“Kukkola is a village in Karl Gustav’s parish in Haparanda municipality, next to the Torne River, just over ten kilometres north of Haparanda along Highway 99″, I read about Kukkola on Wikipedia. But in reality, Kukkola is two villages with the same name, on each side of the mighty Torne River. In a way, this is proof that the Torne Valley is a world of its own, filled with tastes and experiences. The area, divided between two countries, has its own culture and its own language: Meänkieli.
The whitefish in Kukkola
Every year on the first weekend after St James’s Day, Kukkola hosts a Whitefish Festival. Salmon and whitefish have always been stapled food and fishing is an important income for local farmers and homesteaders.
The fast-flowing rapids around Kukkola and the fact that they are relatively shallow means they’re perfect for an almost unique fishing method – catching by hand net. At the Whitefish Festival, the freshly-caught fish is grilled and smoked, then sold to guests. The freshest fish you can eat. Eating well is a priority by Kukkolaforsen (the Kukkola rapids).
A unique fishing method
Netting whitefish this way is, of course, tiring and stressful. Handling a landing net with a six-metre handle in running water for several hours is hard work. That’s why the villagers used to divide themselves into teams, working in shifts as the whitefish came up the river. They also built artificial arms of wood, so-called pator, stretching into the river so the fishers could easily reach with their hand nets.
This kind of fishing, using hand nets and pator, is actually unique. It comes from the Middle Ages, but nowadays it’s only used in the Amazon and Swedish Lapland. By Kukkolaforsen you can experience this on a cultural tour and in the village museum.
“In sauna veritas”
What would be the best way to relax after a hard day’s work capturing and cleaning fish? Well, you can’t go wrong with a sauna and a cold beer. The sauna has become a global movement, following in the footsteps of the SPA-trend. Sauna is a meeting between the four elements: earth, air, water and fire. In the sauna, we’re all equals as naked human beings. It’s a great place for meetings, relaxation and health.
The Swedish Sauna Academy was founded in Jukkasjärvi but now has its headquarters at Kukkolaforsen. The motto is: “In sauna veritas”, translated as “truth is in the sauna”.
At Kukkolaforsen, there are also several different types of sauna, where the smoke sauna might be the most unique experience and also the most original sauna construction. The smoke almost completely disinfected the premises, so this was where babies saw their first light, and it was where those being prepared for their final journey were laid out. In this way, the smoke sauna marked the beginning and the end of life. Central to all human life. Most people might think that a normal sauna that ends with either diving into the nearest pile of snow or the rapidly-flowing river might be exotic enough, which it is.
So after we’ve experienced a sauna at its very best and enjoyed a lunch of grilled and smoked whitefish straight from the river, it feels like it’s almost time for dinner. I’m quite sure I’ll enjoy the Kukkola tapas, with whitefish, salmon, elk and reindeer as a starter. My travel companion is just as convinced that dessert will be coffee cheese with cloudberry jam.
— But what about the main course?
— Well, that’s the question. But perhaps since we’re in the Torne Valley we should have ‘Dip in Cup’*. Don’t you think?
— Yes, you’re definitely right.
*Known as Dopp-i-kopp, where you dip potatoes in melted butter with chives.
Kukkolaforsen Tourism & Conference is a conference, experience and knowledge centre in the Torne Valley. The spirit of the region is presented by the rustic accommodation, the various sauna experiences, and the rewarding fishing opportunities. Learn more at kukkolaforsen.se.