That bare, bald crown of old Jordalsnut is certainly a most extraordinary formation. It looks from here as if it would be impossible to find foothold for scaling such precipices, but the ascent is practicable in certain places. The rock is mostly silvery gray feldspar.
The nearer slope, strewn with debris, shows the work of a landslide earlier in the season, most likely when the frost came out of rocks and ground in the spring, releasing a great mass of splintered fragments which had been frozen fast to the mountain during the winter. Such avalanches are necessarily rather common here in Norway, but, on the whole, they do comparatively little serious damage.
These wagons have all come up from the steamboat wharf at Gudvangen, five or six miles away, bringing tourists for a day’s excursion to Stalheim’s. Now while the horses wait here the passengers are doubt-less climbing that steep zigzag road, which we lately saw (from Position 56), or refreshing themselves after such a tramp with a good dinner at the hotel.
Horses like these have a fairly comfortable life, in spite of the loads they have to pull. Of course, they are sometimes sadly overworked, like the poor beast in Jonas Lie’s story of Little Grey (Nordfjordhesten), or stupidly ill-treated by some quick-tempered youth, like the one whom Synnove Solbakken afterwards tamed into manly self-control. As a rule, however, the Norwegians are good to their animals, and treat them as well as they know how. The men themselves will probably spend this interval of waiting in smoking and talking politics. Norsemen are stubbornly argumentative among themselves, and take sides with vigorous decision on all sorts of public questions, helped out with more or less one-sided statements of facts in partisan newspapers to which they subscribe. Anybody who knows how people discuss politics in American country districts, has a pretty good idea of such arguments over here. Indeed, in a gathering like this there may easily happen to be some fellow who has been in America, and can quote precedents of transatlantic success or failureapropos of some of the subjects talked over. In old times a man who had been to America and returned was something of a lion, and received a good deal of frank deference from his less traveled neighbors. Now that returned travelers are more common, they have somewhat less prestige, partly because they brag too much about American ways. Norwegian patriotism involves a peculiarly sensitive pride which will not willingly allow praise of any other land implying criticism of this one. It is a good object lesson for some Britons and Americans, who have the same fault and rather pride themselves thereon! Ibsen and Bjornson have for years been loyally striving to cure this sort of sentimental vanity in Norway, by showing up with the artist’s relentless pen the sordid, narrow, unclean and ugly side of Norwegian life as well as its noble and beautiful side. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” In his own time Ibsen suffered so much abuse from his misunderstanding countrymen, that he might well know how to write An Enemy of Society as the satirical picture of a reformer’s experiences ; . . . all the same he bravely did the work he had deliberately laid out for himself”to rouse the nation and lead it to think great thoughts.”
Our next position is to be at the northern end of the valley, just where the sea reaches in. We find the place marked 59 on the map.