In Scandinavia, often the weather isn’t on your side.
My latest scent discovery tour was to visit Sweden’s northernmost county, Norrbotten, at the onset of winter – a journey of a thousand miles from Copenhagen, and as far from Denmark’s capital as Monte Carlo on the Mediterranean coast.
I had hoped to observe the transition from sunny health into polar defence, to find the last strains of new growth, the residue of renewal. And to reconnect with the spectacular Northern Lights for a scent theme we are revisiting next year.
A territory larger than Portugal, Norrbotten is sliced by the Arctic Circle, sandwiched between Norway above and to the west, Finland to the east, and the chilly Gulf of Bothnia to the south. It forms part of the borderless Lapland region, proud home to Sweden’s tallest mountain, Kebnekaise, and is one of the least populous counties in Scandinavia.
Driving the empty roads from Luleå in a naïve attempt to follow the mighty Kalix River and its own long journey from the highlands to the sea, all the while hemmed in by the boreal forest on both sides, I saw only glimpses of the scale and majesty of a landscape that usually takes one’s breath away, and just a handful of the quarter-million reindeer roaming there.
Instead of those endless snowy vistas, I encountered a saturated netherworld lost in diluted greys, muted shades and dripping textures. It felt as if nature herself was wrapping everything inside her tight grip, cocooning what’s precious, then soaking it with water, and bedding it all down for the long haul.
I rarely got to see much further than the tree in front of me, and the Aurora Borealis remained but a distant dream.
It made me wonder, how can somewhere of such scale feel so claustrophobic?
Eerily bewitching, Scandinavia never ceases to surprise.
Special thanks to Norrbottens Destilleri for the guided tour, and their unique Forest Dry Gin directly inspired by the boreal forest. Thanks also to the Ice & Light Village for accommodating me – despite the lack of Aurora!