To be a little different, of a certain kind, a bit special and not like the rest, peculiar but loveable, odd but pleasant, strange but in an appealing way. All of this is to be what we in the north of Sweden call eljest.
The National Park has attracted hikers from all over the world for more than a century. Here begins the famous ”Kungsleden” and here is where you have the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights. If the Swedish mountains had its own capital, it would surely be Abisko.
In Standard Swedish, the word ”fara” is used solely when someone makes an extended trip. You can, for example, ”fara” to Australia. In the north, however, you use ”fara” for any kind of trip, whether it’s to the mountains, to the office or your next-door neighbor.
It was first discovered back in 1737. Ever since, the tiny pink flowers with the white and wooly stalk has fascinated early summer hikers. Need we say the Fjällspira can only be found in the very northern parts of Sweden?
The north of Sweden is in many ways progressive, but not so much when it comes to how the language evolves. Where others make efforts to use gender neutral pronouns, people in the north still refer to most things as him. ”Where is the car?” ”I put him in the garage.”
In Swedish, there are many different words used to cover all meaning of the English verb ”put”. In the North, there is one short word that fulfills the same inclusive function as ”put”: He.
The best thing about Norrland is the unpredictability. Like when fine culture moves into a sheep house. In the small village of Holmnäs outside Umeå, a well-attended opera performance is held once a year in the sheep house where the acoustics send a libretto echoing far over the meadows in the bright summer night.
For those who know their hydrology and aquatic ecology, Krycklan is home turf. All others can be well informed about this still watercourse in the Vindelälven river, which, along a part of the route, also has a nature reserve named after it.
Along the slowest part of the E4, between Umeå and Skellefteå, you pass the seemingly insignificant village with the self-explanatory name Ljusvattnet. Crystal clear lakes, summer and winter.
The big lake outside Vilhelmina, where every year someone seems to be breaking the biggest char-record, has a name that sounds very much like a Swedish toddler trying to speak English.
Nalta means little. In Vänsterbotten, there is a proverb laconically clarifying how nalta is best used: Harta borti harta jer brano, harta borti he, he jer nalta. (You may want to Google it, or better still, ask someone from Västerbotten).
If it is true that there are as many stars in the sky as grains on sand on earth, then let’s hope all the velvety fine grains on the sandy beach of Örsten south of Umeå were counted too.
We’ll eat, you’ll cook. So it goes, the chant (ramsa, in Swedish) that is taught to Swedish children in school to remember the names and order of rivers in Halland. To remember the name of the dark water that forms a tributary to the Umeå River, no need to chant. It’s called, in short, Ramsan (”The Chant”).
Today a desolate nature reserve, yesterday a gathering point for the fishermen and seal hunters of the area. To visit the island of Renskär in the Kalix archipelago and its well- preserved boulder block maze, is to make a dramatic guest play back in time.
If the bridge from Haparanda to Seskarö was anywhere other than in Tornedalen, it would have been one of Sweden’s most photographed buildings. And for anyone who associates the archipelago the one outside Stockholm alone – in the archipelago outside Haparanda there is a whole, and everything but crowded, island world to discover.