Luleå Archipelago 

Having cousins with summer cottages in the Luleå Archipelago is recommended if you’re in the Luleå area, but if you don’t, there’s a scheduled daily boat trip out to the main islands in summer, and the municipality has summer cottages for rent. 

My cousin Bertil picked me at Hindersöstallarna and the boat run to Hindersön took about 45 minutes. Bertil pointed out all the seabirds we saw on the way; I think he mentioned more than ten different species. We have seabirds in the UAE of course, but I’ve never spotted ten species in 45 minutes.

We arrived at the island of Hindersön at the same time as the crew from Bröderna Stålarm AB. I’ve never in my life seen such big salmon! I was told the biggest one was 17.5 kg with the innards removed. Salmon fishing is big here – though they had caught some whitefish as well – and I had salmon three times a day while in the archipelago (cured salmon is lovely on crisp bread for breakfast or a light lunch). 

A visit to Sweden is not complete without staying at least one night in a traditional red wooden house with white trims. Thankfully, my cousin Bertil has one so I’m now set.

There is electricity on Hindersön, and most people also have their own wells drilled. However, on the sewage side of things, there’s not the same level of access. But having a privy at the edge of the property is definitely more interesting. The technology of materials is developing at the speed of light, and they now have toilet seat rings for privies that become warm the instant you sit on them, even if it’s freezing cold. How’s that possible? No idea. But I’m pretty grateful for it.

The weather hadn’t changed by Sunday so it’s was still 11C and we also had a bit of rain. However, we all stayed cosy indoors. 

In the evening, I was treated to bleak roe (or Kalix Bleak Roe – which is Kalix löjrom in Swedish). At about $250/kg it’s a rare treat, but make sure you get your host to pay for it if possible. What’s it like? Amazing! 

Apparently, Kalix Bleak Roe is enjoying the same EU Protection of Origin as champagne and similar. If you have the chance, go for it! You only live once. By the way, bleak roe tastes better with beer or schnapps than wine.

The next treat for the day was sauna with birch twigs. If you want a short description, here goes. The sauna is heated with a log fire stove (birch and pine) until the temperature in the sauna reaches about 80-85C. After that, you have a bucket with lukewarm water, along with a ladle. The idea is that you “cool down” by pouring lukewarm water over yourself. Immediately after that, water is poured over the stove and you almost die of a heatstroke. The birch twigs are then introduced. These are heated over the fire and then dipped in water. This is the moment when you start whipping yourself with the birch twigs. Rationale? It think it has something to do with your metabolism and rejuvenating your skin. If the sauna experience is too intense, you can take a break outside. Have a break, have a beer. 

The skin rejuvenating technique of the birch twigs was not as intense as the Turkish bath I visited in Kars a few years ago – when my arms and legs were vigorously brushed (i.e. scraped) by a largish Turk who almost made my skin disappear – but my skin felt soft and new when I stepped out of the sauna into the cold outside.

The following day, we had a slight change of weather; it was now 10C. The weather report said it was going to rain between 11.00AM and 4.00PM., which was depressing, but we decided to toughen it out. On the agenda was a visit to the island of Brändöskär, where another cousin of mine has a red-and-white cottage and frequently has salmon for lunch.  As it happened, it was sunny instead, and we had the most gorgeous day at the very edge of Luleå Archipelago. 

Cured salmon also goes very well with new baby potatoes and a green salad with feta cheese.

We had this little walkabout around the fishing village on the island. The chapel on the island was built in the late 1700-hundreds.

And what looked like a privy.

Was actually the island’s library. 

If you only have time to visit one island in Luleå Archipelago, go for Brändöskär with its fishing village.


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