M. A Wyllie.

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only be termed paths, and very often rough ones at

It was raining fast when we regained our carts. The
little horses realised they would be more comfortable in
their stables, and went home at a great rate, flying down-
hill with a loose rein. There is no brake to the cart,
and at first the pace feels rather dangerous, but one soon
gets used to it. Wherever you drive it is always the
same, and one arrives in safety at the bottom.

The next day being Sunday, we arranged with our
steward to pack us some lunch, and landed early. A
fjord boat rowed us a little way down the road that
leads to Bakke, which is a delightful walk along the
margin of the fjord. The road ends at the village,
Avhere the mountains rise straight out of the water,
leaving no space even for a path. From all round boats
were slowly converging on Bakke, on their way to the
neat little church with a bold spire that rises on the


fjord side. The Bakke-Elv fussed and rushed through
the compact Httle village ; all was quiet at the sawmill,
which this noisy torrent works. It was a beautiful walk,
and one to be recommended to the man who seeks rest
for a holiday. The many waterfalls that descend from
high above finish close at hand, diving through the trees
and over the rocks, under the road and so into the fjord.
All round could be heard the gentle bleating of sheep
and goats, and their tinkling bells. The road hugs the
shore, and passes from one shady wood of birch to another.
We went on till from a point of view Bakke and its sur-
roundings were as nearly perfect as they well could be,
so we climbed up a little way out of sight of the road
and watched the peasants passing along. Seeing it as
we did then, with the hot sun overhead warming and
glorifying rocks and fjord, it gave no impression of what
it must be in the winter. Even in summer when the
sun sinks it leaves the fjord gloomy and cold, but in the
dark days this Naero Fjord must be one of the most, if
not the most gloomy spot in all Norway. Narrow
waters flanked by stately mountains can be seen in many
places, but nowhere do the heights group themselves so

Travelling through the country, it is difficult to believe
that the few cattle one meets, wandering about the hills
and valleys, should really amount to so many, and form
such an important factor in Norwegian husbanding.
Nowhere does one come across the broad, rounded, and
muscular frames of the lowland cattle, with their huge bulk
of flesh. The cows are small, with red or brindled sides,
averaging 660 lbs in weight. They are evidently good
milk-givers, if one can be a judge of the hissing quantity
that filled the pails of the milkers, that we disturbed on
our way to the glacier at Mundal. These cows seemed


very small, but the coast cattle are smaller still, the true
weight being from 450 to 550 lbs. There is nothing
typical about them as to shape or colour, but they are
peculiar in their ability of being able to live on next to

The Norwegian sheep are also small and slender, the
adult animal hardly weighing 90 lbs. In company with
the goats they wander about at their own sweet will.
Sitting in this quiet spot at Gudvangen, we were sur-
rounded by the tinkle of their bells and their soft baaing.
Being Sunday, the goats wanted milking, and were troubled
that the hour had passed. Jumping lightly from rock
to rock, they collected round us, each with its distinctive
marks of one, two, or three ties of scarlet wool through
the ear. They wanted to taste the paints, nibble the
edge of the sketch books, overturn the water-bottle, —
anything, in fact, to while away the time. They browsed
round, eating our discarded apple peels and sandwiches,
and ultimately sat down, with a far-off look in their eyes,
watching the winding road below, with every now and
then a pensive bleat. They caught the sound of foot-
steps first, and sprang to attention, as a bevy of girls
with pails came into view. These had white shawls over
their heads, their best black frocks hitched up showed
their scarlet under-petticoats, and all came along laughing
and chatting, with the youths following closely on their
heels. The goats hurried down, and waited in line across
the road for their mistresses. The sheep followed in a
more leisurely fashion, the whole soon disappearing down
the road in a cloud of dust. During the last few decades
the sheep have been much crossed with foreign breeds,
especially Cheviot, which gains in popularity every year
in the real sheep districts.

Clouds had risen again just as they had done the


evening before, and the rain came sweeping down before
it was possible to get back to the ship. The only thing
to do was to sit under a protecting ledge of rock and
wait till it was over, though we rather doubted if we
should catch the last launch. It was worth it, though
the ground around had got very moist before we could
make a move. I never saw anything more magnificent.
Great rain-clouds came tipping over the huge mountain
that rose sheer from the fjord for 5000 feet. The
sun broke out every now and then, changing the
drops into the most glorious rainbows, with all the
colours ever seen. One hears tell of ships dressed rain-
bow fashion, but man's efforts pale in comparison with the
forces of nature, that from where we sat decked the
Vectis from her bow to the land, and again reflected
above all the intense colours in another perfect bow.

The ship was under way, and slowly steaming down
the fjord, when she again practically stopped. At the
same time she drew in to one side. Few people were on
deck, as the dressing bugle had sounded. I was just
wondering what could have happened, when the well-
known Royal Arms of England and thick gold cables
passed across our port. There was no mistaking our
own Royal Yacht. I am afraid the reception was mostly
from the^port-holes. Her Royal Highness, who was re-
turning from the crowning at Trondhjem, was on the
bridge, with the little princes, and waved in acknowledg-
ment to our greetings. I for one was glad she saw
Gudvangen on such a lovely day.

Slowly we continued our course, taking a lingering
look at the Naero Fjord and its wild surroundings.
Down Aurlands Fjord, which is nothing but an enormous
ravine, the monotonous murmur of the waterfalls alone
broke the silence. We crossed the Sogne, leaving Balholm


to our left, into the wide basin leading to Fjaerlands Fjord,
at the head of which lies Mundal, with its snowy back-
ground. We brought up just as the sun was setting,
lighting up the wisps of cloud that crossed the steep
peaks, filling the hollows of the great Skeidsnipa mountain
that divides the two valleys, at the head of which the
soft though sharp outline of the virgin snow of the
Bojumsbrae on the left-hand side, and the Store Sup-
hellebrae on the right, tell against the sky. These are
two of the easiest glaciers to get at, and are both
beautiful in their way. They are the first that creep
down south from the Jostedalsbrae, which like the
Folgefond is a great plain of snow, the largest in all
Europe — a great untrodden desert of perpetual snow
and ice, covering a space of about 350 square
miles. Every valley of favourable configuration that
branches from this great reservoir of ice is filled with
a glacier, or ice torrent, replacing the water torrent
of the valleys that descend from the Dovre and other
fjelds that are not snow-covered.

At Mundal next morning all the stolkjaerres had
collected for the drive to the glaciers, which can both be
done, if one likes, in six hours. In my own mind I am
sure that these lonely spots are best visited in company.
It would be so very easy to slip on a boulder and lie with
a broken leg or twisted ankle for hours and days without
help, only visited by a curious wandering cow or goat.
The road at first skirts the bank of the fjord, and as we
drove farther on opened the head of the Bojumsdal, "or
valley," with the snows of the Jostedalsbrae as a back-

The road divides on passing a group of farms, the
one leading to the Bojumsbrae keeping straight on,
the one to the Suphelle turning to the right from the


fork of the road, and crossing the brawling Bojum River,
Bojum is considered the grander of the two glaciers.
It is whiter and cleaner, no doubt, but it is more exciting
to watch for the avalanches that are continually falling
from the Suphelle. Neither of the glaciers can be closely
approached by the carriages, both having withdrawn
within their old limits, leaving a prodigious barren waste
of stones which, being devoid of soil, nourishes not one
blade of grass. The road ascends the right bank of the
river, past two little houses, till it reaches Bojum Saeter,
where it is possible to get food. Hence there is half
an hour's walk to the foot of the glacier, over loose
stones and a maze of streamlets. Close to, one loses
the suspended look of the great snow torrent, the foot
rises wall-like, with crevices and caves of the deepest
Prussian blue, paling towards the edges. What makes
the difference of the blue and the green lights in the
ice is difficult to say. The thick look of the water
which issues from it is accounted for by myriads of air
bubbles, but what makes its peculiar colour I should
much like to know.

I left my companion sketching, and drove off with a
friend to see the Suphelle. The driver said it could be
done before seven o'clock. His horse was fresh, and
with no carts leading the way could go much faster.
He was as good as his w^ord. The little horse trotted
well, and soon brought us to the cross-roads, where we
again discussed if it was worth going on and risking a
wet jacket, as all round the clouds were beginning to
gather. The skydsguts again assured us he could do
it easily. Questioning some of the passengers who were
on their way back, and being assured that it was well
worth seeing, we again started off at a round trot.


We di'ew up as we approached the Suphelle Gaard ;
our way was barred by Httle cows, who were standing
all round, and in the middle of the road, the milkmaids
filling their pails with the frothing warm milk.

The milk seemed a great quantity to deal with, though
no doubt this was one branch of the co-operative dairies
that abound in half the parishes of the country. They
number some six hundred and fifty. Most of them have
separators and up-to-date equipments. Part of the
yield, which is a big one, about two hundred and twenty
thousand gallons a day, is sold in England at high
prices. Norwegians have not yet succeeded in making a
cheese that suits the foreign taste. The girls sitting
busily at work amid the birch trees at the side of
the road, the little red-and-white or black-and-white
kine waiting their turn, or being sent off with a pat
on the back to nibble the herbage round about, made
a pretty picture. It seemed to me the bell-cow had to
bide till the last, as she was tethered and waiting patiently
for the end.

The last stolkjaerre was on its way home before we
had aiTived at the spot where it was necessary to con-
tinue the road on foot. The river came rushing towards
us with a great noise, unlike the Bojum's streamlets. It
poured forth, a full volume of the palest green water,
straight out of the bowls of the glacier, streaming from
underneath an overhanging arch of ice. At the top
the Jostedal piled its snow as though castellated against
the dull grey sky. All the time the ice was speaking,
groaning, and pattering down a steep wall of rock on
which the snow could not lodge. Eelow again the ice-
field spread, not clean and white like Bojum's, but dirty
and brown like cinders laid on a slippery road. The edge,
soiled and rough, terminated amidst a wilderness of stones.


I jumped at a i*eport, sharp and clear as of a gun ; on
looking up to the spot from which the noise came I saw
a great lump of ice in the act of falling and rumbling
down the steep rock. Suphelle was fascinating in its
gloom and roughness, which was intensified by the
now fast-falling rain.

It was with compunction that I again crossed the
Bojums-Elv on to the main road. The valley where I
left my companion was full of mist and rain, and the
daylight waning. I had visions of the many unpleasant
accidents that might befall a deserted traveller left at
the foot of the Bojumsbrae : and was greatly relieved
when, just as we were sitting down to dinner, in he came,
the rain hanging thick on his hair and beard.

" Has anyone been lost ? " he asked, as he slipped into
his seat at the table. " As I was walking along by
the river a farmer met me, and insisted that I was the
brother of the sister that was looking for me. ' But
you have a sister ? '' ' No,' I said, ' I have not.' ' But I
have come to look for the lost man. You are the lost
man ? ' ' No.' ' Then who is he ? ' " But there, of course,
my husband could not help him, as he knew of no lost

Then he resumed : " As one by one the people picked
their way down the tumbled mass of boulders and grey
sand, and passed out of view, the silence seemed to grow.
I found one great round stone, which overhung on the
lee side, that made a sort of shelter from the shower.
Trouble was evidently brewing in the clouds that gathered
so black and threatening among the jagged peaks which
towered above me. I pulled out my sketching gear,
and began to work. How wonderfully still everything
seemed. The green milky glacier water oozed out from
among the weird ice grottoes, and was lost among the


smooth egg-shaped pebbles of pink and pale grey granite.
Now and then an ice pinnacle would subside, or a little
arch crumble into the quiet water. There was hardly
a sound, and yet the neat and furrowed surface of the
great snow-torrent which forced its way through the
narrow gorge suggested only wild turmoil and rapid
motion. It seemed impossible that these convolutions
and seams which followed each other with such rhythmic
regularity were really moving more slowly than the
hands of a watch. One can fancy with what tremendous
pressure the upper ice forces itself down to fill the space
of the melting lower edge. Pushing and crushing, the
glacier keeps up its silent struggle through the long ages.
It is only now and then that one catches a sort of faint
sound which tells of what is passing in the heart of the
thick-ribbed ice. Is it a wonder that the old Norsemen,
living their lives in solitudes such as these, should people
the waste-places with dreadful jotnar and frost spirits .?

" Soon the clouds began to blot out the narrow cleft
through which the glacier forces itself down into the
valley, and now the great cataract of ice seemed as
though falling from heaven itself. A moment later a
bitter blast came whistling among the ice pinnacles. Hail
and rain pattering fiercely blotted out everything. How
it poured ! Through the turmoil I could hear the tiny
threads of waterfalls clashing down from the rocks
above ; hundreds of them leaping from ledge to

" By degrees the storm subsided, and the thick curtains
of rain and mist were drawn aside, showing once more the
ragged glacier full of iridescent colours, cutting sharp
and clear up against the pale blue sky. Not a single
wrinkle seemed to be changed out of all that contorted
mass of snow and ice."


What can I say of Balholm ? except that it looked
like a jewel, an emerald of the brightest and purest
water, set down by the fjord side. At this spot the
country seems more luxuriant than any other we visited.
Two large hotels and pretty, brightly painted houses
adorn the shore, and have as a background deep green
woods, encircled by deeper blue mountains, on the tops
of which lay a fresh fall of snow. A wide stretch of
fjord glitters in front ; and the little Esse Fjord runs away
to the left, making the prettiest summer picture we had
come across.

The boats flocked out towards the ship. Regular
fairy boats were these, with high stems and sterns,
painted in delicate colours of blue, green, mauve, and
pink, with scarlet cushions in each. They say here
that a great deal of Balholm's popularity was brought
about by Edna Ly all's book, A Hardy Noj-senian. Be
this as it may, there is no doubt that Balholm for some
months of the year is a delightful spot in which to live.
The children greeted us with little baskets full of flowers
for sale, pretty little yellow noisette roses of a lovely shade,
but with a disagreeable smell one does not associate with
the queen of flowers.

At one side of the road after passing the hotels are
some humble cottages built of wood and stone, with a
very slight pitch to the roof, on which the long grasses
wave. The rudimentary chimney formed a distinctly
picturesque adj unct to the cottage ; built as it was of
small boulder stones, square for a little way, with pillars
of smaller stone still at each corner. On these rested a
large slate, kept in place by turf and stones. It would
make a pretty little sketch, with the blue Qord seen
through the waving grasses. The fields on either side of the
road were full of spring flowers. The children were rosy and



healthy, no one seemingly poor or sorry. It was an ideal
morning, and made one feel in tune with the day. We
prowled on and on down the pleasant road, like the
three jovial huntsmen, with nothing much to show after
the day was done. A new house was building, and we
stopped to look, making up there and then a bright
picture for some future holiday, in which one of the party
was to build something similar, and invite the company
present as paying guests. Still wandering, we came to
the Laxvarp, which is a peculiar erection. A long flight
of rough steps from the shore is supported at the end
by two long camera-looking legs that stand in the
fjord. On a small stage on the top is the fisherman,
with half a dozen lines in the water baited for salmon.
Besides these were two or three seine nets, into which
from his elevated perch the fisherman could see all that
was going on in the clear water below.

On our way back we looked into the little English
church of St. Olaf. It is quite ordinary, built entirely
of wood, bright varnished, and tinted the shades of the
rainbow by the coloured glass in the windows ; but it is
quite good in its restful silence for prayer.

Next we ascended a mound surmounted by a great birch
tree, and a modern bautasten pointing it out as the tomb
of King Bele, a character in the wonderful Frithjof Saga,
The thousands of mounds, cairns, bautasteinar (memorial
stones), and graves found to this day all over the north
show the high veneration the earlier English-speaking
tribes had for their dead. These mounds, or cairns like
this one at Balholm, are always situated on some
conspicuous place, from which a magnificent view can
often be had. Most of these bautasteinar bear runes
(writings). Du Chaillu tells us that England, being the
earliest and most important of the northern colonies,


possesses many monuments and objects with runes ;
among them a large knife, found in the bed of the
Thames, now in the British Museum. From the Sagas we
learn that runes were traced on staves, rods, weapons,
the sterns and rudders of ships, drinking horns, fish
bones, etc.

In Runatal (Odin's rune song), or the last part of
Havamal, there is a most interesting account of the use
that could be made of runes. It shows plainly that in
earlier times they were not used by the people in general
for writing, but that they were mystic, being employed
for conjurations and the like, and therefore regarded
with a certain awe and superstition. In this song Odin,
who has had to go through a terrible ordeal to learn the
runes, is supposed to be teaching some one and giving
advice. Nine was the sacred or mystical number, and in
stanza six Odin shows which tribes or people knew the
art of writing runes. It is unfortunately too long to give
the whole in this work.


" I know that I hung
On the windy tree
Nine whole nights,
Wounded with a spear.
Given to Odin,
Myself to myself;
On the tree

Of whom no one knows
From what roots it comes.

They gave me no food.
Nor a horn (drink) ;
I peered downward,
I caught the runes.
Learned them weeping ;
Thence I fell down.


Nine songs of might

I learnt from the famous

Son of Botthorn, father of Bestta ;

And I got a draught

Of the precious mead

Taken out of Adrerir.

Then I became fruitful

And wise ;

I grew and I throve ;

Word followed word

With me ;

Act followed act

With me.

Thou wilt find runes

And letters to read,

Very large staves,

Very strong staves,

Which the mighty wise one drew

And the high powers made

And the Hropt (Odin) of the gods carved

Odin (carved runes) among the Asar ;

Dain with the Alfar ;

Dvulin with the D verger ;

Alsvid (the all-wise)

With the Jotnar ;

Some I carved myself . . .

I know incantations

Which no king's wife knows,

And no man's son.

Help is the first one called.

And it will help thee

Against strife and sorrows,

Against all kinds of grief . . .

The ninth I know
If I am in need


To save my ship afloat

I hush the wind

On the waves,

And cahn all the sea.

The tenth I know
If I see hedge-riders
Playing in the air,
I cause that
They go astray
Out of their skins,
Out of their minds . . .

The sixteenth I know,

If of the comely maiden,

I want all the heart and the love ;

I change the mind

Of the white-armed woman

And turn all her heart . . .

I know the eighteenth,

Which I will never tell

To maiden or man's wife.

Except to her alone

That holds me in her arms,

Or is my sister ;

All is better

That one alone only knows.

That is the end of the song . . ."

In stanza ten by hedge-riders Odin means witches and
ghosts, who were beheved to ride on hedges and tops of
houses at night. Norway and its weird crowd of jutals,
trolds, werwolfs, and other uncanny spectres must have
been an uncomfortable place for nervous people in those

From King Bele's mound the road goes on, shaded
in places by tall trees, past villas with pretty gardens,
especially Fru Dahl's, over the hedges of which I was


rude enough to gaze, fascinated by the smell of I'oses
that grew luxuriantly. Fru herself was in the garden,
a handsome tall woman in a lovely coloured red gown
that seemed to suit her surroundings exactly. She was
tending and clipping her roses. To her courtesy
I was indebted, and dared to enter the house,
though a stranger, which gave me the opportunity
I so much wanted of seeing an artistic Norwegian

Mr. C. Dahl, the painter, received me most genially,
and showed me his pictures and some splendid studies
of fair Norse maidens. The flower-scented air wafted
the long white curtains to and fro ; these had a wide
band of Norwegian embroidery at the edge. The sun-
light, flickering on the varnished walls, lit up a great
vase of big scarlet poppies placed on the narrow long
table, which had for cover a material that I have only
met in Norway. It is too thick for muslin and not
thick enough for canvas, and is embroidered in scarlet
and blue. The furniture was carved and brightly
painted. Quaint old cupboards and curious little
cabinets, in some cases made from the ancient carved
and painted horse collars, stood about the room. Hand-
made hangings from designs by Munthe decorated the
walls. Not one colour jaiTed, yet all was as bright
as it well could be, and so exactly what a house built
of wood requires.

Monsieur was full of the fete that he was orcranising;
for the reception of King Haakon vii., who was to
arrive that day or the morning of the next. Accom-
panying us to the quay, he told how all the boats
were to collect and row out to meet the yacht. The
people were all to be dressed in gala costume, and,
after rounding to, while singing the national air.


were to go ahead and lead her to her anchorage.
Unfortunately time and tide wait for no man. The
Vectls steamed slowly away, leaving Balholm a grand
silhouette of purple mountains against a gorgeous yellow



IT was just the soft twilight of the midnight hour

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Online LibraryM. A WyllieNorway and its fjords → online text (page 12 of 23)