A Norwegian Youth.
OF all the countries on our globe, Norway, in some respects, must rank as the most wonderful. From the North Cape to its most southern limit the distance is about eleven hundred miles. Nearly one-third of this great area lies within the Arctic circle. One would expect its climate to be that of Greenland; but Nature saves it, as a habitation for the race, by sending thither the mysterious Gulf Stream, which crosses the Atlantic for five thousand miles, and, although far spent on that distant shore, fulfills its mission, transforming, by its still warm breath, an otherwise barren region to a fertile land. But this is only the beginning of Norway's wonders. Exposed to all the fury of the North Sea, Arctic and Atlantic, the navigation of its coast would be well-nigh impossible had not indulgent Nature made here countless breakwaters, by means of a vast fringe of islands more than a thousand miles in length, behind which are smooth, sheltered channels for the largest ships.
King Oscar II.
Again, Norwegian mountains come directly to the sea. On this account, one might suppose that the interior would be inaccessible. But Nature does here one more act of kindness, and penetrates these mountain walls at many points with ocean avenues, sometimes a hundred miles in length, and with such depth that, at their farthest limits, steamers may come directly to the shore. Moreover, to enhance its mystery and beauty, Nature bestows on this, her favorite, a day that is a summer long, - a light that never elsewhere was on land or sea, - and makes its splendid vistas still more glorious by a midnight sun.
There have been few experiences in my life more joyous and exhilarating than my arrival in Christiania. It was six o'clock in the morning as our steamer glided up its noble harbor. The sky was cloudless; the water of the deepest blue; a few white sails rose here and there, like sea-gulls, from the waves. The forest-covered islands, emerald to the water's edge, seemed gems upon the bosom of the bay. Beyond, were mountains glistening in an atmosphere, the like of which, for clearness, I had never seen: while the first breath of that crisp, aromatic air (a most delicious blending of the odors of mountain, sea, and forest) can never be forgotten.
The Harbor Of Christiania.
"This, this is Norway!" we exclaimed, "and it is all before us; first, in the joy of exploration; then in the calmer, though perpetual, pleasure of its retrospection".
Excited by our anticipations, we disembarked as speedily as possible, and hastened to the Hotel Victoria. It is a well-kept, comfortable hostelry, whose chief peculiarity is a spacious courtyard, where frequently, in summer, table d'hote is served beneath a mammoth tent of gorgeous colors. Moreover, it is a pleasant rendezvous for travelers; for while some tourists are here setting forth upon their inland journey, others have just completed it, and with bronzed faces tell strange stories of the North, which sound like tales invented by Munchausen.
Impatient to arrange our route, after a breakfast in the hotel courtyard we went directly to the individual known as "Bennett." "Bennett? Who is Bennett?" the reader perhaps exclaims. My friend, there is but one Norway, and Bennett is its prophet. Bennett is the living encyclopaedia of Norway; its animated map; its peripatetic guide-book. Nor is this all. He is the traveler's guide, philosopher, and friend. He sketches lengthy tours back and forth as easily as sailors box the compass; tells him which roads to take and which to avoid; sends word ahead for carriages and horses; engages rooms for him within the Arctic circle; forwards his letters, so that he may read them by the midnight sun; gives him a list of carriage-coupons which the coachmen cry for; and (more important still) so plans his numerous arrivals and departures on the coast that he may always find a train or steamer there awaiting him. This is a most essential thing in Norway.
The Victoria Hotel.
Mr. Bennett, The Traveler's Friend.