M. A Wyllie.

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pervading little shawl, thrown over the head, the dark
skirt and big apron, were all we saw — the shawl that
might be seen anywhere and any day from Connemara to

There is a railway from Christiania to Eidsvold, the
oldest in Norway. It was constructed in 1851. This was
to a great extent the property of a few English engineers
and contractors. It was a most profitable speculation, as
might be expected, as it opened out this great highway
of Norway. Transit at a halfpenny a mile, at con-
venient hours, naturally induced the whole population to
become habitual railway travellers. This railway passes
through a rich fertile valley, with a pretty river winding
along it, and then plunges through some dense forests of
tall pines, with stems so straight and uniformly tapered
that they appear like huge fishing-rods. Their bark has
a fine red colour, which reflects the sunlight and fills the
whole atmosphere between the labyrinth of bare poles
with a warm tinge.

Eidsvold is beautifully situated on the river which flows
from the Miosen Lake and unites with the Glommen. In
the farmhouse of Eidsvoldvark the Norwegian constitution


was adapted in 1814. The building has been purchased by
Government, and embellished by portraits of members of
the first diet. There is a hotel at the station, where it
it possible to procure all one wants.

The Miosen is the largest lake in Norway, and has been
called Norway's inland sea. It winds away for 62
miles, and is not unlilce Windermere, The mountains
that form its basin rise to a height of 2300 feet.
Their form is not remarkable, but their sides, sloping
down to the lake, are covered with rich emerald
verdure, rivalling, if not excelling, our own green
fields, even those of Ireland. These slopes are backed by
fine woods of birch and mountain ash, and dotted about
them are wooden farmhouses. Altogether the Miosen
is a beautiful lake, but does not excite raptures in this
country of grand scenery.

About half-way on the lake is the site of the ancient
town of Stor Hammer, now called Hamar, which before
the railway was nothing but a large hamlet, as its name
signifies. Now it seems a most prosperous and well-to-do
town, which dates as a municipality from 1848. It is the
seat of the Amtmand, or governor of the district, and of
a bishop, and is charmingly situated between two bays,
the Furnaesfjord to the north, and the Akersvik to the
east. Hamar dates from 1152, when a bishopric was
founded here by Adrian iv., whose name was Nicholas
Breakspeare. Born before 1100 a.d. at Langley, near
St. Albans in Hertfordshire, he is the only Englishman
who has occupied the papal chair. He was sent as a
legate to Denmark and Norway in 1146. On this
mission he converted many of the inhabitants to Chris-
tianity, and erected Upsal into an archiepiscopal see. It
was soon after his return to Rome that Anastasius, suc-
cessor of Eugenius, died, and Nicholas was unanimously


chosen Pope against his own inclination in November

Hamar was destroyed by the Swedes in 1567. The
ruins of the cathedral, dating from the twelfth century,
remain outside the new town, four round arches of the
nave resting on massive piers. To reach this, one of
the rare ruins in Norway, you follow the Strand- Gaden
to the left of the station, and then Storhammer-Gaden,
passing under the railway outside the town. So much
for one Englishman who left his mark in the world and
in this town. Now to another, who did as much, if not
more, for the prosperity of Norway.

Close by the ruins is the large farm of Storhammer,
which belonged, and probably still belongs, to the family
of Mr. George Bidder, once the famous calculating boy.
His extraordinary, natural aptitude for calculation when a
lad induced his father, who was a stone-mason at Morten
Hampstead, to exhibit him. By the kindness of Sir John
Herschel he was sent to school, but his father could not
spare the goose that laid the golden eggs, and took him
away again. He was saved, however, from this misfortune
by Sir Henry Jardine, who took a great interest in him,
and arranged that he should attend classes at the Edin-
burgh University. On leaving he received a post in the
Ordnance Survey, but gradually drifted into engineering
work with Robert Stephenson, whose acquaintance he had
made at Edinburgh. With Robert Stephenson he made
this first railway in Norway, from Christiania to Eidsvold,
which now continues its way right through the country.

We steamed on till we reached Lillehammer, which you
may call a large village or a small town. It has broad
and remarkably clean streets, large wooden houses, bright
windows with white frames, and lace curtains. There is
scarcely a window in the main street that is not filled


with flowers in bright red pots. Everybody appears to
be industrious and well-to-do, and nobody rich and use-
less. At this point we turned, though it would have
been most interesting to explore the Gudbrandsdal,
which is watered by the Longen, and is the birthplace
of a high-spirited race among whom curious old customs
still survive. According to Norwegian ideas the valley
is well cultivated, but the land has been laboriously re-
claimed by the removal of great quantities of stones.
The chief occupation of the natives is cattle-raising,
and the breeding of the pretty horses that bear its name.
In summer many of them migrate with their herds to the
saeters, which are built high up the mountains wherever
the grass grows plentifully.

We arrived in Christiania in the late afternoon of the
following day. Long before we reached Pipervik we heard
the deep note of the Vectis, and as we arrived at the
quay the last boat was about to push off. After the long
day it was delightful to be once more on board in the lap
of luxury, which consists, in my case, of a bath, a change
of clothes, and a long chair on the cool deck. It seems
so absurd to talk as if one wanted a cool place in this
latitude 61° N., the same as the ice-bound coast of
Greenland ; but so it is, Christiania is full of sun, warm —
nay, even scorching ! The great screw, after two or three
spasmodic throbs, took up the tale, Christiania was left
behind, luxuriant, and peacefully beautiful.

We dwellers on a misty island all dream of the bright
sky of the sunny south, of its clear blue zenith, and
golden-hazed horizon. But when we have lived beneath
it for a while, and gazed upon it daily, the fiery, dazzling
beauty overstrains the senses, and the eye soon tires of its
glare. In this modest twilight of the north, the gentle
" gloamin " there is a tempered fascination that never


wearies us ; but grows continually in loveliness even unto
midnight, and to the joyous awakening of another day.

Whilst writing upon saeters, a night spent in one might
be as interesting reading to others as it was to me. The
privileged person in this case was Mattieu Williams, who
gladly availed himself of the opportunity of spending a
night in the saeter attached to the farm of his good
hostess of Mork. There were several of these wooden
huts dotted about a dreary moorland, round which high
peaks of glacier-bearing mountains rose. He found some
men asleep in one of the huts ; and upon awakening them,
they offered to provide him with food and lodging. As
there appeared to be many saeters, and these attached to
different farms, he inquired whether the one they pro-
posed for his lodging belonged to Mork. Whereupon
the men looked curiously at each other, and one of them,
with a significant grin, quite unintelligible to him, asked'
if he particularly wished to lodge in the Mork saeter. . . .
" Yes," was the reply, very decidedly ; for the fellows
were a dirty-looking set, and he was certain that even a
saeter, if it belonged to Thora Olsdatter, would be clean.

His answer provoked a general laugh, and they
escorted him in a procession to a hut at some distance
from the rest, knocked at the door, and called to the
inmate, who, for some time, made no answer. At last
a blooming lass, a ruddy, muscular, rural beauty — opened
the door, and looked forth with a frown of stern maidenly
defiance. After a volley of banter, which she received
very contemptuously, he was introduced as a traveller who
had come all the way from England to visit her saeter,
and lodge there for the night. He was received very
haughtily at first, until he frowned severely at the scoffer,
and told her of his coming from Mork as the guest of
Thora 01s, who had sent him thither. She then bade


him welcome, and, immediately he entered, shut the door
unceremoniously upon the grinning swains outside, who
were seeking an excuse to come in likewise. She supplied
him with supper of cheese and fladbrod, and showed him
the bed, from which she had just risen, which was to be
his ; explaining that she had slept during the day, and
that her work was about to commence, and would last
through the night. She then disappeared.

In the course of an hour he heard a wild " yodl," very
loud, but not very melodious. The damsel was returning
with a flock of about thirty goats, and some six or eight
cows. She took a little bag of salt from the hut, and,
before she fairly cleared the threshold, was the centre of
a pyramid of goats, who were crowding round her and
leaping over each other's backs, for the privilege of licking
her hand after each dip into the salt-bag. She repelled
the goats as energetically as she had repelled the men ;
but more mercifully, for she thrust the ends of her fingers
into the mouth of each before giving it the buffet of
dismissal. . . . The cows were next treated in like manner,
then seized by the horns and ears, as the goats were
seized before, and each one led to its proper stall in an
adjoining building.

The milking was a work of some time, for the girl
was quite unaided in this scuffle with her flock, and in all
the subsequent operations of milking and cheese-making.
She was queen and mistress of her own domain, and her
efforts seemed pretty equally divided between the cares of
internal administration, and the repelling of the external
male invaders ; whose gallantry seemed entirely confined to
teasing her, and led to no suggestion of aid in her really
arduous labours. It may be that the men were idle
because it was Sunday, so that they had only come up on
a visit to the saeter land. It is, however, notorious, and


acknowledged throughout Norway, that in the saeter
woman reigns supreme. Indeed, the social position of the
male in a Norwegian saeter is somewhat similar to that
which he holds in humble English life on washing-day.

The room itself was about five yards long by four yards
wide, built of wood, and lined with shelves, on which were
cheeses already made, and the materials for making
more. The bed was of the usual rustic Norwegian con-
struction. It consisted of an oblong box made fast to
the wall, and partly filled with straw, over which were
some coarse sheets, shawls, and a sheep-skin. In the
corner opposite to the head of the bed, and almost within
arm's reach, was the great hearth, covered with a stone
and plaster dome. The other corners were occupied by
benches, on which the vessels for standing and mixing the
milk, with the other cheese materials, were placed. There
was also a second small apartment or cupboard, for the
stowage of pans, pails, etc. All was scrupulously clean in
this particular saeter. Soon after sunset, the girl came
in, bearing heavy pails of rich milk from cows and goats.
Some lumps of wood were taken from their store place
under the bed, and a crackling fire was soon blazing on
the hearth. The iron cauldron, filled with a mysterious
mixture of goafs milk and other unknown ingredients,
from which the green cheese that ripens in time to
"gammel ost" is made, was hooked to the black chain
over the middle of the fire. For some hours after the
busy lass was there, stirring, mixing, and watching till the
dawn, when she disappeared.

Most of the flat land in Norway is in this southern por-
tion of the country. There are considerable stretches in
the district around Lake Miosen in Kingerike, in the
Christiania valley and on either side of the fjord.
Naturally, the most populated parts of tke country are

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the valleys where the farms cluster round a lake, or along
a river. Often in the forest districts the farms are
situated on mountain ridges, separated from each other
by long wild woods. Each parish is isolated from its
neighbour, and there are but few villages or country inns,
so that the people live a very solitary life, only meeting
on Sundays at church. The children are rather better off,
as they meet each other on their way to and from school.
On Saturday and Sunday evenings they again seek each
other on the roads, or at one of the farms for a dance.
This is, however only in the heyday of youth; this
past, they live quietly at home, happy and content.
This life can hardly be looked on as solitude, in the full
sense of the word, as the farmer, his wife and children,
servants and tenants, live and work together from year to

The Norwegian farm buildings are, relatively speaking,
expensive to build. The winters being so cold, everything
on the farm has to be put under a roof. The animals
must have good warm stables, the hay, corn, roots, and
crops of all kinds have to be stored in houses, the manure
even has to be stored in a cellar under the stables, other-
wise its strength would be wasted for the land. The
older farms consisted of a multitude of small houses, each
fitted for its own special use, clustering round a courtyard.
Of late it has become the rule to limit the number of
houses on a common farm to four. The older farms, to
my mind, are the prettier, with their silver-grey wooden
walls and birch-bark roofs covered with flowering sods.
The modern farmhouse, or gaad, as it is called, is more
pretentious. The ground-floor is of stone, built for a
great cellar under the whole house. This is generally
painted white, the rest of the house, one or two storeys
high, is built of logs, and generally wainscoted on the


inside, and painted white or red outside. Near the main
building, but separated from it, is the laundry, the room
for the hired help, and accommodation for the winter
store of fuel. The out-building houses the animals, and
the hay, grain, and implements.

The stahbur, or store-house, is a typical Norwegian
piece of architecture, and for some reason or other in some
valleys is far more ornamental than the other buildings,
especially in Telemarken. As a rule, the stabhur is
divided into two storeys, and is used for the storage of
preserved provisions, flour, cured pork, meat, herring,
polonies, and hams ; the year's supply of fladbrod is ranged
along the walls in great piles. I might mention here
that the making and baking of the bread is an art not
understood by all, and that it is the most important and
essential article of food of the peasantry. It is made
from oat-, barley-, or rye-meal. The dough is rolled out
on a large board till it becomes as thin as a wafer and
quite big round. The baking is done on an iron griddle,
which is placed on the hearth on glowing embers.

Formerly, the sheep-skin quilts and calf-skins, when not
in use, were stored in the stabhur, with the blankets,
cotton quilts, and other household articles of value.
Latterly, these have been kept in an upper room in the
large houses. These skin covers sound cosy for a cold
night. Both are very softly prepared, and the peasantry
sleep, the calf-skin underneath and the sheep-skin on top,
the woolly side in. A smithy is generally to be found at
some little distance from the other houses ; and of old
a badstue or bathroom, where the people of the house
indulged in vapour baths. But this bathing custom
went out, Mr. Bjornson says, with the introduction of
Christianity, when the priests and monks set their faces
against it.


While the price of land in other countries has been de-
creasing, the reverse has been the case in Norway, in all
probability from the fact that the holdings are small, and
that husbandry is combined with other means of livelihood,
such as forestry and fishing. In some districts nearly the
whole population move to the saeter, often one or two
days' journey distant. But as a rule, it is only the eldest
daughter on the farm, with or without a female assistant,
and a herd-boy who goes there. Oddly enough, those who
have been accustomed to the life in a saeter, become ill
from longing when the summer comes should they not be
chosen to go up with the cattle ; and the same longing, it
is said, comes to the cows. If one accustomed to going to
the mountains is kept behind at the farmstead, she will
wander about, waiting and longing to get away, and on
the first opportunity, if not well looked after, the herd
will rush to the saeter, led by the bell cow, who knows all
about it.


WHEN the reveille sounded, we were skirting the
rockbound coast of Sydl Telemarken. The rest-
less waters of the Skagerack rolled in long ridges, and
where the low skerries jutted out the breakers raved and
flung white wreaths of foam high into the air. I^ong
winding fjords stretched far into the heart of the ice- worn
hills, for the whole of this part of Norway is a perfect
maze of lakes and swift-running rivers. The rounded
summits stretched away inland for miles and miles, often
repeating the same smooth outline, ridge beyond ridge.
Fresh vistas opened as we thrashed our way west. For
a short time we would see right up the fjord, then the
headlands would block up the glimpse we caught of calm
inland waters, and all would be barren cliff's and tumbling

Throughout the livelong day the smooth rocks were
gliding past. First, in the early morning light, we looked
into the inlet which runs up to Laurvik, a mart for wood
pulp, timber, and ice. In this out-of-the-way corner is an
original and clear thinker, Colin Archer the shipbuilder,
he who first taught naval architects the truth with regard
to wave lines, after the great Scott Russell had been
working for years on a mistaken theory. Here, too, was
built the Fram^ that wonderfully sturdy little vessel which
carried Nansen and his dauntless crew all along the north



coast of Siberia until the islands of Llakhof were reached,
when the ship's head was turned to the north, and she
was thrust right into that dreadful ice-pack which covers
all the dreary region of the Pole. On the 25th September
1893 she was quite frozen in, and everything was made
ready for the long monotonous drift which was to last
until the 17th of July 1896. A windmill was set to
work to furnish the power for the electric light, there
was food in plenty, even comforts of all sorts, yet those
three tedious winters must have been unspeakable in their
long-drawn-out monotony.

Nansen, full of energy, and longing to be up and doing,
chafed and fretted. His story, written from day to day
all through the lagging hours, almost makes one weary too.
Whenever there was a south-east wind and the pack was
driven in the wished-for direction, his spirits rose ; but
often the ice moved south, or stood still, and then his
rhapsodies about his home, the pine woods, and those who
waited for his return, became almost morbid. What a
relief it must have been when he at last left the comforts
of his ice-bound vessel and, with Johansen the sailor and
twenty-eight dogs, struck out over the hummocks and
mounds of the pack due north. This desperate expedi-
tion started on the 14th March. Every day a dog had
to be killed to feed the starving pack, and at last, on
the 8th April, it appeared clear that there were only dogs
enough to tow the sledges back to Franz Joseph's Land :
this was in latitude 86° 13' 6". All the way south the
poor faithful dogs were killed one by one, and at last,
when the open water came in sight, there remained but
two dogs. These were shot, and the two determined men
pushed oiF in two canvas canoes. Winter came upon
them before they had got far south, so a hut of stones and
driftwood was built on desolate "Frederick Jackson


Island."" There nine long months were spent. Bears and
walrus were shot for food and light, and when the spring
came again, the two, covered with grease, and black with
soot, started south once more, and after another hundred
miles of paddling and hauling over the ice, happened to
hear one day the barking of a dog. Following the sound,
Nansen soon found himself in the comfortable hut of the
Jackson Expedition, where the hardships and dangers of
surely the most wonderful journey ever undertaken by
man came to an end.

The most striking characteristic of Nansen's expeditions
is the wonderfully simple means he used to attain his ends.
Everything was so thoroughly practical, his sledges could
be drawn by one man. Instead of heavy boats he used
kayaks — canvas canoes copied from the Eskimo, which
were easy to mend when damaged, and could be hauled
up on the ice in a moment. They only weighed forty-one
pounds, but being decked all over they would go through
a great deal of bad weather.

Colin Archer must have built the Fram wondrously
well, for she was nipped and squeezed in the terrible pack
many times without hurt.

Helgeraa Fjord is the next inlet. It leads north-west
up to Porsgrund and Brevik. Close to it is the Langesand
Fjord. After this we pass thousands of rocky sken-ies.
Inland there are great forests, and one river, the Skiens-
Elv, brings down every year a million and a half of logs
to the sea. The trees are felled in winter, the woodman
enduring many hardships. He never takes with him
more than he can carry in his naenerkout, a kind of
knapsack that is made of birch-bark so closely platted
that it is rendered watertight. A bag of flour, salt bacon,
herrings, oatmeal cake, and dried mutton, form his rations.
From his knapsack sticks the handle of his axe, and the


toes of a pair of boots. Outside are carried a coffee kettle,
and an iron pan.

These woodmen travel on foot, or on snow-shoes, miles
away into the forests, build their own huts, which are
more often than not full of draughts, sleep on hay or
moss, never undress, though now and then they dry their
stockings ; and yet, strange to say, with all its hardships,
the Norse people long for this life.

The logs they cut during the winter are dragged by
horses to the edge of a mountain side, where they slide
down to the river below. In the early part of the
summer, when the melting snows fill the rivers, the logs
are floated. Then begins an exciting time for the gangs
of men employed, who, ready with poles, jump from rock
to log, pushing, easing, and directing the timber that is
constantly being driven into corners and backwaters.
The floater has often to wade in to his middle to cut
loose with his axe or prod off" into the river the logs which
have stuck fast. The Norwegian tramp steamer, with its
tremendous deck-load of timber, is a familiar object on all
waters, and here one may see sailing craft too loading the
sweet-scented fir, through great ports cut in their bows.

Skien, which we pass next, is the birthplace of Norway's
dramatic and lyric poet, Henrik Ibsen, the eldest son of
Knud Ibsen, a merchant of this small port, and his wife
Maria Cornelia Attenburg. For five generations the
family had consisted, on the father's side, of a blending of
Danish, German, and Scottish races, with a little inter-
mixture of pure Norwegian on the mother's side. Un-
fortunately, in 1836, Knud Ibsen became insolvent, and
the family withdrew in great poverty to a cottage in the
outskirts of the town.

After brief schooling at Skien, poor young Ibsen was
sent to be apprenticed to an apothecary in Grimstad,


where he remained through seven long years of drudgery,
which set their mark upon his spirit. In his nineteenth
year he began to write poetry of a gloomy kind, and him-
self made a sinister impression on persons who met him.
One of his associates of those days has recorded that Ibsen
" walked about Grimstad like a mystery sealed with seven

I have read through his works with sympathy for the
man, but with little love for the characters he portrays.

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Online LibraryM. A WyllieNorway and its fjords → online text (page 4 of 23)