There is something different in the air here.
Arriving at the small airport in Luleå, somehow I felt more relaxed things slowed and I felt happier.
It seemed like I was being invited to live in the moment and not in my head, to enjoy mother nature in all her glory.
This was Sweden, but this was different, and it felt brilliant.
We were in Swedish Lapland, the northernmost part of continental Europe, and this was the city of Luleå. They have a term for this brilliane in the air, they call this – The Luleå Way.
Lapland, the northernmost Swedish Lapland, the northernmost province of Sweden, the arctic part of Sweden. Home to the midnight sun in Summer, eternal darkness in Winter, the northern lights, dog sledding with huskies and the unique Sami people.
Four European countries have territories in the Arctic Circle – Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia, and its only in these places that you can get some of the most unique experiences. All of Swedish Lapland is housed within a single country, Norrbotten, and the its capital city Luleå. Even though Luleå lies just outside the Arctic Circle, it is the starting point of most travellers journeys in the Arctic Circle – whether its to see the northern lights, or to ride Huskies, or to experience life with the Sami people.
The Sami way of life is one that has to be documented because it is one threatened with extinction.
The Nordics are already extreme by most global standards, but the northern-most province is another thing altogether. There is a phrase in Sweden, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” when you live in a place like Luleå, this is a phrase you take to heart. Why? In winter the average coldest month is January where the mercury measures -12.9 degrees Celcius, and the historical coldest is -42.3 degrees Celcius. There is no typo, that’s negative 42.3 degrees Celcius. It is so cold in this part of the Nordics that railway trains have been known to stop working because of the cold. It gets so cold that actual ice roads appears every winter.
It makes for a fascinating tourist adventure, but why in the world would anyone want to live there?
For plenty of good reasons, which go way back, to 1621 when Luleå was granted city rights. Luleå was initially founded because there were items that could be traded with in Stockholm, as time progressed and the industrial age came around (especially in the 1800s) Luleå grew in importance because it is a mineral and raw material store – it was the steel and raw materials found in Luleå and the surrounding region that helped to rebuild Europe after World War II.
The city of Luleå is not exactly the same one that was granted land rights because the original city, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site called Gammelstaden, was further north. It was moved to its present location, nearer the water because of a post-glacial rebound which decreased the water levels in the old town area.
The city of Luleå is an important part of the global IT infrastructure, Facebook opened a data storage centre in this city to take advantage of the cold (because data processors are actually hot).
Shopping may be a delightful pasttime for many people, but it was here in Luleå that the world’s first indoor mall was opened, a mall known as Shopping (they made the verb a noun).
The Luleå Way however also means that both winter and summer are great reasons to enjoy the nature all around. So while huskies, northern lights and ice roads are exciting experiences, Summer in Luleå is also quite amazing, simply because of the nature all around.
We found ourselves in Luleå because we wanted to visit furry friends, but I sure want to go back in the summer to experience another part of Luleå.
Because theres something brilliant in the air.
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