The difference between place and mere location is a question of meaning. A place offers you something. Vice versa, you fill it with life. The small town of Arvika, Sweden, is my birthplace. Until just recently, I have lived for 15 years in two separate big city areas of Sweden, attending university. Returning home has been a strong experience. The familiar soul of my home comes forth again, at the same time renewed. This is my love story. — Anna Myrén
Arvika is small. Only 28,000 inhabitants reside here, in the western parts of Sweden in the county of Värmland, known for its deep, mystic forests, the rare white moose, hills and hundreds and hundreds of blue lakes.
As citizens of Arvika, we are well aware of our place in the world. The town dwells in a bay attached to Sweden’s largest lake, Vänern. As such, it is directly connected to the great oceans of the world. This forms our self-image.
Arriving here, the first thing you see is surrounding hills, almost embracing you. The skies unfold and the waters glimmer. Painter Gustaf Fjaestad moved here from Stockholm in the late 1890s, settled down and formed a colony by the deep Lake Racken. He developed a certain technique to capture the unique light of the wintery landscapes and the water reflections in his art, eventually granting him the name "master of white frost." His work is found for example at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm.
Water and waterways
Waters and waterways have always been a trademark of Arvika, from the prehistoric age to the late 20th century. Even long before the city as we know it was here, ancient trails left their imprints: a heritage of graves and other remains, from the Bronze Age and the Viking era. Burial mounds were placed near the waterways, visible to all, a reminder of souls passed. A pilgrimage to the Nidaros dome in Trondheim, Norway, passes through here.
The waters have been important for transportation to and from iron and glassworks, paper and wood industries. But the harbor is still a mark of identity. Nowadays, private small boats inhabit the marina. We reach the world from here.
We also welcome the world in. When you don’t live in urban areas with access to big city life — our little gem is on the Stockholm-Oslo railway, 450 kilometers to Stockholm and 180 to Oslo — you need to create what you desire yourself. In the 1990s, a group of young people started what became the second-largest rock festival in Sweden. Bands like Depeche Mode, Einstürzende Neubauten, Fleet Foxes and Björk have poured their music into these woods. The offspring of this work is a still ongoing activity of entrepreneurial support to the corporate interests in the area.
The new flourishes with the traditional
More than 80 percent of Swedes lives within 3 miles of a national park or nature reserve, and less than 3 percent of Sweden’s land is developed with 69 percent of it containing forests. (Photo: Anna Myrén)
Cozy bed-and-breakfasts, Nordic wildlife, outdoor activities and breathtaking scenery in Arvika’s surroundings allure tourists. The city core offers quiet strolls along little streets with different facades, Swedish fika in coy cafés, museums, the waterside walk and much more. Many choose to return again and again. Some buy a summer house or move here to start up a business, not seldom in the middle of nowhere. The new flourishes side by side with traditional enterprises. One of them is the linen mill, Klässbol, purveyor to the royal family of Sweden and the Nobel Prize festivities. Our arts and crafts store is the oldest of its kind in Sweden, offering ceramics and pottery, wooden furniture, smithery, knitwear and more.
Me, I am a wanderer. Hiking these grounds, I realize that in this place — the bedrock of the 450 million years old Fennoscandian Shield — the ancient carries the new and the new tells of the ancient. The surrounding hills, the beginning of Scandinavian time, are covered by soft green mantels of pines and fir trees, reflected in the waters. This cradle is our spirit.
Life is cyclic. A walk with nature and the rhythm of seasons. We celebrate midsummer as the sun never sets. We tread the frozen waters of the bay in winter. We pick berries and mushrooms in the forests. We are earthbound. At the same time, blessed by the significance of trees and a certain light I have never found anywhere else.
Anna Myrén lives in Arvika, Sweden. She is a traveler, hiker and writer who focuses on the beauty and spirit of places, nature, humanity and values of life for a new world. She holds a BSc in Social Work & MA in Faith and Worldviews. Twitter: @AnnaUMyren, Instagram: aumyren.