six weeks after leaving Copenhagen. Midsummer's Day was ten days past before I was ready to resume the journey, and there was no time to be lost, if I wished to see the midnight sun from the cliffs of the North Cape. I therefore took the most direct route, from London, by the way of Hull, whence a steamer was to sail on the 3rd of July for Christiania.
We chose one of the steamers of the English line, to our subsequent regret, as the Norwegian vessels are preferable, in most respects. I went on board on Friday evening, and on asking for my berth, was taken into a small state-room, containing ten. "Oh, there's only seven gentleman goin' in here, this time," said the steward, noticing my look of dismay, "and then you can sleep on a sofa in the saloon, if you like it better." On referring to the steamer's framed certificate, I found that she was 250 tons' burden, and constructed to carry 171 cabin and 230 deck passengers! The state-room for ten passengers had a single wash-basin, but I believe we had as many as four small towels, which was a source of congratulation. "What a jolly nice boat it is!" I heard one of the English passengers exclaim. The steward, who stood up for the dignity of the vessel, said: "Oh, you'll find it very pleasant; we 'ave only twenty passengers, and we once 'ad heighty-four."
In the morning we were upon the North Sea, rolling with a short, nauseating motion, under a dismal, rainy sky. "It always rains when you leave Hull," said the mate, "and it always rains when you come back to it." I divided my time between sea sickness and Charles Reade's novel of "Never too Late to Mend," a cheery companion under such circumstances. The purposed rowdyism of the man's style shows a little too plainly, but his language is so racy and muscular, his characters so fairly and sharply drawn, that one must not be censorious. Towards evening I remembered that it was the Fourth, and so procured a specific for sea-sickness, with which Braisted and I, sitting alone on the main hatch, in the rain, privately remembered our Fatherland. There was on board an American sea-captain, of Norwegian birth, as I afterwards found, who would gladly have joined us. The other passengers were three Norwegians, three fossil Englishmen, two snobbish do., and some jolly, good-natured, free-and-easy youths, bound to Norway, with dogs, guns, rods, fishing tackle, and oil-cloth overalls.
We had a fair wind and smooth sea, but the most favourable circumstances could not get more than eight knots an hour out of our steamer. After forty-eight hours, however, the coast of Norway came in sight—a fringe of scattered rocks, behind which rose bleak hills, enveloped in mist and rain. Our captain, who had been running on this route some years, did not know where we were, and was for putting to sea again, but one of the Norwegian passengers offered his services as pilot and soon brought us to the fjord of Christiansand. We first passed through a Skargaard—archipelago, or "garden of rocks," as it is picturesquely termed in Norsk—and then between hills of dark-red rock, covered by a sprinkling of fir-trees, to a sheltered and tranquil harbour, upon which lay the little town. By this time the rain came down, not in drops, but in separate threads or streams, as if the nozzle of an immense watering-pot had been held over us. After three months of drouth, which had burned up the soil and entirely ruined the hay-crops, it was now raining for the first time in Southern Norway. The young Englishmen bravely put on their waterproofs and set out to visit the town in the midst of the deluge; but as it contains no sight of special interest, I made up my mind that, like Constantinople, it was more attractive from without than within, and remained on board. An amphitheatre of rugged hills surrounds the place, broken only by a charming little valley, which stretches off to the westward.
The fishermen brought us some fresh mackerel for our breakfast. They are not more than half the size of ours, and of a brighter green along the back; their flavour, however, is delicious. With these mackerels, four salmons, a custom-house officer, and a Norwegian parson, we set off at noon for Christiania. The coast was visible, but at a considerable distance, all day. Fleeting gleams of sunshine sometimes showed the broken inland ranges of mountains with jagged saw-tooth peaks shooting up here and there. When night came there was no darkness, but a strong golden gleam, whereby one could read until after ten o'clock. We reached the mouth of Christiania Fjord a little after midnight, and most of the passengers arose to view the scenery. After passing the branch which leads to Drammen, the fjord contracts so as to resemble a river or one of our island-studded New England lakes. The alternation of bare rocky islets, red-ribbed cliffs, fir-woods, grey-green birchen groves, tracts of farm land, and red-frame cottages, rendered this part of the voyage delightful, although, as the morning advanced, we saw everything through a gauzy veil of rain. Finally, the watering-pot was turned on again, obliging even oil cloths to beat a retreat to the cabin, and so continued until we reached Christiania.
After a mild custom-house visitation, not a word being said about passports, we stepped ashore in republican Norway, and were piloted by a fellow-passenger to the Victoria Hotel, where an old friend awaited me. He who had walked with me in the colonnades of Karnak, among the sands of Kom-Ombos, and under the palms of Philae, was there to resume our old companionship on the bleak fjelds of Norway and on the shores of the Arctic Sea. We at once set about preparing for the journey. First, to the banker's who supplied me with a sufficient quantity of small money for the post-stations on the road to Drontheim; then to a seller of carrioles, of whom we procured three, at $36 apiece, to be resold to him for $24, at the expiration of two months; and then to supply ourselves with maps, posting-book, hammer, nails rope, gimlets, and other necessary helps in case of a breakdown. The carriole (carry-all, lucus a non lucendo, because it only carries one) is the national Norwegian vehicle, and deserves special mention. It resembles a reindeer-pulk, mounted on a pair of wheels, with long, flat, flexible ash shafts, and no springs. The seat, much like the stern of a canoe, and rather narrow for a traveller of large basis, slopes down into a trough for the feet, with a dashboard in front. Your single valise is strapped on a flat board behind, upon which your postillion sits. The whole machine resembles an American sulky in appearance, except that it is springless, and nearly the whole weight is forward of the axle. We also purchased simple and strong harness, which easily accommodates itself to any horse.
Christiania furnishes a remarkable example of the progress which Norway has made since its union with Sweden and the adoption of a free Constitution. In its signs of growth and improvement, the city reminds one of an American town. Its population has risen to 40,000, and though inferior to Gottenburg in its commerce, it is only surpassed by Stockholm in size. The old log houses of which it once was built have almost entirely disappeared; the streets are broad, tolerably paved, and have—what Stockholm cannot yet boast of—decent side-walks. From the little nucleus of the old town, near the water, branch off handsome new streets, where you often come suddenly from stately three-story blocks upon the rough rock and meadow land. The broad Carl-Johansgade, leading directly to the imposing white front of the Royal Palace, upon an eminence in the rear of the city, is worthy of any European capital. On the old market square a very handsome market hall of brick, in semi-Byzantine style, has recently been erected, and the only apparent point in which Christiania has not kept up with the times, is the want of piers for her shipping. A railroad, about forty miles in length, is already in operation as far as Eidsvold, at the foot of the long Miosen Lake, on which steamers ply to Lillehammer, at its head, affording an outlet for the produce of the fertile Guldbrandsdal and the adjacent country. The Norwegian Constitution is in almost all respects as free as that of any American state, and it is cheering to see what material well-being and solid progress have followed its adoption.
The environs of Christiania are remarkably beautiful. From the quiet basin of the fjord, which vanishes between blue, interlocking islands to the southward, the land rises gradually on all sides, speckled with smiling country-seats and farm-houses, which trench less and less on the dark evergreen forests as they recede, until the latter keep their old dominion and sweep in unbroken lines to the summits of the mountains on either hand. The ancient citadel of Aggershus, perched upon a rock, commands the approach to the city, fine old linden trees rising above its white walls and tiled roofs; beyond, over the trees of the palace park, in which stand the new Museum and University, towers the long palace-front, behind which commences a range of villas and gardens, stretching westward around a deep bight of the fjord, until they reach the new palace of Oscar-hall, on a peninsula facing the city. As we floated over the glassy water, in a skiff, on the afternoon following our arrival, watching the scattered sun-gleams move across the lovely panorama, we found it difficult to believe that we were in the latitude of Greenland. The dark, rich green of the foliage, the balmy odours which filled the air, the deep blue of the distant hills and islands, and the soft, warm colors of the houses, all belonged to the south. Only the air, fresh without being cold, elastic, and exciting, not a delicious opiate, was wholly northern, and when I took a swim under the castle walls, I found that the water was northern too. It was the height of summer, and the showers of roses in the gardens, the strawberries and cherries in the market, show that the summer's best gifts are still enjoyed here.
The English were off the next day with their dogs, guns, fishing tackle, waterproofs, clay pipes, and native language, except one, who became home-sick and went back in the next steamer. We also prepared to set out for Ringerike, the ancient dominion of King Ring, on our way to the Dovre-fjeld and Drontheim.
INCIDENTS OF CARRIOLE TRAVEL.
It is rather singular that whenever you are about to start upon a new journey, you almost always fall in with some one who has just made it, and who overwhelms you with all sorts of warning and advice. This has happened to me so frequently that I have long ago ceased to regard any such communications, unless the individual from whom they come inspires me with more than usual confidence. While inspecting our carrioles at the hotel in Christiania, I was accosted by a Hamburg merchant, who had just arrived from Drontheim, by way of the Dovre Fjeld and the Miosen Lake. "Ah," said he, "those things won't last long. That oil-cloth covering for your luggage will be torn to pieces in a few days by the postillions climbing upon it. Then they hold on to your seat and rip the cloth lining with their long nails; besides, the rope reins wear the leather off your dashboard, and you will be lucky if your wheels and axles don't snap on the rough roads." Now, here was a man who had travelled much in Norway, spoke the language perfectly, and might be supposed to know something; but his face betrayed the croaker, and I knew, moreover, that of all fretfully luxurious men, merchants—and especially North-German merchants—are the worst, so I let him talk and kept my own private opinion unchanged.
At dinner he renewed the warnings. "You will have great delay in getting horses at the stations. The only way is to be rough and swaggering, and threaten the people—and even that won't always answer." Most likely, I thought.—"Of course you have a supply of provisions with you?" he continued. "No," said I, "I always adopt the diet of the country in which I travel."—"But you can't do it here!" he exclaimed in horror, "you can't do it here! They have no wine, nor no white bread, nor no fresh meat; and they don't know how to cook anything!" "I am perfectly aware of that," I answered; "but as long as I am not obliged to come down to bread made of fir-bark and barley-straw, as last winter in Lapland, I shall not complain."—"You possess the courage of a hero if you can do such a thing; but you will not start now, in this rain?" We answered by bidding him a polite adieu, for the post-horses had come, and our carrioles were at the door. As if to reward our resolution, the rain, which had been falling heavily all the morning, ceased at that moment, and the grey blanket of heaven broke and rolled up into loose masses of cloud.
I mounted into the canoe-shaped seat, drew the leathern apron over my legs, and we set out, in single file, through the streets of Christiania. The carriole, as I have already said, has usually no springs (ours had none at least), except those which it makes in bounding over the stones. We had not gone a hundred yards before I was ready to cry out—"Lord, have mercy upon me!" Such a shattering of the joints, such a vibration of the vertebrae, such a churning of the viscera, I had not felt since travelling by banghy-cart in India. Breathing went on by fits and starts, between the jolts; my teeth struck together so that I put away my pipe, lest I should bite off the stem, and the pleasant sensation of having been pounded in every limb crept on apace. Once off the paving-stones, it was a little better; beyond the hard turnpike which followed, better still; and on the gravel and sand of the first broad hill, we found the travel easy enough to allay our fears. The two skydsbonder, or postillions, who accompanied us, sat upon our portmanteaus, and were continually jumping off to lighten the ascent of the hills. The descents were achieved at full trotting speed, the horses leaning back, supporting themselves against the weight of the carrioles, and throwing out their feet very firmly, so as to avoid the danger of slipping. Thus, no matter how steep the hill, they took it with perfect assurance and boldness, never making a stumble. There was just sufficient risk left, however, to make these flying descents pleasant and exhilarating.
Our road led westward, over high hills and across deep valleys, down which we had occasional glimpses of the blue fjord and its rocky islands. The grass and grain were a rich, dark green, sweeping into a velvety blue in the distance, and against this deep ground, the bright red of the houses showed with strong effect—a contrast which was subdued and harmonised by the still darker masses of the evergreen forests, covering the mountain ranges. At the end of twelve or thirteen miles we reached the first post-station, at the foot of the mountains which bound the inland prospect from Christiania on the west. As it was not a "fast" station, we were subject to the possibility of waiting two or three hours for horses, but fortunately were accosted on the road by one of the farmers who supply the skyds, and changed at his house. The Norwegian skyds differs from the Swedish skjuts in having horses ready only at the fast stations, which are comparatively few, while at all others you must wait from one to three hours, according to the distance from which the horses must be brought. In Sweden there are always from two to four horses ready, and you are only obliged to wait after these are exhausted. There, also, the regulations are better, and likewise more strictly enforced. It is, at best, an awkward mode of travelling—very pleasant, when everything goes rightly, but very annoying when otherwise.
We now commenced climbing the mountain by a series of terribly steep ascents, every opening in the woods disclosing a wider and grander view backward over the lovely Christiania Fjord and the intermediate valleys. Beyond the crest we came upon a wild mountain plateau, a thousand feet above the sea, and entirely covered with forests of spruce and fir. It was a black and dismal region, under the lowering sky: not a house or a grain field to be seen, and thus we drove for more than two hours, to the solitary inn of Krogkleven, where we stopped for the night in order to visit the celebrated King's View in the morning. We got a tolerable supper and good beds, sent off a messenger to the station of Sundvolden, at the foot of the mountain, to order horses for us, and set out soon after sunrise, piloted by the landlord's son, Olaf. Half an hour's walk through the forest brought us to a pile of rocks on the crest of the mountain, which fell away abruptly to the westward. At our feet lay the Tyri Fjord, with its deeply indented shores and its irregular, scattered islands, shining blue and bright in the morning sun, while away beyond it stretched a great semicircle of rolling hills covered with green farms, dotted with red farm-houses, and here and there a white church glimmering like a spangle on the breast of the landscape. Behind this soft, warm, beautiful region, rose dark, wooded hills, with lofty mountain-ridges above them, until, far and faint, under and among the clouds, streaks of snow betrayed some peaks of the Nore Fjeld, sixty or seventy miles distant. This is one of the most famous views in Norway, and has been compared to that from the Righi, but without sufficient reason. The sudden change, however, from the gloomy wilderness through which you first pass to the sunlit picture of the enchanting lake, and green, inhabited hills and valleys, may well excuse the raptures of travellers. Ringerike, the realm of King Ring, is a lovely land, not only as seen from this eagle's nest, but when you have descended upon its level. I believe the monarch's real name was Halfdan the Black. So beloved was he in life that after death his body was divided into four portions, so that each province might possess some part of him. Yet the noblest fame is transitory, and nobody now knows exactly where any one of his quarters was buried.
A terrible descent, through a chasm between perpendicular cliffs some hundreds of feet in height, leads from Krogkleven to the level of the Tyri Fjord. There is no attempt here, nor indeed upon the most of the Norwegian roads we travelled, to mitigate, by well-arranged curves, the steepness of the hills. Straight down you go, no matter of how breakneck a character the declivity may be. There are no drags to the carrioles and country carts, and were not the native horses the toughest and surest-footed little animals in the world, this sort of travel would be trying to the nerves.
Our ride along the banks of the Tyri Fjord, in the clear morning sunshine, was charming. The scenery was strikingly like that on the lake of Zug, in Switzerland, and we missed the only green turf, which this year's rainless spring had left brown and withered. In all Sweden we had seen no such landscapes, not even in Norrland. There, however, the people carried off the palm. We found no farm-houses here so stately and clean as the Swedish, no such symmetrical forms and frank, friendly faces. The Norwegians are big enough, and strong enough, to be sure, but their carriage is awkward, and their faces not only plain but ugly. The countrywomen we saw were remarkable in this latter respect, but nothing could exceed their development of waist, bosom and arms. Here is the stuff of which Vikings were made, I thought, but there has been no refining or ennobling since those times. These are the rough primitive formations of the human race—the bare granite and gneiss, from which sprouts no luxuriant foliage, but at best a few simple and hardy flowers. I found much less difficulty in communicating with the Norwegians than I anticipated. The language is so similar to the Swedish that I used the latter, with a few alterations, and easily made myself understood. The Norwegian dialect, I imagine, stands in about the same relation to pure Danish as the Scotch does to the English. To my ear, it is less musical and sonorous than the Swedish, though it is often accented in the same peculiar sing-song way.
Leaving the Tyri Fjord, we entered a rolling, well-cultivated country, with some pleasant meadow scenery. The crops did not appear to be thriving remarkably, probably on account of the dry weather. The hay crop, which the farmers were just cutting, was very scanty; rye and winter barley were coming into head, but the ears were thin and light, while spring barley and oats were not more than six inches in height. There were many fields of potatoes, however, which gave a better promise. So far as one could judge from looking over the fields, Norwegian husbandry is yet in a very imperfect state, and I suspect that the resources of the soil are not half developed. The whole country was radiant with flowers, and some fields were literally mosaics of blue, purple, pink, yellow, and crimson bloom. Clumps of wild roses fringed the road, and the air was delicious with a thousand odours. Nature was throbbing with the fullness of her short midsummer life, with that sudden and splendid rebound from the long trance of winter which she nowhere makes except in the extreme north.
At Klakken, which is called a lilsigelse station, where horses must be specially engaged, we were obliged to wait two hours and a half, while they were sent for from a distance of four miles. The utter coolness and indifference of the people to our desire to get on faster was quite natural, and all the better for them, no doubt, but it was provoking to us. We whiled away a part of the time with breakfast, which was composed mainly of boiled eggs and an immense dish of wild strawberries, of very small size but exquisitely fragrant flavour. The next station brought us to Vasbunden, at the head of the beautiful Randsfjord, which was luckily a fast station, and the fresh horses were forthcoming in two minutes. Our road all the afternoon lay along the eastern bank of the Fjord, coursing up and down the hills through a succession of the loveliest landscape pictures. This part of Norway will bear a comparison with the softer parts of Switzerland, such as the lakes of Zurich and Thun. The hilly shores of the Fjord were covered with scattered farms, the villages being merely churches with half a dozen houses clustered about them.
At sunset we left the lake and climbed a long wooded mountain to a height of more than two thousand feet. It was a weary pull until we reached the summit, but we rolled swiftly down the other side to the inn of Teterud, our destination, which we reached about 10 P.M. It was quite light enough to read, yet every one was in bed, and the place seemed deserted, until we remembered what latitude we were in. Finally, the landlord appeared, followed by a girl, whom, on account of her size and blubber, Braisted compared to a cow-whale. She had been turned out of her bed to make room for us, and we two instantly rolled into the warm hollow she had left, my Nilotic friend occupying a separate bed in another corner. The guests' room was an immense apartment; eight sets of quadrilles might have been danced in it at one time. The walls were hung with extraordinary pictures of the Six Days of Creation, in which the Almighty was represented as an old man dressed in a long gown, with a peculiarly good-humoured leer, suggesting a wink, on his face. I have frequently seen the same series of pictures in the Swedish inns. In the morning I was aroused by Braisted exclaiming, "There she blows!" and the whale came up to the surface with a huge pot of coffee, some sugar candy, excellent cream, and musty biscuit.
It was raining when we started, and I put on a light coat, purchased in London, and recommended in the advertisement as being "light in texture, gentlemanly in appearance, and impervious to wet," with strong doubts of its power to resist a Norwegian rain. Fortunately, it was not put to a severe test; we had passing showers only, heavy, though short. The country, between the Randsfjord and the Miosen Lake was open and rolling, everywhere under cultivation, and apparently rich and prosperous. Our road was admirable, and we rolled along at the rate of one Norsk mile (seven miles) an hour, through a land in full blossom, and an atmosphere of vernal odours. At the end of the second station we struck the main road from Christiania to Drontheim. In the station-house I found translations of the works of Dickens and Captain Chamier on the table. The landlord was the most polite and attentive Norwegian we had seen; but he made us pay for it, charging one and a half marks apiece for a breakfast of boiled eggs and cheese.
Starting again in a heavy shower, we crossed the crest of a hill, and saw all at once the splendid Miosen Lake spread out before us, the lofty Island of Helge, covered with farms and forests, lying in the centre of the picture. Our road went northward along the side of the vast, sweeping slope of farm-land which bounds the lake on the west. Its rough and muddy condition showed how little land-travel there is at present, since the establishment of a daily line of steamers on the lake. At the station of Gjovik, a glass furnace, situated in a wooded little dell on the shore, I found a young Norwegian who spoke tolerable English, and who seemed astounded at our not taking the steamer in preference to our carrioles. He hardly thought it possible that we could be going all the way to Lillehammer, at the head of the lake, by the land road. When we set out, our postillion took a way leading up the hills in the rear of the place. Knowing that our course was along the shore, we asked him if we were on the road to Sveen, the next station. "Oh, yes; it's all right," said he, "this is a new road." It was, in truth, a superb highway; broad and perfectly macadamised, and leading along the brink of a deep rocky chasm, down which thundered a powerful stream. From the top of this glen we struck inland, keeping more and more to the westward. Again we asked the postillion, and again received the same answer. Finally; when we had travelled six or seven miles, and the lake had wholly disappeared, I stopped and demanded where Sveen was. "Sveen is not on this road," he answered; "we are going to Mustad!" "But," I exclaimed, "we are bound for Sveen and Lillehammer!" "Oh," said he, with infuriating coolness, "you can go there afterwards!" You may judge that the carrioles were whirled around in a hurry, and that the only answer to the fellow's remonstrances was a shaking by the neck which frightened him into silence.
We drove back to Gjovik in a drenching shower, which failed to cool our anger. On reaching the station I at once made a complaint against the postillion, and the landlord called a man who spoke good English, to settle the matter. The latter brought me a bill of $2 for going to Mustad and back. Knowing that the horses belonged to farmers, who were not to blame in the least, we had agreed to pay for their use; but I remonstrated against paying the full price when we had not gone the whole distance, and had not intended to go at all. "Why, then, did you order horses for Mustad?" he asked. "I did no such thing!" I exclaimed, in amazement. "You did!" he persisted, and an investigation ensued, which resulted in the discovery that the Norwegian who had advised us to go by steamer, had gratuitously taken upon himself to tell the landlord to send us to the Randsfjord, and had given the postillion similar directions! The latter, imagining, perhaps, that we didn't actually know our own plans, had followed his instructions. I must say that I never before received such an astonishing mark of kindness. The ill-concealed satisfaction of the people at our mishap made it all the more exasperating. The end of it was that two or three marks were taken off the account, which we then paid, and in an hour afterwards shipped ourselves and carrioles on board a steamer for Lillehammer. The Norwegian who had caused all this trouble came along just before we embarked, and heard the story with the most sublime indifference, proffering not a word of apology, regret, or explanation. Judging from this specimen, the King of Sweden and Norway has good reason to style himself King of the Goths and Vandals.
I was glad, nevertheless, that we had an opportunity of seeing the Miosen, from the deck of a steamer. Moving over the glassy pale-green water, midway between its shores, we had a far better exhibition of its beauties than from the land-road. It is a superb piece of water, sixty miles in length by from two to five in breadth, with mountain shores of picturesque and ever-varying outline. The lower slopes are farm land, dotted with the large gaards, or mansions of the farmers, many of which have a truly stately air; beyond them are forests of fir, spruce, and larch, while in the glens between, winding groves of birch, alder, and ash come down to fringe the banks of the lake. Wandering gleams of sunshine, falling through the broken clouds, touched here and there the shadowed slopes and threw belts of light upon the water—and these illuminated spots finely relieved the otherwise sombre depth of colour. Our boat was slow, and we had between two and three hours of unsurpassed scenery before reaching our destination. An immense raft of timber, gathered from the loose logs which are floated down the Lougen Elv, lay at the head of the lake, which contracts into the famous Guldbrandsdal. On the brow of a steep hill on the right lay the little town of Lillehammer, where we were ere long quartered in a very comfortable hotel.
GULDBRANDSDAL AND THE DOVRE FJELD.
We left Lillehammer on a heavenly Sabbath morning. There was scarcely a cloud in the sky, the air was warm and balmy, and the verdure of the valley, freshened by the previous day's rain, sparkled and glittered in the sun. The Miosen Lake lay blue and still to the south, and the bald tops of the mountains which inclose Guldbrandsdal stood sharp and clear, and almost shadowless, in the flood of light which streamed up the valley. Of Lillehammer, I can only say that it is a commonplace town of about a thousand inhabitants. It had a cathedral and bishop some six hundred years ago, no traces of either of which now remain. We drove out of it upon a splendid new road, leading up the eastern bank of the river, and just high enough on the mountain side to give the loveliest views either way. Our horses were fast and spirited, and the motion of our carrioles over the firmly macadamised road was just sufficient to keep the blood in nimble circulation. Rigid Sabbatarians may be shocked at our travelling on that day; but there were few hearts in all the churches of Christendom whose hymns of praise were more sincere and devout than ours. The Lougen roared an anthem for us from his rocky bed; the mountain streams, flashing down their hollow channels, seemed hastening to join it; the mountains themselves stood silent, with uncovered heads; and over all the pale-blue northern heaven looked lovingly and gladly down—a smile of God upon the grateful earth. There is no Sabbath worship better than the simple enjoyment of such a day.
Toward the close of the stage, our road descended to the banks of the Lougen, which here falls in a violent rapid—almost a cataract—over a barrier of rocks. Masses of water, broken or wrenched from the body of the river, are hurled intermittently high into the air, scattering as they fall, with fragments of rainbows dancing over them. In this scene I at once recognised the wild landscape by the pencil of Dahl, the Norwegian painter, which had made such an impression upon me in Copenhagen. In Guldbrandsdal, we found at once what we had missed in the scenery of Ringerike—swift, foaming streams. Here they leapt from every rift of the upper crags, brightening the gloom of the fir-woods which clothed the mountain-sides, like silver braiding upon a funeral garment. This valley is the pride of Norway, nearly as much for its richness as for its beauty and grandeur. The houses were larger and more substantial, the fields blooming, with frequent orchards of fruit-trees, and the farmers, in their Sunday attire showed in their faces a little more intelligence than the people we had seen on our way thither. Their countenances had a plain, homely stamp; and of all the large-limbed, strong-backed forms I saw, not one could be called graceful, or even symmetrical. Something awkward and uncouth stamps the country people of Norway. Honest and simple-minded they are said to be, and probably are; but of native refinement of feeling they can have little, unless all outward signs of character are false.
We changed horses at Moshuus, and drove up a level splendid road to Holmen, along the river-bank. The highway, thus far, is entirely new, and does great credit to Norwegian enterprise. There is not a better road in all Europe; and when it shall be carried through to Drontheim, the terrors which this trip has for timid travellers will entirely disappear. It is a pity that the skyds system should not be improved in equal ratio, instead of becoming even more inconvenient than at present. Holmen, hitherto a fast station, is now no longer so; and the same retrograde change is going on at other places along the road. The waiting at the tilsigelse stations is the great drawback to travelling by skyds in Norway. You must either wait two hours or pay fast prices, which the people are not legally entitled to ask. Travellers may write complaints in the space allotted in the post-books for such things, but with very little result, if one may judge from the perfect indifference which the station-masters exhibit when you threaten to do so. I was more than once tauntingly asked whether I would not write a complaint. In Sweden, I found but one instance of inattention at the stations, during two months' travel, and expected, from the boasted honesty of the Norwegians, to meet with an equally fortunate experience. Travellers, however, and especially English, are fast teaching the people the usual arts of imposition. Oh, you hard-shelled, unplastic, insulated Englishmen! You introduce towels and fresh water, and tea, and beefsteak, wherever you go, it is true; but you teach high prices, and swindling, and insolence likewise!
A short distance beyond Holmen, the new road terminated, and we took the old track over steep spurs of the mountain, rising merely to descend and rise again. The Lougen River here forms a broad, tranquil lake, a mile in width, in which the opposite mountains were splendidly reflected. The water is pale, milky-green colour, which, under certain effects of light, has a wonderful aerial transparency. As we approached Losnas, after this long and tedious stage, I was startled by the appearance of a steamer on the river. It is utterly impossible for any to ascend the rapids below Moshuus; and she must therefore have been built there. We could discover no necessity for such an undertaking in the thin scattered population and their slow, indifferent habits. Her sudden apparition in such a place was like that of an omnibus in the desert.
The magnificent vista of the valley was for a time closed by the snowy peaks of the Rundan Fjeld; but as the direction of the river changed they disappeared, the valley contracted, and its black walls, two thousand feet high, almost overhung us. Below, however, were still fresh meadows, twinkling birchen groves and comfortable farm-houses. Out of a gorge on our right, plunged a cataract from a height of eighty or ninety feet, and a little further on, high up the mountain, a gush of braided silver foam burst out of the dark woods, covered with gleaming drapery the face of a huge perpendicular crag, and disappeared in the woods again, My friend drew up his horse in wonder and rapture. "I know all Switzerland and the Tyrol," he exclaimed, "but I have never seen a cataract so wonderfully framed in the setting of a forest." In the evening, as we approached our destination, two streams on the opposite side of the valley, fell from a height of more than a thousand feet, in a series of linked plunges, resembling burnished chains hanging dangling from the tremendous parapet of rock. On the meadow before us, commanding a full view of this wild and glorious scene, stood a stately gaard, entirely deserted, its barns, out-houses and gardens utterly empty and desolate. Its aspect saddened the whole landscape.
We stopped at the station of Lillehaave, which had only been established the day before, and we were probably the first travellers who had sojourned there. Consequently the people were unspoiled, and it was quite refreshing to be courteously received, furnished with a trout supper and excellent beds, and to pay therefor an honest price. The morning was lowering, and we had rain part of the day; but, thanks to our waterproofs and carriole aprons, we kept comfortably dry. During this day's journey of fifty miles, we had very grand scenery, the mountains gradually increasing in height and abruptness as we ascended the Guldbrandsdal, with still more imposing cataracts "blowing their trumpets from the steeps." At Viik, I found a complaint in the post-book, written by an Englishman who had come with us from Hull, stating that the landlord had made him pay five dollars for beating his dog off his own. The complaint was written in English, of course, and therefore useless so far as the authorities were concerned. The landlord whom I expected, from this account, to find a surly, swindling fellow, accosted us civilly, and invited us into his house to see some old weapons, principally battle-axes. There was a cross-bow, a battered, antique sword, and a buff coat, which may have been stripped from one of Sinclair's men in the pass of Kringelen. The logs of his house, or part of them, are said to have been taken from the dwelling in which the saint-king Olaf—the apostle of Christianity in the North,—was born. They are of the red Norwegian pine, which has a great durability; and the legend may be true, although this would make them eight hundred and fifty years old.
Colonel Sinclair was buried in the churchyard at Viik, and about fifteen miles further we passed the defile of Kringelen, where his band was cut to pieces. He landed in Romsdal's Fjord, on the western coast, with 900 men intending to force his way across the mountains to relieve Stockholm, which was then (1612) besieged by the Danes. Some three hundred of the peasants collected at Kringelen, gathered together rocks and trunks of trees on the brow of the cliff, and, at a concerted signal, rolled the mass down upon the Scotch, the greater part of whom were crushed to death or hurled into the river. Of the whole force only two escaped. A wooden tablet on the spot says, as near as I could make it out, that there was never such an example of courage and valour known in the world, and calls upon the people to admire this glorious deed of their fathers. "Courage and valour;" cried Braisted, indignantly; "it was a cowardly butchery! If they had so much courage, why did they allow 900 Scotchmen to get into the very heart of the country before they tried to stop them?" Well, war is full of meanness and cowardice. If it were only fair fighting on an open field, there would be less of it.
Beyond Laurgaard, Guldbrandsdal contracts to a narrow gorge, down which the Lougen roars in perpetual foam. This pass is called the Rusten; and the road here is excessively steep and difficult. The forests disappear; only hardy firs and the red pine cling to the ledges of the rocks; and mountains, black, grim, and with snow-streaked summits, tower grandly on all sides. A broad cataract, a hundred feet high, leaped down a chasm on our left, so near to the road that its sprays swept over us, and then shot under a bridge to join the seething flood in the frightful gulf beneath. I was reminded of the Valley of the Reuss, on the road to St. Gothard, like which, the pass of the Rusten leads to a cold and bleak upper valley. Here we noticed the blight of late frost on the barley fields, and were for the first time assailed by beggars. Black storm-clouds hung over the gorge, adding to the savage wildness of its scenery; but the sun came out as we drove up the Valley of Dovre, with its long stretch of grain-fields on the sunny sweep of the hill-side, sheltered by the lofty Dovre Fjeld behind them. We stopped for the night at the inn of Toftemoen, long before sunset, although it was eight o'clock, and slept in a half-daylight until morning.
The sun was riding high in the heavens when we left, and dark lowering clouds slowly rolled their masses across the mountain-tops. The Lougen was now an inconsiderable stream, and the superb Guldbrandsdal narrowed to a bare, bleak dell, like those in the high Alps. The grain-fields had a chilled, struggling appearance; the forests forsook the mountain-sides and throve only in sheltered spots at their bases; the houses were mere log cabins, many of which were slipping off their foundation-posts and tottering to their final fall; and the people, poorer than ever, came out of their huts to beg openly and shamelessly as we passed. Over the head of the valley, which here turns westward to the low water-shed dividing it from the famous Romsdal, rose two or three snow-streaked peaks of the Hurunger Fjeld; and the drifts filling the ravines of the mountains on our left descended lower and lower into the valley.
At Dombaas, a lonely station at the foot of the Dovre Fjeld, we turned northward into the heart of the mountains. My postillion, a boy of fifteen, surprised me by speaking very good English. He had learned it in the school at Drontheim. Sometimes, he said, they had a schoolmaster in the house, and sometimes one at Jerkin, twenty miles distant. Our road ascended gradually through half-cut woods of red pine, for two or three miles, after which it entered a long valley, or rather basin, belonging to the table land of the Dovre Fjeld. Stunted heath and dwarfed juniper-bushes mixed with a grey, foxy shrub-willow, covered the soil, and the pale yellow of the reindeer moss stained the rocks. Higher greyer and blacker ridges hemmed in the lifeless landscape; and above them, to the north and west, broad snow-fields shone luminous under the heavy folds of the clouds. We passed an old woman with bare legs and arms, returning from a soter, or summer chalet of the shepherds. She was a powerful but purely animal specimen of humanity,—"beef to the heel," as Braisted said. At last a cluster of log huts, with a patch of green pasture-ground about them, broke the monotony of the scene. It was Fogstuen, or next station, where we were obliged to wait half an hour until the horses had been caught and brought in. The place had a poverty stricken air; and the slovenly woman who acted as landlady seemed disappointed that we did not buy some horridly coarse and ugly woolen gloves of her own manufacture.
Our road now ran for fourteen miles along the plateau of the Dovre, more than 3000 feet above the level of the sea. This is not a plain or table land, but an undulating region, with hills, valleys, and lakes of its own; and more desolate landscapes one can scarcely find elsewhere. Everything is grey, naked, and barren, not on a scale grand enough to be imposing, nor with any picturesqueness of form to relieve its sterility. One can understand the silence and sternness of the Norwegians, when he has travelled this road. But I would not wish my worst enemy to spend more than one summer as a solitary herdsman on these hills. Let any disciple of Zimmerman try the effect of such a solitude. The statistics of insanity in Norway exhibit some of its effects, and that which is most common is most destructive. There never was a greater humbug than the praise of solitude: it is the fruitful mother of all evil, and no man covets it who has not something bad or morbid in his nature.
By noon the central ridge or comb of the Dovre Fjeld rose before us, with the six-hundred-year old station of Jerkin in a warm nook on its southern side. This is renowned as the best post-station in Norway, and is a favourite resort of English travellers and sportsmen, who come hither to climb the peak of Snaehatten, and to stalk reindeer. I did not find the place particularly inviting. The two women who had charge of it for the time were unusually silent and morose, but our dinner was cheap and well gotten up, albeit the trout were not the freshest. We admired the wonderful paintings of the landlord, which although noticed by Murray, give little promise for Norwegian art in these high latitudes. His cows, dogs, and men are all snow-white, and rejoice in an original anatomy.
The horses on this part of the road were excellent, the road admirable, and our transit was therefore thoroughly agreeable. The ascent of the dividing ridge, after leaving Jerkin, is steep and toilsome for half a mile, but with this exception the passage of the Dovre Fjeld is remarkably easy. The highest point which the road crossed is about 4600 feet above the sea, or a little higher than the Brenner Pass in the Tyrol. But there grain grows and orchards bear fruit, while here, under the parallel of 62 deg., nearly all vegetation ceases, and even the omnivorous northern sheep can find no pasturage. Before and behind you lie wastes of naked grey mountains, relieved only by the snow-patches on their summits. I have seen as desolate tracts of wilderness in the south made beautiful by the lovely hues which they took from the air; but Nature has no such tender fancies in the north. She is a realist of the most unpitying stamp, and gives atmospheric influences which make that which is dark and bleak still darker and bleaker. Black clouds hung low on the horizon, and dull grey sheets of rain swept now and then across the nearer heights. Snaehatten, to the westward, was partly veiled, but we could trace his blunt mound of alternate black rock and snow nearly to the apex. The peak is about 7700 feet above the sea, and was until recently considered the highest in Norway, but the Skagtolstind has been ascertained to be 160 feet higher, and Snaehatten is dethroned.
The river Driv came out of a glen on our left, and entered a deep gorge in front, down which our road lay, following the rapid descent of the foaming stream. At the station of Kongsvold, we had descended to 3000 feet again, yet no trees appeared. Beyond this, the road for ten miles has been with great labour hewn out of the solid rock, at the bottom of a frightful defile, like some of those among the Alps. Formerly, it climbed high up on the mountain-side, running on the brink of almost perpendicular cliffs, and the Vaarsti, as it is called, was then reckoned one of the most difficult and dangerous roads in the country. Now it is one of the safest and most delightful. We went down the pass on a sharp trot, almost too fast to enjoy the wild scenery as it deserved. The Driv fell through the cleft in a succession of rapids, while smaller streams leaped to meet him in links of silver cataract down a thousand feet of cliff. Birch and fir now clothed the little terraces and spare corners of soil, and the huge masses of rock, hanging over our heads, were tinted with black, warm brown, and russet orange, in such a manner as to produce the most charming effects of colour. Over the cornices of the mountain-walls, hovering at least two thousand feet above, gleamed here and there the scattered snowy jotuns of the highest fjeld.
The pass gradually opened into a narrow valley, where we found a little cultivation again. Here was the post of Drivstuen, kept by a merry old lady. Our next stage descended through increasing habitation and culture to the inn of Rise, where we stopped for the night, having the Dovre Fjeld fairly behind us. The morning looked wild and threatening, but the clouds gradually hauled off to the eastward, leaving us the promise of a fine day. Our road led over hills covered with forests of fir and pine, whence we looked into a broad valley clothed with the same dark garment of forest, to which the dazzling white snows of the fjeld in the background made a striking contrast. We here left the waters of the Driv and struck upon those of the Orkla, which flow into Drontheim Fjord. At Stuen, we got a fair breakfast of eggs, milk, cheese, bread and butter. Eggs are plentiful everywhere, yet, singularly enough, we were nearly a fortnight in Norway before we either saw or heard a single fowl. Where they were kept we could not discover, and why they did not crow was a still greater mystery. Norway is really the land of silence. For an inhabited country, it is the quietest I have ever seen. No wonder that anger and mirth, when they once break through the hard ice of Norwegian life, are so furious and uncontrollable. These inconsistent extremes may always be reconciled, when we understand how nicely the moral nature of man is balanced.
Our road was over a high, undulating tract for two stages, commanding wide views of a wild wooded region, which is said to abound with game. The range of snowy peaks behind us still filled the sky, appearing so near at hand as to deceive the eye in regard to their height. At last, we came upon the brink of a steep descent, overlooking the deep glen of the Orkla, a singularly picturesque valley, issuing from between the bases of the mountains, and winding away to the northward. Down the frightful slant our horses plunged and in three minutes we were at the bottom, with flower-sown meadows on either hand, and the wooded sides of the glen sweeping up to a waving and fringed outline against the sky. After crossing the stream, we had an ascent as abrupt, on the other side; but half-way up stood the station of Bjaerkager, where we left our panting horses. The fast stations were now at an end, but by paying fast prices we got horses with less delay. In the evening, a man travelling on foot offered to carry forbud notices for us to the remaining stations, if we would pay for his horse. We accepted; I wrote the orders in my best Norsk, and on the following day we found the horses in readiness everywhere.
The next stage was an inspiring trot through a park-like country, clothed with the freshest turf and studded with clumps of fir, birch, and ash. The air was soft and warm, and filled with balmy scents from the flowering grasses, and the millions of blossoms spangling the ground. In one place, I saw half an acre of the purest violet hue, where the pansy of our gardens grew so thickly that only its blossoms were visible. The silver green of the birch twinkled in the sun, and its jets of delicate foliage started up everywhere with exquisite effect amid the dark masses of the fir. There was little cultivation as yet, but these trees formed natural orchards, which suggested a design in their planting and redeemed the otherwise savage character of the scenery. We dipped at last into a hollow, down which flowed one of the tributaries of the Guul Elv, the course of which we thence followed to Drontheim.
One of the stations was a lonely gaard, standing apart from the road, on a high hill. As we drove up, a horrid old hag came out to receive us. "Can I get three horses soon?" I asked. "No," she answered with a chuckle. "How soon?" "In a few hours," was her indifferent reply, but the promise of paying fast rates got them in less than one. My friend wanted a glass of wine, but the old woman said she had nothing but milk. We were sitting on the steps with our pipes, shortly afterwards, when she said: "Why don't you go into the house?" "It smells too strongly of paint," I answered. "But you had better go in," said she, and shuffled off. When we entered, behold! there were three glasses of very good Marsala on the table. "How do you sell your milk?" I asked her. "That kind is three skillings a dram," she answered. The secret probably was that she had no license to sell wine. I was reminded of an incident which occurred to me in Maine, during the prevalence of the prohibitory law. I was staying at an hotel in a certain town, and jestingly asked the landlord: "Where is the Maine Law? I should like to see it." "Why," said he, "I have it here in the house;"' and he unlocked a back room and astonished me with the sight of a private bar, studded with full decanters.
The men folks were all away at work, and our postillion was a strapping girl of eighteen, who rode behind Braisted. She was gotten up on an immense scale, but nature had expended so much vigour on her body that none was left for her brain. She was a consummate representation of health and stupidity. At the station where we stopped for the night I could not help admiring the solid bulk of the landlady's sister. Although not over twenty four she must have weighed full two hundred. Her waist was of remarkable thickness, and her bust might be made into three average American ones. I can now understand why Mugge calls his heroine Ilda "the strong maiden."
A drive of thirty-five miles down the picturesque valley of the Guul brought us to Drontheim the next day—the eighth after leaving Christiania.
DRONTHEIM.—VOYAGE UP THE COAST OF NORWAY.
Our first view of Drontheim (or Trondhjem, as it should properly be written) was from the top of the hill behind the town, at the termination of six miles of execrable road, and perhaps the relief springing from that circumstance heightened the agreeable impression which the scene made upon our minds. Below us, at the bottom of a crescent-shaped bay, lay Drontheim—a mass of dark red, yellow, and brown buildings, with the grey cathedral in the rear. The rich, well cultivated valley of the Nid stretched behind it, on our right, past the Lierfoss, whose column of foam was visible three miles away, until the hills, rising more high and bleak behind each other, completely enclosed it. The rock-fortress of Munkholm, in front of the city, broke the smooth surface of the fjord, whose further shores, dim with passing showers, swept away to the north-east, hiding the termination of this great sea-arm, which is some fifty miles distant. The panorama was certainly on a grand scale, and presented very diversified and picturesque features; but I can by no means agree with Dr. Clarke, who compares it to the Bay of Naples. Not only the rich colours of the Mediterranean are wanting, but those harmonic sweeps and curves of the Italian shores and hills have nothing in common with these rude, ragged, weather beaten, defiant forms.
Descending the hill between rows of neat country-houses, we passed a diminutive fortification, and entered the city. The streets are remarkably wide and roughly paved, crossing each other at right angles, with a Philadelphian regularity. The houses are all two stories high, and raised upon ample foundations, so that the doors are approached by flights of steps—probably on account of the deep snows during the winter. They are almost exclusively of wood, solid logs covered with neat clap-boards, but a recent law forbids the erection of any more wooden houses, and in the course of time, the town, like Christiania, will lose all that is peculiar and characteristic in its architecture. A cleaner place can scarcely be found, and I also noticed, what is quite rare in the North, large square fountains or wells, at the intersection of all the principal streets. The impression which Drontheim makes upon the stranger is therefore a cheerful and genial one. Small and unpretending though it be, it is full of pictures; the dark blue fjord closes the vista of half its streets; hills of grey rock, draped with the greenest turf, overlook it on either side, and the beautiful valley of the Nid, one of the loveliest nooks of Norway, lies in its rear.
We drove to the Hotel de Belle-Vue, one of the two little caravanserais of which the town boasts, and were fortunate in securing the two vacant rooms. The hotel business in Norway is far behind that of any other country, except in regard to charges, where it is far in advance. Considering what one gets for his money, this is the most expensive country in the world for foreigners. Except where the rates are fixed by law, as in posting, the natives pay much less; and here is an instance of double-dealing which does not harmonise with the renowned honesty of the Norwegians. At the Belle-Vue, we were furnished with three very meagre meals a day, at the rate of two dollars and a half. The attendance was performed by two boys of fourteen or fifteen, whose services, as may be supposed, were quite inadequate to the wants of near twenty persons. The whole business of the establishment devolved on these two fellows, the landlady, though good-humoured and corpulent, as was meet, knowing nothing about the business, and, on the whole, it was a wonder that matters were not worse. It is singular that in a pastoral country like Norway one gets nothing but rancid butter, and generally sour cream, where both should be of the finest quality. Nature is sparing of her gifts, to be sure; but what she does furnish is of the best, as it comes from her hand. Of course, one does not look for much culinary skill, and is therefore not disappointed, but the dairy is the primitive domestic art of all races, and it is rather surprising to find it in so backward a state.
My friend, who received no letters, and had no transatlantic interests to claim his time, as I had, applied himself to seeing the place, which he accomplished, with praiseworthy industry, in one day. He walked out to the falls of the Nid, three miles up the valley, and was charmed with them. He then entered the venerable cathedral, where he had the satisfaction of seeing a Protestant clergyman perform high mass in a scarlet surplice, with a gold cross on his back. The State Church of Norway, which, like that of Sweden, is Lutheran of a very antiquated type, not only preserves this ritual, but also the form of confession (in a general way, I believe, and without reference to particular sins) and of absolution. Of course, it is violently dogmatic and illiberal, and there is little vital religious activity in the whole country. Until within a very few years, no other sects were tolerated, and even yet there is simply freedom of conscience, but not equal political rights, for those of other denominations. This concession has perhaps saved the church from becoming a venerable fossil, yet one still finds persons who regret that it should have been made, not knowing that all truth, to retain its temper, must be whetted against an opposing blade. According to the new constitution of Norway, the king must be crowned in the cathedral of Drontheim. Bernadotte received the proper consecration, but Oscar, though King of Norway, has not yet seen fit to accept it. I once heard a Norwegian exclaim, with a sort of jealous satisfaction: "Oscar calls himself King of Norway, but he is a king without a crown!" I cannot see, however, that this fact lessens his authority as sovereign, in the least.
There is a weekly line of steamers, established by the Storthing (Legislative Assembly), to Hammerfest and around the North Cape. The "Nordkap," the largest and best of these boats, was to leave Drontheim on Saturday evening, the 18th of July, and we lost no time in securing berths, as another week would have made it too late for the perpetual sunshine of the northern summer. Here again, one is introduced to a knowledge of customs and regulations unknown elsewhere. The ticket merely secures you a place on board the steamer, but neither a berth nor provisions. The latter you obtain from a restaurateur on board, according to fixed rates; the former depends on the will of the captain, who can stow you where he chooses. On the "Nordkap" the state-rooms were already occupied, and there remained a single small saloon containing eight berths. Here we did very well so long as there were only English and American occupants, who at once voted to have the skylight kept open; but after two Norwegians were added to our company, we lived in a state of perpetual warfare, the latter sharing the national dread of fresh air; and yet one of them was a professor from the University of Christiania, and the other a physician, who had charge of the hospital in Bergen! With this exception, we had every reason to be satisfied with the vessel. She was very stanch and steady-going, with a spacious airy saloon on deck; no captain could have been more kind and gentlemanly, and there was quite as much harmony among the passengers as could reasonably have been expected. Our party consisted of five Americans, three English, two Germans, and one Frenchman (M. Gay, Membre de l'Academie), besides a variety of Norwegians from all parts of the country.
Leaving our carrioles and part of our baggage behind us, we rowed out to the steamer in a heavy shower. The sun was struggling with dark grey rain-clouds all the evening, and just as we hove anchor, threw a splendid triumphal iris across the bay, completely spanning the town, which, with the sheltering hills, glimmered in the rosy mist floating within the bow. Enclosed by such a dazzling frame the picture of Drontheim shone with a magical lustre, like a vision of Asgaard, beckoning to us from the tempestuous seas. But we were bound for the north, the barriers of Niflhem, the land of fog and sleet, and we disregarded the celestial token, though a second perfect rainbow overarched the first, and the two threw their curves over hill and fortress and the bosom of the rainy fjord, until they almost touched our vessel on either side. In spite of the rain, we remained on deck until a late hour, enjoying the bold scenery of the outer fjord—here, precipitous woody shores, gashed with sudden ravines; there, jet-black rocky peaks, resembling the porphyry hills of the African deserts; and now and then, encircling the sheltered coves, soft green fields glowing with misty light, and the purple outlines of snow-streaked mountains in the distance.
The morning was still dark and rainy. We were at first running between mountain-islands of bare rock and the iron coast of the mainland, after which came a stretch of open sea for two hours, and at noon we reached Bjoro, near the mouth of the Namsen Fjord. Here there was half a dozen red houses on a bright green slope, with a windmill out of gear crowning the rocky hill in the rear. The sky gradually cleared as we entered the Namsen Fjord, which charmed us with the wildness and nakedness of its shores, studded with little nooks and corners of tillage, which sparkled like oases of tropical greenness, in such a rough setting. Precipices of dark-red rock, streaked with foamy lines of water from the snows melting upon their crests, frowned over the narrow channels between the islands, and through their gaps and gorges we caught sight of the loftier ranges inland. Namsos, at the head of the fjord, is a red-roofed town of a few hundred inhabitants, with a pleasant background of barley-fields and birchen groves. The Namsen valley, behind it, is one of the richest in this part of Norway, and is a great resort of English salmon-fishers. There was a vessel of two hundred tons on the stocks, and a few coasting crafts lying at anchor.
We had a beautiful afternoon voyage out another arm of the fjord, and again entered the labyrinth of islands fringing the coast. Already, the days had perceptibly lengthened, and the increased coldness of the air at night indicated our approach to the Arctic Circle. I was surprised at the amount of business done at the little stations where we touched. Few of these contained a dozen houses, yet the quantity of passengers and freight which we discharged and took on board, at each, could only be explained by the fact that these stations are generally outlets for a tolerably large population, hidden in the valleys and fjords behind, which the steamer does not visit. Bleak and desolate as the coast appears, the back country has its fertile districts—its pasture-ground, its corn-land and forests, of which the voyager sees nothing, and thus might be led to form very erroneous conclusions. Before we had been twenty-four hours out from Drontheim, there was a marked change in the appearance of the people we took on board. Not even in the neighborhood of Christiania or in the rich Guldbrandsdal were the inhabitants so well-dressed, so prosperous (judging from outward signs, merely), or so intelligent. They are in every respect more agreeable and promising specimens of humanity than their brothers of Southern Norway, notwithstanding the dark and savage scenery amidst which their lot is cast.
Toward midnight, we approached the rock of Torghatten, rising 1200 feet high, in the shape of a tall-crowned, battered "wide-awake," above the low, rocky isles and reefs which surround it. This rock is famous for a natural tunnel, passing directly through its heart—the path of an arrow which the Giant Horseman (of whom I shall speak presently) shot at a disdainful maiden, equally colossal, in the old mythological times, when Odin got drunk nightly in Walhalla. We were all on the look-out for this tunnel, which, according to Murray, is large enough for a ship to go through—if it were not some six hundred feet above the sea-level. We had almost passed the rock and nothing of the kind could be seen; but Capt. Riis, who was on deck, encouraged us to have a little patience, changed the steamer's course, and presently we saw a dark cavern yawning in the face of a precipice on the northern side. It was now midnight, but a sunset light tinged the northern sky, and the Torghatten yet stood in twilight. "Shall we see through it?" was the question; but while we were discussing the chances, a faint star sparkled in the midst of the cavernous gloom. "You see it because you imagine it," cried some; yet, no, it was steadfast, and grew broad and bright, until even the most sceptical recognised the pale midnight sky at the bottom of the gigantic arch.
My friend aroused me at five in the morning to see the Seven Sisters—seven majestic peaks, 4000 feet high, and seated closely side by side, with their feet in the sea. They all wore nightcaps of gray fog, and had a sullen and sleepy air. I imagined they snored, but it was a damp wind driving over the rocks. They were northern beauties, hard-featured and large-boned, and I would not give a graceful southern hill, like Monte Albano or the Paphian Olympus, for the whole of them. So I turned in again, and did not awake until the sun had dried the decks, and the split, twisted and contorted forms of the islands gave promise of those remarkable figures which mark the position of the Arctic Circle. There was already a wonderful change in the scenery. The islands were high and broken, rising like towers and pyramids from the water, and grouped together in the most fantastic confusion. Between their jagged pinnacles, and through their sheer walls of naked rock, we could trace the same formation among the hills of the mainland, while in the rear, white against the sky, stretched the snowy table-land which forms a common summit for all. One is bewildered in the attempt to describe such scenery. There is no central figure, no prevailing character, no sharp contrasts, which may serve as a guide whereby to reach the imagination of the reader. All is confused, disordered, chaotic. One begins to understand the old Norse myth of these stones being thrown by the devil in a vain attempt to prevent the Lord from finishing the world. Grand as they are, singly, you are so puzzled by their numbers and by the fantastic manner in which they seem to dance around you, as the steamer threads the watery labyrinth, that you scarcely appreciate them as they deserve. Take almost any one of these hundreds, and place it inland, anywhere in Europe or America, and it will be visited, sketched and sung to distraction.
At last we saw in the west, far out at sea, the four towers of Threnen, rising perpendicularly many hundred feet from the water. Before us was the Hestmand, or Horseman, who bridles his rocky steed with the polar circle. At first, he appeared like a square turret crowning an irregular mass of island-rock, but, as we approached a colossal head rounded itself at the top, and a sweeping cloak fell from the broad shoulder, flowing backward to the horse's flanks. Still, there was no horse; but here again our captain took the steamer considerably out of her course, so that, at a distance of a mile the whole enormous figure, 1500 feet in height, lay clearly before us. A heavy beard fell from the grand, Jupitolian head; the horse, with sharp ears erect and head bent down, seemed to be plunging into the sea, which was already above his belly; the saddle had slipped forward, so that the rider sat upon his shoulders, but with his head proudly lifted, as if conscious of his fate, and taking a last look at the world. Was it not All-Father Odin, on his horse Sleipner, forsaking the new race which had ceased to worship him? The colossi of the Orient—Rameses and Brahma and Boodh—dwindle into insignificance before this sublime natural monument to the lost gods of the North.
At the little fishing-village of Anklakken, near the Horseman, a fair was being held, and a score or more of coasting craft, gay with Norwegian flags, lay at anchor. These jaegts, as they are called, have a single mast, with a large square sail, precisely like those of the Japanese fishing junks, and their hulls are scarcely less heavy and clumsy. They are the Norwegian boats of a thousand years ago; all attempt to introduce a better form of ship-building having been in vain. But the romantic traveller should not suppose that he beholds the "dragons" of the Vikings, which were a very different craft, and have long since disappeared. The jaegts are slow, but good seaboats, and as the article haste is not in demand anywhere in Norway, they probably answer every purpose as well as more rational vessels. Those we saw belonged to traders who cruise along the coast during the summer, attending the various fairs, which appear to be the principal recreation of the people. At any rate, they bring some life and activity into these silent solitudes. We had on board the effects of an Englishman who went on shore to see a fair and was left behind by a previous steamer. He had nothing with him but the clothes on his back, and spoke no Norsk: so the captain anxiously looked out for a melancholy, dilapidated individual at every station we touched at—but he looked in vain, for we neither saw nor heard anything of the unfortunate person.
All the afternoon, we had a continuation of the same wonderful scenery—precipices of red rock a thousand feet high, with snowy, turreted summits, and the loveliest green glens between. To the east were vast snow-fields, covering the eternal glaciers of the Alpine range. As we looked up the Salten Fjord, while crossing its mouth, the snows of Sulitelma, the highest mountain in Lappmark, 6000 feet above the sea, were visible, about fifty miles distant. Next came the little town of Bodo where we stopped for the night. It is a cluster of wooden houses, with roofs of green sod, containing about three hundred inhabitants. We found potatoes in the gardens, some currant bushes, and a few hardy vegetables, stunted ash trees and some patches of barley. The sun set a little before eleven o'clock, but left behind him a glory of colours which I have never seen surpassed. The snowy mountains of Lappmark were transmuted into pyramids of scarlet flame, beside which the most gorgeous sunset illuminations of the Alps would have been pale and tame. The sky was a sheet of saffron, amber and rose, reduplicated in the glassy sea, and the peaked island of Landegode in the west, which stood broad against the glow, became a mass of violet hue, topped with cliffs of crimson fire. I sat down on deck and tried to sketch this superb spectacle, in colours which nobody will believe to be real. Before I had finished, the sunset which had lighted one end of Landegode became sunrise at the other, and the fading Alps burned anew with the flames of morning.
THE LOFODEN ISLES.
The northern summer soon teaches one fashionable habits of life. Like the man whose windows Sidney Smith darkened, and who slept all day because he thought it was night, you keep awake all night because you forget that it is not day. One's perception of time contracts in some mysterious way, and the sun, setting at eleven, seems to be no later than when he set at seven. You think you will enjoy the evening twilight an hour or two before going to bed, and lo! the morning begins to dawn. It seems absurd to turn in and sleep by daylight, but you sleep, nevertheless, until eight or nine o'clock, and get up but little refreshed with your repose. You miss the grateful covering of darkness, the sweet, welcome gloom, which shuts your senses, one after one, like the closing petals of a flower, in the restoring trance of the night. The light comes through your eyelids as you sleep, and a certain nervous life of the body that should sleep too keeps awake and active. I soon began to feel the wear and tear of perpetual daylight, in spite of its novelty and the many advantages which it presents to the traveller.
At Bodo we were in sight of the Lofoden Islands, which filled up all the northern and western horizon, rising like blue saw-teeth beyond the broad expanse of the West Fjord, which separates them from the group of the shore islands. The next morning, we threaded a perfect labyrinth of rocks, after passing Groto, and headed across the fjord, for Balstad, on West-Vaagoe, one of the outer isles. This passage is often very rough, especially when the wind blows from the south-west, rolling the heavy swells of the Atlantic into the open mouth of the fjord. We were very much favoured by the weather, having a clear sky, with a light north wind and smooth sea. The long line of jagged peaks, stretching from Vaeroe in the south west to the giant ridges of Hindoe in the north east, united themselves in the distance with the Alpine chain of the mainland behind us, forming an amphitheatre of sharp, snowy summits, which embraced five-sixths of the entire circle of the horizon, and would have certainly numbered not less than two hundred. Von Buch compares the Lofodens to the jaws of a shark, and most travellers since his time have resuscitated the comparison, but I did not find it so remarkably applicable. There are shark tooth peaks here and there, it is true, but the peculiar conformation of Norway—extensive plateaus, forming the summit-level of the mountains—extends also to these islands, whose only valleys are those which open to the sea, and whose interiors are uninhabitable snowy tracts, mostly above the line of vegetation.
On approaching the islands, we had a fair view of the last outposts of the group—the solid barriers against which the utmost fury of the Atlantic dashes in vain. This side of Vaeroe lay the large island of Moskoe, between which and a large solitary rock in the middle of the strait dividing them, is the locality of the renowned Maelstrom—now, alas! almost as mythical as the kraaken or great sea snake of the Norwegian fjords. It is a great pity that the geographical illusions of our boyish days cannot retrain. You learn that the noise of Niagara can be heard 120 miles off, and that "some Indians, in their canoes, have ventured down it, with safety." Well, one could give up the Indians without much difficulty; but it is rather discouraging to step out of the Falls Depot for the first time, within a quarter of a mile of the cataract, and hear no sound except "Cab sir?" "Hotel, sir?" So of the Maelstrom, denoted on my schoolboy map by a great spiral twist, which suggested to me a tremendous whirl of the ocean currents, aided by the information that "vessels cannot approach nearer than seven miles." In Olney, moreover, there was a picture of a luckless bark, half-way down the vortex. I had been warming my imagination, as we came up the coast, with Campbell's sonorous lines:
"Round the shores where runic Odin Howls his war-song to the gale; Round the isles where loud Lofoden Whirls to death the roaring whale;"
and, as we looked over the smooth water towards Moskoe, felt a renewed desire to make an excursion thither on out return from the north. But, according to Captain Riis, and other modern authorities which I consulted, the Maelstrom has lost all its terrors and attractions. Under certain conditions of wind and tide, an eddy is formed in the strait it is true, which may be dangerous to small boats—but the place is by no means so much dreaded as the Salten Fjord, where the tide, rushing in, is caught in such a manner as to form a bore, as in the Bay of Fundy, and frequently proves destructive to the fishing craft. It is the general opinion that some of the rocks which formerly made the Maelstrom so terrible have been worn away, or that some submarine convulsion has taken place which has changed the action of the waters; otherwise it is impossible to account for the reputation it once possessed.
It should also be borne in mind that any accident to a boat among these islands is more likely to prove disastrous than elsewhere, since there are probably not a score out of the twenty thousand Lofoden fishermen who pass half their lives on the water, who know how to swim. The water is too cold to make bathing a luxury, and they are not sufficiently prepossessed in favour of cleanliness to make it a duty. Nevertheless, they are bold sailors, in their way, and a tougher, hardier, more athletic class of men it would be difficult to find. Handsome they are not, but quite the reverse, and the most of them have an awkward and uncouth air; but it is refreshing to look at their broad shoulders, their brawny chests, and the massive muscles of their legs and arms. During the whole voyage, I saw but one man who appeared to be diseased. Such men, I suspect, were the Vikings—rough, powerful, ugly, dirty fellows, with a few primitive virtues, and any amount of robust vices. We noticed, however, a marked change for the better in the common people, as we advanced northward. They were altogether better dressed, better mannered, and more independent and intelligent, but with a hard, keen, practical expression of face, such as one finds among the shoremen of New-England. The school system of Norway is still sadly deficient, but there is evidently no lack of natural capacity among these people. Their prevailing vice is intemperance, which here, as in all other parts of the country, is beginning to diminish since restrictions have been placed upon the manufacture and sale of spirituous liquors, simultaneously with the introduction of cheap and excellent fermented drinks. The statistics of their morality also show a better state of things than in the South. There is probably no country population in the world where licentiousness prevails to such an extent as in the districts of Guldbrandsdal and Hedemark.
A voyage of four hours across the West Fjord brought us to the little village of Balstad, at the southern end of West-Vaagoe. The few red, sod-roofed houses were built upon a rocky point, behind which were some patches of bright green pasture, starred with buttercups, overhung by a splendid peak of dark-red rock, two thousand feet in height. It was a fine frontispiece to the Lofoden scenery which now opened before us. Running along the coast of West and East Vaagoe, we had a continual succession of the wildest and grandest pictures—thousand feet precipices, with turrets and needles of rock piercing the sky, dazzling snow-fields, leaking away in cataracts which filled the ravines with foam, and mazes of bald, sea-worn rocks, which seem to have been thrown down from the scarred peaks in some terrible convulsion of nature. Here and there were hollows, affording stony pasturage for a few sheep and cows and little wooden fisher-huts stood on the shore in the arms of sheltered coves. At the village of Svolvaer, which is built upon a pile of bare stones, we took on board a number of ladies in fashionable dresses, with bonnets on the backs of their heads and a sufficiency of cumbrous petticoats to make up for the absence of hoops, which have not yet got further north than Drontheim. In seeing these unexpected apparitions emerge from such a wild corner of chaos I could not but wonder at the march of modern civilisation. Pianos in Lapland, Parisian dresses among the Lofodens, billiard-tables in Hammerfest—whither shall we turn to find the romance of the North!
We sailed, in the lovely nocturnal sunshine, through the long, river-like channel—the Rasksund, I believe, it is called—between the islands of East-Vaagoe and Hindoe, the largest of the Lofodens. For a distance of fifteen miles the strait was in no place more than a mile in breadth, while it was frequently less than a quarter. The smooth water was a perfect mirror, reflecting on one side the giant cliffs, with their gorges choked with snow, their arrowy pinnacles and white lines of falling water—on the other, hills turfed to the summit with emerald velvet, sprinkled with pale groves of birch and alder, and dotted, along their bases, with the dwellings of the fishermen. It was impossible to believe that we were floating on an arm of the Atlantic—it was some unknown river, or a lake high up among the Alpine peaks. The silence of these shores added to the impression. Now and then a white sea-gull fluttered about the cliffs, or an eider duck paddled across some glassy cove, but no sound was heard: there was no sail on the water, no human being on the shore. Emerging at last from this wild and enchanting strait, we stood across a bay, opening southward to the Atlantic, to the port of Steilo, on one of the outer islands. Here the broad front of the island, rising against the roseate sky, was one swell of the most glorious green, down to the very edge of the sea, while the hills of East-Vaagoe, across the bay, showed only naked and defiant rock, with summit-fields of purple-tinted snow. In splendour of coloring, the tropics were again surpassed, but the keen north wind obliged us to enjoy it in an overcoat.
Toward midnight, the sun was evidently above the horizon, though hidden by intervening mountains. Braisted and another American made various exertions to see it, such as climbing the foremast, but did not succeed until about one o'clock, when they were favoured by a break in the hills. Although we had daylight the whole twenty-four hours, travellers do not consider that their duty is fulfilled unless they see the sun itself, exactly at midnight. In the morning, we touched at Throndenaes, on the northern side of Hindoe, a beautiful bay with green and wooded shores, and then, leaving the Lofodens behind us, entered the archipelago of large islands which lines the coast of Finmark. Though built on the same grand and imposing scale as the Lofodens, these islands are somewhat less jagged and abrupt in their forms, and exhibit a much more luxuriant vegetation. In fact, after leaving the Namsen Fjord, near Drontheim, one sees very little timber until he reaches the parallel of 69 deg.. The long straits between Senjen and Qvalo and the mainland are covered with forests of birch and turfy slopes greener than England has ever shown. At the same time the snow level was not more than 500 feet above the sea, and broad patches lay melting on all the lower hills. This abundance of snow seems a singular incongruity, when you look upon the warm summer sky and the dark, mellow, juicy green of the shores. One fancies that he is either sailing upon some lofty inland lake, or that the ocean-level in these latitudes must be many thousand feet higher than in the temperate zone. He cannot believe that he is on the same platform with Sicily and Ceylon.
After a trip up the magnificent Maans Fjord, and the sight of some sea-green glaciers, we approached Tromsoe, the capital of Finmark. This is a town of nearly 3000 inhabitants, on a small island in the strait between Qvalo and the mainland. It was just midnight when we dropped anchor, but, although the sun was hidden by a range of snowy hills in the north, the daylight was almost perfect. I immediately commenced making a sketch of the harbour, with its fleet of coasting vessels. Some Russian craft from Archangel, and a Norwegian cutter carrying six guns, were also at anchor before the town. Our French traveller, after amusing himself with the idea of my commencing a picture at sunset and finishing it at sunrise, started for a morning ramble over the hills. Boats swarmed around the steamer; the coal-lighters came off, our crew commenced their work, and when the sun's disc appeared, before one o'clock, there was another day inaugurated. The night had vanished mysteriously, no one could tell how.
FINMARK AND HAMMERFEST.
The steamer lay at Tromsoe all day, affording us an opportunity to visit an encampment of Lapps in Tromsdal, about four miles to the eastward. So far as the Lapps were concerned, I had seen enough of them, but I joined the party for the sake of the northern summer. The captain was kind enough to despatch a messenger to the Lapps, immediately on our arrival, that their herd of reindeer, pasturing on the mountains, might be driven down for our edification, and also exerted himself to procure a horse for the American lady. The horse came, in due time, but a side saddle is an article unknown in the arctic regions, and the lady was obliged to trust herself to a man's saddle and the guidance of a Norseman of the most remarkable health, strength, and stupidity.