The river here at our feet is flowing westerly (right) to join the Idefjord, an arm of the Skagerrak, below the town. It has come down through one of the best timber regions in all Europe and the port here at its mouth is a town of nearly twelve thousand people, carrying on a profitable shipping business.
That is the famous old fortress we have come to see, up on the crest of the rock, like a Grecian “acropolis.”
The town here at the entrance of the river valley has for hundreds of years been an important strategical point, for it guards the national frontier. Swedish territory begins at a tributary of this river close by at the south (right), though the boundary line is very crooked, and, when one is going nowadays over to Goteborg by rail, the route runs in such a way as to enter Sweden for the first time almost twenty miles farther away at Kornso. In 1658-60, when Nor-way and Sweden were at war, the people living here made a specially gallant stand against invading Swedes, place might be made, had that fortress built in anticipation of future trouble. He called it Frederikssten. The town had previously been called simply “Halden,” but the king changed its name to Frederikshald.
In 1716 came another military crisis. Charles XII of Sweden, the great warrior-genius who had made a record of dazzling brilliancy in one European war after another, came over here to take this Norwegian fortress, but was held off by the valor of a handful of Norse soldiers and townspeople, who applied the torch to their homes. It was a plain civilian named Colbjornsen to whom tradition gives special credit for the defence, but the king’s final defeat at this time was caused by the complete annihilation of his fleet by the doughty naval hero Tordenskjold.
And even that was not all. In 1718 Swedish Charles XII came over here a second time and laid siege to this same fort, determined not to be foiled by defenses comparatively so insignificant ; but he lost his life in one of the trenches of the besieging army, whereupon the Swedes in dismay raised the siege, retiring to their own territory by a dismal midwinter march over the Scandinavian hills. One of the most celebrated modern paintings now in the Swedish National Museum at Stockholm, is a canvas by Baron Cederstrom representing the sad return of the Swedes bearing the dead body of their great leader.
It was to this place that the English Samuel John-son made allusion in his often-quoted lines on the end of Charles XII “His fall was destined to a barren strand, A petty fortress and a dubious hand;
He left a name at which the world grew pale, To point a moral or adorn a tale.”
Tourists visiting Norway always find the west-coast districts especially attractive in point of picturesque scenery. The most interesting way to reach the Atlantic fjords is by going across-country from Christiania.
Consult Map 2 and notice that a short railway ex-tends westward from the capital, a line only about sixty miles long. From its outer terminus at Kongsberg a different kind of transportation service has been arranged by government authoritywe shall see the working of that supplementary service a little farther along in our journey. But first let us have a glimpse of Kongsberg itself. Turn to Map 4. Our proposed outlook is marked 14 on that map, near the right-hand margin.