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and forming a useful line of traffic, especially for that chief article of Swedish commerce, timber, from which its banks and waters derive their aspect of business life.
The scenery near the head of the river, the Gota, just before coming to the wonderful cataract of Trollhattan, is very lovely, especially when looked down upon from the height above the lower locks; but this is seldom dwelt upon by the passengers, who hurry off to the Falls, or sometimes to the inn. This view is seen best in the descent; but in the ascent, that is, in going to Stockholm, an almost unequalled sight fills the traveller with a singular combination of feeling, admiration of man's work, amid the wild wonders of nature's. Never did I see any other place where the art of man had been brought among the sublimities of nature without creating some sense of vexation in the beholder's mind, except in this case of Trollhattan. The astonishing works of engineering skill are singularly in character with the wildly picturesque and curious nature of the scene.
The canal has been cut through the granite mountain to escape the falls of the river Gota, in which the waters of the vast lake Wenern vent
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themselves by a fissure in the rock only 200 yards in width; and over this rock the mighty mass of water dashes itself in this head-over-heels fashion, and is soothed to peace in the quiet stream called in Swedish Gota Elf.
It is not surprising that the Dane, Hans Andersen, accustomed to his level plains, was so impressed with the sight of this place. "It sounds," he says, "to the uninitiated like a fairy tale when one says that the steamboat goes across lakes and over mountains, from whence the outstretched woods may be seen below. Immense sluices heave up and lower the boats while the travellers ramble in the woods. None of the cascades of Switzerland, none of Italy, not even tha of Terni, have in them anything so imposing as that of Trollhattan."
And, taken in connection with the adaptation of the nature of the falls, and even of that of the engineering works around them, to the character of the scenery, such was also the impression the first view of Trollhattan made upon me.
Afar off, as you advance, and before the roar of its mighty voice is heard, you perceive, on the dark fir-crowned mountain above you, a white fallen cloud, a suspended snow wreath,—anything you would think but a mass of water. And when your polite captain assures you it is water, you think the old Troll has arrested its fall and suspended it there, a stationary mass, or a pillar of snow-white vapour.
Then as you go on, still up the Gota, ascending to its parent bed, you see how the young, bounding and exulting river, fresh from its struggle for freedom, bears on its chafed surface some of that young republic frothiness, which a lengthened and widened course will effectually subdue; and see, too, how the great old granite rock looks over it, like the stern guardian frowning on the escape of the prodigal bursting with shouts of triumph from its restraint.
Here we see the same water running away beneath our boat, which there seems to hang like a snow wreath on the mountain side, with the dark pines above and around it. And we come on and on, and now a wonderful chain of locks rises up the face of the mountain, and looks in the distance like the wards of a giant's key; and if, in addition, a steamboat should be standing up there, waiting for the key to turn and set it at liberty, the curiosity of the picture is complete, but alas! the power of the old Troll is lost sight of, and we recollect that machinery is the conuror of our prosaic age. More of these locks, cut mostly in the granite rock, are now to be passed, and for two hours' time we may leave our little boat, and go up, either in a party or alone, to see the falls of Trollhattan.
The walk is a pleasant one, but the village of saw-mills, close to the torrent, is far less in keeping with the naturally picturesque wildness of the spot than is the singular aspect of the enormous locks. We ascend the fir-covered mountain, in which, what are called in Swedish, leaf-trees, and rarely seen in the northern parts of this country, mingle their pleasant murmur with the hum of the saw-mills; but both are soon drowned in the deafening roar of the torrent.
Trollhattan is not like the waterfalls of the Pyrenees or the Alps, or the lovely cascades of Italy; it is more like Sarp-fos in Norway, but beyond comparison grander, and with the advantages of position and scenery. But its chief charm is, that its character is its own, and you do not feel inclined to make comparisons while penetrated with its distinctive grandeur. Around it is no Alpine snow, no Pyrenean colouring, no savage scenery. But everything is vast and wild, and, if the saw-mills were away, would be Scandinavian, and tell you about the Troll who evidently once made it a dwelling-place. The cataract is a vast, whirling, and wonderfully powerful mass of water, which has broken loose that very minute when you first see it, and never can have thundered and roared on thus for ages and ages, dashing over the rocks and tearing through the woods, making the tall pine trees tremble at its self-willed fury, and the woods re-utter its passionate voice, as it sweeps down its uselessly-encumbered descent, bounding over rocks, and encircling in its divided arms a small island of rock, which literally feels to shake and quiver with horror beneath your feet while you stand upon it. So much so is this sensation experienced by the stranger who beholds Trollhattan from this island, standing thus in the very centre of the cataract, that here I was told a German of delicate sentiment fainted, and a still more sensitive Frenchman actually died. The position is really a trying one, and a person of very irritable nerves might find it dangerous. I could hardly help feeling some horrible tendency to jump into the water, and mingle with the mad career of the headlong stream.