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The New York Times, July 11, 1880, p.5:|
IN NORTHERN LATITUDESFROM ST. PETERSBURG TO STOCKHOLM.
VARIED AND PICTURESQUE ASPECTS
OF THE NORTHERN VENICE...
STOCKHOLM, June 15.--The "Northern Venice" is no inapt title for Stockholm, for, like its namesake, it is one of the few places which no description can spoil. The irrepressible guide-book may indeed give us the circumference of the city in miles, the height of the churches in feet and inches, the width of the bridges and depth of the harbor, and may artfully inform us that "the front of the palace is considered a model piece of architecture," or that "the iron tower of the cathedral is universally admired," thus giving us a timely hint at what point to get up a little appropriated enthusiasm.
The scribbling tourist, who is laboring to squeeze out materials for Rambles in the Northern Cities, or The Knapsack in the Land of Odin, may rhapsodize about "leaf-crowned shores," and "girdling waters," and "the wild luxuriance of untamed nature," and all the rest of it; but both descriptions leave the reader just as wise as he was before on the question of what Stockholm is really like.
Perhaps the Swedish capital may be best defined by calling it "Venice Built on the Hudson." To all the architectural beauty of Copenhagen or St. Petersburg it adds the imposing elevation which is so signally wanting in both. With its terraced streets rising mass above mass over the blue rippling sea, its curving hills wooded to the water's edge, its forest masts bristling against the sunny sky, its noble palace standing out conspicuous on the bold ridge above the Maelar, the great city has a royal and commanding beauty of its own which few of the world's capitals can rival.
Claude Lorraine himself could have desired no finer study than the view of Stockholm at sunset when the red glow falls upon green islets and broad white bridges, upon spacious quays and steep, winding streets, upon shady gardens and great waves of leafy hillside, crested with stately houses and shining church towers, and upon the broad, smooth brightness of the Naelar lying in the midst of all, "a sea of glass mingled with fire."
There are few tastes, indeed, whether artistic or practical, which Stockholm cannot gratify. Are you antiquary? The Royal Museum, famous throughout Northern Europe, offers you all its treasures. Are you a boating man? Here is a sheet of smooth water that might satisfy Hanlan himself, and a choice of excellent boats at any hour of the 24. Are you an admirer of architecture? You may gaze your fill upon the delicate tracery of the wrought-iron church tower and the grand simplicity of the palace, which forms a noble medium between the gingerbread ornamentation of the Winter Palace at St. Petersburg and the ostentatious lonliness the royal residence at Copenhagen--the Russian ediface being, in fact, a servant disguised as a King; the Danish, a King disguised as a servant, and the Swedish, a King dressed as a man.
Are you a pedestrian? The breakneck streets of the upper town will find you in ample exercise, and the surrounding country provide you with an endless selection of routes. Are you a lover of the picturesque? The whole panorama of the town lies before you, and when you have exhausted it, or think you have, you may still enjoy a fresh view from the little knuckle of rock, crowned by a tiny pink six-gun fort of the best toy-shop architecture which calls itself a "citadel," or wander through the secluded "Djur-Garten," (deer-garden,) with its white-balconied villas overlooking velvet lawns, its shady nooks furnished with comfortable seats, and its shadowy vistas enshrining noble statues.
Nor is the seaward panorama in approaching Stockholm from the east in any way unworthy of it. Nothing, except, perhaps, the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence, can match that magnificent procession of rocky islets crested with dark foliage, every leaf of which is mirrored in the glassy water below.
So thick are the islands at the entrance of the Gulf of Bothnia that, all the way from the Finnish coast to that of Sweden, we never once lose sight of land, which is at times so close on either side that we seem to be sailing through a canal. At every turn the way seems completely blocked; but just as you are wondering how the steamer is to get out she suddenly shoots through some narrow channel into the midst of fresh archipelagoes, each with its own cluster of tiny red huts and its own toy flotilla of fishing boats.
Here and there peeps out a dainty little white villa, with a patch of smooth lawn that looks deliciously fresh and green against the sombre background of the pine forest, suggesting tantalizing thoughts of a month's holiday in the woods, an early swim every morning in the clear, cool water, an unlimited cruise from island to island in one's own boat, midnight fishing excursions, yarns by the camp-fire, and all the delights of that glorious gypsy existence which the happy residents of these parts enjoy to the full every Summer.
There, methinks, would be enjoyment, more than in our morning calls,|
In the meerschaum, in the novel, in the roll of billiard balls.
There to crash through pathless thickets, there in cloudless suns to bask,
Drinking of the mountain streamlet, (slightly strengthened from my flask.)
Over mountain, over moorland, scorning wind and rain and dirt,
Nothing with me but a sandwich, nothing on me but a shirt.
Hampered not by useless baggage, bearing naught by lines and hooks,
Not with reeling senses poring over Bradshaw's books.
The voyage from St. Petersburg to Stockholm, though shortened somewhat from its original length of four days, is still quite methodical enough to recall forcibly Mr. Kinglake's famous saying that before he had voyaged across the Levant in a Greek vessel he had thought that Ulysses need hardly have taken 20 years to sail from Troy to Ithaca, but he now considered it a very fair average passage.
But, with all their slowness, there is something wonderfully attractive about these plodding old boats, which seem just the right kind of conveyance for entering patriarchal Sweden, the land where no one is ever in a hurry, ever gets tired, or ever wants to go to bed. No one can be ill on board, for the water is far too smooth to give even the shadow of an excuse for it. No one can quarrel, there being no common language in which to do it. No one need be hungry, for the three substantial meals daily are further improved by a kind of prologue, consisting of innumerable saucers filled with salt beef, tongue, ham, smoked salmon, sardines, liver-sauce, and spiced bread, which our Finnish and Swedish fellow-passengers mis in a way sufficient to shatter the digestion of the stoutest rhinoceros on the Congo.
Moreover, the coming of our steamer is the event of the week in many of the coast towns, and received as such with unbounded enthusiasm. As we thread our way among the islands, every person on shore seems to think it a point of honor to wave their pocket-handkerchief as frantically as if signaling a street car, in proof of the interest which he or she takes in our movements.
Our departure from any port, moreover, invariable brings out at least half the population of the place to witness it; and this circumstance, coupled with the peculiar solemnity of the leave-takings, and the fact that every passenger has at least three friends to see him off, impresses us with a vague but disagreeable suspicion that we are really bound for the North Pole, or the west coast of Africa, without the faintest hope of ever returning alive...
[unsigned, but clearly written by DAVID KER.]
The remainder of the above article, which deals with the Helsinki area, can be found on the Finland News page
The New York Times, July 14, 1880, p.3:|
ALONG THE GOTHA CANALA DELIGHTFUL PANORAMA OF SWEDISH SCENERY.
CHARMING LANDSCAPES AND QUAINT OLD VILLAGES--
THE OLD SVENSKE BLOOD--AN OVERCROWDED STEAMER.
TROLLHATTEN, West Sweden, June 17.--A secluded valley, shut in by rocky hills, covered to their very summit with those sombre pine forests whose ghostly shadows Moritz Retzsch would have peopled with the revels of witches and demons; a quiet little Swedish village, flanked on one side by a smooth, sluggish canal, on the other by a raging waterfall, which, split in three by huge masses of wood-crowned cliff, goes rushing and roaring down the gorge in an endless succession of foaming breakers; a collection of hideous saw-mills around the finest spot, and a wooden pay-gate commanding the only bridge that leads to the fall, showing that the Swedes have not studied Niagara in vain--such is our last glimpse of Sweden before crossing the Norwegian frontier to-morrow, where I hope to be more fortunate than in Iceland, although in some points the two countries are formidably alike.
But, whatever mischances may await me beyond the Norwegian border, my last two days in Sweden have been an ample compensation in advance. To the irrepressible excursionist who does Europe against time, and whose first inquiry on reaching a new city is about the next train for somewhere else, the slow passage of the Gotha Canal and the great lakes would doubtless be unbearable; but there are few journeys in all Europe more thoroughly delightful in every way.
It is true that the sun and wind make sad havoc of one's complexion, and that it is somewhat startling to awake and find your face one glow of burning splendor, suggestive of a long and steady course of outrageous drunkenness, or to see your nose covered with fluttering pennons of loose skin, like a ship with all her flags hoisted. But this is "all in a day's work," and not to be grumbled at.
As for the scenery, the marvelous beauty might have inspired the enthusiastic Alderman who said that "wonders had never done ceasing." The northern forests, so gloomy and lifeless in winter, are in their glory now, and the sea of fresh foliage that extends in every direction is a perfect treat after the bare, dusty plains of Central Russia, while the broad lakes, framed in slopes of velvety green sward, the rugged rocks starting up through the smooth turf, the little red log hovels and white-balconied country houses, the quaint old church towers, half seen amid clustering trees, form one of the most charming pictures imaginable.
At one moment we look out over a boundless expanse of rich corn-land, dotted with painted huts. The next, we are gliding between two huge overhanging rocks, which frown upon us like Bunyan's twin giants scowling at the escape of some daring pilgrim from the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Then we dip suddenly into a shady dell, in the hollow of which a cluster of giant trees bend over a babbling brook, like a group of veterans listening to the prattle of a child. Anon we are looking down upon a low stretch of meadow on either side, many feet below the level of the canal, so that we actually seem to be sailing above the land upon a ridge of water. And now we burst all at once into a wide, glassy lake, over which the setting sun--if he can be said to set at all in this wonderful region--pours a flood of golden glory as far as the eye can reach.
But the villages. What description, now that Washington Irving is gone, can do justice to them? There is a curious mixture of primitive dignity and Sleepy Hollow repose about some of these little one-storied cots, which nestle round the white, low-towered church like chickens around the mother-hen. This high-fronted tenement of black and white beams is adorned with some half-effaced gilt letters, which announce that it unites the dignities of bank and Post Office. That puckered little building with teh hock-nosed roof proclaims itself, on the strength of three old books and a fly-specked newspaper in its one window, as a "Bibliotek," (library). Before two or three of the doors further up the street stand groups of big, fresh-looking men, in steeple-crowned hats and blue stockings, smoking their pipes and chatting just as their forefathers may have done while a reign of terror was darkening beautiful Stockholm, and when the last of the blood-royal was skulking in the mines of Dalecarlia.
Very quiet and unpretending are these little nooks, which Time himself seems to have forgotten; yet it was just such spots as these which sent forth men who stormed Wallenstein's batteries at Lutzen, and turned to flight the armies of Russia, 8,000 to 80,000, on that bleak Winter morning, before Narva, two centuries ago. And one glance at the hardy, resolute faces of these stalwart villagers suffices to show that, although the day of Sweden's supremacy is indeed gone for ever, the good old Svenske blood has not yet grown cold.
As to the deck panorama of the canal steamer itself, Dickens alone could worthily describe it. The same fortune which threw me among a chain-gang in Central Asia, and a group of handcuffed murderers on the Caspian, in 1873, seems to haunt me still.
I came up the Baltic last month with a company of factory hands en route for Central Russia; I traveled through Central Russia the other day with a gang of convicts on their way to Siberia; and I have just crossed Sweden with a caravan of Finnish emigrants bound for New-York. My first impression of these amiable exiles fully bore out all that I said in my last letter respecting their innate fierceness and intractability. Before I had been 10 minutes on board I saw one of them knock another head foremost down the forehatchway, with a straightforeward blow between the eyes which Senator Morrissey himself might well have applauded. A little later, I came upon a third who was manfully doing his best to break the back of a comrade against the corner of his iron-bound chest. Turning from this pleasing spectacle, I caught the sight of a fifth member of the same church, seemingly bent upon cutting a slice out of the Captain with his sheath-knife, thinking, perhaps, that a joint of fresh-killed Swede would make a seasonable "relish" for his black rye-loaf.
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The Kingdom of Sweden occupies the eastern side of the scandanavian peninsula, bordered by Norway and Finland, and separated from Denmark in the Baltic Sea only by a narrow strait. The capital is Stockholm. The area of Sweden is 173,732 square miles (449,964 square km). The estimated population of Sweden for July, 2007 is 9,031,088. The official language is Swedish.
A military power during the 17th century, Sweden has not participated in any war in almost two centuries. An armed neutrality was preserved in both World Wars.
Sweden's long-successful economic formula of a capitalist system interlarded with substantial welfare elements was challenged in the 1990s by high unemployment and in 2000-02 by the global economic downturn, but fiscal discipline over the past several years has allowed the country to weather economic vagaries.
Sweden joined the EU in 1995, but the public rejected the introduction of the euro in a 2003 referendum.
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