Norway - Snowy, rock-ribbed heights of Mount Gausta
( Originally Published 1907 )
Direction—Southwest. Surroundings—Small fields and steep hillside pastures of neighboring farmers.
This is the same mountain that we saw peering at us over intervening heights when we stood with the waiting post-boy at Position 17. That spot is now about twenty-five miles away at our left (east).
Distinct peaks like this broken cone of Gausta are the exception in Norway. Most of the so-called mountains which we shall see later are just broken parts of big, elevated table-lands. A good many tourists ascend Gausta during the summer. A guide is necessary, but the route is not dangerous as mountain climbing goes. It takes six hours or so to reach the top, and there one finds a tourist shelter with accommodations for a dozen people—many do like to spend the night and so be there in the morning, a mile up in the sky, ready for the glories of sunrise.
Life down here on these little farms is mostly a quiet round of home tasks, its chief variety made by going to church on pleasant Sundays. In winter the mountains on both sides of the valley postpone the sunrise and hasten the sunset, making a December day practically less than five hours long. Fortunately everybody in a country place like this can read, and books and papers help pass away the long evenings after work is done.
The furnishing of such farm houses is very simple —plain wooden benches and tables—stationary beds, somewhat shorter than English and Americans like, built into the side of the room, an open fire and a stone oven for cooking; perhaps an iron stove for burning wood.
The farmers here in Norway seldom build very large barns after the fashion of American country districts—they often put up a number of separate buildings of modest size, stable, granary, tool-house, workshop, and so on. The consequence is that a single prosperous gaard or farm estate may look to a stranger like a tiny hamlet. Nearly all the buildings are alike unpainted, "weathering" into pleasant homely browns and grays, but, of course, the dwelling houses can be distinguished as here by their chimneys. The two methods of roof finish that we see now indicate more prosperity and progressiveness than we shall find as we go farther up into the remoter country districts.
The well-sweep by whose means this man has just drawn up a bucket of water, is precisely like the one where hung the "old oaken bucket" of the familiar American song—the same crude but effective contrivance is found in many countries all over the world; it is practically the same device that the Egyptians have used from time immemorial to hoist water from the Nile into their rich and thirsty fields. But this bucket here is no cooper's product, no "iron-bound bucket" with oaken staves ; it looks from here more like galvanized iron or else wood pulp without seams. Immense quantities of wood pulp are manufactured in Norway, indeed, that is one of the chief industries of the kingdom, but the greater part of the product goes to Continental paper mills.
Bayard Taylor's Northern Travel tells about the hospitality be found in one of these homes, years ago, when fatigued and hungry he "at last saw a star of promise, the light of Ole Torgersen's kitchen window."
When the river ice breaks up in spring and the snows are melting on all these heights, the little river down there in the valley naturally takes on twice its midsummer volume. At any time of year the stream is large enough to make a fine showing at any steep descent. About six miles farther up this valley there is a place where the river has had to leap over a tremendous precipice—a sight travelers make long pilgrimages to see. The spot is marked 20 on our map.