Norway – The great market

For over two hundred years the townsfolk have gathered here for the church service on Sundays and for trading on certain week-days. Twice a week at present these stalls are occupied. There are excellent farms and market gardens in the city suburbs, from which these vendors have brought in vegetables, poultry and eggs, butter and cheese—the usual variety of food-stuff supplies. Those big glass cases are for flowers—the townspeople buy a good many. Prices are low here, for incomes are much smaller than in the United States. Farmers like these may perhaps handle not more than $300 to $400 in a year, but they get a good living, subscribe to Christiania newspapers and bring up their children well. Even here in the capital city few householders are actually rich. A city family with an income of 10,000 kroner-(i. e., $2,700) is considered distinctly well off. Twenty or twenty-five thousand heads of families here in town are factory employes, earning small wages in the wood-pulp industry, in saw mills, breweries, woolen mills and match factories. The average housekeeper who comes here a-marketing needs to be a shrewd buyer, in order to make her funds provide family necessities.

Over beyond the church and the house-roofs we can see a range of hills among which some of these very farmers live. The Ekeberg, from which we got our first sight of the town, is a little too far southward (right) for us to see from here now. The country beyond is just a succession of hills, valleys and lakes, more hills and more valleys and more lakes, extending to the frontier of Sweden (some thirty miles away straight ahead), and indeed for miles and miles beyond in Sweden. It was when invaders came over here from Sweden in 1567, to capture the old town of King Harold Hard-ruler, that the people with a sort of heroic insolence set their own homes afire and deliberately destroyed the whole town ! That happened not exactly where we are now ; the older town, Oslo, was a bit farther east on the other side of a small river. It was rebuilt and then, by accident, burned again in 1624, after which King Christian IV gave the place its third start on this ground where we are now. It is the monarch’s statue that we see in the middle of the square among the market-stalls. The city itself still bears his name.

Worship in that big church is according to Lutheran Protestant forms.* This particular building was erected after the Reformation and so was never a center of the older Catholic faith.

That restaurant on the north side of the square is a popular resort, the dishes served being practically about the same as in a middle-class restaurant in Germany or Denmark. Beer is the most popular beverage —there are in fact some good breweries here at Christiania. The apothecaries’ signs on those two buildings may remind us that the most celebrated of modern Norwegians was once a clerk in just such a shop down in one of the southern provinces. Indeed, when Henrik Ibsen first came to Christiania it was with the idea of studying medicine. Many a time since those youthful days Ibsen walked about in this very square. We shall presently visit his home up near the royal palace (Position 10).

But now let us visit that old church itself for a unique view of the market-crowd. Refer again to the same part of the map and notice how the lines indicate that we are to look back across the same square.