A Norway Precipice.
A Characteristic Cascade.
A still more wonderful feature of Norwegian scenery is found in its imposing waterfalls. Nothing in Norway so astonished me as the unending number and variety of its cascades, - ribbons of silver, usually, in the distance, but foaming torrents close at hand. On any of these roads, halt for a moment and listen, and you will often hear a sound like that of the surf upon the shore. It is the voice of falling water. On our jour ney toward the coast, during a drive of three days we counted one hundred and sixty sepa rate falls, and eighty - six in the previous ten hours. This was an average of more than two in every fifteen minutes.
True, we saw these cascades in the month of June, when snow was melting rapidly on the heights; but even in midsummer they must far outnumber those in any other part of Europe.
A Thing Of Beauty.
View Near Borgund.
In fact, although familiar with the Alps, and having driven twice through all the valleys of the Pyrenees, I never knew how many waterfalls one country could possess until I went to Norway. There are, of course, magnificent falls in Switzerland, and a great number of them in the Pyrenees; but where you there see one cascade, in Norway you see twenty; and many a Norwegian cataract which would in Switzerland draw thousands of admiring tourists, and make the fortune of hotel proprietors, is here, perhaps, without a name, and certainly without renown.
On our last day's journey toward the sea, we came in sight of an extraordinary building, on which we gazed in great astonishment, for it seemed more appropriate to China than to Norway, and was apparently completely out of place in this wild, desolate ravine. It was the famous Borgund Church, a place of early Christian worship, built about eight hundred years ago. It therefore ranks (unless one other similar church be excepted) as the oldest structure in all Norway. It is so small that one could almost fancy it a church for dwarfs. Around the base is a kind of cloister, from which the dim interior receives its only light. Within is one small room, scarcely forty feet long, containing now no furniture save a rough-hewn altar. As for its various roofs and pinnacles, marked now by crosses, now by dragons' heads, nothing could be more weirdly picturesque, especially as the entire edifice is black, - in part from age, but chiefly from the coats of tar with which it has been painted for protection.
A Girl Of Norway.
Leaving this ancient church, we soon found ourselves in one of the most stupendous of Norwegian gorges. It is hardly possible for any view to do it justice. But for awe-inspiring grandeur I have never seen its magnificence surpassed, even in the Via Mala. For miles the river Laerdal makes its way here through gigantic cliffs, which rise on either side to a height of from four thousand to five thousand feet. The space, however, between these mountain sides is barely wide enough for the river, which writhes and struggles with obstructing boulders, lashing itself to creamy foam, and filling the chasm with a deafening roar. Yet, above the river, a roadway has been hewn out of the mountain-side itself, which is lined with parapets of boulders. When marking out the route the engineers were often lowered over the precipice by ropes. One can imagine nothing more exciting than this drive. When mountains did not actually overshadow us, in looking aloft we could discern only a narrow rift of sky, like a blue river, curbed by granite banks. Below us was the seething flood, at once terrible and glorious to look upon. Shut in by these huge, somber walls, we followed all the windings of the stream, whirling about their corners at a speed which seemed the more terrific from our wild surroundings. There are few things in life that have affected me so powerfully as the Laerdal gorge, and I would once more go to Norway for that drive alone. Certain it is that at the end of it we found ourselves exhausted, not physically, but nervously, from the tremendous tension and excitement of the last few hours in this wild ravine. Finally, leaving this sublime mountain scenery, we saw between us and the coast our destination - the little town of Laerdal-soren. Thrilled though we were with memories of what we had just seen, and grateful, too, that our long drive from sea to sea had been successfully completed, our serious reflections vanished at the threshold of this village. My companion had found it hard to be so long deprived of news from home. Accordingly, he remarked to me as we came in sight of Laerdalsoren: