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The Story of Finland and Its Culture: Learn from Finland, The Country of White Lilies by Grigory Petrov

White velvet sounds thriftless; but in Finland, in the summer, it isvery hot and dry; in fact, the three or four months of summer are reallysummer in all its glory. It is all daylight and there is no night, sothat June, July, and August seem one perpetual midsummer day. Fortravelling or country rides, the Finland student wears a small linencover over his white velvet cap, which is made to fix on so neatly thatthe stranger does not at first detect it is a cover at all. In thewinter, the white cap is laid aside, and a black velvet one takes itsplace.

Finland The Country Of White Lilies Ebook 26

We had many curious experiences when bathing in the lakes, and seemed toexcite as much interest in the peasantry of Finland as a Chinaman withhis pigtail would in a small country village in England. At Sordavala,for instance, there was a charming little bath-house belonging to ournext host, for which we got the key and prepared to enjoy a swim. Abathing-dress was not to be bought for love or money. No one had everheard of such a thing, but my sister's modesty forbade her appearingwithout one so near a town, and, now that we had left our kind hostessat Ilkeäsaari, she could no longer borrow one. Through the town ofSordavala, therefore, we marched from shop to shop until we lightedupon a sort of store where linen goods were procurable. Blue andwhite-striped galatea exactly suited the purpose, as it would be lightfor packing, and the colour could not run. We bought it, we paid for it,and home we marched. In less than an hour that gown was cut out by theaid of[73] a pair of nail scissors, without any kind or sort of patternwhatever, and was sewn up ready for use. Out my sister went to bathe,triumphant; but so rare was a bathing-dress that the onlookers thoughtthe English lady had fallen into the water by mischance with all herclothes on.

The national colours are red and yellow, or white and bright blue, andmuch dispute arises as to which is really right, for while the heraldrybook says red and yellow, the country folk maintain blue and white.White loose blouses of fine Finnish flannel seemed most in favour, witha short full underskirt of the same material; geometrical embroideryabout two inches wide in all colours and patterns being put round thehem of the short dress as well as brace fashion over the bodice; in somecases a very vivid shade of green, a sort of pinafore bodice with alarge apron of the same colour falling in front, was noticeable; theembroidery in claret and dark green running round all the border lines;at the neck this embroidery was put on more thickly, and also at thewaist belt. Round the apron hung a deep and handsome fringe; altogetherthe dress with its striking colours and tin or silver hangings was verypleasing. Unfortunately the girls seemed to think that even when theywore their national dress they ought to wear also a hat and gloves;although even the simplest hat spoils the effect.

For once we really started at the hour named, and at four o'clock, witha crack of the whip, our ponies galloped out of the yard of the mostdelightful majatalo we had ever slept in. On we drove through theearly hours of the morning, everything looking fresh and bright, thebirds singing, the rabbits running across the road. As we passed fieldswhere the peasants were gathering in their hay, or ploughing with anold-fashioned hand-plough, such as was used in Bible days and is stillcommon in Morocco, we[361] wondered what Finnish peasants would think of allour modern inventions for saving labour, especially that wonderfulmachine where the wheat goes in at the top and comes out corn at oneend, chaff in the middle, and straw, bound ready for sale, at the other.We drove on till nine o'clock, by which time we were all ready foranother meal. Jogging along country roads aids digestion, and by nine wehad forgotten we had ever eaten any breakfast at all. We had reallyarranged to spend some hours at our next halting-place, in fact not toleave until the cool of the evening, so as to rest both our horses andourselves, and be saved the glare and the heat. But tired as our animalsseemed, and weary though we were, that station proved impossible. We hadto stay for a couple of hours, for it would have been cruel to ask theponies to leave sooner, but we were indeed thankful that we had notarranged to spend the night in such an awful hole. To relate the horrorof that majatalo would be too fearful a task. Suffice it to sayeverything was filthy, and we felt sick at heart when drinking milk andcoffee at the place. Worse still, our white bread had come to an end,and we had to eat some of the native rye bread. The housewife and allthe women in the house being terrible even to look upon, it seemedperfectly awful to eat bread that they had made, but yet we were sohungry. Reader, pity our plight.


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