A summer tour in Finland
The world is always a delight when the sun is shining upon the waters and we have an extra little thump of pleasure in those variable machines we call our hearts. I defy anyone to feel sulky on entering for the first time the harbour of Helsingfors. I have entered it many times, and yet each time it has appeared under a new aspect.
To begin with, it comes as a surprise to the traveller. The town is invisible until you have steamed through that wonderful cleft, cut by Nature between two walls of bare granite, that forms the only entrance and exit to the most superbly guarded harbour in the world. It is named with truth the Key of the North.
The extent of that inner basin is so immense that the combined fleets of the world could easily find anchorage .there, and yet they would all have to steam one by one through the narrow cleft. So narrow it is, that incoming and outgoing craft have to wait their turn, as two vessels cannot pass through at the same time. The outer boundaries are formed of a series of enormous rocky islands upon which the well-known fortress of Sveaborg is built.
The fortress was originally erected in 1749, for the Swedish Crown, by the Field Marshal Count Augustin Ehrensvard, who is buried upon the principal island. It is said that sometimes when the storm clouds hang low, and the great waves dash with impotent fury upon those impregnable rocks, the figure of the Field Marshal is seen leaning over the ramparts and looking out towards the sea that beats with the same wild strength as did once his tempestuous heart, now lying in a lonely grave within the sound of the storm that unfurls an alien flag above his head: a flag planted there after his death by the foe of all mankind- treachery.
A son of Finland shamed the heart of the mother who bore him and stealthily opened the door of his country to an enemy. That morning, close upon a hundred years ago, the spray of the waves that beat against those granite walls were the tears of all the mothers of Finland weeping for the loss of that which they held dearer than the lives of their sons the honour of their country.
Of late years it has been difficult for strangers to obtain permission to visit the fortress; therefore, the best idea of Sveaborg is nowadays obtained from a passing steamer. It appears to be bristling with guns and certainly possesses a most formidable exterior. I remember one winter as a child driving to the fortress across the ice which brings the Key of the North uncomfortably close to the city.
In those days the guns alarmed no one, and I played hide-and-seek behind the mounds of piled-up cannonballs that seemed to me to have been placed there on purpose to give me pleasure. I imagine, however, that children of the present day look upon them in a different light: always remembering that two years ago those cannon were not playmates but grim earnest enemies which, for the space of forty-eight hours, pointed their black muzzles upon the homes of the peaceful citizens of Helsingfors.
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