From Karesuando to Göteborg
The clouds are reflected in countless lakes
In Swedish Lapland drivers greet one another. It could be an hour before you see another car between the swamps, tundras and rock-strewn woods. Wooden buildings come in all kinds: old pole houses, churches and even castles. Rivers splash everywhere and countless lakes reflect the clouds.
Travelogue & photos: Mariet Arts
The first town we visit after crossing the Finnish-Swedish border is Karesuando. In the tourist information center we have a cup of coffee.
Opposite the building sits the farthest northern church (1905) of Sweden, designed by architect Gustaf Lindgren. It's a brown wooden church on a grey stone base.
We drive southward on road #45. The road is in excellent condition, but we take it easy and stop often to enjoy the wonderful views of swamps and tundras as long as possible.
The birches with bare trunks and the pathetic little firs along the road are less than a meter tall and usually bizarrely shaped. That shows that we are far above of the tree line. The woods are not so dense here, in the northern part of Swedish Lapland, we can easily see through them.
The reflection of the clouds in the lakes is almost identical to the clouds in the sky.
For over an hour we haven't seen any other vehicle, when we see a bright-yellow truck behind us. On a stretch of road that is somewhat wider, we let it pass and see a picture of a post horn on it: it's a Swedisch mail truck. The driver honks and waves; we smile and wave in return.
We cross the Lainioälven (älven = river) at Övre Soppero and the Torneälven at Vittangi.
The road goes west for a few kilometers until Svappavaara, where it merges with the E10 which begins in Narvik, Norway.
We have the nice feeling that we're in the middle of nowhere. We cross a bridge over the Kalixälven.
In a parking space is a sign with distances to cities all over the world. Berlin: 2296 km, the Dutch city of Maastricht: 2633 km. A little farther we see a sign "Lapland Airport 5 km". The yellow mail truck again overtakes us, honking like before. Then peace and quiet return and we're all alone again.
In Gällivare we take a walk and sit down in the center on a bench by a fountain in which seven hjortrons float. Hjortrons, also called "Lapland's Gold", are fruit that grows in swampy areas in north-Scandinavia and is harvested in August.
There are notes on the rocks around the pond, but also in the pedestrian area in the town center, where the rocks are displayed on wooden racks, telling what kinds of minerals they hold and where in Gällivare or Malmberget they were dug up. We see rocks with copper, gold and silver specks. The mining museum has an exhibition about this, with explanations of everything.
There are old mine carts in the center everywhere, filled with colorful flowers and also pots with a meter high nasturtium. Children are playing in a playground with a red wooden locomotive with wagons.
A little outside the center, 20 meters or so from the street, sits a white wooden church (1747) with belltower. There is a sign with the text: "Tjänstgörande Präst." We ask a kid who is mowing the grass in front of the church what it means. He tells us that the minister has his own parking space near the church. It's remarkable how well everyone here, especially young people, speaks English.
We take road #45 out of Gällivare and in a flash we see a sign that in Sjaunja there is a myggmuseum, the only mosquito museum in the world.
Unspoiled nature with forest and swamps
Twenty km farther is Muddus, one of four national parks in Lapland. Over 49.000 hectares unspoiled nature with forest and swamps lie at our feet. We stop and take a walk. A few wagtails hop ahead of us, bumblebees fly around humming and I can hear the woods sing.
When we drive on, we see clumps of polarull (a kind of cotton grass) along the road; this plant grows in swampy areas. They look like cotton wool on stalks.
We pass Stora and Lilla Lulevatten (Large and Small Lulewater) and a modernized water energy plant which is open for visitors every day. Water pushes with incredible force through narrow openings, which causes a deafening noise. The old Lap plant nearby is painted in many colors.
When we see a Lap flag float at the entrance of the stugby (vacation home park)in Jokkmokk, a former Sami village, we don't have to think twice: we're going to spend the night here.
Owner Rose-Marie tells us that there is a huge Sami market every year in February and also that Jokkmokk has a great Sami museum that we shouldn't miss.
In the evening we take a walk in the town and see long rows of white birches and blue, yellow, pink and green houses. In a large grey-red building with "Jokkmokks Hemslöjd" (needlework) painted over the door, six shop windows display all kinds of traditional Sami needlework.
After dinner in restaurent Opera, we end the day with a glass of Lapin Kulta öl (Lap beer).
We get near the Polar Circle
Very dense forest with tall firs
Early in the morning, when the sun is already high in the sky, we drive to Ájtte, the Sami museum in the Kyrkogatan (Churchstreet). It's a pity, but we are too early, the museum hasn't opened yet, so we continue our trip.
We get near the Polar Circle and alternately drive between dense forest with very tall firs and woods with small trees that just have been planted.
Sometimes the forest is strewn with rocks or we drive through an area with enormous boulders and here and there a tree.
We pass the villages of Kabdalis and Moskosel and the fish-rich rivers Åbmo-, Pite- and Byskeälven. All rivers in North-Sweden flow in southeastern direction and empty out into the Gulf of Bothnia.
It starts to rain when we arrive in Arvidsjaur by noon. Opposite the kommunehus stand three elks and a kåta (Sami tent). One can spend the night in the kåta.
It's clear that we are now in a touristic area, because of the excursions that are offered: a beaver safari or on a trolley ride into the wilderness.
We continue our trip. We pass Sorsele and Storuman and arrive in Vilhelmina on the Volgsjö (sjö = lake) by 4 PM. It has an 18th century Kyrkstad (church village). It has 75 connected church houses which in the past were used by Sami who arrived from far away for festivals and holidays and spent the nights in these houses.
Now they house students and artists. During the summer, some of the houses are rented to tourists.
It's still early when we arrive at Hotel Vilhelmina, which rents out these houses. We pick one from a map and get the key. Despite the modernization of the houses, like toilets and kitchenettes, enough remains of the original to get the feeling of living in the 18th century.
We take a walk in Kyrkestad and visit a Sami gallery which sells knives, antlers, tin and Sami needlework.
In the town center of Vilhelmina we see a sign with an arrow and the letters "Jvstn" and wonder what kind of town that is and how to pronounce it in Swedish. We ask a young passer-by; he smiles and answers: "If you follow that arrow you'll get to the Järnvägsstation," which means train station.
The sun shines brightly when we sit down on a terrace at 8 PM and enjoy a cup of coffee while we watch the hustle and bustle around us.
363 km of Wilderness Route from Vilhelmina to Strömsund
Next morning we don't continue in southern direction, but take the "Vildmarksvägen" or Wilderness Route, which goes west toward the Norwegian border. The Vildmarksvägen is 363 km long and leads from Vilhelmina to Strömsund.
We approach Saxnäs, a ski resort. It shows in the many caterpillar vehicles, snow scooters and snow ploughs in the large parking lot.
We visit Hotel restaurant Saxnäsgården, which has a great view of the Marsfjällen, mountains with a highest peak of 1589 meters. It's very quiet and peaceful in Saxnäs.
On a landing at the waterside sits a small airplane. A sign tells us that we are near Kultsjön, a lake full of fish.
We approach Fatmomakke, a religious place of the Sami. We park our car in the parking lot and walk to the entrance.
The larger buildings were built near the water, the smaller buildings, like pole houses and kåtas a little higher on the hillsides. We visit a small, but extremely interesting museum, which shows the history of the Sami with old utensils, clothes and pictures. The beautiful wooden Fatmomakke church has a gorgeous altar painting. During the summer, the church can be visited every day.
A Swedish and a Norwegian flag hang on flagpoles by an old pole house, we are probably close to the Norwegian border.
The weather is not too good when we drive over the Stekenjokk. Too bad, I was very much looking forward to this. Stekenjokk is a tree-less area at 800 meters above sea level.
We see dozens of reindeer graze and in the distance we see snow on the peaks of the Norwegian mountains. It's terribly cold at this altitude, so we don't stay very long. We hope to return one day when the weather is better.
We arrive at Trappstegsforsen. An enormous mass of water thunders down a series of natural steps.
After a short break, we continue our drive. The sun breaks through the clouds and immediately the water turns a clear blue. The meadows and roadsides are overgrown with fireweed.
Meanwhile, we have left Lapland and drive in a varied, hilly area in the province of Jämtland. In many places, the road is close to the lakes and so we stop often to enjoy idyllic spots.
After an enjoyable dinner in a restaurant in Strömsund, where we have a traditional Swedish dish called "Pyttipanna" (fried meat, potatoes and onions, served with egg sunny-side up and red beets) we drive a little later in Hammerdal where - according to our map - after 17 km at an altitude of 350-400 meters are places where wonderful orchids grow. We already see some along the road.
We exit road #45 to Hammerstrand and look for our accomodation. In Skyttmon, at the stuga park where we will stay for the next couple of days, sit two gorgeous mail boxes with the names of our hosts on them.
Wooden castles, Parnassia and cranes
Next morning we explore the surroundings and see large, wealthy-looking träslott houses (wooden castles) dating from the visit of King Chulalongkorn of Thailand and his retinue (1897).
This king was very interested in forestry and how tree trunks floated down the river to the sawmills. In Utanede a Thai Pavillion was built.
Jämtland has a unique flora. We see for example cirsium, yellow rattle, bladder campion and eyebright. In places where nothing else will grow, there is jåblom, parnassia in English.
One of our hostesses shows us her flower garden with many kinds of flowers and plants. A large part of the garden is covered with sky-blue flowers. When I ask for its name, she tells me it's berglin (flax). In one hour I have learned much that I didn't know about Swedish flowers and plants.
During a walk we hear a loud trumpetting sound, but we don't know what it is. Our host tells us that the trane (crane) makes this sound.
Lakes, fields and fir woods with enormous rocks
After hiking in the wilderness for three days, we pack our suitcases and take our leave of the mysterious Skyttmon. We drive via Stugun, which has a pink-red little church, to Östersund, which lies on a big lake, Storsjö.
We visit the tourist office in the Rådhusgatan (Townhall Street). The Rådhus has a beautiful Renaissance gate and a green dome. The clock of the Storsjöteatern tells us it's 10 AM and we find a coffeeshop that smells of freshly roasted coffee and pepparkaka ("peppercake").
But we have to keep going. First we take the E14 for a while, then drive on road #45 between lakes, fields, meadows and fir woods with enormous rocks to Sveg in Härjedalen.
In the distance we see the peak of the Sånfjället (1277 m). Along the road, six rows of each over a hundred boxes of reindeer lichen are drying near a house.
After a short visit to Sveg we continue our drive through a gorgeous wooded area in which lies National Park Hamra. It's already late when we pick up the key to our room in a gas station just outside Mora. A little later we enter a simple but neat motel.
Next morning after breakfast we visit Nusnäs, a small village not far from Mora, where the history of the famous Dalahästen (Dalarna horses) began. There are several large workshops where one can see from beginning to end how the horses are cut, dipped in dye baths and eventually hand painted. The demonstrations all end in a big store where one can buy these horses.
I wouldn't have missed it, but it is very touristic. Coaches full of people arrive all the time to take a look at the horses, which are everywhere, from very small to very large.
We return to Mora to get back onto road #45 to Värmland, but before we do that, we interrupt our trip to drive along Lake Siljan, the most beautiful lake in Dalarna. In camping sites on the lake we see a lot of cars with Dutch license plates.
Värmland and Dalsland
Wooden rafts float on the current
Then we continue on our route between Venjansjön and Ojesjön. We arrive in Stöllet, on the longest river of Scandinavia: Klarälven in the province of Värmland. Wooden rafts with wet youngsters on them float on the current toward Karlstad.
By evening we arrive in Karlstad, which lies on the biggest lake of Sweden, Vänern. At the edge of a park is a statue of the writer Selma Lagerlöf.
It rains when we drive through Dalsland the next morning. In Mellerud is a big square with all kinds of stores and in a supermarket we buy huge packs of knäckebröd, in pretty Swedish wrappings and big jars with Hjortron jam to take home.
After Vänersborg we can take the E6 to Göteborg, but because we have enough time, we take the road through Trollhätten and along Göta älv and arrive in Lille Edet where the Edet toilet paper plant is. The cirsium is still in full bloom here.
Two hours before we leave, we arrive at the quay in Göteborg, where the Stena Line ferry, which will take us to Kiel in Germany, is already waiting. We can board immediately.