During his journey in Lapland, the botanist Carl von Linné said, “If not for the mosquitoes, this would be earth’s paradise.” His comments were made after journeying along the river valley of the Lilla Luleälven during the short summer weeks, when the mosquitoes are at their most active. Along this valley is the town of JOKKMOKK, its name deriving from one particular bend (mokk in Sámi) in the river (jokk). The densely forested municipality through which the river runs is the size of Wales and has a tiny population: just three thousand.
The town is a welcome oasis, although not an immediately appealing one; the prettiest part is around Stationsgatan, which links the train station with the main street, Storgatan, where the wooden houses and shops are oddly reminiscent of small-town America. Jokkmokk started life as winter quarters for the Sámi, and by the beginning of the seventeenth century had a market and church, which heralded the start of a permanent settlement. Today, as well as being a well-known handicraft centre, Jokkmokk functions as the capital of the Sámi and is home to Samernas Folkhögskola, the only further education college in Sweden using the Sámi language, teaching handicraft-making, reindeer husbandry and ecology.