Sunday, August 25, 2013

Finland, a province most unhappily under Russia's bigoted, despotic sway

On my trip north, I sailed over the Gulf of Bothnia which, the reader will recollect, separates Sweden from Finland, a province most unhappily under Russia's bigoted, despotic sway; and while at Haparanda, I was seized with a desire to visit Torneå, in Finland. I was well aware that if I attempted to do so by the regular routes on land, it would be necessary to pass the Russian customhouse, where officers would be sure to examine my passport; and knowing, as the whole liberal world now more than ever knows, that a person of Jewish faith finds the merest sally beyond the Russian border beset with unreasonable obstacles, I decided to walk across the wide marsh in the northern part of the Gulf, and thus circumvent these exponents of intolerance. Besides, I was curious to learn whether, in such a benighted country, blacking and ink were used at all. I set out, therefore, through the great moist waste, making my way without much difficulty, and in due time arrived at Torneå, when I proceeded immediately to the first store in the neighborhood; but there I was destined to experience a rude, unexpected setback. An old man, evidently the proprietor, met me and straightway asked, "Are you a Jew?" and seeing, or imagining that I saw, a delay (perhaps not altogether temporary!) in a Russian jail, I withdrew from the store without ceremony, and returned to the place whence I had come. Notwithstanding this adventure, I reached Stockholm in due season, the trip back consuming about three weeks; and during part of that period I subsisted almost entirely on salmon, bear's meat, milk, and knäckebröd, the last a bread usually made of rye flour in which the bran had been preserved. All in all, I was well pleased with this maiden-trip; and as it was then September, I returned to Loebau to spend one more winter at home.

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