On the cusp of the Arctic Circle lies an area rich in Swedish history, culture, art, and design.
Boden is a remarkable blend of history, modernity, religion, military might, tranquil nature, and edgy design. And it's just waiting for more people to discover it! This is our journey as we made our way north to Sweden's Arctic Circle.
With garrisons of horses at low demand in these modern times, this incredibly striking building is now home to equally striking art. Boden is famous in art circles for the "Boden School", a group of artists who flourished in the area in the 1950s and 1960s and their legacy lingers at Havremagasinet. Exhibits, which focus on local, Nordic, and international contemporary art, change frequently, but the schedule of guided tours is steady. The tours - included with the price of admission - are offered every Wednesday to Sunday at 1:00pm and I can highly recommend them. If you need time to digest all that you've seen, the gift shop has a nice little cafe that's perfect for mulling over artistic opinions with some Swedish fika (a coffee break with a yummy treat on the side).
The Church of Överluleå
Swedish law used to mandate compulsory church attendance and these charming tiny red cabins were built around remote churches in the harder-to-reach parishes such as Luleå in order to accommodate those who traveled from far distances to worship. The striking red color originated from a stain made from copper mineral run off. Some of these humble small cottages, most without indoor washrooms, are available to rent, while others are in private hands and still others are subject to heritage regulations. But regardless of status, they're all beautiful to look at and it makes for a pleasant excursion to walk around the grid of delightful wee homes.
Can we also all take a moment to appreciate the glorious vintage pink Cadillac? Our tour guide confirmed that it belongs to the village priest!
The MirrorCube is just one of 7 incredible structures suspended from the trees. A floating cabin, a gigantic bird's nest, as well as a UFO comprise some of the neighboring tree houses that serve as ultra private hotel room retreats, complete with spectacular views, powder rooms, and sometimes even lounges and balcony spaces. The contrast between the unnatural structures and the unspoiled beauty of the area blend together perfectly. The MirrorCube disappears into the trees, while the Bird's Nest evokes organic coziness, and the Blue Cone (which is actually red!) reminds me of the unexpected splashes of red you always discover in nature, like the flash of a cardinal or woodpecker.
The site's other property, Britta's Pensionat, is much more down to earth in both design and prices. Decorated with mismatched odds and ends from the 1940s to 1970s, the rooms are more spacious and convenient, if decidedly less chic, than the small pods of The TreeHotel. To get the best of both worlds, guided tours of The TreeHotel are available for Pensionat guests.
Arctic Circle Gateway Center
A long list of programs and authentic Arctic cultural experiences are offered by the Arctic Circle Gateway but, given the changing nature of special events and the volunteer led schedule, it's smart to inquire ahead of time to make sure your desired experience will be available. Taking this small extra step was well worth it - this was one of my favourite places to explore in the area.
Crossing the Arctic Circle
Your transportation: The overnight train.
The train seems to bridge the gap between the inexpensive appeal of the bus and the greater comfort of a flight, provided you have a sleeping berth. Having never taken an overnight train in Europe, I was extremely excited for what I saw as a traveling rite of passage.
Unlike crossing the Arctic Circle, riding the overnight train is a bucket list experience I'm happy to do just the once. Remember what I said at the beginning about the journey and the destination being equally important? Admittedly, recollecting the train journey makes me think twice about that! On the plus side, the train was very fast, fairly clean, and I'm sure was a much better option than sitting upright on a bus all night. Some amenities seemed to go above and beyond, such as the very nice shower compartment with plenty of clean, fluffy towels.
On the downside, other services seemed to be completely lacking. We saw no attendant for the entirety of our trip and, fortunately, Ryan was able to figure out the tricky maneuver for transforming the bench seat into the bottom bunk (other friends weren't so lucky and basically slept on the bench seat itself). And, of course, I was horribly queasy with motion sickness the entire time. Let's just say I was thrilled to return to Stockholm by air!
Boden is beckoning
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Our trip to Boden was facilitated by the local tourism board and we thank them for their support.