Seeing Norway

Out of Norway in old times came vigorous, fearless, powerful men, whose virile energy helped shape the civilization of Europe and America. Out of Norway at this present time flows a steady stream of the best type of emigrants—men and women with the strength of the rock-ribbed hills in their bodies and the light of intelligent ambition in their eyes. What we are to do is to see for ourselves the country that gave them birth, the Land of the Vikings, in its magnificent beauty, and we are to study for ourselves the everyday life of the men and women who remain in Norway and have made it what it is to-day.

The present tour, like nearly all Norwegian tours made by foreigners, intentionally gives special emphasis to such aspects of nature and life as are least like the nature and life of America and England, because contrast makes a traveler’s impressions most vivid. He is far more interested in the novel than in the familiar. And yet, he would get a wofully incomplete, one-sided notion of Norway if he failed to understand that the country includes (especially along the southern coast and up in the long eastern valleys) many good farms conducted according to up-to-date methods, and busy factory towns, where precisely the same social and industrial movements that shape the life of English-speaking communities are being successfully worked out in a Norse environment. But a traveler in a foreign land does not usually care to look at things which he might see any day at home, particularly if those familiar things are commonplace to the eye. He has a right to choose the path of the picturesque, so long as his delight in natural beauty and in primitive quaintness does not betray him into taking an unjustifiable attitude of patronage toward the nation he half understands.

The chapters appended to this Journey (pages 242-359), are intended to suggest, though briefly, certain aspects of Norse life that are touched either in-completely or not at all in the course of the journey itself.

Map 2 shows by means of a long, irregular red line the general course of our proposed route. It begins at Christiania in the southeastern part of the kingdom, makes a detour to Frederikshald on the southeastern frontier, then proceeds westward to Telemarken, where a red oblong set off on the map indicates that a special enlarged map of the district has been prepared for local reference. Districts around Hardangerfjord, Sognefjord and Nordfjord are to be visited with the help of local maps ; then the red route line continues along the irregular coast to Aalesund, reaches up into Romsdal, and touches Trondhjem. The far-northern sights of our tour are indicated on Map 1 about the Lofoten Islands, Tromso, Hammerfest and the North Cape, our last outlook being from a bay off Spitzbergen, straight toward the Pole.

Now to begin our sight-seeing.

The official center of the realm is at the same time the actual center of industrial and commercial activity; it is, moreover, the first large town which a traveler reaches when visiting Norway by the most frequented routes. Our opening sight of the land is therefore to be an outlook over the capital city, Christiania. Before taking our position, however, let us have in mind exactly where we are to stand. Open Map 1 and find Christiania in the southeastern part of the kingdom. Notice that it is much farther north than Great Britain—indeed in nearly the same latitude as south-ern Greenland, the Shetland Islands, St. Petersburg and northern Kamschatka. Observe also how the North Sea lies between Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Great Britain. The distance across from London or Newcastle to Christiania is nowadays covered by a steamship in sixty hours ; in old times, when the sole dependence was on sails and oars, the separation was practically much greater.

Turn again to Map 2, showing southern Norway only. Here we have a good chance to observe the extraordinary fashion in which the Norwegian sea-coast is rent by great, ragged fjords and fringed with innumerable fragments in the form of islands. Notice that Christiania Fjord reaches up into the land quite near the Swedish frontier. It is a voyage of seventy miles or more that a steamship has to make, after entering the fjord, before it lands its passengers at one of the Christiania quays. Our first sight of the land and the sky will be from a high hill just east of the city proper.

The red oblong drawn around the city indicates again that we shall find that portion of our map given separately, on a still larger scale. Let us turn to Map 3 in order to know more definitely the “lay of the land.” The spot where we are to stand is marked near the lower right corner of the city map with a figure 1 in red. Those two red lines diverging from the encircled 1 mean that we are to look in the direction in which they extend, i. e., toward the northwest. We are to see the district which is included between them. Let us ascertain what the map promises:

Position—On the Ekeberg, a hill southeast of the town, across the harbor. Direction—Northwest. Surroundings—Wooded hills. Outlook—The harbor waters must be just below the hill, then a portion of the town, then another part of the harbor and a hilly peninsula beyond. The extension of the red lines into the margin of the map means that we are to see even farther than the map shows. Notice that they include a large building (the palace) on a hill in the middle of the town ; it is close to one of the diverging lines—that means it will be seen very near the extreme right-hand limits of our field of vision.