Travel Letters: Aak, Norway (1872)

DEAR FATHER, — We have been spending Sunday at this remote little place in the mountains, at the mouth of the Romsdaal Valley, which is one of the most remarkable gorges in Norway. We came here in a three days’ journey from Lillehammer, whence I wrote to William last Wednesday. The traveling is very odd. We have our own carioles, which we took with us from Christiania, having hired them for a month. In these we travel about fifty miles a day. The cariole is a sort of sulky, something like a country doctor’s chaise, with just room for one person and a place to strap on a valise behind. The roads have stations every ten miles or so, where the people are obliged to furnish you a change of horse, which you take on to the next station. A small boy goes perched on the baggage behind to bring the horse back. In this way we are always changing horses. I have driven some twenty or thirty already, mostly strong, willing little brutes, who make very good time and do not seem to mind my overweight. The road has been very beautiful ; last evening’s ride, especially, was most magnificent, through the gorge of Romsdaal. There is nothing in Switzerland like it. Our weather has been generally excellent, with occasional showers which have not hurt us, nor delayed us much. It is a land where it makes not the slightest difference when you travel, for it is broad daylight all night, being literally light enough to read easily in the open air at midnight. The only trouble is to get to sleep at night with the daylight in the room, and to keep asleep in the morning.

This morning we walked about three miles to a Norwegian country church, and attended service there.

It was very interesting. The little church was crowded and the service was full of spirit. The sermon was dreadfully long, at least to us who listened to it as foreigners, and did not understand a word. After service there was a baptism of two babies, and then the catechising of the girls and boys of the parish — funny little folks they were ! The people all belong to the Lutheran church, which is the Established Church of the Kingdom. They are a most thrifty, decent, poverty-stricken people, perfectly honest, and not at all handsome.

I wish that you could see the view as I look out of my window. The valley is completely shut in by mountains of the most gigantic size, and splendid in their shapes. A beautiful green river runs down through it, and the fields in the bottom of the valley are green and rich. A pair of carioles has just driven up to the little inn door, and the people are chattering in Norse about rooms and suppers in the most excited way.

Tomorrow morning we take a little steamer very early to go to Molde, down one of the most beautiful fiords ; then we shall keep down the coast to Bergen, exploring the fiords as we go along ; from Bergen back across the country to Christiania, where we shall be in about three weeks ; then to Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Copenhagen, Hamburg ; and then home. Nothing from Fred ; you have heard from him of course. Love to all.

Most affectionately yours,

PHILLIPS.