( Originally Published 1881 )
Entrance to the Fjord.—Depth of the Fjord.—Its Lateral Branches and their Depth.—Bonder on board of Steamers.—Third-class Passengers.-Valley of the Fjords.—The Fjærland Fjord.—Glaciers.—Leaving the Fjærland.—The Sogndal Fjord.—The Sogndal Valley.—Superb Fjord Scenery.-A Beautiful Cone.-The Lyster Fjord.
OF all the fjords of Norway none can rival in size, grandeur, bold outlines, weird and sombre landscape, the magnificent Sogne. No tourist should fail to sail upon its waters. The entrance, which is formed on the west side by the Sulen isl-
ands and others, and on the east side by the main-land, is at about 61°, and the main course winds its way inland almost directly east. The depth of the sea is remarkable. South of Yttre Sulen it is about 600 feet deep; farther inland, between Big Store Hilleô and Stevsundö,1584 feet; a little farther up it diminishes to 1200 and 900 feet, and immediately south of B6 Church it attains the enormous depth of 3980 feet; north of Arnefjord Church, 3222 feet; at the entrance of the Aurland, 3766 feet ; and just south of Kaupanger, 2964 feet. The branch fjords are much narrower, but their depth of water is also very great. The Sogndal, at its entrance, which is narrow, is 132 feet deep, but about midway is 1194 feet, thence becoming, near its end, 216 feet deep. The Lyster is at its entrance 2170 feet deep ; half-way,1176 feet; towards its end, 276 feet. Even in the Aardal and the Laerdal, which form the upper end of the Sogne, the sea in the former is 840 feet, and in the latter 780 feet. The average breadth of the Sogne varies from three or four to about two miles, and its length in a direct line is over three degrees of longitude, or a distance of about eighty-four miles, with its windings.
There are several lateral branches extending north and south, besides deep bays or coves. On the northern shore are the Vadeim and Fjaerlands, the latter fourteen miles long; the Sogndal, ten miles, and the Lyster, twenty-four miles. On the southern shore are Brekke, the Arne, and the Aurland, the latter being sixteen miles long, with its branch, the Naerö, about six miles. No description can give to the reader an adequate idea of the magnificence of the scenery of these narrow lateral fjords of the Sogne.
On a beautiful day, at the beginning of July, I found my-self for the second time in the quaint city of Bergen, waiting on the Square to hear the whistle of the steamer which was to convey me to the Sogne, my purpose being to stop at some convenient point on the way, and wander thence wherever my fancy might lead me. The sail from the city and back re-quires four days, and steamers start twice a week. The crowd began to gather, and boat after boat left the shore, loaded with people. After the usual confusion of a starting steamer, we got under way.
Leaving the city, the steamer winds its way northward for about sixty miles in the midst of wild scenery. The forepart of the vessel was crowded with passengers, mostly farmers and fishermen, going home with trunks, baskets, and hampers. The women and young people were especially lively, for many had been to Bergen for the first time, and were delighted with the city that had appeared so large to them. Such fine stores, so many pretty things, they had never seen before, and they had been buying a number of articles.
There is one thing a bonde will never do, no matter how rich he may be, and that is to buy a first-class ticket; for him money expended in such a manner is utterly wasted, over which he would mourn for a long time. Not that he is mean, for he is far from it ; but he prefers to spend the money for value received—that is, to treat his friends on the passage. He has not the slightest inclination to mingle with the people of the cities, many of whom, here as elsewhere, look down on these tillers of the soil, making fun of their clothes and manners, and refusing to mix with them, even on the deck, through fear that their standing in society might be lowered. Besides, if a farmer were inclined to take a first-class ticket, he would refrain from doing so, lest he should be ridiculed by his friends, who would think that he was putting on airs, and wanted to appear like a herre (gentleman). In fine weather the third-class or deck passage is good enough for him and his family ; in case of storms or cold weather, he gives a sigh when compelled to take the second cabin, where he finds a comfortable shelter but no state-rooms; plain wooden benches and tables constitute the furniture, and upon these and on the floor they rest the best way they can. But the majority keep awake all night. The second cabin is usually filled with tobacco-smoke, through which you distinguish a very jolly crowd, who, with those on deck, certainly have the best time on board; they laugh and joke, play cards, eat, and seem bound to enjoy themselves before returning to the farm and hard work. Many are going home quite happy with their sales or purchases. The invariable question in Norway is, "How much does it cost?" for the people want to know the price of everything.
It was always a great pleasure to me to mingle with these bonder on board the steamers, and get an insight into their character—to do what they did, and be like one of them ; many an hour have I thus passed pleasantly, and many a kind friend have I made in this manner.
The route to the Sogne fjord is among so many islands that it often seems as if you were sailing on a river ; the scenery at times is extremely fine. The greater part of the country is uninhabited; now and then the sea is so completely land-locked that it appears as if the journey was ended, when suddenly comes into view au opening, and another broad expanse of water stretches in the distance ; the channel is sometimes so narrow and tortuous that the vessel almost touches the rocks.
The steamers seldom come alongside a wharf, they simply lay-to. A large boat starts from the shore to bring in or take off the cargo. Numbers of, smaller craft come with passengers, and take those who are to land—often an indescribable confnsion takes place; the boats jolt against each other; the people shout one to another; goods, horses, cows, sheep, passengers are going or coming at the same time trunks are passed up and down the narrow gangway. Here a party leap from boat to boat till they come to the right one—a man hurries back to recover something he forgot—a woman urges on her husband, who is still on deck, fearing that they may be left. An individual reaches the vessel in a profuse perspiration from the excitement produced by the fear of missing the steamer; he had in. his haste tumbled down into a woman's lap, who, instead of getting angry, laughed heartily. From a boat men halloo in vain to the captain to stop. What I ad-mired was the urbanity of all the officers. In the tumult, no matter how annoyed they may have been, no profane language from their lips fell harshly upon the ear.
In about six hours from Bergen the entrance of the Sogne is reached, where it is six or seven miles wide. Skirting the southern shore you pass a grand mass of rocks. The Sognefest (the castle of the Sogne) is very bold in its outline, and apparently forming two sides of a square. The scenery spread be-fore the traveller is superb, a panorama ever changing in its views. of snow-topped mountains: in the north the Justedal glaciers, towering mountains in the east, in the south the snow-fields of Fresvik. The vegetation improves as you penetrate inland; the bases of the mountains and hills are clad with woods. On the northern side is a narrow fjord, on the shores of which, at its upper end, is the hamlet of Vadeim, with its white-painted houses and two or three farms. The steamer here stops at a wharf to land passengers and discharge cargo. Here a high-road leads northward to the Fordo fjord and to the Julster Vand.
The valleys by the fjords are often quite fertile and well cultivated, contrasting singularly with the barren mountains which surround them. From the water they appeared to form an oval basin with a ravine at the end, towards which the mountain-sides sloped gently, evidently hollowed by the agency of ice and water. Sometimes two ravines entered the valley like radiating branches. At the base of the mountains the terraces rose one upon the other to the number of three or four.
At about sixty miles from its entrance the Sogne seems suddenly to end at the base of high mountains; it sharply turns northward, and the island of Kvamsö is passed, and a few miles farther the main fjord runs once more eastward, while to the north is the entrance of the Fjærland, the first large branch of the Sogne.
The steamer stops at the thrifty hamlet of Balholmen, opposite to which is Vangsnoes, the scene of Frithiof's "Saga." Sombre is the Fjærland with its mountains, glaciers, and its wild scenery. Streams fed by the melted snow and the ice, run down on every side. In the mountains above are the Langedals and the Bjorne glaciers, rising to 4500 and 4780 feet above the sea. A little farther north, on the west side, are the Svaere and Vetle fjords, between mountains, the highest of which, the Oatneskri, rises -5000 feet. At the end of the Vetle fjord there is a road of a few miles, leading to the great ice - field of Justedalfonn. As you sail farther inland still higher mountains loom up on both sides of the fjord—the Melsnipa, 5620 feet; the Gunvords and Stendals glaciers, 5200 feet. The water is of a peculiar opaque light green, showing the effect of the numerous streams from the ice. Three valleys diverge from the lowlands at the end of this fjord; the two most interesting are the Suphelle and the Boyum. The first is a long, narrow ravine, enclosed between rugged mountains; its glacier, about four miles from the sea, is fed from the slides of another, with which it has no direct communication, the masses of ice falling from a height of two or three thousand feet. The Boyum is west of Suphelle. The mountains are steep, with birch-trees to a great elevation, above which is the glacier.
In the year 1868 a large number of avalanches occurred in different parts of the country, occasioning loss of life and property. On the Fjærland, on the west side, one dcscended of such a size that it formed a bridge over the fjord-at that point five thousand feet wide— upon which the people crossed. If I had not been told this by several trustworthy persons, I would not have believed it, so incredible does it appear Leaving the Fjoerland and again ascending the Sogne fjord, the scenery becomes more cheerful-woods, fields, and meadows, hamlets and farms, are more numerous ; at the base of the mountains the woods crowning even some of the lower hills. Here is the hamlet of Fejos, while the Fresvik snow-field, rising 5000 feet, towers over all. On the northern shore, almost opposite, is Lekanger, the largest congregation of farms I had seen on the fjord. Two streams from the Grindsdal and Henjumdal—two valleys a few miles apart, both formed by the ,Gunvord glacier, 5000 feet above the sea-level—empty into the sea here, and give water-power to numerous grist-mills.
A few miles farther up, on the northern shore, is the Sogndais fjord, with its weird scenery, its fruitful tracts, and trans-verse valleys, over which farms are scattered. The sea here is also discolored by the streams from the glacier. In the mountains are found numerous sæters. The village of Sogndal possesses a number of houses, built close together, and here the steamers stop at a wharf. The population is about five hundred. The district is celebrated for orchards of apples, and also for its gammel ost (old cheese), which, when old enough, is the strongest known, and, after one gets accustomed to eat it, an excellent appetizer.
From the Sogndal the scenery of the Sogne is superb. On the northern shore rises Storehog, 3830 feet--opposite, Blejen, 5400 feet ; and the fjord between them is about two miles wide and 2900 feet deep. Many of the mountains rising from the fjord are torn ; in some places birch, fir, or pines are seen to a great height; a solitary farm, a saw or grist -mill, meets the eyes. Fifteen miles above the Sogndal fjord, on the northern shore, are the small hamlets of lower and upper Amble, and Kanpanger church. These are situated on the shores of a lovely bay, of oval shape. The lower hills slope gently towards the sea, and are clad with woods to their very tops; while groves of different trees, the elm, the linden, the birch, and other trees, grow here and there. Two beautiful streams fall into the sea, and on their banks are little grist-mills. Meadows, yellow fields, and patches of potatoes were scattered around the farms. On a sunny day the place is exquisitely beautiful. How many of these picturesque spots one finds on the fjords: they burst upon you when least expected. A little farther, entering the Lyster fjord, one beholds a beautifnl and extended panorama of mountains and water. Snow and glaciers meet the eyes in the higher regions ; while a farm, a hamlet, or a church, shows that men live by the sea, in the midst of this grand and stupendous nature.
Some ten or twelve miles inland, on a promontory on the eastern shore, is Urnaes, from which an excellent view of the fjord presents itself, with its ranges of hills and spurs coming down to the sea. On the western shore, opposite Urnaes, is Solvorn, picturesquely situated in the hollow of the mountains.