Anticipation is in the air. As we walk up the little hill and into Bonnstan, the old church town dating back to the 17th century, the voice of Greta, our guide, echoes into the silence. She tells a horrifying story about the fire that raged here in 1835...
We have gone back in time. It’s the day before Midsummer’s Eve. The aroma of flowering lilac marries with the smell of newly tarred timber houses. The air is as fresh and crisp as it only can be in Swedish Lapland.
We have just finished a storytelling session at the outdoor museum at Nordanå. The picturesque Kågegården served as the stage. Now we are standing in silence with newly woven flower crowns on our heads, huddled together by the steps to the small country store.
Anticipation is in the air. As we walk up the little hill and into Bonnstan, the old church town dating back to the 17th century, the voice of Greta, our guide, echoes into the silence. She tells a horrifying story about the fire that raged here in 1835.
– The entire area was badly burned. Practically the whole church town burned down to the ground, for the second time. The first time the church town burned down was in 1672.
One member of the group has cupped their cold hands around the hot cup of cocoa handed out and is lightly jogging on the spot to keep warm. It isn’t actually very cold, but crisp. Another straightens their garland and asks if we will get to see the bridge — Lejonströmsbron, before sunset. Greta smiles and answers:
– Today, the sun will not set at all.
These people are travellers. They come from somewhere else, somewhere where there is no midnight light. Accompanied by Greta’s vivid stories and their own fantasy, they try to capture a fleeting image of where they are. How things were then and how they are now. Differences and similarities. Standing here, in the arriving midnight light and just listening, someone says, is something unlike anything else.
The stories fill the air along the northern banks of the Skellefte River — from Nordanåparken, through Bonnstan, on to Stiftsgården, Landskyrkan and Lejonströmsbron. Stiftsgården and Lejonströmsbron used to be the centre of Skellefteå. The centre was later moved to its current location. In the olden days, that place was just a mire. Probably a great cloudberry mire, but a mire nonetheless.
– The ground was drained and the water was directed into channels, where we find Kanalgatan (lit. Channel Street) today, the street that cuts right across the city.
We move on, slowly but curiously. Lejonströmsbron, the oldest wooden bridge in Sweden still in use. It is long too — spanning more than 200 metres across the Skellefte River.
– The bridge was finished in 1737 and you had to pay a toll of one Swedish öre to cross it on foot. This was also the site of one of the last battles on Swedish soil, in 1809. 6,000 Russians against 650 Swedish soldiers. Their task was to defend the grain warehouse at Landskyrkan, our guide says, pointing.
It didn’t go very well.
Our group seems content. Curious eyes, ears pricked up and rosy cheeks. People keep their floral crowns as memories. A lively murmur rises. Everything between heaven and earth is discussed. Now, as it was back then. However, back then, this wasn’t cultural heritage — just everyday life. Now, great hospitality and a hearty dinner awaits at Stiftsgården. By candlelight. Naturally, featuring a locally produced menu. Some members of the group take pictures to post for their friends online — because of course, one is proud to be here.
Nordanå is one of the most popular places to visit in Skellefteå. Here, life is defined just as much by modern, semi-urban greenery as it is by the beating of the wings of history. In addition to offering curious, challenging and inspiring cultural events, the Skellefteå Museum is also home to an exciting boutique and a café. Here, you will also find the museum’s picturesque country store and the delightful restaurant Nordanågården.
Remember to look for this summer’s storytelling walks! www.skellefteamuseum.se