The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE -

In­lands­banan of­fers a seven-night Taste of Sapmi pack­age (de­par­tures be­tween June 12 and Au­gust 14) from Oster­sund to Gal­li­vare, tak­ing in Jokkmokk, and re­turn. More: in­lands­ Aus­tralia-based op­er­a­tors that spe­cialise in the re­gion in­clude Nordic Travel and Fifty De­grees North. More: nor­dic­; fifty­de­ • swedish­la­p­ can be two or three of th­ese units; to­day there’s just the one. “The air con­di­tion­ing is very sim­ple,” the on-board host, Malin God­seth, announces. “If it’s get­ting too warm, you open the win­dows. If it’s get­ting too cold, you close them.” God­seth has been work­ing on the trains for six years. “So I recog­nise ev­ery pine tree,” she says. “Some­times we have to stop be­cause there are rein­deer on the line. And some­times we have peo­ple who ask if we can stop as they want to pick the berries.”

Ev­ery few dozen kilo­me­tres, we pass a small set­tle­ment, a sin­gle tim­ber house, maybe even a per­son. A man rid­ing a bi­cy­cle is a real event. Hours pass, trees pass, lakes pass, snowy moun­tains loom in the dis­tance. The pace is some­times lullingly slow. We gaze, we doze, we read. We see the odd star­tled rein­deer, the even odder lol­lop­ing moose. It’s a sort of med­i­ta­tion-on-the-move. The Scanoraks con­gre­gate be­hind the driver’s cab for the full on-track ex­pe­ri­ence.

Af­ter seven hours, we get off at a small sta­tion and are driven to an un­der­whelm­ing lake­side Sami Cen­tre with half a dozen rein­deer, a few huts and not much en­light­en­ment. There’s a be­guil­ing still­ness, though — just bird calls from deep in the for­est. We get a much bet­ter idea of Sami cul­ture at the Sil­ver Mu­seum in the quiet town of Ar­je­plog (some of th­ese Swedish names don’t so much trip off the tongue as trip it up). The mu­seum is a trea­sure house of the ev­ery­day — a wooden cra­dle, an ac­cor­dion, knit­ted mit­tens, tin rein­deer toys. They cre­ate an en­gag­ing pic­ture of Swedish life.

The nearby wooden church is a riot of golden-haired cherubs. Over the al­tar is a paint­ing of the Last Sup­per that sug­gests an un­usu­ally in­tense Swedish com­pany board meet­ing.

Our fi­nal des­ti­na­tion is the town of Jokkmokk, part of a mu­nic­i­pal­ity with a pop­u­la­tion of just 5000. Near our ho­tel, with its idyl­lic lake­side set­ting, is an alpine gar­den where we meet Eva Gunnare, a beam­ing “food cre­ator and cul­ture guide”, for an in­trigu­ing event dubbed a “taste ex­pe­ri­ence”. Gunnare evokes the Swedish sea­sons through sto­ry­telling, singing (eyes closed, hands clasped be­hind her back) and food she has cre­ated from wild in­gre­di­ents, in­clud­ing tree roots. There’s bread made from pine bark, an­gel­ica seed­cake, birch sap juice. “The flavour of early spring for me,” she says. We re­sist the dried rein­deer meat. A show-off red squir­rel prac­tises tightrope­walk­ing on tele­graph wires.

Gunnare re­flects on the char­ac­ter­is­tic north­ern Swedish re­serve. “Up here, peo­ple don’t talk; they do,” she says. “My hus­band’s fam­ily bond by be­ing quiet.” Or, as an­other Swede puts it, “Th­ese guys are fa­mous for say­ing two words a day — and one of them is usu­ally ‘no’. ”

Next morn­ing we take the train back to Oster­sund, an 11-hour jour­ney, for a flight back to Lon­don. From the Land of the Mid­night Sun to the Land of the Mid­day Rain.


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