A Wise Captain.
It was while sailing on the waters of Lake Mjosen that we had another curious linguistic experience. Next to Norwegian or Swedish, English is best understood and spoken by the natives, especially among the seafaring population. We did not know this fact at first, and as we had just come from Germany, it seemed more natural to address the people in the Teutonic tongue. You know the German word for bright or clear is "hell." Accordingly, desiring to ask the captain if he thought that the weather would be fine, my friend stepped up to him, and pointing to the sky, said interrogatively, "Hell?"
A Landing Her.
In The Heart Of Norway.
"No," replied the captain, in perfectly good English, "hell doesn't lie in that direction!"
A sail of several hours here through charming scenery brought us at last to the place where we were to disembark. Hardly had I set foot upon the pier, when a man accosted me in good, familiar English:
"Just step this way, sir, if you please," he said; "the carriage ordered for you by Mr. Bennett is all ready".
This surely was a pleasant introduction. There was no trouble whatsoever - no bargaining, no delay. In fifteen minutes we had started on our four days' journey to the sea.
Between Christiania and the western coast is a broad mountain range extending hundreds of miles north and south.
No railroad crosses that gigantic barrier. True, the town of Trondhjem, in the north, can now be reached circuitously by rail. But all the great southwestern coast, including the towns of Bergen and Molde, and the large fjords, can only be approached by several magnificent highways, of which the finest here awaited us, the one extending for a hundred and sixty miles from Lake Mjosen to the Songe fjord. And here one naturally asks, "What is the mode of traveling in Norway? Where do you eat? Where do you sleep? Do you take horses for the entire journey, or from day to day?" It is easily explained. All these Norwegian highways are divided into sections, each about ten miles long. These sections have at one extremity a "station" (usually a farmhouse), the owner of which is obliged by law to give to travelers food and lodging, and also to supply them with fresh horses to the next station.
A Lovely Drive.
These Norwegian post-houses are invariably made of wood, sometimes elaborately carved and decorated. As you approach the door, some member of the family greets you, frequently in English, since many of these people have been in America. If you desire to spend the night, you ask for rooms. If you merely require dinner, you can be quickly served; or if your purpose is to drive on still farther, you simply order fresh horses. For these we never waited more than fifteen minutes, though sometimes, in the height of the season, serious delays take place. On this account it is better to precede the crowd of tourists, and visit Norway early in the summer. Such has been my experience, at least; and judging from some stories I have heard of tourists sleeping on the floor and dressing on the back piazza, I should emphatically recommend this rule to all adventurers in the land of Thor.
Fine Norwegian Station.
But speaking of Norwegian post-stations reminds one of the characteristic vehicle of Norway, - the cariole. This is by no means a "carryall." It is a little gig, intended for only one person. True, the boy (or, in some instances, the girl) who takes the horse back after you have done with it, rides behind. His seat is your valise, and his weight determines the subsequent condition of its contents! There is a charming lightness in these carioles. The springs are good, and the seat is easy. A leather apron reaches to your waist to shield you from the dust or rain; and, drawn by a Norwegian pony, such a drive is wonderfully exhilarating.
These little carriages have, however, one great fault, -their want of sociability. The linguistic powers of a Norwegian post-boy are extremely limited; and when you have ridden ten hours a day, unable to exchange a word with your friends except by shouting, the drive becomes a trifle wearisome. But the reader may ask: "Is there not sometimes great discomfort in traveling by carioles in rainy weather?" Assuredly there is. But in such weather one is not obliged to take a cariole. Norway has other vehicles. We drove, for example, about a hundred and thirty miles in a sort of victoria, the rear of which could be entirely covered in case of rain. This, all in all, I hold to be the best conveyance for the tourist in Norway, especially when ladies are of the party. I know that such a carriage is considered too luxurious by the English; but I am sure that American ladies will gain more pleasure and profit from Norwegian travel if they do not attempt to drive all day in carioles; and if beneath the canopy provided they keep their clothing dry.