Personal decription of a trip from Umea, Sweden (May 2009)#by H. Maurer
Note: All pictures (unless otherwise stated in the caption) were taken by H. Maurer and can be used freely, but it would be appreciated if the source Austria-Forum.org or global-geography.org and the URL you are at right now would be mentioned.
Introduction#I had an invitation to give a keynote at Umea, Sweden Umea, Sweden May 5, 2009. It turned out that flying in an out for just me would cost more than staying a few days with my wife in the area. Thus, we had suddenly a mini-holiday from April 30- May 6 in Northern Sweden!
We picked up a rental car on arrival in Umea, had a short quick bite in the city center. It was packed with a young crowd: We had not realized that already the Thursday before May 1 is a holiday in Sweden. We headed through beautiful country, with more and more snow along the road, our destination the town of Storuman Storuman , some 300 km towards the Norwegian borders, i.e. direction mountains. Well, the city that boasts a number of sizeable hotels on principle has no hotel open before May 1 or later! So we had to find some other place to stay overnight. Alternatives were a long drive to Tärnaby Tärnaby (the place the former ski champion Ingmar Stenmark is from) with a risk that no hotel would be open there either. After a long discussion with a friendly restaurant owner we made by phone a reservation in a hotel Ammarnäsgarden which we believed to be near Sorselen Sorselen , a place near the mountains some 150 km away. This would however allow us a shortcut next day to Tärnaby. The trip to Sorselen in the low but very slowly setting sun was gorgeous: We did have to hurry, the only place to eat where we would end up was reported to close at 6 pm, and even the hotel owners would not be easily available after that. Well, as we reached Sorsele, we discovered to our dismay that our hotel was another 90 km at the end of a cul de sac like mountain village! So we hurried on, passing moose and reindeer and beautiful waterfalls and scenery without daring to stop… and arrived at the lovely mountain hotel at 7:30 over an hour late --- both the chef and the owners still waiting for us without complaint. The warm welcome, despite our delay, the still blue sky with more forecast for the next day, lots of snow but around 10 centigrades even at 7:30 pm changed our minds: We would stay another day in this very nice place (as the only guests!). After a local home cooked meal (you guess it: reindeer) we still had lots of time…it actually does not get really dark at those altitudes, even beginning of May.
Next day #A sunny day in an exceptional place was a dream. We hike along thundering waterfalls and rivers, ice covered lakes, visited a quaint wooden church, relaxed for a while in the afternoon and after dinner (finished at 6 pm). We then went for lengthy drive to take pictures of all the things we missed the day before, like hundreds of reindeer, ice floes on rivers, etc. Maybe one highlight was to go up potatoe hill: a hill whose steep S side is cultivated with potatoes by the villagers. Although they can only be planted before end of May, their S exposure and the ceaseless sun is sufficient to grow the best small potatoes in the world (?) before the first frost in September.
Next morning, the weather was still holding out so- so, a rarity, we headed for Tärnaby, intending to possibly stay there overnight. However, the place at this time of the year was a turn-off: skiing almost over (one lift still operating), slush and snow and nothing green yet, but lots of mud, no winter scenery, either, so we continued to Mo I Rana , the forth largest community of Norway already located on one of the Fjords. All is out of season here too, but (except for hunting for some accommodation and a good fish dinner) a nice change and challenge! However, the traditional hotel in the city proved to be excellent, and a walk to the sea after the rain had cleared the air was beautiful. The next day we drove North, crossing the Arcticle circle on our circular route back into Sweden and through the mountains heading toward the Baltic sea again, where Umea is located.
When we left in the morning, we were not at all sure where we would stay overnight: not because we are choosy, but this area is so unpopulated that it has almost no accommodation and whatever is available is usually only open June-September. After an inspiring drive passing thousands of (seasonal) waterfalls and a short stop in the “silver-city” we found a nice place in Arvidsjaur, a place known for its close connection with traditional Samen (Lappland) history.
Actually, the conference was quite an experience: particularly the talks by Graham Campbell from Baylor, Texas (who gave the most perfect talk on how to use blogs etc. for teaching) and of Elza Kunkles (who showed us how much not just technology changes, but we with technology) and the hospitality we recveived were exceptional, and will remain as fond memories with me for a long time. This was added by visting a nearby beautiful open air museum.