Tuesday, February 19, 2019

If the weather is stormy, the ice assumes all the appearance of waves

“To visit Langhorn and to relieve his distress, Ledyard crossed from Hamburg to Copenhagen, thus leaving the direct course to St. Petersburg, and, as you shall hear, increasing the distance many hundred miles. From Copenhagen he went to Stockholm, intending to cross over to Abo in Finland, and thus proceeding to the place of his destination.
“The manner in which the passage between Stockholm and the place I have just mentioned is made in the winter season, is so singular that I must describe it to you. The traveller, muffled up in furs, is seated on a sledge, which is drawn by two or three horses. The ice is sometimes so smooth that the passage is comparatively easy; but, if the weather is stormy, the ice assumes all the appearance of waves, and immense masses, heaped one upon another, offer the most fearful impediments. The sledge is frequently upset, and the horses sometimes become unmanageable and run away. When, however, there happens to be an open winter—one in which the frost is not sufficiently intense to freeze the passage entirely over, the water yet contains so much floating ice that no vessel can sail through it. This happened to be the case in the season in which Ledyard arrived, so that he found it necessary either to stay at Stockholm till the spring, or to proceed round the gulf, a distance of twelve hundred miles, over trackless snows, and in regions thinly peopled, where the nights are long and the cold intense, and all this to advance on his journey only about fifty miles.
Thomas Bingley: Tales about travellers - their perils, adventures, and Discoveries. 1841

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The rowers in many cases were women, the men lazily reclining

We had been informed that the Finnish church-going and service was a grand sight. At about eight o'clock on Sunday morning, I climbed the rocks above the post-house to have a survey, but little had I anticipated what now burst upon my view. A whole fleet of boats, forty or fifty in number, with their white sails set, was bearing down the lake to the church at Ruokalaks. From every creek they seemed to drop out, and soon there was the number I have named. In addition to these, there was a steamer heavily freighted, and a number of boats propelled by oars. The rowers in many cases were women, the men lazily reclining, and smoking their long pipes. The sight was magnificent in the extreme, and reminded me of a fleet of fishing-boats leaving the harbour-mouth. In the light of the language of Scripture it might be said, 'Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?' 
And soon the road past the post-house was alive with pedestrians, and peasants driving their swift carrioles. Each carriole held two passengers. Every cross-road seemed to furnish its contingent, and by the time they were all assembled round the church, their numbers must have exceeded one thousand. The men were dressed mostly in grey clothing. You would have said all the grey coats of Cumberland were there. The women wore dark blue dresses, with a scarlet border at the bottom, two inches deep. Two kerchiefs covered the head, a white one upon the hair, with a long pendant falling down the back, and a gay-coloured one over it. Some of them wore massive silver ornaments, as large as the hollow of a saucer, on their breasts. They were all cleanly and wholesome to look upon, and bore manifest traces of hard toil and of the severe climate. Many of them carried baskets of raspberries gathered in the woods, to refresh themselves by the way, and around the church-doors I saw several groups reclining on the grass, and eating bread and fruit, before entering the holy place to receive food for their souls. The women all carried the Psalter and Liturgy. Between two and three hundred carrioles were tied up in the vicinity of the church, and the whole scene forcibly reminded one like myself, of a Presbyterian Communion Sunday in the country, in the olden time. 
Hearing some plaintive singing proceeding from the churchyard, I went there and witnessed three funerals. One was that of a grown- up person, the others were those of little children. A huge pit had been dug in the sandy formation, and two men going down into it by means of a ladder received the three coffins, and placed them alongside each other. Hundreds accompanied these funerals. Who were the mourners it was impossible to tell. No mourning-dress was worn, and no signs of grief were visible. The Finns are not a demonstrative race. The chant over, the pastor, dressed in black, and wearing a white tie and bands, came to the edge of the grave, and casting three wooden spadefuls of sand on each of the coffins, repeated three sentences. He then read several prayers, and after all had said 'Amen,' in token of their submission to the Divine will, and of their faith in the resurrection that is to be, and a short silent prayer had been offered up, the pastor leading, all quitted God's-acre, and accompanied him to the church. 
Taking their seats, and, as in the Lutheran Church everywhere, the women sitting apart from the men, the preparatory service began. This consisted in the singing of a Psalm, to a tune led by the clerk, who stood before a desk in the front of the gallery, and was assisted by a number of young men and women. This would continue for twenty minutes, the church meanwhile gradually getting better filled. When the pastor, a professorial-looking man, entered, the singing ceased, and ascending the lofty pulpit of the huge church, capable of holding two thousand people, he began his part of the duty by reading prayers. The sermon followed ; it was short, and read in an unimpressive manner. During the delivery of this sermon, in a monotone, I did not wonder at seeing a number of the people fast asleep. They had been working hard at harvesting all week, had come many miles that morning, and on sitting down, an unusual thing with these hard workers, in the church, were overcome with heaviness. Who would lack the charity to say of them, 'The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak'? Had the pastor 'delivered' his sermon instead of reading it, and had he possessed a little of the Boanerges fire, it is more than probable that he would have had a more wakeful and attentive audience. 
At the close of the sermon the pastor prepared to administer the Communion, and a number repaired, according to the Lutheran custom, to the communion-rail. All who had come to the church, by no means entered it during this service. Another was to follow, and those who were then standing and gossiping about the door were probably waiting for it. One thing struck me very forcibly as being different from our church usage. People kept coming in during the whole of the service, and a hum of undertoned conversation filled the church, which must have proved utterly distracting and intolerable to any English preacher. 
There is a law in Finland against Sunday trading, but it seems to be a dead letter, for the three shops in Ruokalaks were open, and filled with customers. This Finnish trip was enjoyable and instructive to a degree. It now only remained to make our way back 150 miles to St. Petersburg, which falls to be first noticed in our second chapter.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Frozen Lapland, rude and churlish Finland

 I never addressed myself, in the language of decency and friendship, to a woman, whether civilized or savage, without receiving a decent and friendly answer. With man it has often been otherwise. In wandering over the barren plains of inhospitable Denmark, through honest Sweden, frozen Lapland, rude and churlish Finland, unprincipled Russia, and the wide spread regions of the wandering Tartar, if hungry, dry, cold, wet, or sick, woman has ever been friendly to me, and uniformly so; and to add to this virtue, so worthy of the appellation of benevolence, these actions have been performed in so free and so kind a manner, that, if I was dry, I drank the sweet draught, and, if hungry, ate the coarse morsel, with a double relish.

Jared Sparks: The Life of John Ledyard, the American Traveller; comprising selections from his journals and correspondence

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Gooseberries with ruddy tints in barren districts of Finland

Some of the northern and cold countries of Europe, as Sweden and Norway, produce a great quantity of large and beautiful berries. "I have seen," says St. Pierre, "a display of cherries and gooseberries with ruddy tints in barren districts of Finland, and on soils where, as on the tops of the alpine mountains, rocks appeared to form the only surface." The same countries produce the juniper and the cloudberry (a fruit in colour and size resembling the mulberry), while the woods are thick with raspberry-bushes.

Monday, December 5, 2016

"What, police, even here in free Finland?"

On Sunday last I went by train to a place called Terioky in Finland, where a meeting was to be held by the Labour Party of the Duma. [...]
After a journey of an hour and a quarter we arrived at Terrioky. The crowd leapt from the train and immediately unfurled red flags and sang the "Marseillaise." The crowd occupied the second line, and a policeman observed that, as another train was coming in and would occupy that line, it would be advisable if they were to move on. "What, police, even here in free Finland?" somebody cried. "The police are elected here by the people," was the pacifying reply, and the crowd moved on, formed into a procession six abreast, and started marching to the gardens where the meeting was to be held, singing the "Marseillaise" and other songs all the way. The dust was so abundant that, after marching with the procession for some time, I took a cab and told the driver to take me to the meeting. We drove off at a brisk speed past innumerable wooden houses, villas, shops (where Finnish knives and English tobacco are sold) into a wood. After we had driven for twenty minutes I asked the driver if we still had far to go. He turned round and, smiling, said in pidgin-Russian (he was a Finn), " Me not know where you want go." Then we turned back, and, after a long search and much questioning of passers-by, found the garden,into which one was admitted by ticket. (Here, again, anyone could get in.) In a large grassy and green garden, shady with many trees, a kind of wooden semicircular proscenium had been erected, and in one part of it was a low and exiguous platform not more spacious than a table. On the proscenium the red flags were hung. In front of the table there were a few benches, but the greater part of the public stood and formed a large crowd. The inhabitants of the villas were here in large numbers; there were not many workmen, but a number of students and various other members of the " Intelligentsia"; young men with undisciplined hair and young ladies in large art nouveau hats and Reform-kleider. M. Zhilkin, the leader of the Labour Party in the Duma, took the chair.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Much stouter and better made

There is like diversity in the Finnish race. The Laplanders are diminutive and deformed; have black hair and a swarthy brown complexion. The Finns, though nearly related to them, are much stouter and better made: they have fair complexions, and very generally red hair.