M. A Wyllie.

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that will suit me. I can ride splendidly ; have done so
all my life. What did you say the cost of the horse
would be ? " I again opened my Baedeker and read out
12 kr. ; that she would have to start from Sundal on the
Mauranger Fjord; that there was an hotel there where
she would have to stay the night, as it was impossible
to make the start that day ; the hotel stood near to the
gaard of Bondhus, and that Samson Olsen, Sundal, was
a competent guide.

Then I told her all I knew and had read. That, to
begin with, it was a beautiful voyage to Odde, and that
the scenery as the Mauranger is approached displays the
most picturesque grouping of high mountains. She
would have to leave at 6 a.m., and it would take her
seven or eight hours to arrive at Sundal, where she would
be in time for dinner. " I should not want to dine,''
she remarked ; " I have some sandwiches." " I dare say,"" I
said, " but would they not be rather dry by then, or would
it not be better to keep these provisions for the Folgefond,
as not so long ago the supplies provided by the hotel-
keeper were not very good ? " This trifle was waved aside,
and I continued : " Well, you would have to start early
with a short trip by boat to the head of the fjord, land
at Gjerde, a cluster of cottages. Once clear of the


village your road lies through fields traversed by a roar-
ing torrent, which farther on breaks over the rocks in
fine cascades. Then through a wood, and you emerge
in full view of the really magnificent Sondefos, tumbling
from a great height, and throwing up clouds of spray,
through which you will have to pass. Then you will find
yourself in a tremendous amphitheatre, the walls rising
in front and on either side to a height of some two or
three thousand feet. You will wish you had never
started, but your guide will show you the way over a
rough but not difficult road. I suppose you can climb ?
— for the ascent is very steep, and you will have to rest
constantly. All the way you see the waterfall, which
looks finer and grander as you ascend. You next reach
more level ground, and look down upon the dark gorge
you have just passed through to the spot where the
Mauranger Fjord lies gleaming in the distance.

"Again another tier of precipices, with a faintly indicated
and easily lost track along the mountain side under a
screen of rock, which rounded brings you to the head
of the waterfall, — the Sondefos by which you have been
walking and climbing. At your feet the waters that
supply it rush and roar, from a lake at a little distance,
which receives the waters of another and smaller fall.
This raging torrent crosses your path, and I really do
not think you will like it. There are only a few slippery
rocks to the middle of the stream, and then a little plank
bridge to the other side, a narrow little foothold between
the wall of rock and roaring stream. Everyone says it
is the nastiest bit in the day's march.

" You would then have to wait a few minutes whilst
your guide finds the boat to cross the lake. The desolate
valley is strewn with huge boulders, where, in a sheltered
corner, stands the Tourist Hut. You might have to


stay there the night should you be too tired to go on.
There remain a good thousand feet still to climb on a
steep and rugged road. Creeping up these bare rocks is
like mounting the steps of a ladder, with an occasional
plateau as a change.

" Horses manage this piece of the road wonderfully well.
The sturdy little animals scramble up the steep slippery
rocks without a stumble. About this height you reach
the snow -line, and have to cross several broad patches,
which may be very heavy work, according to whether the
sun is shining or not. After a while the great snow-
field begins in real earnest. It has a hard frozen surface,
with here and there a slippery piece telling of the glacier
just beneath. You walk or ride on till you reach the
half-dozen sledges, kept under the shelter of a cluster of
rocks which rise like islands in the midst of the great sea
of ice and snow. The horses are harnessed, and can pull
but slowly till they reach the highest point. If the
weather is only fine and clear you think nothing more of
the climb. You revel in the grand and awe-inspiring
spaciousness, in the peculiar, solemn silence, which holds
the air when the winds are at rest.

"Around the margin of this great white ocean rises a
border of dark, rugged mountain tops of every shape and
outline. You can see nothing of the fjords. They lie
quietly sleeping at your feet, deep down in the bottom of
the dark valleys. To the south lies the Sor branch of the
Hardanger, and straight across this invisible gulf you can
see the dark ravine of the Skjaeggedal, with a glimpse of
the gloomy Kingedalsvand beyond. Above the ravine
rises the curious square top of the Haarteigen, and away
and away the giant peaks of the Hardanger. Having
admired the prospect, the horses again start off at a
gallop. If you have ever experienced the pleasure of


running before a strong wind in a small boat, you will
recognise the same sensation as you spin along over the
crisp snow, with a rapidity and smoothness which constitute
the acme of locomotion. The wind sings in your ears and
the horses' hoofs pelt you with little lumps of snow.
This lasts, with ups and downs, for an hour and a half.

" Down you slip, stumble and run, till you are off the
snow and among the rocks again, some hundred feet
below the summit of the Folgefond. Now you come to a
monotonous bit of hard Avork, and if the sun is out a most
fatiguing one. In a short time you catch sight of Sor
Fjord, and the road then follows the course of the
Tokheimsfos. From its head to the fjord level is
strikingly picturesque. At Tokheim you can enjoy a
rest, or proceed to Odde, which is about two miles off."

Nothing I might say, however, deterred the lady, until
in my room in the hotel at Sandven she started counting
her money. " I have just 25 kr.," she remarked. " Then
you cannot do it," I replied ; — " even if you joined a party
at Sundal it would cost you 15 kr. Besides, there is your
fare from here to Sundal, meals, and a nighfs lodgings.
My advice is, take the next steamer back to Eide, fetch
more money, and tell the hotel-keeper where you are
going." The lady replied : " I will fetch the money, but
will not tell them where I am going." It was with a
sense of relief that we saw her off on board the next
steamer bound for Eide. Weeks after we had arrived
home I received a post-card with these few laconic words :
" I never got there."

The approach to Odde was very beautiful in the soft
twilight. Here we had reached the end of the Sor Fjord,
and the terminus of the great routes from Telemarken
and Stavanger Fjord. Lights Avere twinkling in the big
Hardanger Hotel that stands on the left-hand side of the


^ord, with the church, and a group of lesser hotels, backed
by orchards and trees. Odde is a place for waterfalls ;
you come to them one after the other if you follow the
Telemarken road. It is possible to ride or walk, but if
one is strong enough nothing is better than a good walk
after the lazy luxury of board-ship. We followed the
road past the landing place of the Jordal steam -boat,
under menacing rocks, and over debris, enjoying the
brisk air and the lovely background of the Jordal,
Burbrae, and Folgefond. Farther on we came to the
Kjondalsfos and the Strandsfos, descending from the
Svarteunt on the other side. Here we sat down for a
little to enjoy the roar of the falls, and ate the sandwiches
we had brought with us. Then on we went to Hildal,
where tumbled the Hildalsfos. Passing on to the bridge
we had to draw to one side to allow a herd of goats to
pass. We had to walk some way beyond Gronsdol before
we came to the wonderful fall called Lotefos, which unites
its waters with the Skarsfos. Opposite them is the
diaphanous veil-like Espelandsfos, one of the most
beautiful waterfalls in Norway.

No wonder Odde is popular. It deserves to be, as it
has all that makes a holiday enjoyable. Good housing
and splendid walks, and the pass of the Folgefond for
the more adventurous, and the difficult and sometimes
fatiguing journey to the Skjaeggedal. A few nice shops
adorn the village. Nowhere have I met such trusting
shopkeepers. One informed me that he would send some
embroideries that I lingered over to my address in England.
" You can send me a cheque from thei-e," he said. " Have
you never been taken in ? " I asked. " No," was his answer ;
" and I suppose I will go on trusting in the English till I
am." Good man ! May it be a long time before he
meets with the rogue.


The much-talked-of Sunday costumes we did not see.
The long dining-hall of the Hardanger Hotel was bright
in the extreme. The maids in their pretty costumes
waited on the company deftly and well; for these the
bright ornamentally carved wood- work and painted frieze
of goblins formed quite the right setting.

If the weather be fine one should certainly go to Utne.
It is situated at the commencement of the Sor Fjord,
which is one of the terminal branches of the Hardanger.
Here is a wonderful combination of savage grandeur
and striking beauty. Lofty mountains slope steeply down
to the water, thrusting forward sharp promontories.
In between are sheltered bays with verdant banks of
gently sloping, cultivated land. Comfortable, clean-
looking farms are dotted here and there. A fair-haired
farmer told us many things about the beauty of the
view seen from the top of Hanekanob, at whose feet lie
the Utne Fjord, Eid, and Sor Fjords, and of the game
that can be shot in the neighbourhood. He spoke of
the chances of a good crop this season, and of his friends
in America. He stood a characteristic figure, the true
type of the Scandinavian.

Utne was famous in Saga times as the Thingstead, or
place of assembly of the ancient parliament. It was then
probably of more importance than now. The government
of Norway by Things, a thousand years or so ago, was
rather remarkable for these times. It was perhaps as
well organised a system of local government as was then
in existence anywhere in Europe. There were several
kinds of Things, ranging in importance, and in their
powers. According to the Sagas, there were four principal
Things responsible for the government of Norway, —
namely, the Borsarthing in the south, Eidesvoldthing in
the centre, Frostathing in the north (Trondhjem), and the


Gulathing in the west (Hardanger Fjord and Sogne Fjord).
Besides these, and more or less in co-operation with and
subservient to them, there were numerous minor or local
Things, which were courts of assize for small districts.

Konungsthing was a Thing summoned by the King
himself. Maundrapsthing, a Thing summoned in con-
sequence of a murder ; Mauntalsthing, for the equalisa-
tion of the tax ; and Vapnathing, to examine if every
man possessed the weapons prescribed by law. All
members of the Thing, according to law, had an equal

The Thing summons in case of murder was an arrow
that was sent from farm to farm, and called upon all
Thing men to meet the fifth day after the summons. In
the funny old regulations this summons was " to be carried,
and not dropped." It was to go " between the winter
houses, and not between the soeters." No delay was to
occur in weather fit for travelling except at night, " should
sleep be necessary, but not unless." The men who carried
the arrow were to cut three notches on the door-post or
door, and put the summons over the lintel. All baendr,
but those being single-handed workers or disabled, were
obliged to attend the summons or pay a Thing-fine. The
Thing was held in an open place called Thingvoll. In
early days the site was near a temple, and after the
introduction of Christianity near a church. The spot
chosen was by a hill, from which all announcements were

The Tiling plain, according to Du Chaillu, was a sacred
place, which must not be sullied by bloodshed arising
from blood-feud or any other impin-ity, and the Thing
from the time it was opened until it was dissolved was,
during pagan times, under the protection of the gods.
Any breach of the peace was a sacrilege which put the


guilty one out of the pale of the law. Between the
sessions of the Thing amusements took place, and battles
and prowess was retold by the scalds assembled. Time
has made very little change in the system ; the Amt,
Fogderi, and Formanskab are merely different kinds of
Things with modern names. As matters stand to-day,
every parish has its Formanskab, or board of guardians,
with a chairman. A cei'tain number of parishes go to a
Fogderi, presided over by a Foged ; and a certain number
of Fogderis go to an Amt or county, — the principal
official being called the Amtmand. The responsible
officials are the Foged and his assistants, the Lendsmands ;
the latter, one to each parish, doing all the dirty work.
Once a year the Amtmand meets the representatives of
the Fogderis and of the Formanskabs in solemn assembly,
whereat the affairs of the county are discussed.

The promontory lying opposite Utne is known as the
Oksenfjeld, and from its summit there is the most superb
view imaginable. It is historically a place of some interest,
having been used in 1807 as a station whence to signal
the approach of the English fleet, which it was imagined
might descend on Norway. Even now one sees the re-
mains of the old watch-tower, and not so long ago the
pole and tar barrel which served for the warning beacon
were to be found close at hand. This system of beacon
signals was adopted in Norway as far back as the time of
Haakon i. It was calculated that within a week the news
of an enemy's approach could be transmitted by means of
beacons from one end of the kingdom to another. The
Government proclamation relating to the outbreak of
hostilities between Denmark and England in 1807, and
the orders on the subject of the Oksen beacon, are still
in existence.

The instructions to Lensmand Christen Jousen Hangsc


are of considerable length, and lay down minute details
as to the methods to be adopted in the event of an
English fleet appearing in the Hardanger. Thus two
watchmen were to look out from Oksenfjeld day and
night. If any other beacon was seen alight, or any
hostile vessels observed, the tar barrel was to be at once
fired, and news of what had been seen immediately
despatched. Express boats and land conveyances were
to be kept constantly in readiness to take the news to
Bergen. The Lensmand was also instructed to arrest
all Englishmen in his district, and to take possession of
their property. As matters turned out, the beacon was
never lighted.

Overhanging the fjord, above the farm of Tjoflat on
the Oksen headland, can be seen a very remarkable
boulder, which the natives of these parts call Runahedlo
(runic stone). According to the legend, Utkjel, petty
King of Utne, once visited the spot and placed a runic
inscription on the stone which ran thus : " Turn me
round, and thou shalt see a wonderful thing ; but ill
befall thee if thou pulst me not back as thou foundst
me." Age and the elements have unfortunately ob-
literated the inscription, and now only a few strokes
are to be seen. As to how it got into its extraordinary
position, some say that " God Himself placed it there
when He created the world " ; and others, that it was
brought to the spot by the Deluge. As a matter of fact,
it is a very good example of an erratic perched block,
resulting from the great ice sheet which once covered the

The Graven Fjord, the fjord down from Eide, runs
straight for some way and quite narrow, with mountains
on either side, Eide resting, so to speak, in a cul-de-sac
with a semicircle of mountains behind. As we steam












' ^'^







away, snow-capped peaks top the nearer ranges, till Eide
disappears from sight, shut out by first one bluff' and then
another. The next panorama opens out, a lovely circle
of bald peaks, snow-capped, and with long narrow strips
of snow running down their steep faces, — a spot where
four fjords meet the mouths winding away, each with
its own rock formation. Then come two wooded islands,
with an opening between, through which one seems to
enter fairyland. Wonderful peeps of blue water and
hazy distance, lovely delicate colouring, — a perfect
feast for the eyes.

The steamer stops at a little quay where the whole town
is assembled, the one event of the day being the arrival of
the steamer with the news of the world. Then on again,
sharply to the right between wooded hills with a few
stretches of sweet grass meadow running down to the
water's edge. Farms closer together, with neat houses
and fair sized patches of tilled ground, increase in
importance and size, till again the steamer stops at
Norheimsmid. This is a delightful spot that branches off
from the Graven Fjord towards the east, into a lovely
placid lake from which the hills rise gently clothed to the
top with trees.

The hotel-keeper, Mr. Sandven, receives you on the
quay, greeting all in a courtly fashion ; and the hotel
porter, who might be English if it were not for his
American accent, comes forward and takes you at once
into his charge. Nothing is too much trouble ; all is done
without officiousness, and you are introduced to one of the
most comfortable hotels in Norway.

Over and over again the words " beautiful, wondrous
Hardanger" repeat themselves. Here from the balcony
the Norheimsund stretches away, a placid, beautiful opal
lake, a looking-glass in which the heavens reflect their


tender colours, the islets, the cottages, the green of the
banks, boat-houses and fairy boats. In the distance
scarred peaks thrust themselves out sharply from the
covering of snow which lies in the deep ravines and
fissures, floating mists catch the rays of sun and reflect
back the tender shades of pink. Above all, the great
snow tableland of the Folgefond, — great, smooth, round-
backed waves of pui'e thick snow stretching for miles,
shining and shimmering all aglow in the rosy evening
light. A boat pushes off" from the hotel jetty with a
lady, taking her two small children for a row before bed-
time. Her scarlet sunshade, their faces, oars, boat, and
every small detail are mirrored in the placid water.
Other merry parties put off', their laughter and prattle
rising to our level in the still air, A band of boys come
down to bathe, and warm ponies just back from a long
excursion are brought down for a swim round the

Being quite sure that surroundings such as these must
inspire music, we went down to the hall porter and,
questioning him, found out there were two fiddlers
belonging to the place, one near at hand, a cobbler. Dis-
appointment met us at the outset. The cobbler would
willingly have played, but his fiddle was broken. The
other was a young fellow who lived some way down the
valley, " He might play perhaps." The porter wrote on a
piece of pink paper in Norwegian that we were a lady
and gentleman who much wished to hear the wedding
tunes on the Hardanger violin, and would he oblige us
by playing ? Thus armed we started on our quest with
our pink paper and careful directions, which were :
" Follow the main road along the river until you come to
a white house that stands back on the road on the left-
hand side, in its own fields close to the waterfcdl.'^


The walk along the hard, sandy road was delightful,
the river rushing swiftly, making a great fuss as it swirled
round and over the boulders that strewed its bed. Broad
stretches of grain fields glowed an intense dark green,
the shade so difficult to paint or describe, grass with a red
glow over all. Though nearly nine o'clock, the men and
women were still hanging the cut grass on the hurdles.
It did not seem easy to find one particular white house,
there were so many little white houses ; the question was,
which was the one ? Seeing a stolid looking lady walking
ahead, we quickened our pace and, overtaking her,
presented the little piece of paper. She puzzled over,
read it, and looked up once or twice with a little grin ;
rubbed her hand softly over the top of her shawled head,
looked at us, laughed, shook her head, and went on her

We felt very like Henny-penny in the story of " The
sky is falling and I'm going to tell the king." Like her, we
gaed and we gaed and we gaed, till we came to two
men by the roadside. The younger looking the more
intelligent, we gave our paper to him ; he shook his head.
Reading over the younger man's shoulder, the second
read it once, then again. His face lit up, and he pointed
to a white house lying well back from the road at the foot
of the hill.

Taking a short cut across the grass we arrived at a
farm or gaad of some size, but with no appearance of life
in it. On opening one or two doors we only looked into
storerooms, so circumnavigating the house we knocked
and knocked again, and were just leaving when we heard
the shuffling of feet, and a sleepy looking woman opened
to us. The little piece of paper she turned over and
over again. I tried to explain by taking the attitude of a
fiddler ; but it was all of no use. She thrust the paper


into my hand, and slowly but firmly shut the door in our
faces. A friendly pet lamb gamboled round, and seemed
to be the only living thing about the place.

Feeling abashed and disappointed, we slowly turned
from the door, but surely there should be some of the
inmates at work in the fields. It was worth while to try
a little longer; so following a grassy road we walked
farther afield till the sound of voices reached our ears.
Sure enough, above us were three figures, a girl in the
pretty Hardanger costume turning the hay on the
hurdles, and two men scything the grass down the slope.
The girl was like the old woman, shook her head, and
would not even look at the paper. The men were
different. The one I approached was like the figure in
Walker's picture of " The Harbour of Refuge," — a very
" Strephon " ; the other, a younger man with a broad,
jovial face. "Strephon" took the paper and read slowly,
with rising colour, a smile creeping over his face ; the
other read over his shoulder and looked up at us all
excitement, nodding his head and tapping his brother
with his finger.

I touched his arm and imitated a violin player.
Strephon nodded his head, put down his scythe, and
made a sign that he would come with us. He pointed
out that his thumb was bound up, and made us under-
stand his hands were stiff" from work. Returning to
the white house, he ushered us into a room, and made
a sign that we should sit down whilst he went to wash
his hands. The room was very tidy, a bed in the
corner, chairs, and a table in the middle, on which rested
the violin-case. All round the walls were hung with
male and female garments, apparently the " best clothes "
of the family. Nearly all the women's petticoats were
trimmed with bands of plaid round the edge of the


skirts, and the liem bound with velvet. On the floor under
each group of clothes were gaudily painted wooden
boxes with scrolls on which were written the owner's
name and a date.

Strephon entered with the lamb gamboling at his
heels, which had to be pushed out and shut in another
room. Then he opened the case as though it were
something sacred, unfolded a large silk handkerchief, and
carefully drew out his violin. He tuned it up, threw
his head back, and after the manner of Ole Bull placed
his violin low down against his chest, and closing his eyes
he deftly began to play, his thin nostrils dilating and
his throat swelling as the music went quicker and
quicker. Like the fiddler in Bjornson's "Bridal March,"
his tunes might have been inspired by the Trolls. Some
were weird, others tender; some that made one's feet
dance, and others so like the pipes (drone and all) that
it was difficult to realise that the instrument was a
violin. He might have been a descendant of " Ole
Haugen," who lived at the great farm of Tingvold, and
played the merriest Bridal March ever heard.

The youth stood still in the darkening room unconscious
of all save his music, without a coat or collar, in his

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Online LibraryM. A WyllieNorway and its fjords → online text (page 6 of 23)