Transcriber's note: Inconsistent spelling has been preserved, especially in the Finnish and Swedish snippets found throughout the book. Only obvious errors have been corrected, and a listing of those can be found at the end of this e-text.
THROUGH FINLAND IN CARTS
THROUGH FINLAND IN CARTS
BY MRS. ALEC TWEEDIE
AUTHOR OF "MEXICO AS I SAW IT," ETC.
THOMAS NELSON & SONS LONDON, EDINBURGH, DUBLIN AND NEW YORK
TO MY HUSBAND ALEC
TO MY DEAREST FRIEND SIR JOHN ERIC ERICHSEN, BART., F.R.S., LL.D.
TO MY FATHER DR. GEORGE HARLEY, F.R.S., F.R.C.P.
ALL OF WHOM DIED SUDDENLY WITHIN A SPACE OF FIVE MONTHS I DEDICATE THESE PAGES IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF THEIR LOVING INTEREST IN MY WORK
I. OUR FIRST PEEP AT FINLAND 11
II. A FINNISH COUNTRY-HOUSE 43
III. FINNISH BATHS 64
IV. A NIGHT IN A MONASTERY 84
V. SORDAVALA, OR A MUSICAL FESTIVAL 112
VI. "KALEVALA," AN EPIC POEM 136
VII. MANNERS AND CUSTOMS 169
VIII. IMATRA'S ROARING CATARACT 197
IX. "KOKKO" FIRES 210
X. WOMEN AND EDUCATION 219
XI. A HAUNTED CASTLE 238
XII. PUNKAHARJU 265
XIII. THE LIFE OF A TREE 275
XIV. THROUGH SAVOLAX IN CARTS 288
XV. ON WE JOG 309
XVI. A "TORP" AND "TORPPARI" WEDDING 335
XVII. TAR-BOATS 365
XVIII. DESCENDING THE RAPIDS 381
XIX. SALMON—ULEBORG 406
XX. A FASHIONABLE WATERING-PLACE 434
QUESTIONS OF NATIONALITY AND POLITICS 448
When I was first approached by Messrs. Nelson and Sons for permission to publish Through Finland in Carts in their shilling series, I felt surprised. So many books and papers have jostled one another along my path since my first journey to Finland, I had almost forgotten the volume.
Turning to an old notebook, I see it was published in 1897 at sixteen shillings. It appeared in a second edition. The demand still continued, so a third edition, entirely revised and reprinted, was published at a cheaper rate. Others followed, and it now appears on the market at the reduced price of one shilling. Cheapness generally means deterioration of goods, but cheapness in books spells popularity.
Since the last revise appeared, a few years ago, I had not opened the pages of this volume; and strange though it may seem, I took it up to correct with almost as much novelty as if it had been a new book by some one else. An author lives with his work. He sees every page, every paragraph, by day and by night. He cannot get away from it, it haunts him; yet once the bark is launched on the waters of Fate, other things fill his mind, and in a year or two he forgets which book contains some special reference, or describes some particular thought. This is not imagination but fact. The slate of memory would become too full and confused were such not the case.
Finland has been progressing, and yet in the main Finland remains the same. It is steeped in tradition and romance. There are more trains, more hotels, larger towns; but that bright little land is still bravely fighting her own battles, still forging ahead; small, contented, well educated, self-reliant, and full of hopes for the future.
Finland has Home Rule under Russia, and her Parliament was the first to admit women members.
For those interested in the political position of Finland, an appendix, which has been brought up to date in every way possible, will be found at the end of this volume.
E. ALEC TWEEDIE.
LONDON, Easter 1913.
THROUGH FINLAND IN CARTS
OUR FIRST PEEP AT FINLAND
It is worth the journey to Finland to enjoy a bath; then and not till then does one know what it is to be really clean.
Finland is famous for its baths and its beauties; its sky effects and its waterways; its quaint customs and its poetry; its people and their pluck. Finland will repay a visit.
Foreign travel fills the mind even if it empties the pocket. Amusement is absolutely essential for a healthy mind.
Finland, or, as the natives call it in Finnish, Suomi, is a country of lakes and islands. It is a vast continent about which strangers until lately hardly knew anything, beyond such rude facts as are learnt at school, viz., that "Finland is surrounded by the Gulfs of Finland and Bothnia on the South and West, and bordered by Russia and Lapland on the East and North," and yet Finland is larger than our own England, Scotland, Ireland, aye, and the Netherlands, all put together.
When we first thought of going to Suomi, we naturally tried to procure a Finnish guide-book and map; but no guide-book was to be obtained in all London, except one small pamphlet about a dozen pages long; while at our best-known map shop the only thing we could find was an enormous cardboard chart costing thirty shillings. No one ever dreamed of going to Finland. Nevertheless, Finland is not the home of barbarians, as some folk then imagined; neither do Polar bears walk continually about the streets, nor reindeer pull sledges in summer—items that have several times been suggested to the writer.
Nothing daunted by want of information, however, we packed up our traps and started.
We were three women, my sister, Frau von Lilly—a born Finlander—and the writer of the following pages. That was the beginning of the party, but it increased in numbers as we went along—a young man here, a young girl there, an old man, or an old woman, joined us at different times, and, alas, left us again.
Having made charming friends in that far-away land, and picked their brains for information as diligently as the epicure does the back of a grouse for succulent morsels, we finally—my sister and I—jogged home again alone.
This looks bad in print! The reader will say, "Oh, how disagreeable they must have been, those two, that every one should have deserted them!" but this would be a mistake, for we flatter ourselves that we really are rather nice, and only "adverse circumstances" deprived us of our friends one by one.
Love and Friendship are the finest assets in the Bank of Life.
Grave trouble had fallen at my door. Life had been a happy bounteous chain; the links had snapped suddenly and unexpectedly, and solace and substance could only be found in work.
'Tis often harder to live than to die.
Immediate and constant work lay before me. The cuckoo's note trilled forth in England, that sad, sad note that seemed to haunt me and speed me on life's way. No sooner had I landed in Suomi than the cuckoos came to greet me. The same sad tone had followed me across the ocean to remind me hourly of all the trouble I had gone through. The cuckoo would not let me rest or forget; he sang a song of sympathy and encouragement.
It was on a brilliant sunny morning early in June that the trim little ship Urania steamed between the many islands round the coast to enter, after four and a half days' passage from Hull, the port of Helsingfors. How many thousands of posts, growing apparently out of the sea, are to be met with round the shores of Finland! Millions, we might say; for not only the coast line, which is some eight hundred miles in length, but all the lakes and fjords through which steamers pass are marked out most carefully by wooden stakes, or near the large towns by stony banks and painted signs upon the rocks of the islands. Sometimes the channels are so dangerous that the little steamers have to proceed at half-speed, carefully threading their way in and out of the posts, as a drag at Hurlingham winds its course between barrels at the four-in-hand competitions.
Many places, we learnt, are highly dangerous to attempt at night, on account of these stakes, which are put down by Government boats in the spring after the ice has gone, and are taken up in November before it forms again, because for about seven months all sea traffic is impossible. Sometimes the channels are so narrow and shallow that the screw of the steamer has to be stopped while the vessel glides through between the rocks, the very revolutions of the screw drawing more water than can be allowed in that particular skr of tiny islands and rocks. At other times we have seen the steamer kept off some rocky promontory where it was necessary for her to turn sharply, by the sailors jumping on to the bank and easing her along by the aid of stout poles; or again, in the canals we have known her towed round particular points by the aid of ropes. In fact, the navigation of Finland is one continual source of surprise and amazement.
Finland is still rising out of the sea. Rocks that were marked with paint one hundred and fifty years ago at the water's edge, now show that the sea has gone down four or five feet. This is particularly noticeable in the north: where large ships once sailed, a rowing boat hardly finds waterway. Seaports have had to be moved. Slowly and gradually Finland is emerging from the waters, just as slowly and gradually the people are making their voice heard among other nations.
Few people in Great Britain realize the beauties of Finland. It is flat, but it is fascinating. It is a land of waterways, interspersed with forests. The winter is very cold, the summer very hot; the winter very dark, the summer eternal light. Helsingfors is one of the most picturesque harbours in the world. It is not like anywhere else, although it resembles Stockholm somewhat. It is so sunny and bright in the summer, so delicious in colourings and reflections, that the primary thought of the intricate watery entrance to the chief capital is one of delight.
The first impressions on entering the Finnish harbour of Helsingfors were very pleasing; there was a certain indefinable charm about the scene as we passed in and out among the thickly-wooded islands, or dived between those strong but almost hidden fortifications of which the Russians are so proud. Once having passed these impregnable mysteries, we found ourselves in more open water, and before us lay the town with its fine Russian church of red brick with rounded dome, the Finnish church of white stone, and several other handsome buildings denoting a place of importance and considerable beauty. We were hardly alongside the quay before a dozen Finnish officials swarmed on board to examine the luggage, but no one seemed to have to pay anything; a small ticket stuck on the baggage saving all further trouble.
Swedish, Finnish, and Russian, the three languages of the country, were being spoken on every side, and actually the names of the streets, with all necessary information, are displayed in these three different forms of speech, though Russian is not acknowledged as a language of Finland, the two native and official languages being Swedish and Finnish. Only those who have travelled in Russia proper can have any idea of the joy this means to a stranger; it is bad enough to be in any land where one cannot speak the language, but it is a hundred times worse to be in a country where one cannot read a word, and yet once over the border of Russia the visitor is helpless. Vs becomes Bs, and such general hieroglyphics prevail that although one sees charming tram-cars everywhere, one cannot form the remotest idea where they are going, so as to verify them on the map—indeed, cannot even tell from the written lettering whether the buildings are churches or museums, or only music halls.
Finnish is generally written with German lettering, Swedish with Latin, and the Russian in its own queer upside down fashion, so that even in a primitive place like Finland every one can understand one or other of the placards, notices, and signs.
Not being in any particular hurry, we lingered on the steamer's bridge as the clock was striking the hour of noon—Finnish time, by the way, being a hundred minutes in advance of English time—and surveyed the strange scene. Somehow Helsingfors did not look like a Northern capital, and it seemed hard to believe, in that brilliant sunshine, that for two or three months during every year the harbour is solidly ice-bound.
Yet the little carriages, a sort of droschky, savouring of Petersburg, and the coachmen (Isvoschtschik) certainly did not come from any Southern or Western clime. These small vehicles, which barely hold a couple of occupants and have no back rest, are rather like large perambulators, in front of which sits the driver, whose headgear was then of beaver, like a squashed top hat, very broad at the top, narrowing sharply to a wide curly brim, which curious head-covering, well forced down over his ears, is generally ornamented with a black velvet band, and a buckle, sometimes of silver, stuck right in the front.
Perhaps, however, the most wonderful part of the Suomi Jehu's attire was his petticoat. He had a double-breasted blue-cloth coat fastening down the side, which at the waist was pleated on to the upper part in great fat folds more than an inch wide, so that from behind he almost looked like a Scheveningen fishwife; while, if he was not fat enough for fashionable requirements, he wore an additional pillow before and behind, and tied a light girdle round his waist to keep his dress in place.
All this strange beauty could be admired at a very cheap rate, for passengers are able to drive to any part of the town for fifty penni, equal to fivepence in English money. These coachmen, about eighty inches in girth, fascinated us; they were so fat and so round, so packed in padding that on hot days they went to sleep sitting bolt upright on their box, their inside pillows and outside pleats forming their only and sufficient support. It was a funny sight to see half a dozen Isvoschtschiks in a row, the men sound asleep, their arms folded, and their heads resting on their manly chests, in this case cuirassed with a feathery pillow.
Drawing these Finnish carriages, are those strange wooden hoops over the horses' withers so familiar on the Russian droschky, but perhaps most extraordinary of all are the strong shafts fixed inside the wheels, while the traces from the collar are secured to the axle itself outside the wheel. That seemed a novelty to our mind any way, and reminded us of the old riddle, "What is the difference between an inside Irish car and an outside Irish car?" "The former has the wheels outside, the latter has the wheels inside."
At the present day much of this picturesqueness has passed away, and coachmen and chauffeurs in Western livery and the motor taxi-cab have largely replaced them.
Queer carts on two wheels were drawn up along the quay to bear the passengers' luggage to its destination, but stop—do not imagine every one rushes and tears about in Finland, and that a few minutes sufficed to clear the decks and quay. Far from it; we were among a Northern people proverbially as dilatory and slow as any Southern nation, for in the extreme North as in the extreme South time is not money—nay, more than that, time waits on every man.
Therefore from the bridge of our steamer we heard much talking in strange tongues, we saw much movement of queerly-dressed folk, but we did not see much expedition, and before we left Finland we found that the boasted hour and forty minutes advance on the clock really meant much the same thing as our own time, for about this period was always wasted in preparations, so that in the end England and Finland were about quits with the great enemy. Three delightful Finnish proverbs tell us, "Time is always before one," "God did not create hurry," "There is nothing in this world so abundant as time," and, as a nation, Finns gratefully accept the fact.
Every one seemed to be met by friends, showing how rarely strangers visited the land. Indeed the arrival of the Hull boat, once a week, was one of the great events of Helsingfors life, and every one who could went down to see her come in.
A delightful lady—a Finlander—who had travelled with us, and had told us about her home in Boston, where she holds classes for Swedish gymnastics, was all excitement when her friends came on board. She travels to Suomi every year, spending nearly three weeks en route, to enjoy a couple of months' holiday in the summer at her father's parsonage, near Hang. That remarkably fine specimen of his race, Herr S——, was met by wife, and brother, and a host of students—for he returned from Malm, victorious, with the Finnish flag. He, with twenty-three friends, had just been to Sweden for a gymnastic competition, in which Finland had won great honours, and no wonder, if the rest of the twenty-three were as well-made and well-built as this hardy descendant of a Viking race.
Then again a Finnish gentleman had to be transhipped with his family, his horses, his groom, and his dogs, to wait for the next vessel to convey them nearer to his country seat, with its excellent fishing close to Imatra. He was said to be one of the wealthiest men in Finland, although he really lived in England, and merely returned to his native country in the summer months to catch salmon, trout, or grayling.
Then—oh yes, we must not forget them—there were the emigrants, nearly sixty in number, returning from America for a holiday, though a few declared they had made enough money and would not require to go back again. There are whole districts of Finlanders in the United States, and excellent settlers they make, these hardy children of the North. They had been ill on the voyage, had looked shabby and depressed, but, as they came within sight of their native land, they appeared on deck beaming with smiles, and dressed out wondrous fine, in anticipation of their home-coming.
But were they excited? Not a bit of it. Nothing excites a Finn. Although he is very patriotic he cannot lightly rise to laughter or descend to tears; his unruffled temperament is, perhaps, one of the chief characteristics of his strange nature.
Yes, every one seemed met by friends on that hot June day; and we were lucky too, for our kindly cicerone, Frau von Lilly, who had tempted us to Finland, and had acquaintances in every port, was welcomed by her brother and other relations, all of whom were so good to us that we left their land many weeks afterwards with the most grateful recollections of overwhelming hospitality.
Our welcome to Finland was most cordial, and the kindly greetings made us feel at once at home among a strange people, none of whose three languages we could talk; but, as one of them spoke French, another English, and a third German, we found no difficulty in getting along. Such servants as knew Swedish easily understood the Norwegian words we had learnt sufficiently well to enable us to get about during two enjoyable and memorable visits to Norway,[A] although strange explanations and translations were vouchsafed us sometimes; as, for instance, when eating some very stodgy bread, a lady remarked, "It is not good, it is unripe dough" (pronounced like cough).
We looked amazed, but discovered that she meant that the loaf was not sufficiently baked.
As we drove along in the little droschky we passed the market, a delightfully gay scene, where all the butchers wore bright pink blouses or coats, and the women white handkerchiefs over their heads. We bumped over cobble stones and across tram lines, little heeded by the numbers of bicyclists, both men and women, riding about in every direction, for Finland was in the forefront in the vogue for bicycle-riding. It was most amusing to notice the cycles stacked in the railway vans of that northern clime, while on the steamers it is nothing extraordinary to see a dozen or more cycles amongst the passengers' luggage. In the matter of steamers, the companies are very generous to the cyclist, for he is not required to take a ticket for his machine, which passes as ordinary baggage.
Although we supply the Finlanders with machines, we might take a lesson from them in the matter of registration. At the back of every saddle in large figures was engraved the number, bought at the time of registration for four marks (three shillings and fourpence), consequently, in case of accident or theft, the bicycle could immediately be identified; a protection alike for the bicyclist and the person to whom through reckless riding an accident is caused.
Helsingfors, although the capital, is not a large town, having only 150,000 inhabitants, but there are nearly five thousand registered bicycles plying in its streets. The percentage of riders is enormous, and yet cycling is only possible for about five months every year, the country being covered with snow and ice the rest of the time. Here we pass a Russian officer, who is busy pedalling along, dressed in his full uniform, with his sword hanging at his side. One might imagine a sword would be in the way on a cycle; but not at all, the Finland or Russian officer is an adept in the art, and jumps off and on as though a sword were no more hindrance than the spurs which he always wears in his boots. There is a girl student—for the University is open to men and women alike, who have equal advantages in everything, and among the large number who avail themselves of the State's generosity are many cycling dames.
The Finlander is brave. He rides over roads that would strike terror into our souls, for even in towns the cobble stones are so awful that no one, who has not trudged over Finnish streets on a hot summer's day, can have any idea of the roughness. A Finlander does not mind the cobbles, for as he says, "they are cheap, and wear better than anything else, and, after all, we never actually live in the towns during summer, so the roads do not affect us; and for the other months of the year they are covered with snow, so that they are buried sometimes a foot or two deep, and then sledges glide happily over them."
It is over such stones that the cyclist rides, and the stranger pauses aghast to see him being nearly bumped off his machine—as we have ourselves bumped towards the bottom of a steep hill when coasting—and not apparently minding it in the least, judging by the benign smile playing upon his usually solemn physiognomy. He steers deftly in and out of the larger boulders, and soon shows us that he is a thorough master of his iron steed.
All the students of both sexes wear the most charming cap. In shape it closely resembles a yachting cap; the top is made of white velvet, the snout of black leather, and the black velvet band that encircles the head is ornamented in front by a small gold badge emblematic of the University. No one dare don this cap, or at least the badge, until he has passed his matriculation examination.
White velvet sounds thriftless; but in Finland, in the summer, it is very hot and dry; in fact, the three or four months of summer are really summer in all its glory. It is all daylight and there is no night, so that June, July, and August seem one perpetual midsummer day. For travelling or country rides, the Finland student wears a small linen cover over his white velvet cap, which is made to fix on so neatly that the stranger does not at first detect it is a cover at all. In the winter, the white cap is laid aside, and a black velvet one takes its place.
Among the lower orders the women work like slaves, because they must. Women naturally do the washing in every land, and in the Finnish waterways there are regular platforms built out into the sea, at such a height that the laundresses can lean over the side and rinse their clothes, while the actual washing is performed at wooden tables, where they scrub linen with brushes made for the purpose.
Yet it seemed to us strange indeed to see women cleaning the streets; huge broom in hand they marched about and swept the paths, while a whole gang of female labourers were weeding the roadways.
Women in Suomi do many unusual things; but none excited our surprise so much as to see half a dozen of them building a house. They were standing on scaffolding plastering the wall, while others were completing the carpentry work of a door; subsequently we learnt there were no fewer than six hundred women builders and carpenters in Finland.
The Finns, though intellectually most interesting, are not as a rule attractive in person. Generally small of stature, thickset, with high cheek-bones, and eyes inherited from their Tartar-Mongolian ancestors, they cannot be considered good-looking; while the peculiar manner in which the blonde male peasants cut their hair is not becoming to their sunburnt skins, which are generally a brilliant red, especially about the neck where it appears below the light, fluffy, downy locks. Fat men are not uncommon; and their fatness is too frequently of a kind to make one shudder, for it resembles dropsy, and is, as a rule, the outcome of liqueur drinking, a very pernicious habit, in which many Finlanders indulge to excess. There are men in Suomi—dozens of them—so fat that no healthy Englishman could ever attain to such dimensions; one of them will completely occupy the seat of an Isvoschtschik, while the amount of adipose tissue round his wrists and cheeks seems absolutely incredible when seen for the first time, and one wonders how any chair or carriage can ever bear such a weight. Inordinately fat men are certainly one of the least pleasing peculiarities of these northern nationalities.
Top hats seemed specially favoured by Finnish gentlemen.
Flannel shirts and top hats are, to an English mind, incongruities; but in Suomi fashion smiles approvingly on such an extraordinary combination. At the various towns, therefore, mashers strolled about attired in very bright-coloured flannel shirts, turned down flannel collars, trimmed with little bows of silken cord with tassels to fasten them at the neck, and orthodox tall hats.
The Finnish peasant women are as partial to pink cotton blouses as the Russian peasant men are to red flannel shirts, and the bright colours of the bodices, and the pretty white or black handkerchiefs over their heads, with gaily coloured scarves twisted round their throats, add to the charm of the Helsingfors market-place, where they sit in rows under queer old cotton umbrellas, the most fashionable shade for which appears to be bright blue.
The market is a feature in Finland, and in a measure takes the place of shops in other countries. For instance, waggons containing butcher's meat stand in rows, beside numerous carts full of fish, while fruit and flowers, cakes and bread-stuffs in trucks abound. Indeed, so fully are these markets supplied, it seems almost unnecessary to have any shops at all.
The old market folk all drink coffee, or let us be frank at once and say chicory, for a really good cup of coffee is rare in Finland, whereas chicory is grown largely and drunk everywhere, the Finlanders believing that the peculiar bitter taste they know and love so well is coffee. Pure coffee, brewed from the berry, is a luxury yet to be discovered by them.
As we drove along, we noticed at many of the street corners large and sonorous bells made of brass, and furnished with chains to pull them. We wondered what this might mean, and speculated whether the watchman went round and rang forth the hours, Doomsday fashion.
On asking information we were told—
"They are fire-bells, very loud, which can be heard at some distance."
"But does not a strong wind cause them to ring?"
"No; they must be pulled and pulled hard; but you had better not try, or you may be fined heavily."
So we refrained, and pondered over the fire-bells.
It is as necessary to have a passport in Finland as in Russia. But whereas in Russia a passport is demanded at once, almost before one has crossed the threshold of an hotel, one can stay in a Finnish town for three days without having to prove one's identity; any longer stay in a hotel or private house often necessitates the passport being sent to the police. It is a most extraordinary thing that a Finn should require a passport to take him in or out of Russia; such, however, is the case, and if a man in Wiborg wishes to go to St. Petersburg to shop, see a theatre, or to spend a day with a friend, he must procure a passport for the length of time of his intended visit. This is only a trifle; nevertheless it is a little bit of red-tapism to which the Finlander might object. But it may have its advantages, for the passport rigorously keeps anarchists, socialists, Jews, and beggars out of Suomi.
Until 1905, the press was severely restricted by the Censor, though not to the same extent as in Russia itself, where hardly a day passes without some paragraph being obliterated from every newspaper. Indeed, in St. Petersburg an English friend told us that during the six years he had lived there he had a daily paper sent to him from London, and that probably on an average of three days a week, during all that time, it would reach him with all political information about Russia stamped out, or a whole page torn away.
We ourselves saw eight inches blackened over in The Times, and about the same length in that day's Klnische Zeitung and Independence Belge totally obliterated in Petersburg. We received English papers pretty regularly during our jaunt through Finland, and what amazed us most was the fact that, although this black mark absolutely obliterated the contents, no one on receiving the paper could have told that the cover had been tampered with in the least, as it always arrived in its own wrapper, addressed in the handwriting we knew so well. It remained an endless source of amazement to us how the authorities managed to pull the paper out and put it in again without perceptibly ruffling the cover.
It is not unknown for a Finnish paper, when ready for delivery, to have some objection made to its contents, in which case it must not be distributed; consequently, a notice is issued stating that such and such a paper has been delayed in publication, and the edition will be ready at a later hour in the afternoon. The plain meaning of which is that the whole newspaper has been confiscated, and the entire edition reprinted, the objectionable piece being taken out. Presshinder is by no means uncommon.
Unfortunately "a house divided against itself falleth," which is a serious hindrance to progress. That Suomi is divided, every one who has studied Finnish politics must know. With its Russian rule, its Finnish and Swedish proclivities, and its three languages, the country has indeed much to fight against.
For those who are interested in the subject of its Home Rule, an Appendix will be found at the end of this volume.
Very important changes have of late taken place in Finland. Less than half a century ago the whole country—at least the whole educated country—was still Swedish at heart and Swedish in language. From Sweden Finland had borrowed its literature and its laws until Russia stepped in, when the Finn began to assert himself. The ploughman is now educated and raising his voice with no uncertain sound on behalf of his own country and his language, and to-day the greatest party in the Parliament are the Social-Democrats.
The national air of Finland is Maamme or Vrt Land in Swedish ("Our Land").
The words were written by the famous poet, J. L. Runeburg, in Swedish, which was at that time the language of the upper classes, and translated into Finnish, the music being composed by Frederick Pacius. In Finnish the words are—
Oi maamme, Suomi, synnyinmaa, soi sana kultainen! Ei laaksoa, ei kukkulaa, ei vett rantaa rakkaampaa, Kuin kotimaa t pohjainen, maa kallis isien.
On Maamme kyh, siksi j jos kultaa kaipaa ken. Sen kyll vieras hylkj, mut meille kallein maa on t Kans' salojen ja saarien se meist' on kultainen.
Ovatpa meist rakkahat kohinat koskien, Ikuisten honkain huminat, tht' ymme, kest kirkkahat Kaikk', kaikki laulain loistaen mi lumes' sydmen.
Tss' auroin, miekoin, miettehin ismme sotivat, Kun piv piili pilvihin tai loisti onnen paistehin, Tss' Suomen kansan suurimmat he vaivat kokivat.
Ken taistelut ne kaikki voi kertoilla kansan tn, Kun sota laaksoissamme soi ja halla nln tuskat toi? Sen vert' ei mittaa yksikn ei krsimystkn.
Tss' on se veri vuotanut edest meidnkin, Tss' ilonsa on nauttinut ja tss huoltain huokaillut Se kansa, jolle muinoisin kuormamme pantihin.
Tss' olla meidn mieluist' on ja kaikki suotuisaa; Vaikk' onni mik tulkohon, meill' isnmaa on verraton. Mit' oisi maassa armaampaa, mit' oisi kalliimpaa?
Ja tss' tss' on tm maa, sen nkee silmmme; Me ktt voimme ojentaa, ja vett, rantaa osoittaa, Ja sanoa: kas tuoss on se, maa armas isimme!
Jos loistoon meit saatettais vaikk' kultapilvihin, Miss' itkien ei huoattais' vaan thtein riemun sielu sais, Ois thn kurjaan kotihin halumme kwitenkin.
Totunuden, runon kotimaa, maa tuhatjrvinen, Elomme sulta suojan saa, s toivojen ja muistoin maa, Ain' ollos onnen vaihdellen, s vapaa, riemuinen.
Sun kukoistukses' kuorestaan kerrankin puhkeaa; Viel' lempemme saa nousemaan sun toivos, riemus loistossaan, Ja kerran laulus' synnyinmaa, korkeemman kaiun saa.
When the Maamme is sung every one rises, the men take off their hats, and nearly all those present join in the song, their demeanour being most respectful, for a Finn is nothing if not patriotic.
Another very popular air is the following, written by Zachris Topelius, whose fairy tales are now being translated into English—
SINUN MAASI (Finnish)
Laps' Suomen, l vaihda pois Sun maatas ihanaa! Sill' leip vieraan karvast 'ois Ja sana karkeaa. Sen taivas, piv' on loistoton, Sen sydn sulle outo on. Laps' Suomen, l vaihda pois Sun maatas ihanaa!
Laps' Suomen, kaunis sull' on maa Ja suuri, loistokas. Veet vlkkyy, maat sen vihoittaa, Sen rant 'on maineikas. Y kirkas, piv lmpinen Ja taivas tuhatthtinen, Laps' Suomen, kaunis sull 'on maa Ja suuri, loistokas.
Laps' Suomen, armas maasi t Siis muista ainiaan! Sull 'onnea ja elm Ej muuall' ollenkaan. Jos minne tiesi olkohon, Niin juures' synnyinmaassas' on Laps' Suomen, armas maasi t Siis muista ainiaan!
DITT LAND (Swedish)
O barn af Finland, byt ej bort Din dla fosterjord! En frmlings brd r hrdt och torrt, Och klanglst r hans ord. Hans sol r blek, hans himmel gr, Hans hjerta kan ej ditt frst. O barn af Finland, byt ej bort Din dla fosterjord.
O Finland's barn, ditt land r godt, Ditt land r stort och sknt. Dess jord r grn, dess haf r bltt, Dess strand af ra krnt. Dess natt r ljus, dess sol r klar, Dess himmel tusen stjernor bar. O Finland's barn, ditt land r godt, Ditt land r stort och sknt.
Och derfr, barn af Finland, minns Ditt dla fosterland! Ej ro, ej lif, ej lycka finns I fjerran frn dess strand. Hvarhelst din vg i verlden gr, Din rot r der din vagga str. Och derfr, barn af Finland, minns Ditt dla fosterland!
THY LAND[B] (English)
O child of Finland, wherefore fly Thy noble Fatherland? The stranger's bread is hard and dry, And harsh his speech and hand; His skies are lead, his heart is dead Thy heart to understand. O child of Finland, wherefore fly Thy noble Fatherland?
O Finland's heir, thy land is fair And bright from bound to bound; Her seas serene; no gayer green On tree or lea is found. Her sun's a blaze of golden rays, Her night an eve star-crowned. O Finland's heir, no land more rare Or nobly fair is found.
Then, child of Finland, ne'er forget Thy noble Fatherland; For peace of mind is not to find Upon a stranger's strand. To that bright earth that gave thee birth Thou owest heart and hand. Then fealty swear to Finland fair, Our famous Fatherland.
We dined at several restaurants in Helsingfors; for, in the summer, the Finlanders live entirely out of doors, and they certainly make the most of the fine weather when they have it. Perhaps our brightest dining-place was on the island of Hgholmen, to which little steamers ply continually; but as we arrived at the landing-stage when a vessel had just left, we engaged a boat to row us across. It was a typical Finnish boat, pointed at both ends, wide in the middle, and a loving couple sitting side by side rowed us over. They were not young, and they were not beautiful; in fact, they looked so old, so sunburnt, and so wrinkled, that we wondered how many years over a hundred they had completed. But, judging by the way they put their backs into the work, they could not have been as ancient as they appeared.
One of the first words one hears in Finland is straxt, which means "immediately," and we soon found it was in universal use. No order is complete without the word straxt as an addition, and, naturally, the stranger thinks what a remarkably punctual and generally up-to-time sort of people the Finns must be. But the voyager seems born to be disappointed. No Finn ever hurried himself for anybody or anything; the word straxt means, at least, a quarter of an hour, and the visitor may consider himself lucky if that quarter of an hour does not drag itself out to thirty minutes.
A man asks for his bill. Straxt is the reply. He suggests his luggage being fetched downstairs, reminds the landlord that the krra (little carts) were ordered for noon, now long past.
"Straxt, straxt," is smilingly answered, but the landlord does not move—not he; what is to be gained by being in a hurry? why fidget? an hour hence is quite as good as the present quickly fleeting by. So soothing his conscience by the word straxt, he leisurely goes on with his work, and as "like master, like man," those below him do not hurry either, for which reason most things in Finland are dominated more by chance than ruled by time.
It is annoying, it is often exasperating, but there is a superb calm, or shall we say obstinacy, about the Finnish character that absolutely refuses to be bustled, or hurried, or jostled.
They are a grave, solid people, who understand a joke even less than the Scotch, while such a thing as chaff is absolutely unintelligible to them. Life to the Finns seems a serious matter which can be only undertaken after long thought and much deliberation. They lose much pleasure by their seriousness. They sing continually, but all their music is sad; they dance sometimes, but the native dances are seldom boisterous as in other lands. They read much and think deeply, for unlike the Russians, only 25 per cent. of whom can read, in Finland both rich and poor are wonderfully well educated; but they smile seldom, and look upon jokes and fun as contemptible. Education is one constant enquiry, and knowledge is but an assimilation of replies.
The men and women enjoy great freedom. Educated in the same schools, they are brought up to ignore sex; the young folk can go out for a whole day together, walking or snow-shoeing, skating or sledging, and a chaperon is unheard of; yet in all social gatherings, as an antithesis to this, we find an unexpected restraint. At a party the men all congregate in one room, or at one end of the table, leaving the women desolate, while the young of both sexes look askance at one another, and, in the presence of their elders, never exchange a word, in spite of their boasted freedom. Society is paradoxical.
More than that, by way of discouraging healthy chatter and fun among the young people, the elder folk always monopolise conversation, two persons invariably discussing some particular point, while twenty sit silently round listening—result, that young men and women know little of one another if they only meet in society, and the bon camaraderie supposed to result from the system of mixed education is conspicuous by its absence. Everything is against it. The very chairs are placed round a room in such a way that people must perforce sit in a circle—that dreaded circle which strikes terror into the heart of a British hostess. Even on the balconies an enormous table, with chairs packed closely round it, is constantly in evidence, so that the circle is even to be found there, with the consequence that every one sits and stares at every one else, except the people who may or may not keep up a conversation. The strange part of the whole arrangement is that Finlanders do not understand how prim they really are socially, and talk of their freedom, and their enormous emancipation, as they sit at table, where the greater number of those present never dare venture to say anything, while the young men and women rarely even sit together. They apparently make up for lost time when away from their elders.
The people are most hospitable, to strangers particularly so, and certainly the flowers and the books and sweets we were given, to say nothing of invitations received to stay in houses after an hour's acquaintance, to dine or sup, to come here or go there, were quite delightful. They are generous to a remarkable degree, and hospitable beyond praise. This is a Northern characteristic like honesty; both of which traits are sadly lacking in the Southern peoples. Kindness and thoughtfulness touch a warm chord in the heart of a stranger, and make him feel that Finland is a delightful country, and her people the staunchest of friends. But, after this divergence, let us return to our first drive.
Those slouching men in long jack boots, butchers' blouses of white and shapeless form, are Russian soldiers. Soldiers, indeed! where is the smartness, the upright bearing, the stately tread and general air of cleanliness one expects in a soldier? These men look as if they had just tumbled out of their beds and were still wearing night-shirts; even the officers appeared strange to our English ideas, although medals adorned their breasts and swords hung at their sides even when bicycling.
"Do you mix much with the Russians?" we asked one of our new friends.
"Hardly at all; they have conquered us, they rule us, they plant whole regiments among us, and they don't even take the trouble to understand us, or to learn our language. No, we keep to ourselves, and they keep to themselves; our temperaments are so different we could never mix."
And this is true. The position of Alsace-Lorraine towards Germany is much the same as that of Finland towards Russia. Both have been conquered by a country speaking another language to their own, and of totally foreign temperament to themselves. After forty years the people of Alsace-Lorraine are as staunchly French as before, and the same applies to the position of the Finlanders.
Life in Helsingfors is very pleasant for strangers in the summer; but for the natives it has no attraction. Accustomed to a long and ice-bound winter, the moment May comes every family, possessed of any means, flits to the country for three or four months. All the schools close for twelve weeks, and the children, who have worked hard during the long dark winter, thoroughly enjoy their holiday. Summer comes suddenly and goes swiftly. The days then are long, as the nights are short, for in the north of Finland there is a midnight sun, and even in Helsingfors, during June, he does not set till about eleven, consequently it remains light all night—that strange weird sort of light that we English folk only know as appertaining to very early morning. As we sat finishing supper about ten o'clock at the Kapellet, we were strongly reminded of the light at three A.M. one morning, only a week or two before, when we had bumped to Covent Garden to see the early market, one of London's least known but most interesting sights, in our friendly green-grocer's van, with Mr. and Mrs. Green-grocer for sole companions.
The Kapellet is a delightful restaurant in the chief street of Helsingfors, standing among trees, under which many seats and tables are placed, and where an excellent military band plays during meal times. Strange meal times they are too, for, after early coffee and roll, every one breakfasts between ten and twelve on meats with beer or wine, not an egg and fish breakfast such as we have, but a regular solid meal. Finlanders in towns dine from two to four, and sit down to supper between eight and ten, so that they have three solid meat meals a day—probably a necessity in such a climate—and drink wines and spirits at each of these functions, which so closely resemble one another that the stranger would have difficulty in knowing which was supper and which was breakfast.
In the summer mostly men frequent the Kapellet, for their wives and families are away at their villas on the islands. Apparently any one can build a villa on any island, and the moment he does so, like Robinson Crusoe, he is master of the situation. One does not require to pay more than a trifle for the site, and a beautiful wooden house can be erected in about two months for two or three hundred pounds. Parents who are well off generally have a nice island and a comfortable house, and when their sons and daughters marry, they build thereon small villas for them; thus whole families, scattered during the greater part of the year, come together every summer.
For this reason family life in Finland is delightful. There are many thousand islands—millions, one might almost say—and therefore plenty of room for all. Finland is like a sponge; the lakes and islands being represented by the holes.
We lived in a flat at Helsingfors. Frau von Lilly's brothers had a delightful tage, with a dear old housekeeper, and thither we went. Mina looked after our wants splendidly, and smiled upon us all day as strange sort of beings because we liked so much hett vatten (hot water). She was always opening our door and walking in, for no one ever dreams of knocking in Finland; standing before us, her hands folded on her portly form, she smiled and smiled again. Mycket bra (very nice), we repeated incessantly to her joy—but still she stayed, whether anxious to attend to our wants or to have a look at Englishwomen and their occupations we know not; one thing, however, is certain, that without a word in common we became fast friends. Her beautifully polished floors made us afraid to walk across them, and the large rooms, broad beds, and lots of towels came as a real treat after nearly five days at sea. Every one lives in flats in the towns, there are only a few private houses, and therefore long stone flights of stairs lead to the "appartement" as they do in Germany, while the rooms, with their enormous stoves and endless doors, remind one continually of das Vaterland.
From our flat, which stood high, we had a most glorious view. Immediately in front was the students' club, while beyond were the Parliament Houses, charming churches, the fine park given to the town by Henrik Borgstrm, the lovely harbour, the fortifications, and the deep, dark sea.
As the sun set we revelled in the glories visible from our balcony, and thoroughly enjoyed the charms of the Northern night. Midnight suns must be seen to be understood, the gorgeous lights are enthralling. Our souls were steeped in that great silence.
It is during such nights as these that vegetation springs into existence. A day is like a fortnight under that endless sky of light. Hence the almost tropical vegetation that so amazed us at times in this ice-bound land. For though the Gulf of Bothnia is frozen for many months, and the folk walk backwards and forwards to Sweden, the summer bursts forth in such luxuriance that the flowers verily seem to have been only hiding under the snow, ready to raise their heads. The land is quickly covered by bloom as if kissed by fairy lips. And the corn is ripe and ready for cutting before the first star is seen to twinkle in the heavens.
Just outside our window, which looked away over the Russian and Lutheran churches to the sea, we watched a house which was being built with some interest. The town stands either on massive glacial rocks, or, in other parts that have been reclaimed from the sea, on soft sand; in the latter case the erection has to be reared on piles. For the foundation of the house mentioned, long stakes, about twenty feet in length, were driven into the ground. Above this pile a sort of crane was erected, from which hung a large heavy stone caught by iron prongs. Some twenty men stood round the crane, and with one "Heave oh!" pulled the stone up to the top, where, being let loose, it fell with a tremendous thud upon the head of the luckless pile, which was driven with every successive blow deeper into the earth. When all the piles were thus driven home, four or five feet apart, rough bits of rock or stone were fitted in between them, and the whole was boarded over with wood after the fashion of a flooring, on top of which the house itself was built. The men worked all day and all night in relays at the job.
Helsingfors is very advanced in its ideas; it then had electric light everywhere, telephones in each house, and so on; nevertheless, it only possessed one large carriage, and that was a landau which belonged to the hotel. In this splendid vehicle, with two horses and a coachman bedecked like an English beadle, we went for a drive, and so remarkable was the appearance of our equipage that every one turned round to look at us, and, as we afterwards learned, to wonder who we could possibly be, since we looked English, spoke German, and drove out with Finlanders.
Many happy days might be passed in Helsingfors, which contains museums and various places of interest. But it is essentially a winter town, and, as all the smart folk had flown and the windows were as closely barred as those of London in August and September, we hurried on to gayer and quainter scenes, which unfolded many strange experiences, or this summer trip to Finland would never have been written.
During the ten weeks we were in Suomi we slept in twenty-six different beds. Beds did we say? Save the mark! We slept under twenty-six different circumstances, would be more to the point, for our nights of rest, or unrest, were passed in a variety of ways—in beautiful brass bedsteads with spring mattresses; in wooden boxes dragged out until they became a bed, the mattress being stuffed with the luikku or ruopo plant, which makes a hard and knotty couch. We slept in the bunks of ships, which for curiosity's sake we measured, and found seldom exceeded eighteen inches in width; we lay on the floor with only a rug dividing us from the wooden boards; or we reposed on a canvas deck-chair, which originally cost about five shillings in London; we even dozed on the top of a dining-room table; and last, but not least, to avoid giving ourselves up as a meal to unwelcome visitors, we avoided beds altogether, and slept on the top of a grand piano, or, more properly speaking, an old-fashioned spinet, the notes of which gave forth a hard and tinny sound when touched.
It must not be imagined from this that there were not beds, for beds were generally procurable, lots of beds, in fact, the mattresses piled one on the top of another. BUT—well, we preferred the spinet!
[A] A Winter Jaunt to Norway.
[B] Translated from the Swedish by Alfred Perceval Graves.
A FINNISH COUNTRY-HOUSE
A seventeen hours' trip in the Kaiser Wilhelm along the coast brought us from Helsingfors to Wiborg. The passage lay between innumerable islands, and every landing-place was thickly strewn with wood ready for export.
Finland is a primitive country, and we could not help smiling at the spectacle of a family removal. When changing residences it is evidently not considered necessary to pack up anything, consequently the entire contents of a house were put on board and removed from the ship without any wrappings whatsoever. The mattresses and the blankets were not even tied together. Pictures were all left loose, looking-glasses stood uncovered, yet, thanks to the gentleness and honesty of the Finnish sailors, nothing appeared to get broken, and when we left the quay we saw the owner of these chattels standing complacently in the midst of his household gods, from which, judging by the serenity of his smile, nothing had been stolen or lost.
As we neared Wiborg we were all excitement as to what a visit to a country-house would be like, especially as we were going among strangers, having been most hospitably invited to stay with the relations of our Finnish friend on their summer island-home of Ilkesaari.
As the Kaiser Wilhelm hove-to alongside the quay, we were warmly welcomed by the English and American Consuls and Baron Theodore von B——. There were many passengers, but not much luggage, and consequently, by the time we had exchanged a few words of greeting, we discovered that every one of our boxes and bags had been placed singly in state on the seat of separate droschkies. The row of five Russian-dressed cabbies were much disappointed when they found that the many fares they had anticipated were not in store for them, and that all the luggage was to go upon one cart sent for the purpose, while the solitary landau and pair in waiting was our host's private carriage, intended to bear us some three hours' drive to his quaintly situated residence.
Passing the old castle of Wiborg with its modern red roof and many centuries of Swedish history, then the palace of the Governor, to say nothing of numbers of villa residences further on, where the folk of St. Petersburg—only two hours distant by train—settle down for the summer to enjoy sea-bathing, we plunged into a charming pine-wood, through which the roadway was so narrow that the trees literally swished the carriage as it passed. Drawing up suddenly we discovered that a stretch of water divided us from our island home, and as we were in a carriage, and there was no bridge, it seemed for a moment as if further progress were impossible.
Nothing of the kind, however, the carriage was calmly driven on to a kind of wide barge made for the purpose, the horses' noses being reflected in the water into which they peered. So clear were the reflections that evening, that the butterflies fluttering overhead were so distinctly visible in the water that it seemed almost impossible to believe them other than denizens of the lake along with the fishes.
The picturesque-looking man, wearing a pink cotton shirt and slouch hat, who had been waiting for our arrival, came on to the floating bridge beside us, and by means of pulleys and ropes, to work which he turned a handle, ferried us across to the opposite bank. This was a private arrangement and very ingenious, and away we trotted merrily through the pines, the earth, moss-grown and fern-strewn, intersected here and there by massive boulders of rock.
So rocky indeed was the road in parts that the carriage was driven over huge blocks of granite, while distinct marks of past glacial movement were everywhere visible.
Ah! there was the house, much larger than a villa, entirely made of wood, except for the stone foundations containing the cellars. The solid trees of which it was built were painted white, so that it looked very sunny and cheerful. A flight of wooden steps led to the front door, and to the numerous balconies by which, Finnish fashion, the house was nearly surrounded.
The warmest welcome awaited us; we were received as though we had been old and dear friends, instead of total strangers from a foreign land. Our host, the Captain and his Fru, were, luckily for us, excellent German scholars; indeed all the family spoke that language fluently, while some of the members could also speak English.
Our hostess's first exclamation when we arrived at her beautiful country home was an inquiry as to the contents of the large hold-all.
"Rugs," we replied, "and fur coats."
"Rugs and fur coats," she exclaimed in amusement. "What for?"
"To wear, of course," we answered.
"Did you think Finland was cold, then?" she asked.
"Certainly," we returned, "so we have each brought a rug and a fur-lined coat."
She laughed and said, "Far better to have brought cotton frocks."
It was our turn now to be amazed, and we asked her what she meant by cotton frocks.
"Why, do you not know that our summer is much hotter than it is in England—it is shorter, but much warmer."
We were surprised. But she was right, as subsequent events proved, and our bundle of rugs was an everlasting joke during the whole of our journey through Suomi, for having brought them we would not part with them, although during the whole of June, July, and August, we never undid them once nor opened an umbrella, except one night while descending the famous Ule rapids, when, if we had owned all the furs in Britain, we could not have kept ourselves warm, so impregnated with cold damp was the atmosphere.
The island Ilkesaari is the scene of a huge family gathering each summer, after a truly Finnish fashion, for besides the big house, which is a sort of rendezvous for every one, the married sons and daughters have also their own summer residences within a stone's throw; the parents' house is a general dining-hall on Sundays and sometimes on other days also.
Could any more delightful household be imagined? Clever and interesting in every way, with advanced ideas and wide interests, their home almost cosmopolitan in its English, French, and German literature, the elder folk ready and willing to chat on any theme in several tongues, the children talking Finnish to the servants, French to their governess, or Swedish to their parents, it was altogether an ideal family life in every sense, and more than charming to the strangers to whom Ilkesaari opened its doors and gave such a kindly welcome.
It is only in the homes of the people, rich and poor, one can learn anything of their characteristics. One may live in the large hotels of London, Paris, St. Petersburg, or Rome, and yet know almost nothing of the nations in whose midst we find ourselves. Food is much the same all over Europe, waiters wear regulation black coats and white ties, drawing-rooms and reading-rooms contain The Times, the Klnische Zeitung, or the Nove Vremya; and when, guide-book in hand, we walk through the streets to visit the museums, we imagine we are learning the innermost lives of the people, of whom we generally know mighty little. One week in the smallest private house teaches us more than a month in the largest hotel in the world. "All very well," says the reader; "but how are we to get into the private houses?"
Ah, there is the rub. We must open our own doors first; we must learn some languages, that golden key to travel, and when foreigners come into our midst with introductions, we must show them our homes and our lives if we want them to do the same for us. As it is, that humiliating cry is always sounding in our ears—
"English people never speak anything but English, and they are inhospitable to strangers; they are a proud nation and cold."
It is a libel, a hideous libel; but one which is, unfortunately, believed all over the Continent by foreigners not thoroughly acquainted with English folk in their own homes.
English, being the language of commerce, is fast becoming the language of the world, in spite of its imperfections; but to enjoy a country one must be able to converse in its own tongue.
The Finnish summer is not long, but it is both light and warm, the average temperature being as much higher than our own as it is lower in winter, and the people certainly enjoy both seasons to the full. Every country-house is surrounded by balconies, and on them all meals are served in the summer. We were fortunate enough to dine in many family circles, and to see much of the life of the rich, as well as the life of the poor.
One of the greatest features of a high-class Finnish meal is the Smrgsbord. On a side-table in every dining-room rows of little appetising dishes are arranged, and in the middle stands a large silver urn, brnnvin, containing at least a couple of liqueurs or schnapps, each of which comes out of a different tap. Every man takes a small glass of brandy, which is made in Finland from corn, and is very strong. No brandy is allowed to be imported from Russia or vice vers, a rule very strictly adhered to in both countries. Having had their drink and probably Sklat ("I drink your health") to their respective friends, each takes a small plate, knife, and fork from the pile placed close at hand, and helps himself to such odds and ends as he fancies before returning to the dining-table to enjoy them. Generally four or five things are heaped on each plate, but as they are only small delicacies they do not materially interfere with the appetite. Usually in summer the Smrgsbord contains—
Salt, graf lax, raw or smoked salmon.
Ost, cheese of various kinds, shaved very thin and eaten with black bread and butter, Bondost and Baueruk being two favourite kinds among the peasantry.
Kaviar, which is quite excellent and unlike anything we have in England, being the whole eggs of the sturgeon instead of a messy black compound.
Renstek, smoked reindeer, which is not nearly so nice as it is when eaten fresh in the winter in Norway.
gg, cold hard-boiled eggs cut in slices and arranged with sardines or anchovies.
Ost omelette, a delicious sort of custard or omelette, made with cheese and served hot, although everything else on the side-table is cold.
Mushrooms cooked in cream is another favourite dish.
Then small glass plates with slices of cold eel in jelly, salmon in jelly, tongue, ham, potted meat, etc., complete the Smrgsbord, which is often composed of fifteen or twenty dishes.
These delicacies are many of them delicious, but as the same things appear at each meal three times a day, one gets heartily sick of them in the end, and, to an English mind, they certainly seem out of place at breakfast time.
There are many excellent breads in Finland—
Frankt brd is really French bread; but anything white is called Frankt brd, and very good it is, as a rule.
Rg brd, or rye bread, is the ordinary black bread of the country, made in large flat loaves.
Hlkaka, the peasants' only food in some parts, is baked two or three times a year, so they put the bread away in a loft or upon the kitchen rafters; consequently, by the time the next baking day comes round it is as hard as a brick. A knife often cannot cut it. It is invariably sour, some of the last mixing being always left in the tub or bucket, that the necessary acidity may be ensured.
Knckebrd is a thin kind of cake, made of rye and corn together, something like Scotch oatcake, with a hole in the middle, so that it may be strung up in rows like onions on a stick in the kitchen. When thin and fresh it is excellent, but when thick and stale a dog biscuit would be equally palatable.
Wiborgs kringla, called in Finnish Wiipurin rinkeli, is a great speciality, its real home and origin being Wiborg itself. It is a sort of cake, but its peculiarity is that it is baked on straw, some of the straw always adhering to the bottom. It is made in the form of a true lover's knot, of the less fantastic kind, and a golden sign of this shape hangs outside to determine a baker's shop; even in Petersburg and in the north of Finland a modified representation of the Wiborgs kringla also denotes a bakery.
Having partaken of the odds and ends mentioned, the ordinary mid-day meal or dinner begins, usually between two and four o'clock.
The hostess, who sits at the head of the table, with her husband generally on one side and her most honoured guest on the other, with two huge soup-tureens before her, asks those present whether they will have soup or filbunke, a very favourite summer dish. This is made from fresh milk which has stood in a tureen till it turns sour and forms a sort of curds, when it is eaten with sugar and powdered ginger. It appears at every meal in the summer, and is excellent on a hot day. It must be made of fresh milk left twenty-four hours in a warm kitchen for the cream to rise, and twenty-four hours in the cellar, free from draught, to cool afterwards. The castor sugar is invariably served in a tall silver basin—that is to say, the bowl, with its two elegant handles, stands on a well-modelled pillar about eight or ten inches high, altogether a very superior and majestic form of sugar basin.
There are two special drinks in Finland—one for the rich, the other for the poor.
Mjd is one of the most delicious beverages imaginable. It is not champagne, and not cider, but a sort of effervescing drink of pale yellow colour made at the breweries, and extremely refreshing on a hot day. It costs about one shilling and sixpence a bottle, sometimes more, and is often handed round during an afternoon call with the coffee and marmelader, the famous Russian sweetmeats made of candied fruits.
The other drink is called in Swedish Svagdricka, but as it is really a peasant drink, and as the peasants speak Finnish, it is generally known as Kalja, pronounced "Kal-e-yah." It looks black, and is really small beer. Very small indeed it is, too, with a nasty burnt taste, and the natives up-country all make it for themselves, each farm having half a dozen or twenty hop poles of its own, which flavours the Kalja for the whole party for a year, so its strength of hop or amount of bubble is not very great.
From the middle of June till the middle of July we ate wild strawberries three times a day with sugar and cream! They simply abound, and very delicious these little Mansikka are. So plentiful are they that Suomi is actually known as "strawberry land."
There are numbers of wild berries in Finland; indeed, they are quite a speciality, and greet the traveller daily in soup—sweet soups being very general—or they are made into delicious syrups, are served as compte with meat, or transformed into puddings.
Here are a few of them—
Mansikka Fragaria vesca Wild strawberries, found in profusion everywhere.
Mesikka Rubus arcticus Red, with splendid aroma. Liqueur is made from them.
Vaatukka Rubus idaeus Wild raspberry.
Lakka Rubus chamaemorus Black. Often made into a kind of black juice, and taken as sweet soup.
Mustikka Vaccinium myrtillus (Wortleberries)—Black. Often made into soup of a glorious colour.
Puolukka Vaccinium vitis idaea (Red whortleberry)—Like a small cranberry. Eaten with meat.
Juolukka Vaccinium uliginosum A common black kind of berry, not very eatable.
Herukka Ribes nigrum Cranberry.
Karpalo Vaccinium occycoccus This berry is not gathered in the autumn, but is left under the snow all the winter, ready to be picked in spring when the snow melts, as the fruit is better when it has been frozen. It keeps in a tub for months without any preparation, and is particularly good as a jelly when eaten with cream.
Muurain (Swedish, Hjortron) In appearance is like a yellow raspberry; grows in the extreme north in the morasses during August. It is a most delicious fruit, with a pine-tree flavour.
"Will you have some sweetbread?" we were once asked, but as we were drinking coffee at the moment we rather wondered why we should be going back to the ntrees—our stupidity, of course. Sweetbread is the name given to all simple forms of cake in Finland; a great deal of it is eaten, and it is particularly good.
At dinner, hock, claret, or light beer are drunk as a rule; but at breakfast and supper, beer and milk are the usual beverages, the latter appearing in enormous jugs—indeed, we have actually seen a glass one that stood over two feet high.
After dinner, coffee is immediately served with cream, not hot milk; after supper, tea is generally handed round, the hostess brewing it at the table.
Beside her stands a huge samovar, which is really a Russian urn, and not a teapot as generally supposed. Inside it are hot coals or coke, round the tin of which is the boiling water, while above it stands the teapot, kept hot by the water below. It is generally very good tea, for it comes from China in blocks through Siberia, but it is much better when drunk with thin slices of lemon than with milk. As a rule, it is served to men in tumblers, and to women in cups, an etiquette with an unknown origin. It is pale-straw colour, and looks horribly weak, and so it is, but with lemon it forms a very refreshing beverage.
At the end of each meal every one at the table goes and shakes hands with the host and hostess and says "tack" (thank you); certainly a pretty little courtesy on the part of strangers, but rather monotonous from children, when there are many of them, as there often are in Finland, especially when the little ones cluster round the parents or grandparents as a sort of joke, and prolong the "tack" for an indefinite period.
Then the men smoke; seldom the women, for, although so close to Russia, Finnish women rarely imitate their neighbours in this habit. The elder men smoke tremendously, especially cigarettes, fifty or sixty per diem being nothing uncommon. In fact, this smoking has become so terrible a curse that there is now a movement among the students, most of whom seem to be anti-smokers, against tobacco, so perhaps the new generation may not have such black teeth and yellow fingers.
But to return to the first impressions of our country-house. The balconies are made very wide so as to admit a dining-table, and as the roofs of the houses project a couple of feet beyond the balcony, in order to throw the winter's snows on to the ground instead of allowing them to block up the verandahs, there is plenty of shade; that is occasionally increased by hanging curtains of red and white striped canvas, which can be drawn together, and form quite a little room. They were the jolliest, happiest meals in that island home! Every one spoke German—the language we all knew best in common—and conversation, jokes, and merriment never flagged as we sat facing that glorious view of pine-wood and water, while the lilac (just two months later than in England) scented the air, or the hawthorn afforded shelter for endless birds who were constantly singing. Among the most notable cries was that of the friendly cuckoo. Fourteen, and even twenty, of us often dined together—the daughters, sons, husbands, wives, and children from the other houses frequently gathering round the father's board. And in the cool of the evening we usually went for a row on the lake.
Every one boats in Finland. Two or three sailing boats, and some dozen rowing skiffs and canvas kanots of different sizes, lay upon the Captain's water, and at all times and seasons some person was away in one of them, or down at the bathing house enjoying a so-called sea-bath, although it was not really salt water, being more of an inland lake. Canoeing is one of the great sports of Finland, and yet it is only within the last ten years that these kanots have come in such universal use, although no country was ever better fitted for the purpose, for it is one series of long lakes joined together by beautiful rivers. Dr. August Ramsay must be termed the Father of Finnish canoeing, for it was his book on the subject that made the sport so fashionable. Funnily enough, these Finnish canoes are always made of canvas stretched over ribs of wood. They are two and a half to three feet wide and some twenty feet long; therefore they are pretty solid and can be used with a sail. An Englishman fond of the sport cannot do better than take a summer jaunt to Finland, and with his canoe travel through some of the most beautiful parts of that captivating country.
Finlanders lead a very jolly, independent, happy life during the summer months. They seem to throw off their cares and responsibilities and to make up their minds to enjoy the long, balmy days, and, as they are not devoured by the midges which eat up strangers alive, they have nought to ruffle the even tenor of their way.
After supper, when the day's work is over, and the great heat has gone, boating parties are made up, and, in the brilliant midnight sunsets, they glide in and out of the islands, visit distant friends, singing the while some of the delightful melodies for which their land is justly famous.
Even as far back as 1896, when I paid my first visit to Finland, and when telephones were barely in general use in England, Suomi was ahead of us.
The great excitement in the homes was the ring of the telephone bell and the Swedish cry, "Hulloa! ring up so and so," which at first we imagined was being translated into English for our benefit. Telephones are very cheap there, costing about a couple of pounds a year, and they are universal; for, like Norway, Finland was one of the first countries to be riddled with them, and a delightful luxury they are, for by their means one can live out of the world, and yet be in it.
In those early days of telephones strange things happened. Pekka was madly in love with Ilma, a wondrously beautiful maid. He heard rumours that she was trifling with another. He could not stand the torture even for a few hours, and so "rang up" the mansion of the family Heikkil.
Joy, he heard the voice of Ilma in answer, and said, "Is it you, dear one? I, Pekka, am here."
A soft sigh replied.
"Are you glad to hear Pekka—do you care for him just a little?"
"Yes," sighed the fair maid.
"Darling, it is not true you care for Armas Merikanto?"
"No, no!" she cried.
"You like me—you love me?"
"Yes," she softly murmured.
"Will you be my wife?"
"I will, Pekka."
Overjoyed, Pekka almost hugged the wooden box that brought him such glad tidings.
"When may I come to see you, darling—my little wife?"
"Come, Pekka—come for dinner at three o'clock."
A few more sweet nothings, and, quite enraptured, he returned to his dull office routine. At three o'clock, spick and span, with a golden ring in his pocket, he presented himself at the house of the Heikkils.
In the salon stood the mother. He went towards her to receive her motherly congratulations. She rushed forward to meet him, as all good mothers-in-law should, and, throwing herself into his arms, she cried—
"Take me, Pekka, dearest Pekka; I am yours till death."
"Yes. I have loved you long, darling Pekka, and I am ready whenever you can fix a day for our marriage!"
Moral—beware of telephones!
Matrimony generally expects too much and gets too little. Courtship proved the same in this case.
The first thing that strikes a stranger on entering a Finnish country-house is the mats, placed at the foot of every staircase and outside every door. They are made of the loose branches of the pine-tree neatly laid on the top of one another to form an even round mat, these branches being so constantly renewed that they always give off a delicious fresh smell. The next surprise is the enormous white porcelain stove or oven found in every room; so enormous are these kakelugn that they reach the ceiling, and are sometimes four feet long and three or four feet deep. The floors of all the rooms are painted raw-sienna colour, and very brightly polished. To our mind it seems a pity not to stain the natural wood instead of thus spoiling its beauty, but yellow paint is at present the fashion, and fashion is always beautiful, some folk say. In winter carpets and rugs are put down, but during summer the rooms are swept daily (at all events in the country) with a broom made of a bundle of fresh, green birch leaves—somewhat primitive, but very efficacious, for when the leaves are a little damp they lick up dust in a wonderful manner. These little brooms are constantly renewed, being literally nothing more than a bundle of birch boughs tied tightly together. They cost nothing in a land where trees grow so fast that it is difficult for a peasant to keep the ground near his house free from their encroachments.
In truth, Finland is utterly charming. Its lakes, its canals, its rivers, its forests, are beautiful, and its customs are interesting. It is primitive and picturesque, and its people are most kind and hospitable, but—and oh! it is a very big but indeed, there exists a Finnish pest.
Strolling through those beautiful dark pines and silver birch woods, he is ever by one's side; sailing or rowing over the lakes, that Finnish demon intrudes himself. Sitting quietly at meals, we know the fiend is under the table, while, as we rest on the balcony in the evening, watching a glorious sun sinking to rest an hour before midnight, he whispers in our ears or peeps into our eyes. He is here, there, and everywhere; he is omnipresent—this curse of Finland. He is very small, his colour is such that he is hardly visible, and he is sly and crafty, so that the unwary stranger little guesses that his constant and almost unseen companion will speedily bring havoc to his comfort and dismay into his life. The little wretch is called Mygga in Swedish or Itikainen in Finnish, the Finnish words being pronounced exactly as they are written, in the German style of calling i, e, etc.
In English he is a mosquito of a very virulent description, and in Finland he is a peculiarly knowing little brute, and shows a hideous partiality for strangers, not apparently caring much for the taste of Finnish blood.
He loves Englishwomen as inordinately as they loathe him, and, personally, the writer suffered such tortures that her ankles became hot and swollen, and at last, in spite of lavender oil, ammonia and camphor baths, grew so stiff that walking became positively painful, and her ears and eyes mere distorted lumps of inflamed flesh! Therefore, dear lady reader, be prepared when you visit Midgeland to become absolutely hideous and unrecognisable. When a kindly servant brings a rug to wind round your legs under the dinner-table on the balcony, gladly accept that rug.
There are not merely mosquitoes but—but—that awful experience must be told in another chapter.
As a town Wiborg is nothing to boast of. There is nothing very remarkable about any ordinary Finnish town, with the exception of the capital, Helsingfors, where all the best buildings are centered and built of stone. Most of the towns are modern and generally ugly, because, being of wood, they are so apt to be burnt down, that architects give neither time nor thought to their structural beauty, or, even when not so destroyed, the original houses—which seldom last over a hundred years—have fallen out of repair and been replaced by undecorative wooden structures. Stone houses are few and far between, and, as a rule, the wooden dwellings are only one storey high, because fires in such low buildings are more easily extinguished, and, land not being of much value, the space required for such edifices can easily be afforded. These wooden dwellings are usually painted dark red in the smaller towns, and lighter shades in the larger, while here and there on the walls are to be seen iron rosettes and other queer sort of ornaments, really used as a means of keeping the house together. No one, not even a Finn, could call the average native town beautiful, although some excellent stone educational buildings are springing up here and there.
The capital is charmingly situated and has several very nice buildings, and is therefore an exception, but even in the case of Wiborg the shop windows are small and uninviting, the streets are shockingly laid with enormous boulder stones and sometimes even bits of rock, while pavements, according to our ideas, hardly exist.
The religion being Lutheran there are no beautiful churches, only simple whitewashed edifices, extremely plain inside, with an organ at one end, an altar and perhaps one picture at the other. In the case of Kuopio (which town possesses a Bishop) the cathedral is only lighted by candles, and, during the service, a man goes round continually putting out those that have burnt too low with a wet sponge tied to the end of a stick!
One of the chief characteristics of the towns, most noticeable to a stranger, is that none of the windows are ever open. The Finn dreads fresh air as much as he dreads daily ablutions, and therefore any room a stranger enters at any hour is certain to be stuffy and oppressive.
One day in Wiborg, overcome with the intense heat, we went into a confectioner's where ices were provided, to get cool. Imagine our horror to find that the double windows were hermetically sealed, although the caf invited the patronage of strangers by placards stating "ices were for sale." What irony! To eat an ice in a hothouse as a means of getting cool.
Wiborg has a big market, and every day a grand trade is done in that large open space, and as we wandered from one cart of meat to another of vegetables or black bread, or peeped at the quaint pottery or marvellous baskets made from shavings of wood neatly plaited, our attention was arrested by fish tartlets. We paused to look; yes, a sort of pasty the shape of a saucer was adorned in the middle with a number of small fish about the size of sardines. They were made of suola kala (salted fish), eaten raw by the peasants; we now saw them in Wiborg for the first time, though, unhappily, not for the last, since these fish tartlets haunted us at every stage of our journey up country.
What weird and wonderful foods one eats and often enjoys when travelling.
Strange dishes, different languages, quaint customs, and unexpected characteristics all add to the charms of a new land; but it requires brains to admire anything new.
Fools are always stubborn, even in their appreciation of the beautiful.
No one can be many days in Finland without hearing murmurs of the bath-house.
A Finnish bath once taken by man or woman can never be forgotten!
A real native bath is one of the specialities of the country. Even in the old songs of the Kalevala they speak of the "cleansing and healing vapours of the heated bath-room."
Poets have described the bath in verse, artists have drawn it on canvas, and singers have warbled forth its charms; nevertheless, it is not every traveller who has penetrated the strange mystery. Most strange and most mysterious it is. But I anticipate.
Every house in the country, however humble that house may be, boasts its bastu, or bath-house, called in Finnish Sauna. As we passed along the country roads, noting the hay piled up on a sort of tent erection made of pine trunks, to dry in the sun before being stowed away into small wooden houses for protection during the winter, or nearly drove over one of those strange long-haired pigs, the bristles on whose backs reminded one of a hog-maned polo pony, one saw these bastus continually. Among the cluster of little buildings that form the farm, the bath-house, indeed, stands forth alone, and is easily recognisable, one of its walls, against which the stove stands, being usually black, even on the outside, from smoke.
Every Saturday, year in, year out, that stove is heated, and the whole family have a bath—not singly, oh dear, no, but altogether, men, women, and children; farmer, wife, brothers, sisters, labourers, friends, and the dogs too, if they have a mind; so that once in each week the entire population of Finland is clean, although few of them know what daily ablutions, even of the most primitive kind, mean, while hot water is almost as difficult to procure in Suomi as a great auk's egg in England.