Norway - Homes of Kongsberg
( Originally Published 1907 )
Village church and homes of Kongsberg beside the bridge-spanned rapids of the Laagen
Direction—Nearly north. Surroundings—A country highroad and adjacent fields.
Rivers are almost innumerable in Norway. This has a special interest as being one of the few whose energy is applied on any large scale to industrial purposes. The original sources of the stream lie away up among the Telemarken hills at the northwest. A dozen or twenty lakes and countless brooks have contributed their waters in the course of its devious hundred-mile journey down between the hills to this point here, and it has yet sixty or seventy miles to run southward before it will reach the Skagerrak. At a point a few rods below here, on that opposite (west) bank, the government maintains a factory for the manufacture of small-arms—revolvers, rifles and that sort of thing. We have in view only part of the village at this moment; the houses are scattered over a considerable distance on the highways and cannot all be seen at once.
Many of the Kongsberg people are employed in certain old silver mines, three or four miles from here, owned and worked by the State. In many cases they stay at the mines through the week and come home for Sundays. Smelting works are conducted by the State and a mint established here stamps coin for common circulation throughout the kingdom. The rail-way journey from here down to Christiania takes less than an hour and a half (Christiania lies off at our right, i. e., the east, sixty miles away), so the problem of transporting either bullion, coin or firearms is very simple.
The life of a country lad like this one has been well described in stories by Norse writers. Bjornson's A Happy Boy is interesting in this connection; so is Boyesen's A Norse Boyhood. The educational opportunities in a place like Kongsberg are about the same as those in an American country town, but ambitious youths who have the right stuff in them can work their way through higher schools and the University over in Christiania. It is easily possible that this bright-faced urchin may sometime be a member of Parliament, attending sessions in that substantial building we saw from Positions 5 and 6; on the other hand, he is likely enough to seek his fortune at the other side of the world, Norse fashion, and help build up the twentieth-century civilization of America.
Many tourists from other countries get their first impressions of Norwegian country hospitality at one of the pleasant inns at Kongsberg ; let us visit one over on the other side of the river.