A while ago, I wrote about exploring Händelö, the first stop on Kerstin’s and my 4-day summer séjour. What other places did we visit?
Day1. Löfstad Castle
Our second stop, after Händelö, is Löfstad Castle. This castle, built in the 1600s, has been privately owned until it was bequeathed by the last owner, Emilie Piper (1857-1926), to the House of Nobility (Riddarhuset) and Östergötland’s Museum. It is now open to the public.
“I don’t think we can find any link between Augusta and Löfstad Castle. It is so close to Norrköping, but Augusta would not have moved in the same circles,” Kerstin concludes.
I understand why. The owners were the count and chamberlain Charles Piper and his wife. And when we catch the first glimpse of the castle, I am stunned. This is a totally different world. This is how the very wealthy, old noble families lived in the 1800s.
But we have also decided to visit the castle for another reason. Today is the first day of Löfstad Castle’s historical fashion exhibition – a collaboration between the museum and a friend of ours who creates fantastic Victorian clothes under the name La Belle Epoque.
We park the car and walk up to the ticket office.
“Are you here to guide?” one of the girls in the office asks as we enter the office. Sometimes we forget that we are wearing 1840s dresses.
“Oh no,” Kerstin explains,“ we are here to see the exhibition.
The real guide shows up and our small group of 4 or 5 visitors is lead into the castle. It is an amazing tour of rooms, frozen in time from when Emelie Piper would have gotten dressed in her bedroom, with her clothes laid out or hung for us to view and ponder. There are older clothes as well. And there are telltale portraits where the clothes will reveal the time period of when the person was painted. I am always looking for Kashmir shawls in painting.
“Look,” Kerstin exclaims, “on the piano!”
It is pretty dark in the room, but I see it. The piano is draped with a large Kashmir shawl. That is what people did once the long shawls were not fashionable any more – they put them on their pianos.
It is exciting to see that someone in the Piper family once owned one of these beautiful shawls and I tell the guide and the group what I have learned about them.
The La Belle Epoque dresses, made by our friend, are also stunning – especially a beautiful wedding gown. Emilie Piper didn’t marry; if she had, this could have been her wedding gown.
After the tour, we walk around the rose gardens, look at the old carriages, and have lunch in the outdoor garden café.
And then we head for the next stops – Stora Gålstad and Ekeby, two places tied to Augusta’s early childhood.
In July, I wrote about my antique “paisley shawl” that I bought in Edinburgh. I was trying to figure out when and where it was made? I had spent time in the library and read all I could find, and I had narrowed it down to a European-made shawl from the early 1800s.
Who could shed some light on it? Any “paisley shawl” experts?
I googled something like “US expert paisley shawl” and found Dr Joan Hart, a textile specialist and art historian who specializes in Kashmir and paisley shawls. Contacting her led to a wonderful exchange of emails and some very definite answers, for which I am very grateful – thank you!
Even though I bought the shawl in Edinburgh, it is French, and probably made in the 1830s. It is very fine early jacquard weave (not woven on a drawloom). I also received some great advice on how to wash and mend the shawl.
Excited about knowing that the shawl was French, I continued looking for pictures of similar French shawls. The closest one I found was a French, wool and silk jacquard shawl from around 1830. The picture is included in The Kashmiri Shawl by Sherry Rehman and Naheed Jafri. The design has many similarities and the color in the weft seem to be exactly the same as in my shawl. The width is also the same. According to the authors, ”the delicate fronds that creep upwards on to the small, plain cream section is a motif that came into European shawls around the 1830s.”
I also purchased a used copy of a beautiful book by Monique Levi-Strauss: Cashmere – A French Passion 1800-1880. Besides being stunningly beautiful, it is a fascinating read about the history and designers of French Kashmir shawls.
Where do I go next? I would love to know who actually designed and produced these shawls – maybe a research trip to France 🙂 ? The French have always been scrutinizing their Kashmir shawls – and finding cotton fibers among the silk and wool fibers must have been scandalous!
But what about the shawl Kerstin and I got from our aunt Eva – a reversible square paisley shawl. I asked Dr. Hart about that one as well. It turned out to be Scottish and from the 1850s or slightly later. There is a photo of a similar shawl in Frank Ames book: The Kashmir Shawl.
This has been an interesting and inspiring side-trip to Augusta’s Journey. I have discovered a whole new world of beautiful textiles that I knew nothing about before. But then, I have always liked scenic byways.
Kerstin and I had talked about taking a very early morning walk in Motala. We didn’t realize that by 7 am we would already be out on Lake Vättern, Sweden’s second largest lake. When I opened the cabin door, the breeze caught my nightgown and the air was crisp. The view was beautiful, a cobalt-blue sky meeting the deep blue water at the horizon, and the sun reflecting the ripples in the wake of Juno. Here and there, the waves had whitecaps.
On deck, we needed our big wool shawls. Inside the dining room it was cozy and while we crossed Lake Vättern we enjoyed an unhurried breakfast. Soon we arrived at Karlsborg. Here we were greeted by our cousin Tina and aunt Eva, who had sent us a package of antique nightgowns, old lace, and an 1850s Paisley shawl.
We had cut the shawl into two pieces so each of us would get one – and we did wear them this morning. While the rest of our fellow travelers went on a tour of Karlsborg’s fort, we headed for the fort’s coffee shop. In our 1840s dresses and bonnets, we looked a little out of place among the soldiers stationed at the fort and wearing green camouflage uniforms.
After this little excursion, it was time to get back on Göta Canal again. Our first challenge would be the lock and bridge at Forsvik. The lock is Göta Canal’s oldest lock; both the lock and the bridge were built in 1813. Without knowing all the details of unseasonable low water levels combined with the curvature of the canal right before the lock, we realized that maneuvering Juno into the canal would be a challenge. The log fenders hanging over Juno’s sides were getting squeezed and splintered against the sides of the canal but they sure did the job in the tight curve Juno was to pass through. All this maneuvering really made us appreciate the expertise and experience of the captains (we had two!) and the crew.
Forsvik is also home to a religious family who has for 3 generations greeted the canal boats with music, flowers, and blessings. As expected, there they were with guitars and accordions, flags of many nationalities, and bouquets of wild flowers for Juno’s hostesses. The hymns they were singing were familiar and most of us passengers sang along.
After Forsvik, we entered Billströmmen, a current in the canal surrounded by pools of water and lily ponds. We then entered the most beautiful part of Göta Canal: Spetsnäskanalen, built in 1824. The forest surrounding the canal could have been the inspiration for children’s story-books about gnomes and trolls.
The canal lead us out into Lake Viken. Having the highest altitude – 91.8 meter over the ocean – it serves as the reservoir for the Göta Canal. One more lock after this lake (Lock Tåtorp) and we would start going down the locks instead of climbing up as we had done for the first 3 days.
The rest of the canal between Lake Viken and Lake Vänern was also spectacularly beautiful and we had the opportunity to walk along the canal.
Our final destination this day was Sjötorp where we visited the Canal Museum
Once aboard again, we settled down for a nice IPA on deck while Juno headed out on Lake Vänern – the largest lake in Sweden and the 3rd largest in Europe. The weather was favorable and we would cross the lake while sound asleep in our cozy little cabin.
We really don’t know what kind of shawl Augusta, or her mother, used when travelling. Most likely, they had large, dark, wool shawls to keep warm. Where they locally produced or imported?
In the 1800s, shawls with paisley pattern was the fashion. The shawls were large and multicolored. No artist can beat the Belgian painter Alfred Stevens (1823-1906) in rendering the beautiful Paisley shawls of fashionable women in Belgium and France during the later half of the 19th century:
The original shawls with the buta design were Kashmir shawls, hand-woven in Kashmir with Cashmere goat wool. They were expensive and had to be imported. The invention of the Jacquard loom made it possible for Europeans to produce similar shawls. The Scottish town of Paisley became the center for this industry, and gave name to the droplet, leaf design. The National Museum of Scotland, located in Edinburgh, has a nice collection of early Paisley shawls and designs:
Now that Kerstin and I have made our 1850s dresses, we need shawls. So how would one be able to get an antique, Paisley shawl? One could be lucky, like blogger Beauty_for_Ashes, and stumble upon one at an antique mall (and the blog is hilarious), but that is rare.
But we were equally lucky. Our aunt Eva, who had followed Augusta’s Journey, called us one day and asked if we wanted some old nightgowns, lace, ribbons, and an old shawl that she had inherited from two of her aunts. Within a week, the package arrived by mail – and it contained a Paisley shawl from the mid-1800s!!! I don’t think we even realized at first what a treasure this shawl was. Of course, we don’t know that this one was made in Scotland, but it is antique and has the distinctive paisley pattern. After consulting with an expert, we decided that it would be OK to divide it into two shawls, so we each get one. Kerstin is now lining it with thin fabric so we can mend it where the threads are weak.
But maybe we should also have some additional scarves. As I was going to be in Dubai for a while, I decided to check out the shawl market. The first week, we made a trip to Sohar, Oman, and found a traditional, Kashmir store. The manager was from Nepal and showed me the various qualities and styles. I settled on a large, red, machine-embroidered, square shawl in a blend of cashmere wool and cotton.
Now I needed a green shawl and it had to be the right green color for my dress made out of thrift-store, green-and-white curtains. Back in Dubai, I figured the best place to find one would be around the old Gold Souk in Deira. This is one of my favorite places in Dubai, and especially late in the evening: the myriads of people from all over the world – Asia, Africa, Europe, America – crowding the sidewalks under blinking neon lights, maneuvering around the plastic chairs and tables of chicken and shawarma restaurants, and side-stepping delivery push-carts. And the sounds: music streaming from air-conditioned souvenir stores, the latest Arabic love songs from street cafés, and the singsong message of those pesky street vendors who descend on tourists – “Pashmina, handbags, watches, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, …” I wave them off before they have finished their rant of famous fashion brands.
We are getting closer to the actual entrance to the Gold Souk, and I have yet to see a shawl that is of high quality or the right color. When the next street vendor starts his rant about pashmina, why not elicit his help? But honestly, what is pashmina? I had actually looked it up before going on my shawl hunt.
Pashmina refers to the finer fibers of the wool from cashmere goats local to Kashmir and Nepal. The courser fibers are called cashmere. The fine pashmina fibers can only be hand spun, so Pashmina shawls are all hand-made in Kashmir using hand-spun, 100% pashmina fibers. Cashmere shawls, on the other hand, are made with the courser, cashmere fibers and can be blended with other types of wool or fibers – such as silk. The fiber blend has to be stated; for example, 70% cashmere: 30% silk. So my Cashmere shawl from Oman was 50% cashmere: 50% cotton.
The street vendor gets excited and leads us into an alley with small Afghan shawl shops. This is his job – to introduce us to the shop keeper – and then leave. I tell the shop keeper what I am looking for and he shows me what I definitely don’t want – but, as a European, I am supposed to want.
As the communication is not working, I start digging in his piles of shawls with my dress-fabric sample as a color guide. I find a shawl that perfectly matches the color of the dress and it has a nice paisley pattern. But, of course, it is probably made of viscose or something similar. “Ma’am, this is 100% pashmina, best quality – you can wash it in machine!”
Well, if it was 100% pashmina, you would not be able to machine-wash it.
What is the price?
As customary, he shows me the price on a pocket calculator: 550 AED ($150) – are you kidding me! Azzeddine, my patient husband, asks me about my reservation price; I whisper “40 AED” – that is $12, the price I would be willing to pay at TJMAXX or Target in the US, or at Carrefour in Dubai, if they had the shawl.
The shop keeper tries to go half way – 250. He is not going to budge. Neither is Azzeddine. I show my lack of interest by walking out of the store. Azzeddine, still determined to get me the shawl, pulls out a 50 AED note and puts it on the counter with the body language signaling that either you take it or we leave. The shop keeper, without saying a word, reluctantly puts the shawl in a plastic bag and hands it over.
OK, $14 is still reasonable for a non-cashmere, non-pashmina shawl that has the right color and pattern. I am sure I could have had it for half the price if push came to shove.
And of course, as the weeks go by, I find other pretty shawls and scarves that I just have to buy. At least I am getting better at bargaining.
Which brings me back to Augusta: where did she buy her shawls? Were they imported? What did they look like? Does anyone in our large, extended family have one, or a reference to one?
”In a couple of exquisitely decorated rooms in Hôtel de Rome on Boulevard Unter den Linden, yours truly is sitting with pen in hand to recall from memory the wonderments I have seen since my arrival in the great Prussian capital.”
This is Augusta’s first description of a hotel on the European continent during her and her mother’s journey down to Prague. There are not many remarks regarding hotels in Augusta’s diary but Hôtel de Rome must have been the most impressive hotel. There, they engaged a servant to show them the attractions of Berlin.
Two days later, they arrived at Hôtel de Saxe in Dresden – the most luxurious hotel in town.
”Our stay here at Hôtel de Saxe is very nice and I would say elegant, if I had not just arrived from Berlin, with its fabulous, luxurious furnishings. There are certainly not, as at Hôtel de Rome, six or seven doormen in livery to greet you on the stairs and to take the things you carry. I have to admit that these elegant and conversable domestics made me embarrassed upon my arrival in the great Prussian capital. Here in Dresden, you miss the elegant, carpeted vestibules and staircases, this wealth of stuffed armchairs, canapés, and sofas; however, Hôtel de Saxe, although not as brilliant as Hôtel de Rome, is both gentile and comfortable.”
What could one expect from luxury hotels in the mid-1800s and what was expected of the guests?
“After breakfast, pass an hour or two in the parlor, unless you are going out, whilst the chambermaid puts your room in order.”
It just so happens that while writing this blog today, I am staying at a hotel in Dubai and Heartly’s suggestion sounded like a good idea. Heeding the advice, I took Florence Heartly’s book and Augusta’s diary with me and headed for the “parlor” (aka, the mall connected to the hotel). Heartly’s second advice also sounded good: “It is best always to carry writing materials with you.” I skipped her next etiquette rule for hotels: “Never sit down to the piano uninvited, unless you are alone in the parlor.” Instead, I ordered a cappuccino and started reading Heartly’s book – highlighting advice that Kerstin and I might need for our Göta Canal cruise and our train journey through Germany (with the exception of those regarding an escort):
Regarding your escort
If you travel under the escort of a gentleman, give him as little trouble as possible … [!]
It is best, when starting upon your journey, to hand your escort a sufficient sum of money to cover all your expenses … [hmm]
Find out the position and number of the stateroom occupied by your escort, in case you wish to find him during the night. [that is, if you were able to secure a stateroom to sleep in on the steamboat]
Regarding sea sickness
…never leave home without a straw-covered bottle of brandy, and another of camphor, in your carpet bag.
Try to occupy yourself with looking at the country through which you are passing, or with a book.
Regarding your luggage
Have a strong pocket made in your upper petticoat, and in that carry your money, only reserving in your dress-pocket a small sum for incidental expenses.
In your travelling satchel, carry an oil skin bag containing your sponge, tooth- and nail-brushes, and some soap.
Have also a calico bag with hair brush and comb, some pins, hair pins, a small mirror, and some towels. In this satchel, carry also some crackers or sandwiches…
In your carpet bag, carry a large shawl, and if you will travel by night, … your night clothes and what clean linen you may require …
If you carry a novel …, it is best to carry the book in your satchel.
If you are to pass the night in the cars, carry a warm woolen or silk hood – that you may take off your bonnet at night. No one can sleep comfortable in a bonnet.
Carry also … a large shawl to wrap round your feet.
At the hotel
When you arrive at the hotel, inquire at once for the proprietor. Tell him your name and address, and ask him to conduct you to a good room…
It is best to mention the time when you wish to breakfast, dine or sup.
If you stay more than one day … request one of the waiters always to meet you as you enter, and wait upon you to your seat.
When you have finished your meal, cross the room quietly; if you go into the parlor, do not attract attention by a hasty entrance ….
A lady’s dress, when alone at a hotel, should be of the most modest kind.
Never, even at supper, appear alone at the table with bare arms or neck.
If you wish for a carriage, ring, and let the waiter order one for you.
Those were Heartly’s advice for travelling ladies. Augusta and her mother probably knew all about travelling etiquette. Now, Kerstin and I will also know what is expected of us when we embark on Augusta’s Journey.