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Tent life with English Gipsies in Norway online

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* A descriptiou of this fall, with engraving, is also given in Captain
Campbell's concise and useful ■\voik, " How to see Norway," published by
Messrs. Longuuui and Co.


some of the finest scenes iji Nature are often overlooked.
Had the shelving cliff given way we were secured by a
rope, but we must say our position would have been
unpleasant. The cliffs on either side stand abruptly out
and are overhanging, so that it is difficult to get a good
view of the fall from above, except at the point we
were looking over. The rocks below, which receive the
waters of the fall, for some distance upwards are almost

AVhen we retired from the clifi''s edge, we roped Ole
and he had a similar view. Notwithstandmg all that
had been said by Captain Campbell, the Morkfos far sur-
passed our expectations in height, volume of water, and
picturesque beauty. There is no drawback. All accessories
are perfect. Mountain outline, rock, tree, forest — all
that surround the fall, rival it in their several perfections
of harmonious beauty. Eeluctantly we must say, that
even the Rjukan fos and its romantic association of the
"Lovers" or "Marie stein" is scarcely equal to the
Morkfos.* Other lovers of nature who visit this wild
scene may probably pass a decisive opinion either to con-

* When we visited the Rjukan fos some A^ears since we were certainly
under the impression that the name applied to a rock on the face of the
precipice above the fall, where the lover slipped at the first meeting after a
long absence, and was lost in the abyss below. The name may probably be
derived from the footpath, which at that time was very similar to a ladder,
and Williams, in his work " Through Norway with a Knapsack," calls it
" Marie Stige," saying in a note, " stige " is the Dansk and Norsk for ladder ";
and placing the article " en" at the end of the word, as is iisual, it becomes
stigen, the ladder, hence the local name, " Marie Stigen," the Mary's
Ladder, which most English writers have misunderstood or Germanized into
" Marie Stein," or INIary's Rock ; others spell it " Marie Stegen," which,
translated, signifies Mary's fi'y, Mary's roast meat. In Murray it is
called Mari Stien. The legend has associated a romantic interest with
the Rjukan fos.


firm or reverse ours. Both falls have their separate

The valley of the Aardal below, is all the most enthusi-
astic lover of nature could desire.* Opposite to us were the
magnificent steeps of the Maradalstinder. The waterfall
roaring down its sides, was only dwarfed, by its more
splendid rival the Morkfos. The fall opposite is the
Maradals elv fos. As we watched it, a beautiful iris of
red, yellow, and blue, hovered above the foaming waters,
the only one, we had ever seen.

Before we left, we contemplated the deep valley of the
Aardal, and its wooded sides. Trees covered the summit
of the chSs, on either side the Morkfos. One mountain
ash, had caught its roots in a cleft, and overhung in mid-
au\ Scotch firs crowned the rocks above.

We left at a quarter to one. Never shall we forget a
small patch of golden moss, forming a miniature island in
a small forest tarn ; its resplendent colour in the glowing-
sun. Near the soeter in the Vettismark forest, a few
large trees scattered near, were without bark, and dead.
The Vettismark Soeter, and the Fleskedal Soeter, Ole said,
belonged to the same owner. The ascent to the Fles-
kedal Soeter was veiy steep, but we reached it at five
minutes past two o'clock.

Our middags mad, on the banks of the stream, near
the Fleskedal Soeter, consisted of cold bacon, fladbrod, a
box of sardines, and kage brod, or ovens brod (bread
baked in an oven), which we had brought with us. Ole
boiled our water at the soeter, and we had two pannikins
of tea. The Fleskedal Soeter is a new soeter. One

* It may be well to note tliat the Utladal Elv and the Aardal Elv are
the same river ; and the Morkfos is sometimes called the Vetje fos.


402 TI:NT life in NORWAY.

woman, and some cliildrcn, were staying there. The
soetcr ii3 built of wood, and of the usual size. AVe paid
the woman four skillings, for allowing Ole to boil our
water at the soeter.

It appears that Messrs. Boyson and Harrison stayed at
the Fleskedal Soeter one night, with three other gentlemen
going to Lystcr. We were told that for one bed, for two
of the party, the other three sleeping as they could, and
for some fladbrod, butter, and milk, they were charged two
specie dollars, or nine shillings English money, when they
left. An English gentleman, accompanied by a reindeer
hunter, came to the Fleskedal Soeter the day before w^e
arrived, and stayed all night. Early in the morning
he had shot a reindeer in the mountains.

The English sportsman returned to the soeter for a
pcny, but could not get one, and went to obtain one some-
where else. He said he should reserve the reindeer's skin for
himself, and send the carcass to a friend at Bergen. Ole
said he would probably have to pay two or three dollars,
and if he had sent it down to Skogadals Soeter, the
carrier would have met the steamer for Bergen, and it
would have gone at a much cheaper rate.

Leaving Fleskedal Soeter at about four o'clock, we had
a. deHghtful walk along the mountain slopes. At one
pomt, in the depths of the valley below, on the opposite
bank of the Utladal Elv, we could see the Bondegaard of
Vormelid. A deep dark shadow seemed to hang about it
in the far distance below. \A^hat a solitary abode. Few
footsteps would ever pass its threshold. Imagine the
winter solitude of this homestead. The silence broken
by the wolfs howl. Ole said the bears had destroyed the
cattle of the former owner. He was nearly ruined. The


bridge across the torrent was broken down, and the honse
deserted. Ole signaled as we approaclied the Skogadals
Elv. Tlie gipsies were soon on the alert to give ns wel-
come. The carrier brought two horses, and we crossed
the river. Our tents were reached at seven o'clock.

The gipsies appeared to have slept most of the day.
They had not even quarrelled. We began to think they
must be ill, until we found they had diligently inspected
nearly every single article we possessed, which were
afterwards carefully arranged upside down. "We decided
to move very early the next day, and Ole had the grod
at once prepared for breakfast the next morning.

Before retiring to rest, we strolled on the turf near our
tents, and watched the secluded valley by moonlight.
Vast ranges of snowy mountains were before us silvered
by the moon. As we looked down the valley, we could
not help observing, a large shadowed outline, representing
the figure of a woman, singularly distinct, and formed by
the conformation of a hill above the ravine. It was
Sunday, and no music was given at the soeters.

b D 2


" That gipsy grandmother has all the appearance of a sowanee" (sor-
ceress). — "All the appearance of one!" said Antonio ; "and is she
not really one ? She knows more crabbed things, and crabbed words
than all the errate betwixt here and Catalonia ; she has been amongst
the wild Moors, and can make more drows, poisons, and philtres than
any one alive. She once made a kind of paste, and persuaded me to
taste, and shortly after I had done so, my soul departed from my
body, and wandered through horrid forests and mountains, amidst
monsters and duendes, during one entire night. She learned many
things amidst the Corahai, which I should be glad to know."

BoRROw's Bible in Spain.


At twenty minutes past two o'clock we were up.

Calling Ole and our gipsies, we had our grod and milk

for brealvfast. Our expenses at Skogadal amounted to

nine marks eighteen skillings, as follows —

m. s.

2 lbs. butter 2

Cheese 6

36 cakes of fladbrod 2 6

5 cans milk, 9 skillings per can . . . . 1 21

8 lbs. barley meal 18

Soeter women 13

Carrier crossing river 10

9 6


Some little delay occurred in getting the carrier and
his horse. He was the husband of the woman of one of
the sceters. She was a tall powerful woman, with a red
face, and sharp temper, much older than himself. It was
whispered that he had married her for her money. If he
had, she had certainly the best of the bargain. Our tents
and heavy baggage, were soon packed up in a meisgrie or
crate, and slung up on the wooden packsaddle of the
carrier's horse. The Norwegian meisgrie is a capital con-
trivance. It is a kind of network made of birch twigs,
which laces up with a long tie, one foot eleven inches long.
It is very strong and very light. Wishing the soeter women
farewell, and they seemed sorry to lose us, especially the
music, we soon reached the river.

Our people and baggage were soon forded across. We
remained behind with our three donkeys, having a
tether rope stretching across the river. Fastening it with
a noose round the Puru Eawnee's neck, she was first
pulled across, plunging and struggling to the other bank.
The Tarno Eye was assisted through the stream in a similar
manner. The Puro Rye saved us the trouble by jumping
into the stream, to follow his companions. There was a
loud outcry by the gipsies that he would be drowned,
but he fought through the torrent famously, and reached
the other bank in safety.

The view was beautiful as we looked up the Skogadal.
The Melkadalstind towered above the mountain ranges,
which closed the upper portion of the valley, leaving no
outlet, but a stony col on the distant ridge. The occa-
sional wooded sides of the valley, with firs, birch, and
dark foliaged alder, relieved the valley from all appear-
ance of desolation. The white foam of two torrents, and



occasional patches of snow, on the mountain sides, at tlie
head of the valley, contrasted well with wooded slopes
which margined the winding stream.

We had now crossed the river, and, following over the


broken ground of its right liank, we at length reached
the head of the pleasant valley of Skogadal. Again we
had to cross the Skogadals Elv, now a narrow impetuous
torrent, rushing; forth from a Q-lacier, at some distance to
our rioht.


The carrier with his strong horse, for which he wanted
sixty dollars, crossed easily enough. Noah and Zachariah
managed somehow to get to the other side with the
donkeys. The Skogadals Elv was now not very wide,
but rapid, and over our knees, in the middle of the stream,
which was icy cold. Never shall we forget Ole in a
narrow part of the stream, out of which rose two rocks,
balancing on one, whilst he steadied Esmeralda, who
had jumped on the other. The torrent narrowed in its
course, swift, and impetuous, occasionally laved with its
flowing waters Esmeralda's boots, as she stood on the
slippery rock, preparing, with Ole's assistance, to make
another jump. It was a question for some minutes
whether Esmeralda would not lose her foothold, and drag
Ole after her, into the foaming waters.

The scene was charming;, the reindeer hunter on one
rock, Esmeralda on the other, both hand in hand.
Balanced above the flowinsr waters ; sometimes we
thought Esmeralda was slipping backwards, now with
Ole's assistance she has recovered herself. Another jump
across the foaming waters ; Esmeralda hesitates. A word
of encouragement, Esmeralda jumps. She has reached
Ole's rock, she balances again ; tlianks to Ole, by another
hasty spring, she is safe on the other side.

Soon joining our party, we ascended a winding stony
track from the Skogadal, passing through a col, we
reached a second long wild valley, wild and stony in
the extreme, here and there a glacier above. The fine
peak of the "Melkedals" above us. Sometimes we
skirted the margin of small sheets of water, and lonely
mountain tarns. Over this long reach of broken rock we
made our way slowly ; at last we again ascended towards


another col, to. reach apparently another valley heyond.
We had nearly reached the top of the ascent towards the
next valley, when the carrier suddenly halted, and Ole
said he wished to take something to eat. Our carrier was
a quiet, spare, muscular, and not bad-looking man ; we
had noticed him when we crossed the river ; no shouting,
bustle, bewilderment, or gesticulation, he simply did
quietly wdiat he thought best. If it did not succeed,
and we had all been cbowned, it is doubtful whether he
would have moved a muscle of his countenance. Yet he
w^as not a man without feeling, and would probably have
felt all the more. All was regulated to one steady pace
for horse and man, and to save the world he would not
have gone slower or faster. A fire w^as made with the
roots of • stunted juniper, and our water boiled for tea.
Our carrier had only some fladbrod, and raw old bacon
for his dinner. From our commissariat we supplemented
it with tea, and brandy and water. It was soon found
that when we had halted at twelve o'clock, he considered
his bargain ended, and that he was entitled to his dollar,
and an extra mark for his second horse, to cross the
Skogadals river. It was thought we should have had his
services for the best part of the day.

Ole asked our carrier to give us another hour which
w^ould make what he considered the value of the doUar,
but the man would not go any farther ; an extra mark
would not tempt him. He had come eleven miles ; one
of his horse's shoes was loose. Our gipsies thought he
should have continued until one o'clock. Lending the
man our hammer, and axe, to fasten the horse shoe on,
which was much too small, we paid him his six marks.
Advancing towards us in a solemn manner, he shook


hands, and with his horse rather lame, he went off at the
same regulated steady pace. If intelligence had been
suddenly brought that the Skogadals soeter, had been
burnt down, and his tall wife in it, we do not think he
would have gone one step faster towards the scene of

Noah! Zachariah! let the donkeys be loaded. Esmeralda
clears our dinner service into the kettle bag. Ole is up
and stirring ; we are soon off at ten minutes past one
o'clock. Our party was soon over the ridge ; a long
stony valley lay before us beneath the rugged steeps of
the Melkedalstinderne. The donkeys did their best
with their loads ; the lift with the carrier's horse in the
morning, had been very useful. Ole had evidently
resolved to make a determined push towards Eisbod.
Many swift, but shallow streams coming from the glaciers
above, were crossed without difficulty. With some perse-
verance the Melkedals vand* is reached ; it is called the
oevre vand or upper lake. A still dark lake, nothing
but masses of loose rocks for its shores. Ole said there
were no fish in it. How we made our way over the loose
masses of stone on the left bank, from one end to the
otlier, is a marvel, sometimes up, sometimes down, with
often nothing, but pointed rocks, for our loaded animals

* Vand is the Norwegian for water in its general signification, though it
is often used as a term for hike, in the same way that the English word
" Water " is often used in Cumberland and Westmoreland instead of Lake.
Thus we have Wastwater, Ulleswater, Derwentwater, Lowwater, Brothers-
water, Devokewater, Crummockwater, Elterwater, Leverswater, Small-
water, and Rydal water. The Norwegian word for lake is "soe" and
"indsoe ;" but "vand " (water) is most commonly used instead of lake, as
Losna Vand, Lejevosrks Vand, Otta Vand, Leir Vand, Melkedals Vand,
Tyen Vand, Rus Vand, Heimdals Vand, Vinster Vand, Espedals Vand,
Eoev Vand, and many other instances too numerous to enumerate.


to stand upon. Nocali did liis best. At last tlic Puru
Rawnce slipped with her load, and fell with her legs
between the rocks. We were much afraid she would
break or cut her legs all to pieces. She was quickly
unloaded. By good fortune our handsome Puru Pawnee,
had not broken any bones ; the hair was bruised off in
some places ; she was able to go on. Quickly reloading
ao-ain, we were thankful to leave the desolate shores of
the Melkedals vand, still struggling on step, by step, with
our tired animals ; at length we reached a small wild
mountain tarn. At one place we crossed the track of a
reindeer ; time was fast fleeting towards night, we could not
very well camp where we were, nothing but rocky steeps,
and loose masses of stone on every side, not a blade of
grass to be seen for our donkeys. Leaving the lonely
tarn we came to a mountain stream. Our route now
became very steep, often down loose masses of rock.
Ole and our.sclf had to lead the way, and occasionally
form a rough road, or form steps with loose fragments of
rock, to enable our animals to proceed. All the care of
our gipsies was necessary. A false step by either of the
donkeys would probably disable it for further exertion.
At some places we had to pile up masses of stone for a
considerable height, to enable the donkeys to descend
the rough, and broken declivities of rock. Slo^\dy and
cheerfully we made our way, everyone doing his best.
Now and then some small streams of water had to be
crossed. Coming down a steep declivity we at length
came in sight of the waters of the Melkedals, " Nedre
Vancl,'' or the Lower Lake.

As the shades of nio;ht were fast descendino- we i-eached
the lake, and making our way slowly along the left



bank, we lialted on a slope, close to the shore of the
lake. There was a semblance of green; just enough
blades of grass, to enable us to fancy we were on turf.
Seeing nothing but loose rocks beyond, we decided to stay.
" AVell, sir," said the gipsies, " where's the fire V


" Ah," said Ole, " perhaps you can do without one
this evening, or we will go on if you like."

We determined to stay.

" It is uncertain," said Ole, " if we come to any
better camping-ground. "

Zachariah, who was always foremost in settling all


matters, had first to be extinguished before we could
light our camp fire at the Nedre Vand.

" Fire," said we ; " some fuel shall be found some-
where — warm tea we will have."

The donkeys were soon relieved of their burthens. It
is astonishing how soon men accustomed to camp life
in the mountains, quickly avail themselves of all material.
With a few roots, and some dry turf, our water soon
boiled over a camp fire. We had never failed during
our campaign. There is, besides, something very cheerful
in seeing your fire in the shades of evening, on the
shore of a lake. Our spirits were soon as gay as usual.
After our tea, fladbrod and butter, Ole made himself com-
fortable under a rock. First, putting up some sods with
a spade ; then placing a large flat piece of turf, and
stunted juniper roots above, Ole slipped himself under,
and wrapping a handkerchief, and his bag of pig's
bristles round his neck and head, with our waterproof
over all, was soon asleep.

Ole said we had travelled about seventeen miles from
Skogadal soeter. At one time just before tea, Ole
went up the ridge beyond our camp, to examine the
way. He thought he heard a rifle shot, and might meet
some reindeer hunters.

It was a beautiful moonlight night ; we stood on the
shores of the lake after aU had gone to rest. There was
our sleeping guide under his rock. There our sleeping
gipsies 'neath their tents ; near our camp our three
gallant merles. They had indeed fought their way well
for us ; nor did we forget to caress them sometimes.
The Puru Rawnee had to be bathed occasionally with
a little weak brandy and water ; sometimes to be


strengthened up with a little bruise mixture ; biscuit, and
now and then a piece of bread, also fell to their share.

Beyond a picturesque island on the other shore, we
could see a large glacier stretching apparently into the
very waters of the lake.* How beautiful in the moon-
light below those wild peaks. There were some dark
crevasses to be seen on the glacier's surface. At times,
in the stillness of the night, we could hear that sound
peculiar to glaciers, a loud cracking noise, which echoed
across the waters to our camp.

Up at half-past three o'clock. Zachariah ! Vand !
water ! yog ! fire ! now quick, Noah ! Our gipsies are
up. Ole is up, of course. We saw him to bed, or we
should think he sat up over night to be ready. Tea,
fladbrod, and our last tin of potted meat, for breakfast.
Tents struck ; all moving along the slope from the lake
at seven o'clock.

We slowly make our way over loose stones, and a
mountain ridge is soon gained. We commence our
descent towards the Lake Bygdin far below us. De-
scending carefully down a snow slope, we crossed a
wild torrent. Sometime afterwards we reached the left
slopes of Melkedalen, between the Grava Fjeld and
Slaataafjeld. Still continuing our descent of Melke-
dalen, we reached the shores of a lake.

As we came in sight of this long, and beautiful lake,
Ole pointed out the " Poet's House " on a bold pro-
montory. At the head of the lake we could perceive it.
It has just the appearance of a newly -built chalet, or
soeter ; something lonely and picturesque in its position.
Its association with poetry gave it a further charm.

* The Melkedals Brceen.


"We were still at some distance from tlie "Poet's House."
Ole signalled for a boat. In the distance we could see
some figures near the house, apparently watching our
party. They were probahly puzzled, as to who we could
be, issuing forth in early morning, from the wild recesses,
of Melkedalstinderne.

Two boats came to the shore where we were. All our
baggage was placed in one ; we handed Esmeralda into
the other. Ole, Noah, and Zachariah started off on the
donkeys to ford the river, and round the upper bend of
the lake to the " Poet's House."

The boats glided on the smooth water of the lake.
The sun gilded the lofty mountains on either shore ; all
quietude, peace, and contentment. The Norwegian poet
has well chosen, thought we, this charming seclusion
from the world.

Our boats rounded the promontory past the "chalet."
Two ladies, and three gentlemen w^re near it ; some were
seated, watching us as we came near. They were making
use of a large telescope.

Our boatmen landed at some little distance past the
" Poet's House " on the beach of the promontory, — a sort
of inland bay. As Ave came to the shore, we noticed
a man seated near a hut, whisking a leafy branch
over some dark looking pieces of meat, hanging from a
line. We afterwards found it was rein-deer meat, beinof
dried in the sun. The man Avas keeping the flies off,
AA^hile the meat Avas being dried for future consumption.

Our baggage Avas all safely deposited on a pleasant
slope of ground, not far from the rein-deer hunter's hut.
AVe had a good A'icAv of the " Poet's House." Ole, and
Noah, and Zachariah soon joined us. Our boatmen were


well satisfied with one mark. Noali and Zacliariali liad
got their legs wet in crossing the river, but Ole had the
forethouo-ht to take off his stockino-s, before he rode into
the stream.

The history of the " Poet's House " appeared to be as
follows : — The wooden cottao-e, which consists of two
small rooms only, cost 100 dollars, Norwegian money, or
about 20/. Eughsli. The poet, Aasmund Olafsen Vinjc,
joined with others in the cost of erection. When the
poet was required to pay 25 dollars, his stipulated share,
he was unable to do so. He had certainly more than
25 pence, but he could only spare 5 dollars. This was
certainly better than the man who owed 465/. 4.5. 6c/.,
and off"ered his creditor the 4s. Qid. Poets, somehow, are
seldom wealthy. We have occasionally briglit excep-
tions. Vinje was not one. To release the poet from
his difficulty, it was agreed that he should mortgage his
interest in the house, and write a mortgage in poetry for
the sum. Vinje did this. The mortgage deed in poetry,

Online LibraryHubert SmithTent life with English Gipsies in Norway → online text (page 28 of 37)