The market above the arctic circle.
After a short stopover and reunion with Mireia in Stockholm, my real journey into the cold started in Luleå, on the coast. You know it’s cold when you can go walking on the sea. Or rather kick sledging, as there are some free sledges that allow you to go out onto the flat ice, from where you can get a good view of the town. With the light starting to fade I headed over to Dag’s, to stay for the night. Some Swedish pancakes and great hospitality meant I was ready the next day for the bus ride to my final destination: Jokkmokk (with four k’s).
I’d heard about Jokkmokk back in the sunny days of my university exchange year in Alcalá de Henares, near Madrid. While having a drink to get out of the hot September sun, a smiling skinny Swedish guy was telling me he was from Lapland, the land of Santa where it was sometimes minus 50 ºC. I thought he was taking the jam out of my doughnut (!), but even so he became my flatmate, and multiple adventures ensured, including visits to the Pyrenees and Alps, as well as the southern coast of Sweden, where I met his mom Lena and aunt Karin. But from then on, I’d always had the desire to visit the famous place, where mercury can freeze and strange lights light up the northern sky.
By coincidence, I’d timed my visit with the annual winter market which has been running for over 400 years, when people come from the surrounding countryside and further afield to partake in the festivities. The program includes a large line of stalls where you can buy anything from traditional Sami items, to sweets, household utensils or reindeer kebab. This meant that the normally quite quiet town had turned into a busy venue, with events such as concerts, sightseeing and racing going on all the time. It also meant that Hugo and Lena’s home was full of people, including family and friends hailing from Stockholm, but also Narvik and even Grenoble!
Staying in Jokkmakk was also a chance to discover Sami culture and art. Extending across the north of Norway, Sweden, Finland and parts of Russia, the Laplanders have the own particular dress and traditions. You can see some of their history and attire (which changes from village to village) in the Jokkmokk museum. Their influence is felt thoughout the market.
Amongst the highlights was the reindeer racing, the music (Dag came from Lulea with his band to play), and the numerous feasts cooked up by Hugo and Lena’s guests, which included many local specialities, such as Egon’s incredible salmon and blåbär juice!
Want to listen to some modern Jokkmokk rap? Check out the rythmes and Sami beats here!
While up in the north, I was also able to experience the great northern expanses of Lapland, both on foot and ski. As well as some beautifull lights in the sky. More of than in the next post!