September 5, 2001
"I'm going straight to Stockholm. These Northern towns are all the same: boring," a Swiss traveller told me, and another, "There are tourist information about remote interesting places up here, but when you get there, there is only a sign or plaque, 'This is where we think this happened and maybe there was something here.'"
I should have headed their warnings, but instead had a reindeer meat lunch and made my next stop Luleň. While I really enjoyed Narvik and Abisko, this place is void of most things that hold my interest. I haven't come across any reindeer herding Samis here in Lapland, but knew of a small museum with an exhibit on them.
Unfortunately, those areas were closed, but just as interesting, they had a display of photographs (the best I've seen) of the Northern Lights.
I did get to see a modern film of a Lapish girl raised in the South returning to the Lapland. There is prestige in having parent's who heard reindeer and us Southerners are seen as a threat as, "we only want and only take," referring to the holiday hunters who come up and shoot a few moose, birds or reindeer and rush back.
There has been the introduction of the individual ownership of the reindeer and less nomadic dwellings in sort of reservations like America has put the Indians in. The Samis migrate seasonally between these places now. It's a culture that doesn't want to be destroyed by assimilation.
10 kilometers outside of town is Gammelstad, the old church town. This is originally where the town was, but due to Scandinavia continuing to rise 1 meter every 100 years since the ice age, the river moved to where the more modern city is.
The church town is something unique, though not amazingly scenic. The parish/congregation had to travel more than a day to get to church out here, so they were allowed to build small cottages for the weekend's use. They pretty much all look the same, but wind out from the central church in all directions.
I meet a local and ask about winter life here. "For me, the darkest, coldest time is November-December. The trees are dark and leafless on lifeless ground. There is no snow. There is no way to utilize nature. There is nothing. In February there is snow and it's good again."
I walking to the next train station along the highway and notice hiking X trail markings. I follow them but find it strange that they follow the busy road so much and don't divert into the forest. Near the end, I discover what they mark: it's the highway for snowmobiles!
This stop is at the back of a gigantic, remote, clean, bright and modern hospital. In the hours I spent here making accommodation reservations I only saw a handful of people in this modern palace. It's Sweden: refined Scandinavian- sleek and shiny, yet stuck in the middle of fields and forest.