Travel Letters: Abo, Finland (1872)

DEAR FATHER, — Did you ever get a letter from Finland? If not, then here comes your first. I write in the sincere belief that I am answering some letters of yours, although I have not received them. Somehow, I have missed everything since your letters of July 4th. I hope nothing important has happened since that time. If there has, I do not know where I shall hear of it. Perhaps at St. Petersburg, whither I am bound now. But I must wait patiently. I left Stockholm yesterday morning, in the steamer Constantin, at two o’clock.

Steamers have an uncomfortable habit of starting at that hour all over these parts. The boat is excellent ; all sorts of languages, Russian, Swedish, Finnish, French, and German, are chattering around me. There are also three or four Englishmen on board. To-day’s sail has been exquisite, wandering through the islands of which this part of the Baltic is full, with views continually changing, and all pretty. At five this afternoon we came to Abo, at the mouth of the Gulf of Finland, and there we lie tonight. The steamers always lie by until two in the morning. Tomorrow, we wind up the gulf among the islands. Tomorrow night at Helsingfors, Sunday night at Vyborg, and Monday noon, the 12th, at St. Peters-burg. The Fins are a good, dull, rude-looking people. We went ashore this afternoon and saw the strange old town. Nothing could be more foreign or picturesque. It was odd to find one’s self for the first time in the Czar’s dominions, but all his folks were very civil and seemed glad to see us.

I made this week a very interesting two-days’ trip to the old town of Wisby and the Island of Gothland. It was a twelve hours’ sail down the Baltic at night. In the morning, we reached the island, and saw the old walled town, which was once a place of great trade and importance, but now in decay. The most interesting things in it are a dozen old ruined Gothic churches, some of them quite unique in architecture, and all showing the taste and wealth of the old times. At present, the island is something of a summer resort for Stockholm people.

We took a long drive back into the country, through rich farms and pleasant hills, the whole a picture of quiet, primitive, pastoral simplicity, which was very attractive. Another night’s sail brought us back to Stockholm, which is a most beautiful city, and after another day there, I sailed on this slow and pleasant cruise for St. Petersburg.

Since Paine left me, two weeks ago, I am alone, but meet companions often from point to point. There are almost no Americans in these parts. It seems a long way from home. I shall spend two or three weeks in Russia, going to Moscow, and perhaps to Nijni-Novgorod ; then to Berlin, Lubeck, and Copenhagen, and so to Hamburg, whence I sail for New York, on September 11. After you get this, direct your letters to Hamburg. I shall get them sooner.

I am very well and having a first-rate time. Have not had a hot day this summer. I hope you are all well and happy, and with much love to all, I am most sincerely your son,

PHILLIPS.