Thursday, June 21, 2012

Finland has been an unquiet province ever since its cession to the Czar

There was little else in Abo to mark the change from one people to another. The transition was easy. There are no striking contrasts—but on the contrary a general resemblance in the dress, appearance, and manners, of the Finns and the Swedes. Two or three things only, besides the Russian soldiers, struck me, and these were the Russian colors, and the size of the public buildings. In these last, there were evidences of a great and opulent government, somewhat in contrast with the economical, not to say parsimonious government on the other side of the gulf. A great part of this town was burned not long ago; and the new town, which has risen upon the ruins of the old, bears evident marks of Russian origin or design—wide streets and large and commodious public buildings. The Russian colors, a treble band of different colors—white and black, edged with purple— are painted in a spiral form around the posts or bars, before the public buildings and offices.

SKETCHES OVER THE SEA. No. V. The United States Democratic review, Volume 7

Hoar-frosts, the dread of the Finnish husbandman

Sir John Carr remarks, that the summer burst upon him in this region with fiery fury, and with no earlier precursor than grass and green leaves. Suddenly, with the hot weather, the flies awake from their torpor in myriads, and distress as well as annoy the traveller. Modifications have been observed in the climate in recent times, the winter arriving later, and being less severe than formerly, while the autumn is more prolonged. This alteration is doubtless owing to the diminution of the extent of the forests, and the drainage of the marshes for cultivable purposes. Hoar-frosts, the dread of the Finnish husbandman, continue to be severe, and frequently destroy in a single night the flattering prospect of the richest harvest.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

divers mystic diagrams in chalk, drawn by old Finnish mariners

Our castle, the Bread-Barge was of the common sort; an oblong oaken box, much battered and bruised, and like the Elgin Marbles, all over inscriptions and carving:—foul anchors, skewered hearts, almanacs, Burton-blocks, love verses, links of cable, Kings of Clubs; and divers mystic diagrams in chalk, drawn by old Finnish mariners; in casting horoscopes and prophecies. Your old tars are all Daniels. There was a round hole in one side, through which, in getting at the bread, invited guests thrust their hands.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Yet it was only a dog!

The point where we stood—a huddled, shivering group—faced the wider channels that led to the open sea and Finland. The grey dawn had broken in earnest at last, and we could see the racing waves with their angry crests of white. The surrounding islands showed up as dark masses in the distance, and in the east, almost as Maloney spoke, the sun came up with a rush in a stormy and magnificent sky of red and gold. Against this splashed and gorgeous background black clouds, shaped like fantastic and legendary animals, filed past swiftly in a tearing stream, and to this day I have only to close my eyes to see again that vivid and hurrying procession in the air. All about us the pines made black splashes against the sky. It was an angry sunrise. Rain, indeed, had already begun to fall in big drops.

We turned, as by a common instinct, and, without speech, made our way back slowly to the stockade, Maloney humming snatches of his songs, Sangree in front with his gun, prepared to shoot at a moment's notice, and the women floundering in the rear with myself and the extinguished lanterns.

Yet it was only a dog!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

God knows where--Finland, perhaps

My friend was hugely interested in the operations. At last he said:

"We have no stones in our country. Before a house can be built, a road must be laid down to bring the stones for the house. And before the road can be built, a railway must be laid down to bring the stones for the road from God knows where--Finland, perhaps. The railway? It is laid, at first, on wood."

It struck me as an extraordinary statement. But I found it sufficiently true when I visited his country some eight years later.