Northward bound
The time and place seen through Wilhelm Dreesen's lens was one of tremendous technological, scientific and cultural momentum. It roughly corresponds to the period called la Belle Époque (1880-1914). This nostalgic term was coined after the horrors of World War 1, which had sundered the relative peace of Europe.

Peace, however, was neither long-lasting nor universal. Around the globe, the same technologies that so greatly had expanded Europe's sphere of influence, was simultaneously fuelling misery, conflict and poverty through exploitation and colonialism.

The wealthiest of Europe had for centuries undertaken Grand Tours, spending years abroad in Europe's south. Through a complex set of factors, this tradition gradually became a thing of the past - and along with new technologies, so appeared new forms of travel.
Industrialisation had not benefitted everyone equally. Along with mass production and factories came new societal structures. Uncounted millions of humans, spread across borders and cultures found a fellowship forged by their toil in this new world - a working class of people. Their new age was to be remembered as one of labour, not leisure.

However, a growing middle class also gradually materialised.
For a considerable number of these people, industrialisation and its consequences meant more disposable wealth - and more opportunities to travel efficiently. For those who had always had the means and the free time to see the world, travelling got easier than ever.

Travel, in some form or another, became more affordable, accessible and convenient.
Travelling became a more predictable activity due to technological advances.
This all meant that more people wanted to travel.
The modern European city
As industrialisation and population growth launched European societies into modernity, cityscapes and communities took on a new, unfamiliar form.Although this transition was different for each individual country, the general trend was one of city growth.

Most major European cities grew dramatically in this period, due to migration from rural areas, fuelled further by population growth caused by improvements in medicine.

These new cityscapes stood in stark contrast to the comparative calm of the countryside. Along with the benefits of industrial growth, technological developments and urbanisation, came a whole category of drawbacks.

As large amounts of people built industrial communities together in the 1800s, issues like pollution, sanitation, housing and representation became political struggles that defined the period. The century of industrialisation was inevitably, too, a century of political revolutions.

Wilhelm Dreesen's photographs show a new world rising out of old Europe.
Edward J. Goodman
"The Best Tour in Norway"
To be all day at sea in such glorious weather as this is a luxury that can be enjoyed only by those who pass their lives hard at work amidst the dust and turmoil of London and other great cities.

You feel the benefit of the change at once; your health already in a few hours seems to be improving, and your spirits are sensibly rising.

The last decades of the 1800s was a time of unrivalled mobility and innovation, after more than a century of industrialisation across Europe. The period has also been named the Technological Revolution and the Second Industrial Revolution.
Technological progress stimulated further developments, and created a powerful synergy.

It was the technologies related to steam power that fuelled the great expansion of travel. The spread of steam engines shrank the world by an order of magnitude - and provided a way to see previously unreachable destinations in the comfort, convenience and luxury befitting this emerging social class of globetrotters.

Technology also changed the way Europeans thought about themselves, as well as the future.
The pioneering spirit of the age was perhaps most famously captured in the novels of French author Jules Verne; telling stories of journeys to the farthest reaches of the globe - and beyond.
The advent and implementation of steam technology
1698 Thomas Savery patented a steam-powered water pump, designed for coal mine drainage.
1707 Denis Papin published 'The New Art of Pumping Water by Using Steam', and built a paddle driven boat intended to prove the paddle concept.
1712 Thomas Newcomen developed the atmospheric engine, an early form of steam engine.
1776 James Watt introduced his improved steam engine to the commercial market
1819 'Savannah' made the first partially steam powered trip across the Atlantic Ocean.
1829 Robert Stephenson's steam locomotive 'Rocket' won the Liverpool & Manchester Railway trials. Several new techologies were used in the design, and the pace of innovation was increasing.
1838 The wooden-hulled paddle-wheeler 'Great Western', the largest passenger ship in the world at the time made its maiden voyage; Bristol-New York
1839 'Archimedes' was the first steamship to be built with screw propulsion, rather than paddles
1841 The first trip organised by Thomas Cook, from Leicester to Loughborough, took place.
1847 'Great Britain', the first ship to combine screw propulsion and iron hull crossed the Atlantic.
1867 Famously depicted by Mark Twain in 'The Innocents Abroad', the paddle steamer 'Quaker City' was chartered for a cruise to Europe from USA.
1881-1882 The lavish 'Ceylon' undertook a legendary world cruise, and the ship became the first full-time, all-season cruise vessel in history.
1889 The Orient Express directly connected Paris and Constantinople by train for the first time. The first route, combining railway and ferry, had been launched in 1883.
To a great number of people living in these new communities, travel time was drastically shortened. Along with increased regularity, this made travelling much more easy for those who could afford it.

What is today a fundamental part of travelling, the planning of a trip, was until the advent of steam travel notoriously unreliable due to factors ranging from wind direction to seasonal difficulties.

The English tourism pioneer Thomas Cook is often credited with the invention of the package trip, dating back to the railway excursions for the temperance movement in the 1840s. These day trips emerged only a decade after the first intercity railways were finished in Great Britain - all made possible by developments in steam technology.

Despite such austere beginnings, the tourism of the decades from the 1840s and onward was one in which the upper classes played the main - and often only - role. This was true, although not without exception, for the international tourism to the North. As new and improved generations of steam ships left the dockyards of Europe, an increasing number of destinations became viable for travel.

Among the most extreme examples was Spitsbergen. Located approximately halfway between the North Pole and the coasts of northern Norway, the Svalbard archipelago became one of the new destinations for the moneyed classes in the end of the century - with the first hotel opening in 1896.

How to travel in Northern Europe in the late 1800s
Commerce, travel and cargo was nothing new to the port cities of Northern Europe, which had enjoyed the benefits of extensive and formalised trade networks since medieval times.

To travel by water had always been the quickest route in Northern Europe. Travels by road were generally speaking uncomfortable and time-consuming, and seasonal difficulties exasperated the problems further.

With the advent of commercially viable steam engines, several types of travel became possible - and soon commonplace. Many of these grew to great wealth by offering both passenger transport and cargo services, as well as other sources of income:

Emigrant ships allowed for tens of millions to leave Europe in response to demographic transition, urbanisation - at the cost of displacement of indigenous peoples overseas.

Pleasure cruises, aimed towards comfort and fittingly dubbed 'floating hotels' saw a strong growth close to the new century. While many of these were lively social events fuelled by alcoholic beverages, extensive comforts and on-board entertainment, alternatives also appeared.

The UK based Polytechnic Touring Association, offered cruises from the mid-1890's where intoxicating liquours and gambling were forbidden. The Poly staff acted as guides on the trips - pioneering the field of educational tourism.

Day-tripping or short distance transport vessels like the Feodora of Flensburg was also becoming increasingly popular and common on European shores, lakes and rivers.
The 'Venus' possessed a very fair wine list, and as the wine had not, we belive, paid English import duty, it was sold for much less than would have been charged for it at an English hotel.

A Yachting Cruise to Norway (1895)
Edward Trustram
The suite life?
Organised holidays by ship are not only well over a century old - even in the early days of this form of tourism, harsh preconceptions existed.

The following passage from Edward Trustram's "A Yachting Cruise to Norway" (1895) reveals how a friend of the author warned against cruises:

"If you join a yachting cruise you will be herded together with two hundred or so other fools, for whom you don't care a dash, one-half of whom are intent on flirting with and, perhaps, marrying the other half."

Another friend offered her view:

"Oh, certainly I should advise you to take a yachting cruise. You meet such nice people, and you appreciate the scenery so much more when you have sympathetic companions. You have no trouble about hotels, no discussions as to where to go, and no responsibility."
Another great technological leap of Dreesen's time, was that made in the realm of photography. The earliest forms of photography required specific conditions, portable darkrooms, and the equipment was fragile and impractical. Each new technique that made its way to the market achieved its success through ease of use in the field, and general practicality.

As bromide silver gelatin plates were developed in 1871, the photographic plates could be prepared beforehand, and brought into the field. Dry plate photography, as it is also known, gave a new degree of flexibility to the photographers.

The practice of documenting one's travels was never to be the same again.
Tourists travelling northward were rewarded with the sights, sounds and smells of Norwegian harbour cities.

For the majority of tourists, this first place was Bergen.
The view from the chalet was exquisite, and quite worth crossing to Norway to see.

Bergen lay below with its red-tiled roofs and white houses, and its harbour full of ships of all descriptions.

These, with the beautifully blue water of the fjord and the brown, barren mountains beyond, combined to form a picture we shall not readily forget.

Edward Trustram (1895)
A Yachting Cruise to Norway
Old Bergen - New Bergen
Already homes of proud seafarers for a thousand years by the time of Dreesen's arrival, Norwegian coastal towns like Bergen were in a period of transition of their own in the 1800s.

The old capitol was founded in 1070 by king Olav Kyrre, son of the conqueror king Harald Hardråde famously slain at Stamford Bridge.

A trade hub like no other in the North sea, it was the location of a main office of the medieval Hanseatic League. Bergen was by Norwegian standards an ancient town - but also exemplified the new age that was quickly approaching:

Bergen the interconnected - connecting steamship lanes from the great British and Continental harbours to the Norwegian coastal steamers, roads and eventually railways, Bergen enjoyed the benefits of being a crossroads more so than ever.

Bergen the modern - the B.E.F. (Bergen Elektriske Færgeselskab/Bergen Electric Ferry Company) launched its first ferry in 1894, and quickly expanded. More than a century later, the last "bæffen" ferry is still a famous sight in Bergen harbour, with daily departures.

Bergen the progressive - a famous cornerstone of Norwegian alcohol policy is the high taxes levied on alcohol sales. Gaining substantial attention in the 1890s from its tounge-in-cheek local name, "Drammensveien" / "Dram Road" leading to Fløien, was said to have been financed by the licensed sellers of distilled spirits.
Edward Trustram
A Yachting Cruise to Norway
The Venus was to stop a day at Bergen on the return voyage, and it was suggested that we should purchase a supply of eau-de-cologne as an antidote to the fish, but we feared the scent would be overpowered and utterly vanquished in the unequal contest.

Happily we discovered that an electric launch ran, from a little jetty close by the Venus, to the other side of the harbour every few minutes, and by crossing in the launch we could get into the town very comfortably without encountering the smell.
The skyssvesen encountered by tourists in the late 1800s was a remnant of a distant medieval practice.

Originating in the 1100s, the skyssplikt ("shuttle-duty", transport-duty) was a practice ensuring that nobles and high-ranking officials could traverse the Norwegian countryside effectively - as well as free of charge.

This was one of several practices of decentralised transport and communications, functioning as a form of tax. Each farmer would be responsible for aiding the traveller along the way, to the next station.

This practice evolved over the centuries, and was subject to a series of modernisations in the 1800s - roughly corresponding with the explosion in travel this period saw. Now, reimbursement and standardisation was the name of the game.

The modern skysstation was a subsidized farm that kept fresh horses and wagons, and provided room and board for travellers; acting as a coaching inn.

For tourists of the late 1800s, these stations were vital to access the country, as well as to find locals who could speak English, German or French well enough to aid them on their way.

The stations located along the most travelled distances quickly grew into institutions of their own, famously visited by foreign travellers.
Edward J. Goodman
"The Best Tour in Norway"
On how to get around in Norway

(...) And now we had to gain our first experience of one of those vehicles which are peculiar to Norway.
Of these there are three classes :

- the carriole or karriol, a little two-wheeled gig shaped like a boot, which accommodates only one traveller while the driver sits behind him;
- the stolkjcerre (pronounced stolcherer), which has places for two travellers;
- and the trille, more rarely used, with four wheels, for four persons, and drawn by two horses.

On the skyssvesen

The horses are changed at fixed stages called shydstations, from ten to fifteen miles apart.

These are under the strictest Government supervision, and a dagbog or day-book is kept at all of them, in which the traveller is expected to record his name, the place from which he started, his next destination, the number of horses he has used, and any complaints or remarks he may have to make.


The prices per kilometre are absolutely fixed, and what is more, the tariff is rigidly enforced. It is easy to ascertain at each station what is the fare to the next ; and the best way to avoid disputes or mistakes, not to speak of imposition, which is very rare in this honest country, is to get the station-master to write down the fare for you, and show it to the shydsgut when the period arrives for settling up with him.

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