Luleå: Gammelstad and Boden Fortress / by Jennifer Leahy

In the daytime, Luleå feels far away from what I unconsciously (and inaccurately) imagined the Arctic Circle might be like - it's a warm, sunny, green, small city. But in the evening, when the sunset pauses for an hour or two, then begins in reverse, I remember just how far north we are. And when, after a tour of the forts of Boden (built in the last century), my Swedish Number contact, Niklas, points out three giant icebreakers across the bay (including Oden, the first nonnuclear ship of its kind to reach the North Pole), then I begin to imagine what winter might feel like.

A few miles outside of Luleå is the church town of Gammelstad (another UNESCO World Heritage site). The church itself was completed in 1492. Back then, the town was on the water, but because the land has been on the rise (geologically springing back from the last ice age), the shoreline is no longer in sight (hence the establishment of Luleå in its present-day location). The red and white cottages of Gammelstad are still in use, and have temporarily housed parishioners (traveling in from the country for church services) for centuries.