Jokkmokk, a city just north of the arctic circle, with a population of less than 3,000 residents.
It is the location of an annual market for the Sámi people (traditional reindeer herders from Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia), held in February, every year, for over 400 years.
An outdoor market above the arctic circle in February? COUNT US IN!
For years, Claire had told me about this market, Jokkmokk Marknad. She told me that one day we would go. Claire’s like that, she doesn’t use words like ‘should try’ to go … we ‘would go’.
Sure enough, in February 2014 we headed up to Jokkmokk and the market!
When we first arrived, I was a bit disappointed. Here I was, above the arctic circle in Sweden … I expected reindeer and dog sleds … and I got Volvos and pick-up trucks.
As we approached the entrance, things changed.
Yes, people in line had brought their own reindeer hooked up to sleds. You know, to pull the kids, because lets face it, kids are really slow (especially in snow).
Okay, THIS was more like it!
First order of business … I heard there were some reindeer races?
Yup, that’s right. Before I knew it we were standing on a frozen lake getting ready to watch REINDEER RACES!
Before the race starts, the people sing a joik. This is a tradition folk music of the Sámi people. The music echoed across the lake and bounced back off the hills … amazing
Now, the race begins!
Let me explain a reindeer race … the reindeer aren’t really totally sure why they are there. They get all decked out, have a sled attached to them … yea, they do that all the time.
The people standing around start to ring bells and make noise. The reindeer, well, they try to get away from all that noise. You can see the people are laying down on their stomachs on these sleds. It’s because, you’re gonna fall off, this way you don’t have too far to fall!
I think I may have seen two people actually cross the finish line still on the sled.
Okay, standing in the cold watching these races made me hungry. Surely there would be interesting food here … again, the market did not disappoint!
I found a few vendors selling Suovas. Suovas itself is smoked reindeer, sliced thinly. I chose to go to the Suovas Kungen (the Suovas King) for my snack! I was getting a ‘street food’ serving.
The suovas was served wrapped in a tunnbröd (a Swedish flat bread), with a creamy lingonberry sauce drizzled on top. Kind of a Sámi shawarma!
How was it? Absolutely delicious! Very smokey, tender meat … nice and hot, which in this situation is probably the most desired thing!
The other way to warm up is coffee. Of course, up north, they do it a bit differently.
This is coffee with kaffeost, which literally means coffee cheese. The cheese has a spongy texture, similar to haloumi. It isn’t aged and it hasn’t been salted or made savoury in any way, so it really is just creamy and a bit sweet.
The cheese is cut into small cubes and placed in a cup. Once coffee is poured on it, the cheese absorbs the coffee (it doesn’t melt at all).
Amazingly tasty … you’ll all get a chance to try it if you like . Tomorrow we’ll be posting a recipe for making your own kaffeost at home!
Okay, so we didn’t come here just to eat … time for us to see the Market!
Many vendors from Finland, Norway and even Russia
Lots of traditional crafts, reindeer skins, hats, boots, gloves …
Reindeer pulling sleighs!
also many opportunities to pet a reindeer … having just discovered how tasty they were, I thought it would be better if I didn’t get too attached!
It was getting towards dinner time. I’m not gonna say it was getting dark. We’re talking the arctic in February … so it’s either getting dark or dark most of the day. It had been dark since early afternoon!
What’s more Swedish than pizza? (Seriously, Swedes eat more pizza than ANYONE!)
Of course, this pizza has smoked reindeer (suovas) and lingonberry cream sauce on it. Certainly never had something like this before! In case you are wondering … yes, it was delicious.
What happens after dinner at the Market?
A beer tent!
This is something a Canadian can understand!
Thus was our day at Jokkmokk Marknad. We came a long distance and were warmly welcomed by the people of Jokkmokk and the Sámi .
This is why we travel! (I don’t think we’ll look at reindeer the same way again).