In the hope that the details of life along this part of the border region might entertain you or part of your readership, I am sending along this account of my travels. I recorded these observations while on an extensive inspection trip in this province last autumn.

Accompanied by crown tax collector Vickmann, I left Paltamo on the evening of 9 September, travelling across the northeast part of Lake Oulujärvi, to the inn in Kiehimänsuu, where we spent the night. On the following morning we continued our journey, going up river through rapids to Ristijärvi and, on the following days, to the parishes of Hyrynsalmi and Kianta. We travelled the whole way by boat, but there are many large and small rapids which make the trip difficult and slow. Normally at this time of year one cannot cover more than 30 or 40 km a day, and even to do that one has to leave early in the morning and travel until well into the evening...Every year, the tar boats have a number of accidents when shooting the rapids here, but it is no wonder when one realizes that most of the rapids have only one narrow channel a boat can pass through. And just as we were going upriver and were below Iikoski by the church at Ristijärvi, we met a tar boat that had hit a rock coming down the rapids just a little while before. We had already seen barrels of tar floating by quite a way downriver; fortunately, the barrels are so light they don't sink.


After travelling with Vickmann till the 14 September, I left him by the church in Kianta, which is about 120 km north of Kajaani. I then left for this village with the priests, who were going to test the catechism in Vuokki the next day. This is almost 30 km from the church in Kianta, and we made the trip by boat. We spent Sunday the 14th here. The priests tested the people on their knowledge of Christian doctrines, while I related a few Finnish proverbs to some peasants in one of the other rooms and wrote down poems that some of them knew. As you know, people from nearby villages gather wherever these catechism tests are given, even people who have no business with the priests. It is these people who are my "congregation".

It is hard to say how big a complete collection of Finnish proverbs would be. But I think it would be quite large, judging from the fact that wherever people get together and I read aloud the proverbs I have collected, I hear plenty more to add to my notes. I do not have to read more than three or four before there is someone in the crowd who remembers a new proverb and asks if I already have it in my book. Often I hear so many that I do not have a chance to write them all down without forgetting a few. It is the same way with riddles, which also seem to be numberless and which, like proverbs, are very different in different places. Most riddles and proverbs have been composed in typical poetic form; however, many of the latter are straightforward prose, as are some of the riddles...



On Sunday evening, I left Vuokki by boat with some peasants who had come to where the tests were held from the houses nearest the Russian border, about 40 km away. One of them, named Kinnunen, who had already sung a few poems for me here, came with me another 7½ km at my request to Kinnulanniemi, where we spent the night. During the trip I wrote down his poems in the boat with a pencil and kept on writing them by the light of a torch in Kinnulanniemi. At first, I hoped that I would have a chance to write down his best poems; but it was already well into the night and he assured me that he might sing poems all of the following day and the following night as well if only he could have a drink now and then (a request I could not accommodate since I had no spirits). When I heard this, I did not feel like staying awake any longer. However, I suggested to him that we meet in Lentiira when I would be on my way back from the Province of Archangel. He agreed to this, but never kept the promise.

The room I slept in was absolutely packed with people who had come from the tests and stretched out to sleep on the floor. I lay down on a bench, where I soon fell asleep. I got thirsty at night but with all the people sleeping on the floor found it impossible to make my way three or four meters across the floor to the table where I knew there was a big bucket of whey. So I had to bear the pains of Tantalus until I fell asleep again. The next morning I continued on to the village of Hyry, where there were several people who had developed nervous rashes. Hyry is 25 km from Kinnulanniemi, and one has to travel the whole way by boat. The rivers get narrower and narrower the nearer one gets to Hyry, though, and a boat any wider than ours would not have made it through. From Hyry I went on another 15 km to Viianki, which is the last house on the Finnish side of the border. From there I continued on foot to Kivijärvi, the first village on the Russian side.