This is kind of an introduction to what is usually referred to Europe’s last wilderness. Starting out softly with kokkaffe, cinnamon buns and a tour of a wilderness exhibition – and ending up in a hole in the ice in the middle of nowhere.
The kåsa, wooden mug, is handmade. They’re all one of a kind and Catrin takes her time to choose hers. Finally she picks up one with inserts of reindeer bone and finicky engravery. She holds out the kåsa and Thorbjörn fills it up with kokkaffe, boiled coffee typical for the region. And hands her a cinnamon bun.
– It’s freshly baked, he ensures us and throws another log on the open fire.
Catrin is from Germany. Southern Germany, to be precise. From Cologne. She’s part of group with tens of Germans that’s never been this far north. We’re in the forest surrounding Svansele, usually referred to as Europe’s last wilderness.
A real wilderness experience, step by step
Even though it’s in the middle of winter, the wilderness exhibit will give you an accurate sensation of the sub-arctic fauna of Swedish Lapland. All wildlife is represented and displayed according to season: spring, summer, autumn and winter, everything from tiny Willow Warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus), to the Golden Eagle, wolverine and wolf. As always, Thorbjörn, our host, is in an excellent storytelling-mood.
Imbued with great ardour he alternates anecdotes from his eventful life in the forests surrounding Svansele with facts about the wildlife and their nature.
– What are they doing there? someone in the group asks and points a finger at three bears appearing to be launching an old rowing boat.
– It makes you wonder, right? replies Thorbjörn. That might be my favourite montage in the entire exhibit.
It does make you wonder. Catrin nods in agreement, a bit absentmindedly with her eyes fixed on the bears.
With snowmobile to moose grazing lands
Winter overalls, sturdy shoes, gloves and a helmet. And everyone’s own snowmobile. Catrin gives a thumbs up while trying out a comfortable position on the snowmobile seat. A big smile spreads across her face. This is her first time on a snowmobile. And at last, it’s time for the moose safari.
Someone in the group asks about our chances of seeing moose. After all, it is a wild animal.
– Conditions don’t get better than this, he says.
One last time Thorbjörn makes sure that everyone has their snowmobiles figured out. And off we go. As said, Catrin and her fellow travellers are not accustomed to operating snowmobiles across a snow-covered landscape as in Swedish Lapland. But they learn quickly, even though Thorbjörn has to help someone who’s skidded off track up again, on a regular basis.
The safari spots moose tracks and droppings
Thorbjörn holds up his hand and every snowmobile behind him come to a halt. He’s spotted tracks. Moose tracks. Curious the group gathers around him. Thorbjörn points at the black, round bullets in the snow.
– Moose droppings, he determines.
As snowflakes starts falling from the sky, Thorbjörn talks about the life of the northern moose, how the mother shuns her calf when a new one arrives, and that spruce shoots are their favourite food.
Someone in the group asks if it isn’t time to see the real thing.