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SWEDEN, LAPLAND, AND FINLAND,
In the Years 1798 and 1799,
BY JOSEPH ACERBJ.
THE gentleman who visited these regions of the Arctic circle
is a native of Italy, a country abounding in all the beauties of nature and the finest productions of art, of course he appears to have been forcibly struck with the contrast between his own country, and the sublimity and rude magnificence of the northern climates.
Mr. Acerbi landed at Helsingburg from whence he proceeded to Gothenburg. “This city,' says he, is the second city of the kingdom. Its environs are almost every where naked, barren, and dreary. They present an uniform scene of small eminences of black rock, where nature cannot by any power of art be forced to produce vegetation. The harbour exhibits a similar confusion of rocks not more pleasing to the eye, and some little craggy isles of a rugged and forbidding aspect. As to the interior of the town, it resembles in some respects the towns of Holland, having canals, with rows of trees along their margins, regularly cut or clipped in the Dutch fashion. The inhabitants of this place are in a state of constant emulation with those of the capital, in commerce as well as in their mode of life, their fashions, and every species of luxury. The ladies of Gothen
burg are celebrated for their amiable dispositions, their beauty, their sociability, and their accomplishments. They employ much of their time in the cultivation of languages and the arts, particularly that of music. They possess in a very high degree all the qualifications that form an amiable, accomplished, and interesting woman. The population of this town is about fifteen thousand. The suburbs are situated on rising ground, and are occupied principally by seafaring people belonging to merchantmen, the East India company, and several ships of war stationed in the harbour. The commerce of Gothenburg is very considerable, and comprehends perhaps more than the seventh part of the exports, and about a fourth of the imports of the whole kingdom. The East India company, in which the city of Antwerp and the town of Ostend have a large share, sends from one to two or three ships annually to China. Though their charter empowers them to trade with India, it is but rarely, and to no considerable extent, that they avail themselves of that privilege. The number of trading vessels belonging to Gothenburg is about two hundred and fifty. About eight hundred foreign ships enter the harbour annually, and about five hundred Swedish. One of the principal sources of prosperity to Gothenburg is the herring fishery. Six hundred thousand barrels of salted herrings have been known to be sold in one year, and thirty thousand barrels of oil. To one barrel of oil there is reckoned a proportion of ten or twelve barrels of berrings. Every such barrel contains from a thousand to fourteen hundred herrings. The fishing begins in October, and lasts till February, and sometimes till March. The herrings are partly consumed in the country itself, and partly exported to the Baltic and the Mediterranean.'
Our traveller in proceeding to Stockholm passed the canal of Trolhatta, cut through immense rocks with prodigious skill and labour. On arriving at the capital he observes, there are a great variety of stations in this insulated and peninsulated capital, from which you may survey its manifold and singular beauties. Steeples, houses, rocks, trees, lakes, and the castle, which rears its head above the whole, present to the eye a most interesting picture. But the point of view which is more
striking than all the others, and where every stranger should stop and look round him, is the north bridge. Turning to wards the city, you have in front a view of its whole extent, and of the forepart of the castle, which stands on the brow of a hill. This is a work of superb architecture, simple indeed, but noble and majestic; not incumbered with that load of useless ornaments, which greatly disfigured the castle or palace of Copenhagen, as may still be seen from the ruins that were left by the fire, which has nearly destroyed that magnificent structure. Thence, on the right, your eye takes a wide range ; and perceives, among other objects, a number of hills adorned with houses or with fir-trees, and rests with delight on a small island, embellished with a pavilion or summer-house, which is reflected by the limpid surface of the water, and exhibits a most pleasing appearance. Near to this building, on the right hand, stands the beautiful house of the count de Bunge, where a club is held, distinguished by the name of the Society. A prospect as much diversified, and not less extensive, is opened towards the east, comprehending at some distance the isle of Blasius, which communicates by means of a wooden bridge with Ships-island. To the left you see the theatre or playhouse, and to the north you observe the Nordermalm or northplace, in the centre of which stands a gilt statue in bronze of Gustavus Adolphus. On two sides of this square, the right and the left, are two edifices, the fronts of which are in exact correspondence and symmetry with each other. One of them is the palace of the princess royal, and the other the operahouse. To this is to be added the effect produced on the imagination, by the noise of the water rushing in a violent cataract through the arches of the bridge, which completes the romantic assemblage. After what has been said of the situation of Stockholm, it will be easy to conceive what a change the appearance of the whole scene must undergo by the opposite seasons.
* The grand and most distinguished feature in the locality oi that city, namely, being situated on islands amidst gulfs and lakes, is destroyed by the ice. The same water which divides the inhabitants of the different quarters in summer
unites them in winter. It becomes a plain which is traversed by every body. The islands are islands no longer : horses in sledges, phaetons, and in vehicles of all sorts placed on skates, scour the gulf and lakes by the side of ships fixed in the ice, and astonished as it were to find themselves in such company on the same element. Those lakes which in summer were brightened by the clear transparency of their waters reflecting every object on their banks, and presenting the animated picture of skiffs, oars, and small sails, are now turned into a place of rendezvous for men and children mingled in one throng. They walk, slide, fly about in sledges, or glide along on small skates. In the exercise of skating they display great dexterity and address, and amuse the spectators with the ease and quickness of their various movements; darting foward with the speed of arrows; turning and returning, and balancing their bodies according to inclination and circumstances, in such a manner that it is sometimes difficult to imagine what can be their principal of motion. Here the water, which during the keenest frost dashes and foams with great noise through the arches of the bridge, sends up majestic clouds of vapour to a considerable height in the atmosphere; where, in the extreme rigour of winter, being converted by the intenseness of the cold into solid particles, they are precipitated down through their weight, and presenting their surface to the sun, assume the appearance of a shower of silver sand, reflecting the solar rays, and adorned with all manner of colours. In the interior of Stockholm, throughout all its different quarters, every thing in winter in like manner undergoes a sudden change. The snow that begins to fall in the latter weeks of autumn covers and hides the streets for the space of six months; and renders them more pleasant and convenient than they are in summer or autumn; at which seasons, partly on account of the pavement, and partly on account of the dirt, they are often almost impassable. One layer of snow on another, hardened by the frost, forms a surface more equal and agreeable to walk on, which is sometimes raised more than a yard above the stones of the street. You are no longer stunned by the irksome noise of carriage-wheels; but this is ex
changed for the tinkling of little bells, with which they deck their horses before the sledges. The only wheels now to be seen in Stockholm are those of small carts, employed by men servants of families to fetch water from the pump in a cask. This compound of cart and cask always struck me as a very curious and extraordinary object; insomuch that I once took the trouble of following it, in order to have a nearer view of the whimsical robe in which the frost had invested it, and particularly of the variegated and fantastical drapery in which the wheels were covered and adorned. This vehicle, with all its appurtenances, afforded to a native of Italy a very singular spectacle. The horse was wrapped up, as it seemed, in a mantle of wbite down, which under his breast and belly was fringed with points and tufts of ice. Stalactical ornaments of the same kind, some of them to the length of a foot, were also attached to his nose and mouth. The servant that attended the cart had on a frock, which was encrusted with a solid mass of ice. His eye-brows and hair jingled with icicles, which were formed by the action of the frost on his breath and perspiration. Sometimes the water of the pump was frozen, so that it became necessary to melt it by the injection of a red hot-bar of iron.
• When the cold of winter drives the people of fortune into the capital, then begin at Stockholm plays, operas, balls, and great dinners, which during the summer months had been suspended. Some months of the year are in Sweden extremely disagreeable: September and October, when the rains set in ; and May and June, when the thaw commences. At these two seasons travelling becomes almost impossible, and the capital as well as other towns, are so clogged and blocked up with mud and dirt, that you can scarcely move from one place to another. It is for this reason that the Swedes so generally wear outer shoes, called galoches, which are very useful and necessary for the preservation of health, by keeping the feet from wet. At this season a carriage of one's own becomes in. dispensably necessary; for the hackney coaches of Stockholm are so filthy as not be endured by any lady, or almost any gentleman.