End Of The Tourist Season
( Originally Published 1881 )
ON a September day I was travelling once more on the magnificent highway which connects the city of Trondhjem with Christiania; I had finished my summer rambling in out-of-the-way places, unknown to the throng of tourists. The weather was very rainy, and the few pleasure-seekers or lovers of wild scenery were fast going back to Christiania. The herds were coming from the sorters, for in the higher regions where these are found snow had already fallen ; the wind swept through the valleys with great force, and the appearance of the mountains and hills had entirely changed in a single day. The hills were covered with snow, though there was a pouring rain mixed with sleet in the valley.
While quietly looking out of the window at one of the post-stations, waiting for less stormy weather, a cariole stopped before the door, and a young Norwegian lady alighted, and at once asked for a horse. She lived on the banks of the Mjôsen,
and was the daughter of one of the prosperous farmers of that region; she had come from Trondhjem, and was on her way home, for some one of her family was very ill. Love led her to brave the storm, while I, lazy and listless, had been afraid to face the cold rain and sleet. I felt ashamed, and asked myself what had become of the blood that once had made me encounter-dangers in distant countries; had I become so effeminate that I was afraid of bad weather?
I said to the young lady, "I too am going, Froken; if you can travel in such weather, I can." "I am very glad," she replied, in an innocent, good-hearted way; " it will be much more pleasant for me, for I am all alone." I ordered a horse ; she had ordered hers before, and after she had taken a cup of coffee to warm herself, we were ready for the journey. I lent her my wrapper, for she had been thoroughly wet, and led the way in my cariole. I before this had had my experience of dishonesty in Norway. At the station of Aune I missed my luggage; it had been put into the station-house most carefully, but without the strap ; and here the same thing would have happened if I had not been on the alert-the strap had been left in the cariole by my attendant, as if it had been forgotten. This is a common occurrence while travelling in several of the districts lying between Trondhjem and Christiania; the straps are not stolen for purposes of sale or profit, but for the private use of the pilferers ; and those who commit these depredations would not take anything else. I hardly met a traveller who had not suffered in this way, and my young lady companion was complaining of the same.
The scenery, after I had left the city of Trondhjem, was very beautiful. At times the road was cut out of the solid rock, along the brink of precipices, with the river Driva seven hundred feet below. On approaching the Dovre fjeld the new road was built with such skill that the ascent seemed very gradual. Norway has produced some of the finest road-engineers in the world, whose skill has triumphed over difficulties apparently insurmountable, and there is no country, except Switzerland, where their ingenuity is more heavily taxed.
Though it was only the 17th of September, the wind was piercing cold, and the summits of the mountains of Dovre were covered with snow; the mercury stood at 24°. The rains of the last few days had swollen the torrent of the turbulent Driva, which, for a space of perhaps fifty yards, rushed with great force through a tortuous channel, and between rocky walls not more than fifteen feet apart. At the station of Drivstuen, at the foot of the _Dovre fjeld, about 2200 feet above the sea, the scenery is very striking.
A little farther on is the lonely mountain station of Kongsvoid, in a gorge in the Drivsdal, at a height of 3063 feet above the sea. The wind was blowing furiously, but my companion seemed to be indifferent, for she was anxious to reach her home. The horse I obtained at this station seemed to know that I had no whip, and all my endeavors to increase his speed beyond three miles an hour were of no avail, until I ordered my post-boy to cut a switch of the wild willow, the sight of which acted upon the animal like magic. When we reached the highest point on the road, 4594 feet above the sea, the thermometer marked 22°. After this we descended to a group of dark-looking houses at Hjerdkin, the highest mountain station on the Dovre fjeld, founded in the early part of the eleventh century, called Fjeldstuen. The people had preserved their honesty, notwithstanding the temptations of one of the most crowded stations between Trondhjem and Christiania. Both in summer and winter travellers stop there, and during the summer months the place is always full of strangers, especially Englishmen. There is a fascination in the place and its wild surroundings. The tourist may ramble over the plateau of the Dovre fjeld fanned by invigorating breezes; the botanist will find in abundance exquisite wild-flowers. The rides over the hills with one of the surefooted and gentle Norwegian ponies are very enjoyable; the pedestrian fond of Alpine climbing may ascend Snehaetten, the highest mountain of the range, to a height of 7714 feet, and explore its glaciers ; and although the reindeer are now scarce, a few small herds may be discovered by the keen sportsman. The fare is good, and the cream, milk, and butter delicious. Prices are a little higher than in many other places; but the distance from the sea is great. In Norway the traveller is not considered simply as fair game, and exorbitant prices are not asked for the comforts given.
The snow, which lay thickly on the ground at Hjerdkin, had gradually disappeared before reaching Fokstuen, 3150 feet above the sea.
At Dombaas, where there is a telegraph station, the scene had entirely changed, and fields of waving barley and potatoes greeted the eye. Groups of small farm-houses were scattered here and there ; but the district was a poor one, and many of the girls were glad to engage themselves at the rate of four or five dollars a year, including clothing, to their richer neighbors.
Here, at a height of 2000 feet above the sea, the crops were not quite ripe, the season being backward. Barley required a few more days of sunshine, and the potatoes were still in bloom. The evenings became cold, and the farmers' faces showed their anxiety. The wind was from the N.N.W., and for two consecutive nights black frost appeared. The potato-vines turned black, and the grain crop was seriously injured. After the first frost everybody was at work in the fields, women and men sheaving the barley, and every available hand digging the potatoes. There was sorrow in many a farmer's heart, for the people were now greatly distressed, and I detected tears on many a mother's cheek during these two days. After this sudden cold spell the weather became cloudy, a violent storm set in, and the ground was covered with eighteen inches of net snow, though it was only the 20th of September. This compelled me to abandon the cariole.
The tourist, on his way from Trondhjem to Christiania, loses much fine scenery by not following the Romsdal to the sea, the main road branching off at Dombaas. The drive from there to the Molde fjord, a distance of seventy miles, is one of the grandest in Norway, presenting a rapidly changing panorama of superb scenery.
The valleys of Gudbrandsdal and Romsdal are separated by the Lesje lake, about seven miles long, and 2050 feet above the sea. It is one of the few lakes which have two outlets—one river flowing out at each side in opposite directions. The Logen runs south, through the Gudbrandsdalen, ending in Lake Mjosen, while the Rauma flows north through the Romsdalen.
Between Stueflaaten and Horgheim the finest and the grandest scenery of the road is to be seen, and this is the culminating point of the whole journey. The gorge or valley presents a spectacle of grandeur not easily forgotten-the high perpendicular walls; the bare and rugged mountains, with dark and deep crevasses, and the black striped abrupt sides of the hills and gneissic rocks, gave a peculiarly sombre aspect to the scene. At Ormeim, near the post-station, the Rauma receives the waters of a stream—forming a magnificent cascade—the Vermedalsfossen, which divides itself into three branches, each one tumbling down the sides of the hills in foaming billows. Where the valley was flat, the meadows, still green, contrasted with the dark perpendicular walls on each side, while the summits of the mountains were covered with snow.
The nights were cold, but in the morning the thermometer stood only a few degrees below freezing, and ice was seen on the sides of the brooks. During the day the mercury in the shade rarely rose above 46°, but reached 85° in the sun, which rapidly melted the snow. Since the storm the sky had been cloudless, the weather delightful and bracing.
In one part of the valley, between Stueflaaten and Fladmark, the view was simply sublime ; from the abrupt mural wall numberless water-falls, created by the melting of the snow above, made the scenery wonderful. Macy of these plunged from such great heights that the,--. were lost to sight—appearing in the far distance like small silvery threads, which disappeared and reappeared, while the eye vainly tried to catch and follow them, and many seemed to have melted in a cloud of spray before reaching the ground. The cascade scenery was beyond description. In a distance of less than one English mile, before reaching Fladmark, I counted on both sides of the valley seventy-three water-falls, none of which were less than 1000 feet high, while some plunged down 2000 feet. All along the mountain sides were distinctly seen the marks of the glaciers in grooving, polishing, and scratching the rocks. Ter-races were also distinct, even to the height of 500 feet, showing the ancient sea level.
A few miles before reaching the Molde fjord one comes to a charming inn, called Aak, where I tarried a few days. It was a small, white, nicely-painted house, and a very cosy and comfortable place, crowded in summer with tourists, but now deserted, for both the travelling and harvesting seasons were over. A few vegetables were seen in the kitchen-garden, where raspberry, currant, gooseberry, and blackberry bushes were abundant. The apple and plum trees were loaded ; -but the season had been cold, and the apples were not yet ripe. We were between 62° and 63°.
How luxurious seemed the fare of that little inn after my summer explorations in the mountains! The cooking was excellent; I had three meals a day—the bill of fare including soup,-delicious fish, mutton, fowl, green pease and other vegetables from the garden, and made dishes; I also had all the cream, milk, and butter I wanted ; the coffee was excellent, and the table-linen white. The rooms were small, but the reputation of this place is such that in summer it is crowded, the guests lodging at different farms. People spend weeks at the Aak to enjoy the fine scenery. It is one of the best country inns of Norway, and the prices are very moderate; and I hope that the good people who own the place, and keep it so well, will always retain their honest Norwegian ways.
Though everything was in repose in the valley, a gale was blowing on the summits of the mountains, where clouds of snow were flying in every direction, and to a great height, in the form of spiral columns. Now and then the quiet was disturbed by a booming sound, echoed from mountain to mountain, caused by avalanches of snow carrying rocks and boulders into the crevasses below, while the grand Troldtinden and the Romdalshorn seemed to preside over the picturesque landscape of the valley. Opposite Aak was one of those short narrow valleys which end abruptly in a gorge, with two or three scoters.
From Aak, after a pleasant drive of about three miles, one arrives at Veblungnaes, at the head of the fjord, where a little steamer takes passengers to Molde. After a sail of a few hours through the fjord the little town comes in sight, nestled at the foot of the hills by the sea. Its yellow and white painted houses, roofed with red or dark painted tiles, present a very picturesque appearance from the sea, and the clean streets and tidy appearance of the buildings are a very agreeable sight after landing.
I do not know of any town in Norway which presents a more extensive and beautiful panorama of fjord and mountain scenery. The church is the principal building ; the graveyard around it was redolent with the perfume of autumn flowers. Chestnuts, oaks, mountain-ash, pyramidal poplars, and birch-trees shaded many of the graves ; most of the tombs bore no name, but each family knew the resting-place of their dead. In the town there is a very fine avenue of birches, some of which were five feet in diameter. On Sunday the church was crowded. Before ascending the pulpit the clergy-man divested himself of his white surplice and appeared in a black cassock, with ruffles around his neck. He was very eloquent, and there was a dead silence in the congregation, interrupted only by the ladies. The sermon lasted for one hour and twenty minutes, and the clergyman appeared quite tired at the end. As usual in all congregations, some fell asleep, but in my pew a sleeper was aroused by a pinch of snuff, which had the desired effect; he sneezed and kept awake during the remainder of the service. After the sermon came the baptism of two children ; this ceremony lasted twenty minutes—the. rite being administered by the sprinkling of water on the forehead of each child three times, to represent the Trinity ; the parents and godfather and mother passed be-hind the altar to deposit their thank-offering for the officiating clergyman.
In a Norwegian town the stranger should not look for the finest building as the residence of the Amtmand (governor), or any high officer in the employ of the government ; it is a characteristic trait in Norway that a modest building, as a rule, is the residence of the official personage of the place. In Sweden, however, the residence of the governor of a province. is always fine, and even imposing, compared with most of the other buildings of the town.
The Amtmand kindly invited me to spend an evening at his house, where a select party of gentlemen had been invited to meet me, among whom were some of the officials of the place. All the guests conversed in English, with the exception of the older people, who spoke French. English and German are now extensively spoken—the result of the increase of the trade with these two countries. The plain cosy parlor in which I was received was a picture of neatness, and cheerful with flowering plants.
Shortly after my arrival tea was passed round, after which all the guests helped themselves to a glass of toddy. Then' came supper. The host took my arm and led me to the dining-room, where his good unpretending wife presided. The custom of bowing the head, while asking a silent blessing and giving a"welcome to the board," was observed by the governor, with a glass of wine; and soon after he kindly pro-posed a toast in my honor, saying they were all glad that I had come to visit Norway and Molde, and hoped that I would see the country thoroughly, and live long, that I might work for the good of mankind and in the interest of science. This complimentary little speech being ended, each guest bowed to me. As the supper drew to its close, I proposed, as usual-this being the pleasant duty of the honored guest-the health of the governor's wife, after which all bowed their heads silently, in sign of thanks to the Almighty; then all rose, clapped their hands, bowed to each other, and thanked the host and hostess.
In a corner of the unostentatious parlor was a large collection of immense meerschaum pipes. A pouch of tobacco was brought in, and every one except myself began to smoke; they seemed amazed when they saw I did not indulge in a pipe. On the table were several decanters of wine and brandy and a kettle of hot water, and each one made for himself a glass of toddy, chatting sociably till nearly midnight.
The next day the governor visited the schools with me, remarking, " Though ours is a poor country, we love to spend money for education." Ile took great delight in having everything shown to me by the principals or teachers. I was pleased to observe the manly feeling displayed. He did not come with that haughty and contemptible demeanor so often assumed by officials on the Continent, and he was received with politeness, but not with obsequiousness.
In this modest town Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, German, and English were taught. Some of the boys read English to me, translating it afterwards into French. The boys and girls are taught in the same room.
I had arrived in Molde with a few dollars only, and the question naturally arose in my mind, What was to be done to raise funds? The only course left to me was to telegraph to Christiania; but I had not visited the place, knew none of the bankers, and had no way of establishing my identity; so I sent this message to Messrs. Heftye: "I am without money, but I have a letter of credit upon you. Can you telegraph to some one here to give me some?" I was relieved when a prompt reply came from the firm in these words : " Mr. a gentleman in Molde, will let you have the amount you re-quire." Soon after the arrival of this message the gentleman in question made his appearance, and said he had received a telegram from Messrs. Heftye, and had come to ask for a day or two in order to collect the money I wanted, and then courteously inquired how much I needed. He had received an or-der to give me all I required, but explained that Molde was a small place, and that it had no bank, and, therefore, that he might be obliged to go to several persons to collect the amount, if it was a large one. " I want only a small sum," said I, "to take me to Christiania." " In that case," he replied, appearing greatly relieved, "you may have several hundred dollars at once." Only one who has been in the same predicament can appreciate the relief I felt on the receipt of the cash.
From Molde the tourist or the pedestrian who is a lover of nature will see such a vast and fine field of exploration opening before him, that he will hardly know at what point to be-gin his wanderings. Towards the north there is a wild coast, with magnificent outlines, where the midnight sun is visible, and where the sail among thousands of islands offers a constantly changing panorama. Towards the south there are fjords of unequalled beauty, as the crowning glory of Norwegian landscape. There is also a high-road to Bergen, passing through grand scenery, rivalling in some respects that of Romsdalen. Fjords must be crossed on this route, and the alternate views of sea and mountains are very striking. There is likewise a high-road through the Romsdalen, which I have already described, leading either to Christiania, Trondhjem, or Roraas, and thence into Sweden. Another road, which, after leaving Môlde, skirts the Fanne fjord; crosses twô branches of the Christiansund fjord. There are also numerous foot or bridle-paths, diverging from the highways or from the fjords, and winding up the mountains towards the glaciers, affording to the botanist, the sportsman, the angler, and the admirer of the wildest scenery, a succession of ever-changing views.