AT the inner end of the long and charming Christiania fjord, at the foot of wooded hills, lies Christiania. It was late in the autumn when, for the first time, I entered the capital of Norway, and months after I had been in Scandinavia. I was tired from my summer rambles. The weather had been so rainy for the past few weeks that I was glad to come to a city for awhile. I found comfortable quarters at the Victoria, an excellent hotel, which is always crowded with tourists in sum mer, but was at that season of the year deserted by them.
The city is in latitude 59° 55′ 3° 58′ north of Edinburgh, and 1° 15′ farther north than Duncansby, the most northern point of Scotland, and has a population of 116,000 souls. It is a thriving place, rising in importance every day; being the seat of the Norwegian government. The King of Sweden and Norway is obliged, according to the constitution of the country, to reside here three months of the year.
As the stranger wanders through its broad streets he is struck by the steady, thoughtful demeanor of the inhabitants, which is but a reflection of the national character, and which reminded me in that respect of Goteborg, in Sweden. The city presents no striking features ; the houses are stuccoed generally, not very high, and roofed with tiles, and the people reside chiefly on flats divided into apartments; but within a few years a large number of villas have been built, and in the new parts of the city are beautiful gardens surrounding many of the houses, and some of the private residences are very fine.
There is an appearance of thrift and comfort; order and good behavior prevail everywhere. Along its quays vessels are continually loading or discharging their cargoes, and steamers leave at all hours of the day for the cities, the commercial marts along the coast, or for distant European seaports.
I often love to think of Christiania and of its kindly and hospitable inhabitants, of the frank and heartfelt Norwegian greetings I received from my friends. No kinsman of theirs from a foreign clime was ever more welcome each time I re-turned from my wanderings in their land. How pleasant are many of their homes, situated in some delightful spots within the radius of the city, and from which views of the fjords, mountains, or a charming rural landscape is obtained : they are surrounded by pleasure grounds, luxuriant trees, and beds of flowers. The well-to-do people are simple in their tastes, live comfortably, and are fond of home-life. The long winters are relieved by social amusements; skating, coasting, sleighing, dinner, dancing, and card parties, with musical entertainments, help to pass the dark days pleasantly.
Society is agreeable. The ladies, like their Swedish kinswomen, are well educated, proficient in the use of foreign languages, very attractive, amiable, and cultivate simplicity of dressin a word, they are charming. The gentlemen are warm-hearted, polite, obliging, and there is a freedom and manliness in their bearing which always pleased me. It is only when admitted to their homes, not once but many times, and treated as a friend, that one can get an insight of the fine and noble qualities of the Norwegian character.
I met many educated men, and these were ever ready to serve me or give me all the information I wanted, making light of the trouble or inconvenience to which my request subjected them. One would send a work which he thought might be useful to me, another a map, or the government statistics, and so on, telling me where I should go either for scientific purposes or to study folk-liv (people-life), or to see some magnificent scenery, and whenever I started, letters to friends or relatives were handed to me, so that I might not be friendless. If a person knew of no one in the district where I was going, he would go to an acquaintance and ask for an introduction for me. The day after my arrival I delivered the letters of introduction I had carefully preserved. These opened to me the doors. of many houses, where I was at once welcomed, and received with great kindness. Friends were soon made, and during my stay of a fortnight I was taught to know what Christiania hospitality meant.
My first visit was to Consul Tho. Joh. Heftye, to whom I was indebted for many and various kindnesses, received from him even before we had met. The consul is an able financier, and has written several works on finance ; a man of vast information and broad views, who, in spite of his large and extensive banking business, always finds time to be sociable with a friend. He is the president and one of five directors of the Turistforening (Tourist Society), whose object is to give to the people a taste for mountain exploration. Among the members are the king and the royal family. The consul is an indefatigable mountain climber and explorer, and in many mountain districts his name is a household word, for they love him for his genial kindness, his simple and unostentatious ways while among them, and often I have heard the bonder people say, when showing me his photograph, “Here is a man who is not proud.” I am very much indebted to him for great deal of personal kindness, warm friendship, and useful information. “You must dine with me to-morrow,” said he, ” and we will talk about what you want to do, and at the same time I will introduce you to some scientific and other gentlemen with whom I want you to become acquaint-ed.” If I had had any thought that a splendid entertainment could not be given in Christiania, it was soon to be dissipated. The large and handsome mansion of the consul is surrounded by acres of well-laid-out grounds, from which a beautiful view of the Christiania fjord is obtained. I ascended a flight of stairs in the midst of small forests of tropical plants and flowering shrubs, which reminded me of a warm climate. The effect of the lights was beautiful. I was ushered into one of the large drawing-rooms, and the host presented me to his charming wife, and then all round: A large company of distinguished men had been invited: professors of the university, writers, journalists, scientific men, officers of the army and navy, foreign consuls, members of the Storthing, clergy men, etc. More than forty guests were seated before a sumptuous banquet. It was a kingly repast. After soup the glasses were filled, and the host, after looking around the table, said, ” Velkommen til bordet” (Welcome to the board), this being the usual way of greeting the guests, among whom were some of Norway’s most noted scientists. Such was my first introduction in the capital. The next entertainment was given to me by a distinguished manufacturer, Halvor Scholl, also a man of great wealth, and much respected by his fellow-citizens.
Among the first to welcome me were the learned friends I had met before in the North, including Peter Christian Asbjornsen, one of Norway’s distinguished writers, whose name is a household word in the cottage of the mountaineer, in the fisherman’s cabin, or in the home of the rich; for what Norwegian does not know his “Folke Eventyr,” “Huldre Eventyr,” and many other of his tales, where the old sayings of the people are so well told ? Besides, he has written on education, forestry, and many other subjects. Few men in his country are more respected than he. But few persons have travelled over Norway more than he has done ; his energy is wonderful, in spite of his sixty-two years and portly form. He has journeyed extensively over Europe, and now every year he travels thousands of miles over his native land. His kindness prompted him at once to see how he could be useful to me in my journeys through his country, and his letters proved of the greatest service. He is, in many respects, a perfect type of a Normand (Norwegian). Professor J. A. Friis, another fellow-traveller in Lapland, kindly gave me some of the photographs of that country to illustrate my works.
The public buildings are not remarkable for their architectural beauty. The palace, built on three sides of a square, is picturesquely situated, surrounded by pleasant grounds. The university building, which is massive, contains a fine library, a zoological and a geological museum. The collection of northern antiquities is not extensive, but contains some very rare and valuable specimens, among which are gold and silver )ornaments, worn by the former inhabitants in heathen times, Ind valuable coins. In the national picture galleries are some landscape paintings of great beauty, by Norwegian artists, some of whom have attained a world-wide celebrity.
The Storthing is a handsome building, facing Carl John Square, the finest square in Christiania. The pleasantest promenade is by the castle of Agerhuus, which defends the approach to Christiania: its ramparts have been Iaid in graceful and shaded walks. There are numbers of fine stores, and those of the silver-smiths are specially tempting, the stranger finding in them many beautiful objects, which he frequently buys to take home. Hotels are numerous, but as a rule expensive. The public schools and other institutions are a credit to the city. The environs are extensive and beautiful; the fjord is dotted with islands, and on its shores are villas, lovely woods, and smiling fields. Some of the drives lead to charming, wild, and secluded spots; the highways leading into the country pass through the midst of beautiful scenery. The Christiania fjord is about seventy miles long; but the stranger who only comes to Christiania does not get any conception of the grandeur of Norwegian fjords, and the same may be said of the scenery.
Oscar’s Hall, the summer country-seat of the king, is at a short distance from the city : it is built on the shore of the fjord. The paintings of Tidemand here, illustrating the peas-ant life in Norway, are remarkable.
Frogner saeter, 1700 feet above the sea, belonging to Consul Heftye, is but a few tidies from the city. From there a superb panorama of the fjord, extending all the way to the sea, may be enjoyed; and, looking in the opposite direction, the same extended view is obtained. The approaches to the place are through a large and dark forest, by a road built at a heavy cost to the owner. Sarabraten, situated in a wild region over-looking a picturesque lake, is a romantic spot, belonging also to the same owner, whose love of wild scenery has prompted him to build at these places houses like those constructed in olden times. The winter scenery at both places, with the trees overloaded with snow and icicles, is perfectly lovely ; and not the least among the pleasant reminiscences I have of Norway are the agreeable days I have spent at Frogner saeter and Sarabraten. There is direct railway communication with Stockholm and Trondhjem. The ways of exit from the city are numerous. In summer the many tourists generally prefer to travel by cariole. Comfortable steamers leave daily for different parts of the fjord and for Frederiksstad, near which is the fine water-fall Sarps-foss. Those who wish to make a longer voyage and see the coast scenery have to take steamers which go north to Bergen or North Cape.