Norway – Christiania and her busy harbor

Here we are on the hillside, looking northwest. The Swedish frontier is forty miles distant behind us. How steeply the ground slopes away beneath those pine trees, down toward the harborside ! It is all exactly as the map led us to expect. This is near the head of the fjord; we know those waters reach off toward the south (left) to open into the Skagerrak. There is the town beyond. The royal palace, surrounded by its park shows near the extreme northern (right-hand) limits of our view ; those dark masses of trees at the south of the building are in the park. The district between the palace and the harbor is, as we might infer, devoted largely to business—we shall presently go down into that part of Christiania to see the chief shopping district and the largest market (Positions 3-6). We shall also visit a pier over at the farther side of the harbor to watch the departure of an ocean steamship with her out-going passengers (Position 2).

Do you wonder that there should be so many trees in that district straight ahead of us, beyond the harbor? The map shows a big parade-ground over there with trees around it and a grove adjoining it at the south. Athletic contests are sometimes held there, calling together thousands of spectators. Do you see just at the right of a projecting branch of this nearest pine tree a big stone building, with bright sunshine gleaming on its southern wall and a pointed tower showing beyond the ridge of its roof ? That is Akershus, a famous old fortress, which successfully withstood four different sieges by Swedish and Danish enemies in years long ago. The celebrated Charles XII of Sweden in 1716 led the last attack on the fortress. At the present time it is used only as an arsenal and a prison—the modern defences of the town are located farther down the fjord, i. e., off at our left.

The districts beyond (northwest of) Akershus are chiefly given to residence streets; nearly a quarter of a million people have homes here, and other residence districts cover a large area at the north and northeast (right).

Look away over on that distant hill at the left, just below the uppermost of the pine branches before us, and you will see the white walls of Oscarshal, a royal villa west of the town. We shall by and by go over there (Position 12) and look back over the town.

If we could stay on this spot and watch the changing skies through a day in late June, we should find the sun setting after 9 P. M. beyond those hills at the extreme right, and it sinks so little below the horizon that up here on this height we could easily read at midnight. It rises again in the northeast between 2 and 3 A. M., giving a day of nineteen hours. On the other hand, mid-winter brings a day of only about five hours—the consequence of the high latitude.

In Ballou’s volume of travels called Due North the author speaks of standing on this very spot where we are now :

“While enjoying a birdseye view of Christiania from the heights of Ekeberg, a well-wooded hill four hundred feet in height, in the southern suburb, it was difficult to believe oneself in the precise latitude of the Shetland Islands. A drowsy hum like the drone of bees seemed to float up from the busy city below. The beautiful fjord with its graceful promontories, its picturesque and leafy isles, might be Lake Maggiore or Como, so placid and calm is its pale blue surface.”

If we are ready to begin seeing the people and the place at closer range, let us consult Map 3 once more to get our bearings accurately. Our second position is marked in red in the same manner as our first, with lines diverging from our standpoint near the head of the harbor to show in what direction we are to look and how far we are to see.