Today, the photo exhibition “Made by light” opened at Destination Jokkmokk. It features photos by five local photographers: Vahid Cullsberg, Maria Klang, Gunilla Falk, Tor Lundberg Tuorda and Anders Olofsson. The opening was a very nice event where visitors could meet several of the photographers. All photos in the exhibition are for sale, and the exhibition will remain in place until April.
Today I made the first out of many walks around the winter market area. Although main market doesn’t start until Thursday morning, the opening ceremony takes place tomorrow at 17:30. So right now, there are a lot of preparations going on all around Jokkmokk. The exception is the historical market at the open-air historic museum, which opened yesterday and which hosts a wide range of events throughout the week, both during daytime and in the evenings. For a full schedule, see the historical market website and the official winter market website. I visited the historical market around lunchtime, at a time when there were only a few people around. There will be a lot more people around tonight, when the musical events start. See the Facebook event here for more information.
I also visited the Ájtte museum and the Sámi Handicraft Foundation, Sámi Duodji, to get a sense of what interesting things I shouldn’t miss later this week. Throughout the walk, I took some photos, so I can now present the first photo album of the 2016 Jokkmokk winter market week:
Coming up next, the opening of the “Made by light” photo exhibition at Destination Jokkmokk…
Here is a close-up photo of the snow sculpture in the Storgatan – Klockarvägen roundabout, as seen from the southern direction. Click the image to see a larger version of the photo. I have also included a video showing the incredible northern side of the same sculpture, which includes an artificial fire and beautiful light effects.
Here is a beautiful video with pictures from the last winter market, created by Anders and Viveca Olofsson and posted to Facebook.
Made by light – a photo exhibition at Destination Jokkmokk
Anders Olofsson will be one of five local photographers whose photos are shown in an exhibition called “Made by light” which will be displayed at Destination Jokkmokk during the winter market. The other photographers are Vahid Cullsberg, Maria Klang, Gunilla Falk and Tor Lundberg Tuorda. The exhibitions opens on Tuesday at 16:00. For more information, see the Facebook event.
A couple of days before the 2015 winter market started, I visited one of the truly unique experiences that Jokkmokk offers: The Snowball Stay beside the Åsgård hostel. It can be described as an outdoors bedroom, located inside a snow sculpture shaped like a giant snowball. It was created from a cube of packed snow, sculpted by hand into a somewhat flattened snowball shape, which was then carved into through a small opening on one side to create a room inside the ball – once again by hand.
The entrance is a small hole that you crawl through to get to the space inside. The size of the circular “room” inside the sculpture is about two meters in diameter, with a roof height of approximately 120 centimeters at the center. The beds consist of thick, cold-resistant sleeping bags placed on a couple of reindeer hides. The floor, just like the rest of the sculpture, is made of packed snow.
For the winter market blog last year, I took some photos and wrote a post about it (in Swedish), and the snowballs (there were two of them last year) got a lot of attention in international media. And now, the Snowball Stay is back for a new season!
Unfortunately, none of the guests who took the chance to experience a night inside a snowball last year have written any article about it, so when the Snowball Stay was ready for accepting guests this year, I wanted to make sure that more people could find out about this opportunity. In order to get a true first-hand experience published, I checked in as a guest myself. Yesterday night I crawled into the snowball, hoping to get a good nights sleep but not really knowing what to expect. As it turned out, I did sleep very well and it was truly an amazing experience. Here is the full story:
Arriving to Åsgård
Since I live in Jokkmokk and my workplace is close to the Åsgård hostel, I brought a bag of extra clothes and some snacks to work, and then walked directly to Åsgård after the work day was over. I arrived just before 18:00, and met up with Cecilia Lundin (who runs the hostel – and who is also the sculptor of the snowball). I was given a good and detailed briefing about what to expect, how much clothes I would need to wear and how to access the kitchen and the bathrooms that were located in the smaller of the two buildings of the Åsgård hostel. I was also shown the “backup room” which is available to Snowball Stay guests, in case the temperature would drop too low or the guests would change their mind about sleeping outdoors. I interviewed Cecilia about upcoming winter market events and the current number of bookings, and learned that the Snowball Stay will be open for guests until the beginning of March – and that there are still plenty of available days after the Jokkmokk winter market. For the winter market, however, most days were already booked.
As it turned out, I would actually be the first guest staying in the 2016 version of the Snowball Stay – so it was the Snowball Stay premiere for the season!
Dressing up and preparing the snowball
After the briefing, I moved on to prepare the interior of the snowball. Cecilia had lit some candles inside the snowball and placed an ice door over the entrance, so I took some photos before the candles were removed. For safety reasons, candles are not allowed inside the snowball – so I had brought a couple of small LED lamps (very much recommended for future guests – the LED:s proved to be very useful). I placed two reindeer hides on the left side of the room, and my bag of snacks and extra clothes on the right side. I used one of the sleeping bags as an extra layer on top of the hides, and placed a pillow inside the second sleeping bag (the one I would sleep in). Regarding the sleeping bags: They are thick enough to keep you warm even if the temperature drops down to -25 degrees Celsius, and there is an optional extra inner sleeping bag made of fleece is available to provide more warmth during colder nights. I opted to not use the extra fleece layer since it wasn’t very cold outside and I was wearing warm clothes already.
I walked to Åsgård wearing my work shoes, a low and light shoe that is comfortable enough to wear when working indoors while still being warm enough for walking short distances outdoors during the warmer winter days. But I had brought a pair of winter boots with a detachable inner layer, so I switched to my boots before going out to the snowball, and once I was inside the snowball I then took off the outer layer of the boots and kept the inner layer on as a pair of extra socks. I also kept the jacket on, and put on a face mask (a hood usually used under the helmet by snowmobile drivers) that covered my neck and most of my face. Finally, I had a cap with four small LED lights on my head – and once the bed and the clothes were all in order I was ready to close my eyes…
I spent a few minutes just taking in the feeling of lying on my back inside this piece of art, hearing the sounds of nature outside and imagining how other people would react to the same experience. The last thing I remember thinking was “How will I ever be able to describe this feeling in an article without making it appear strange…”. After all, it was my first time sleeping outdoors in the winter, and in some way it felt rather strange to do it when my own home (and my family) was only a short distance away. But to sum it all up, it felt both overwhelmingly exciting and completely undramatic at the same time. And very calm and comfortable.
Sleeping – and waking up
I fell asleep sometime around 20:00. I had intentionally made sure to get fewer hours of sleep the night before, and got up really early in the morning, in order to be really tired once I entered the Snowball Stay – and it worked beautifully. The outdoor temperature was -12 degrees Celsius when I went to bed, and I have no doubt that I could have slept just as well even if it had been colder. With the face mask over my face and the warm sleeping bag, it was all very comfortable. And I slept really well, which surprises me a bit since I usually don’t sleep well away from home.
Just after midnight, I suddenly woke up. At that point, I had been sleeping for more than four hours. I don’t really know why I woke up, but I would guess that the temperature in the sleeping bag had become a bit too high. I felt very warm, and after a few minutes I decided to get up, put my boots on and go to the bathroom. When I removed the reindeer hide from the entrance and looked out from the snowball, I realized that it had started snowing, and I felt that the outdoor temperature was significantly warmer than it had been a few hours earlier. During the time I had been asleep, the falling snow had covered the track that I had made when I had arrived…
I picked up my water bottle and drank from it, and noticed that ice had started to form inside the bottle (which had been placed beside my bag of extra clothes), so the temperature was still a few degrees below 0. At this point, I was wide awake – and I started feeling flashes of inspiration strike me. After the bathroom break and a short walk around the hostel backyard, I got back to the snowball again.
Back in the sleeping bag, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep in yet some time. My head was full of impressions, emotions and ideas – and when I go into that creative mode, I can’t just close my eyes and expect to fall asleep. I sent a text message to my wife, and got a message in return saying that she was still awake. Rather than spending the next couple of hours just lying awake with my thoughts as the only company, I concluded that I had done what I had set out to do – to experience what it feels like to sleep in a snowball. About one hour after midnight, I packed my bags, placed the reindeer hide over the snowball entrance, took one final photo – and then walked back to my own home. I started editing photos and writing this text as soon as I got back home, and after I had got most of it written down, I managed to get a few more hours of sleep. This time in the comfort of a warm house and my own bed.
Sleeping in the snowball was quite an experience, even for me – and I have lived in the municipality of Jokkmokk all my life. For visitors and guests coming from other parts of the world, it would very likely be an even more amazing experience. After trying it myself, I can recommend it with all my heart to anyone who wants a unique and exciting outdoor experience in the northern Swedish winter. There is no need to worry about the temperature, the sleeping bags make sure that you won’t be cold. As for comfort, it felt pretty much like sleeping in a tent during a camping trip – it worked really well for me. And of course, the one thing that makes the Snowball Stay so special is the fact that you are surrounded by snow. It is not an igloo, but an actual oversized snowball that has been carved out by hand to create the space you sleep in. A piece of art in itself. And the fact that there is always a regular indoor room prepared for Snowball Stay guests, is a good guarantee that you will have a pleasant stay – even if you would choose to shorten the outdoor experience after giving it a try.
(Regarding the upcoming winter market events at Åsgård: The amazing fire show that I attended during last years market and wrote about here (note: Swedish text) will be back again this year, on Friday, February 5th, and Saturday, February 6th. I’m planning to go there on Friday to experience it again and hopefully record some video. More about that in a future post…)
Last year, I wrote about the Snowball Stay beside Villa Åsgård, a unique opportunity for visitors of the Jokkmokk winter market to sleeping a night inside a snow sculpture formed as a snow ball. The photos below are from last year. This year, I will sleep a night in the 2016 version of the Snowball Stay – only to get a chance to share the experience with all of you blog readers! I will take photos, record video, perhaps make a live broadcast from inside the snow ball (if the iPhone can handle the temperatures).
More information about this event will be published later.
Other scheduled activities for the Jokkmokk: Live! blog is competing in the reindeer race, going to a nice dinner at Hotel Akerlund, experiencing Jokkmokk-born artist Kitok perform live at Cafe Gasskas Saturday night (just like last year, which was one of the highlights of the 2015 winter market), taking part of the Sami national day celebrations on Saturday the 6th of Februari, visiting the historical market with the many events it offers, performing electronic music in the old heritage center on thursday night – and recording and publishing a lot more video posts than previous years. I will also meet up with a number of friends who come for a visit from other parts of Sweden (and other parts of the world), attending art exhebitions, conferences, speeches – and much more.
And of course, I invite everyone to follow my winter market through this blog and through the blog’s Facebook page. I think that this will be a great winter market, and it is only a few days away now…
It is now just over a week until the Jokkmokk Winter Market 2016 starts, and just as I have done the past three winter markets, I will be blogging from the upcoming market as well. Because of heavy workload in December and January, I haven’t got as much time as I would have wanted to plan for what I will do this year, but after visiting more than 20 winter markets I have a pretty good idea of what to do and what priorities to make.
This year, I will focus on three things that have been more or less absent in the blog: Adventure experiences, video coverage and revealing what happens behind-the-scenes of the events. During the previous three winter markets (2013-2015), I have gathered a big photo collection, lots of unpublished video and other material that simply hasn’t made it to the blog. As I’ve sorted through this material, I’ve found a number of photos and videos that I really want to publish – so expect some flashbacks to be included this year.
And yes, I will be writing in English this year. The simple reason for that is that I’ve noticed that the blog gets a better reach, as a significant part of the visitors (and people who are interested in visiting the winter market) lives outside of Sweden. Worth pointing out is that the coverage of the 2013 and 2015 markets were both written in Swedish.
Official preparations start in the middle of next week, and as always: If there is anything specific you want me to write about – feel free to send me an e-mail. All suggestions, ideas and requests are very welcome! The address is firstname.lastname@example.org. My home base when not being outdoors will be Jokkmokks It-Center, Föreningsgatan 1.
See you soon, and welcome to the Jokkmokk