By Sea From Bergen To Stavanger And Christiania
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
I prepared for my solitary return from Bergen by the steamer. I met at dinner a young man traveling for a cutler's house in Sheffield, a favorable specimen of his class; he spoke the language fluently after five months' residence. Bathed, and after coffee went on board; found clean beds and neat vessel; watched the boats plying about the ship; several small sloops were tacking out with the evening breeze; the red glow of sunset lighting up their sails, gleaming on the white dwellings and warehouses of the city, and reddening the snowy breasts of the gulls as they flapped to and fro, prying with curiens eye into the blue water. About midnight weighed anchor; steered by Bakken and Strands fjord.
Touched at Mosterhaun; the Rector Holmboe landed at this little cure. He wore a black coat, a brown waistcoat, and had a large pipe in his pocket; a venerable looking man. The church is said to be the oldest in Norway, built by Haco Haconson; it is a small building, with nave and chancel, and no tower. I could only perceive with the glass one small round-headed window now blocked up; it is lighted by two wooden windows divided into compartments like those called Elizabethan; the door is concealed by the porch; it is whitewashed and tiled; as we did not land, this account is superficial. Passed Bomelhaun, Hougsund, several rocky islets with trees and farms, and saw cattle reposing close to the edge of the sea. Koppervik; afterward passed Utsteen Kloster, and saw with the glass some remains, which may be worth a nearer inspection.
The mountains at the back of Stavanger present a fine outline, and there must be picturesque scenery in the adjacent valleys; here we stopt a few hours, and saw the domkirk, an interesting building; it is much larger than any church at Bergen or Christiania; the nave has six round arches, with massive, round piers; a pointed doorway is inserted in the west front; two rich, round doorways to the north and south; a small and rather clumsy arch leads into the chancel, which is of excellent early decorations, with a good vaulting, and beautiful windows; it is of gray veeksteen, and is free from whitewash, as also is the exterior, an immunity rarely permitted in Norway, where a predilection for whitewash exists, which I have observed in most mountainous countries, and think it may arise from a wish to make houses, villages, and towns, having a hilly background, conspicuous to travelers at a distance. The side windows in the chancel are of two lights, and have alternately a hexagon and a circle above the heads of the lights; the east window has four lights with three circles above, within which are six cusps; above, in the gable, is a circle with eight cusps; in the interior is a pretty crocket of stone at the foot of the steps leading to the roof loft; this church is much disfigured by pews and galleries; the floor is partly wood and partly stone, that of the side aisles is not better than a rough street pavement; the two towers are raised upon the ends of the aisles on each side of the east window, and the upper part of both is modern; they have high, pitched roofs, hardly amounting to spires. On each side of the church I observed what seemed to be small portions of the old conventual buildings.
Stavanger contains about 8,000 inhabitants; there is, I was told, a small society of Quakers here, but they do not increase. Ships are built here. The adjacent country seems rocky and barren, and the islands almost wholly of rock, curiously rounded, as if it had been rubbed or ground down. From Stavanger, we sailed to Ekkersund; the sea as calm as a mirror; passed Flekkifjord in the night, where was landed an officer going to take the command in the place of a senior deceased; he told me the Norwegian regular army consists of 12,000 men, and the landvaer, or militia, of about the same number.
After that, the port of Mandal, a singularly situated little place among the granite rocks which come out of the sea on all sides, never rising very high, but forming excellent coves and harbors for shelter; most of these rocks have loose stones, some of considerable size, either diluvial, or placed there by some early people; some were like rocking stones. Nyhellerssund and Flekkero are curious places on rocks of the same character, with stave-built houses on the very edge of the water, having wooden gangways from one to an-other; so barren are the rocks, that earth is brought and put into boxes, and you see peas and flowers, etc., planted in these portable gardens; many of the houses appear comfortable; here pilots and fishermen live, and an Englishman named Russell, a lobster purveyor.
In the afternoon the wind freshened, and we had some sea, when not sheltered by islands. Before arriving at Christiansand, we passed a villa on the left, belonging to Ohle Buhl, the violinist. We anchored in Christiansand harbor about seven. Here we had to change steamers; the boatman who took me on shore was very indignant because I gave him more than his regular fare, and re-turned the surplus; and the porter who took my bag to the inn was as wroth because I gave him less.
A picturesque mill and sea view at the entrance to Christiansand. On going into the cathedral, I found the pastor in the vestry, instructing a large number of boys, from nine to eighteen, who were sitting on benches ranged round the room. This catechetical teaching and preparation for the first communion is made by the Lutheran church an important feature in the education of that class of young men, who, in this country, after they go out to service, are almost entirely neglected, and this careful training from the age of twelve till manhood, once or twice a week, is the key to that civilized demeanor which characterizes a large portion of the Norwegian youth of the middle and lower class, whose manners are superior to those of the same class in England. There is a handsome screen in the church, and brass balustrades round the altar. About noon we embarked on board a coasting steamer for Christiania, the screw in which we had come from Bergen proceeding from hence to Hamburg.