Swedish Press N Y A
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The High Coast
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June 2022 Vol 93:04 $9.95
Höga Kusten World Heritage Site | Nature-in-a-Bottle | Fermented Herring
Höga Kusten World Heritage Site – The World’s Highest Coastline Set in the northeast province of Ångermanland on the Gulf of Bothnia, the High Coast of Sweden and the Finnish Kvarken Archipelago together form a unique world heritage site featuring the world’s highest coastline – 286 metres above sea level – and rising! By Kajsa Norman
he High Coast is the only place in the world where the land is still gaining elevation from isostatic or post-glacial uplift. This part of the world has experienced several Ice Ages during the last 2-3 million years and has been under the center of the continental ice sheet several times. The latest Ice Age started about 115,000 years ago and ended here, on the High Coast about 10,500 years ago. While the inland ice Swedish Press | June 2022 | 10
covered most of Northern Europe, it was thickest in this area – about three kilometers deep. The weight of the glacier was so heavy that it compressed the earth’s crust by about one kilometer. When the ice melted, the land began to rise back up. At first the elevation occurred rather quickly, up to 10 cm a year. Nowadays, it rises by 8 mm a year. While this may not sound like much, it adds up. Since the end of the last ice age, the land has risen close
to 300 meters, the highest known isostatic rebound on Earth. This is the reason for the region’s unusually tall cliffs and fascinating islands. It is also the reason why the High Coast was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. There are currently 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sweden, and 7 in Finland, but the High Coast is the only site characterized as completely natural. Originally contained entirely in
Sweden, in 2006, the High Coast World Heritage Site was expanded to also include the Finnish Kvarken Archipelago, situated on the opposite side of the Gulf of Bothnia, in the northern part of the Baltic Sea. The High Coast’s hilly scenery with steep shores, smooth cliffs, and deep inlets stands in sharp contrast to the Kvarken Archipelago with its 5,600 low-lying islands, shallow bays, moraine ridges and massive boulder fields. Along the High Coast the sea is deep (close to 300 meters), while in the Kvarken Archipelago it is very shallow (with a mean depth of less than 10 m). As such, the High Coast and the Kvarken Archipelago represent complementary examples of post-glacial land- and seascapes. In Kvarken there is an array of glacial formations, including unusual, ridged washboard moraines, known as ‘De Geer moraines’ – an aggregation of glacial debris formed by the melting of the continental ice sheet. The landscape is made that much more interesting by the fact that it is continually changing. Each century the land rises approximately 0.9 m causing new islands to emerge and unite, peninsulas to expand, and inlets to become lakes. The High Coast’s dramatic world heritage landscape and unexploited shorelines make it the ultimate destination for nature-lovers. It is great
How to get here:
By train: Easiest is to take the train from Arlanda Airport to Härnösand (4 hours) or to Örnsköldsvik (5 hours) By car: For greater flexibility and local transport, it is best to rent a car. The region is just a five-hour drive from Stockholm along the E4.
The High Coast Bridge (Swedish: Högakustenbron). Photo: Carola Harnesk/Hotell Höga Kusten
Skagsudde. Photo: Copyright Nordkultur
for most outdoor activities including hiking, climbing, watersports and skiing. Its archipelago is more unique, and much less crowded, than those of Stockholm or Gothenburg. The region
is also interesting from a historic and cultural perspective, featuring centuries-old fishing villages as well as Nämforsen’s famous Bronze Age rock carvings.
By air: Höga Kusten has two airports, Höga Kusten Airport (KRF) in Kramfors and Örnsköldsvik Airport (OER). There are also flights to Sundsvall Timrå Airport (SDL) located south of Härnösand in the southern parts of Höga Kusten. Flights take about one hour from
Stockholm Arlanda Airport. Where to Stay: A wide range of options for accommodation ranging from camping sites to high-end hotels can be found on: https://www.hogakusten.com/en/ stay/hotels Swedish Press | June 2022 | 11
Ulvön – The Mecca of Fermented Herring (and Reluctant Tourist Paradise) Ulvön island is the gem of the High Coast archipelago. It is also known as the birthplace of Sweden’s infamously stinky fermented herring "surströmming". Still produced on the island, Ulvön remains the best place to sample this smelly delicacy. By Kajsa Norman
Ulvö harbour. Photo: Izabelle Nordfjell
otted with rustic cottages, fishing huts, and boathouses, Ulvön is the largest island in the High Coast archipelago and, with 40 inhabitants, the most populous. The herring and salmon fishing have attracted fishermen here since the 1500s. Once home to northern Sweden’s largest fishing community, it was on Ulvön that the (in)famous production of surströmming, or fermented herring, first Swedish Press | June 2022 | 14
began. This Swedish delicacy is made from a Baltic strain of small herring called strömming which is left to ferment. The prefix, “sur”, literally means “sour”. The herring are caught in the spring, fermented with lactic acid, lightly salted in huge barrels, and then canned. The fermentation continues in the can for about a month, resulting in a bulging tin of very stinky fish. As the tin is pressurised, it liter-
ally explodes when opened, which is why it should be done outdoors, preferably in a basin of water. This explosive quality also means that most international airlines don’t allow you to pack cans of surströmming (and you probably don’t want to risk sneaking one on only to have its stinky contents explode in your luggage), so trying it while in Sweden is highly recommended. As a culinary tradition, fermented
strömming dates back thousands of years. The process was invented at a time when salt was both expensive and hard to come by so people used only as much as was needed to prevent putrefaction, hence leaving room for unharmful preserving bacteria and yeasts to flourish. Around 1890, Axel and Herman Söderberg at Ulvö Gamla Salteri became the first people to package fermented herring in tins. Suddenly, it was possible to deliver surströmming to other parts of the country. As surströmming became increasingly popular, other salterier (salt-curing facilities) popped up around the country. This led the salterierna on Ulvön to formally register their brands to protect their reputation for being the original. Along the High Coast the quality of the strömming was deemed to be optimal for fermenting. Further south it was too fat, and further north, too lean. Brands like Röda Ulven, Röda Fisken, Guldfisken, Tre Sälar,
A shelf with jars of surströmming. Photo: Tina Stafrén/imagebank.sweden.se
Ulvö harbour 1905. Photo: Ulvö museum
The process of fermenting herring. Photo: Ulvö museum
Swedish chef and surströmming connoisseur Johan Kindberg. Photo: Kajsa Norman
Ulvöhöken, Ulvögöken and Ulvöprinsen, were born and Ulvön established itself as the center for the production of fermented herring. Today, only Ulvö Lilla Salteri remains, but the passion lives on. “It’s an important part of our culture,” says Swedish chef and surströmming connoisseur Johan Kindberg. Johan grew up on the High Coast. He has worked at Ulvö restaurant Almagränd for many years and we have come to sample his famous fermented herring tapas.
strömming themselves will wrap it in tunnbröd, a type of sweetened, soft crispbread, and serve with sour cream, slices of almond potatoes and diced onion. While Johan uses these classic ingredients, he also adds a sweet and fruity touch to most of his creations, such as shredded pear, apple, orange, strawberry, or even jam. Lightly sugared lingonberries and red onion marmalade are other favorite add-ons that make the dish more accessible to the novice. While it is the smell that sceptics find the most revolting (a quick YouTube search will yield many hilarious home-videos of people simply trying to get past the smell to even taste it), surströmming is also an acquired taste. The fermentation originates from a lactic acid enzyme in the fishes' spine, which is reflected in the acidic taste. At first, many find it reminiscent of rotten eggs.
The first tapa features Mjällom old fashioned flat bread, Västerbotten cheese, mayonnaise, sliced new potatoes, fermented herring, and a small slice of orange. It’s delicious. Most people who prepare sur-
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Ulvön remains the best place to sample surströmming. Photo: Kajsa Norman
Surströmming jars. Photo: Copyright Nordkultur
Sandviken is the best preserved fishing camp in Ångermanland province. Most buildings are from the 18th century and for rent in the summer. Photo: Kajsa Norman
That’s why surströmmingstapas is a great way to try this cultural delicacy for the first time. The bite-sized portions ensure the fermented herring doesn’t completely overpower the senses. And because servings are so small (and the can has been opened elsewhere) there’s no accompanying stench. Traditionally, the surströmming season starts on the third Thursday of August when Swedes (mainly in the north) host surströmmingsskivor – fermented herring parties. However, as it is late July when we visit Ulvön, we’re sampling the previous year’s vintage, preferred by surströmming enthusiasts for its more “mature” flavour. If stored cold, a can of fermented herring can last two years, according to Johan. The can should also be cold when opened. “I stick it in the freezer before serving, then tap on the lid with the can opener. That pushes the air bubbles to the side so that when you open
it, the juice doesn’t go everywhere, spraying those around you like you see on YouTube,” Johan explains. The building that now houses a restaurant, Almagränd, used to be devoted to production of fermented herring. Nowadays, all production on the island is small-scale, mainly for private consumption. “We have about ten people on the island who prepare surströmming for their own consumption, 50 cans or so. If you’re lucky, they’ll sell you a can, but you must know on whose door to knock. People here don’t really like tourists,” Johan confesses. He is absolutely right. Ulvön is a reluctant tourist paradise, which of course only adds to its appeal. While planning for the trip I often got the sense that the locals would prefer it if we didn’t come. Not only are they not keen on the publicity threatened by our article, but local guesthouses are hard to reach and not too interested in renting out rooms. Someone recently
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bought the historic B&B in the harbor, but never answers nor returns phone calls. Rumor has it the new owners want the place to themselves. This makes planning a visit in the attractive summer months difficult. On the upside, if one does manage to rent a room at the Ulvö Hotel in the heart of the marina or an old fisherman’s cabin in Sandviken, one is in for a wonderfully genuine experience. Only through a contact, am I finally able to get through to the person taking bookings. We secure a room in an old school that has been converted to a hostel. There are no buses and few cars on Ulvön, but in a shed in the schoolyard there is a large selection of bikes that we are free to use to explore the island. We start by biking north for about 5 km to the old Sandviken fishing village – a cultural heritage site since 2005. Dating back to the 1600s, this is one of Sweden’s best preserved fishing villages. Both the boathouses
House on the island 1917. Photo: Ulvö museum
Ulvö Hotel, built in 1905. Photo: Ulvö museum
A beautiful Ulvö cottage. Photo: Lola Akinmade Åkerström
The main road in the village. Photo: Kajsa Norman
Old school converted to a hostel. Photo: Kajsa Norman
and restored cabins (from the 1700s) are available for rent but book up fast with many guests planning a year in advance. Sandviken used to be known as “the fishing village of curved backs” as the rising land forced the fishermen to drag their boats further each year. With a nice sandy beach, Sandviken makes for an idyllic stop for a picnic. For some more buzz, one has to head to the south side of the island, where the ferries dock, and where the marina and Hamngatan main street are located. This is a great place to spend late afternoons and evenings, having dinner and drinks while
admiring the picturesque houses, red boatsheds, and traditional wooden frames for drying fishing nets. Also located on Hamngatan is Ulvön Old Chapel. Built in 1662, it is one of the oldest wooden buildings on the coast of Norrland and it features beautiful wall and ceiling paintings by the artist Roland Johansson Öberg. From here it’s a short walk to the top of Lotsberget which has breathtaking views over Ulvö Marina and the archipelago. We end the night at Ulvö Hotel in the marina, enjoying craft cocktails featuring locally distilled, artisan spirits like Hernö Gin and High Coast
Whiskey. Our visit comes to an end much too fast. As the ferry takes us back to the mainland the next morning, we gaze longingly at the private summer cabins of the lucky few who get to spend the whole summer here. It’s easy to see why they want to keep this place a secret.
Getting to Ulvön by ferry The Ulvö islands are located about 30 km south of Örnsköldsvik and can be reached by ferry year round from Köpmanholmen with M/F Ulvön. During the summer months, boats depart several times daily. Another alternative is to take a trip through the archipelago with M/S
Kusttrafik from Docksta, Ullånger or Mjällomslandet – departures are scheduled daily in the summer. The journey takes 1.5 - 2 hours depending on your departure point.
Accommodation: https://www.hogakusten.com/en/ stader-platser/ulvon for a full list of options.
For more info visit: https://www.mfulvon.se and https://www.hkship.se
Remember to book far in advance as rooms fill up fast in the summer months.
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