I took a prolonged weekend (fri-mon; 30.11-03.12. 2007) in Northern Sweden; more accurately near the town of Piteå, visiting a friend. Actually, his house is on a nearby island that has only recently been connected to the mainlands with a road. The trip went (by plane) Oslo -> Stockholm -> Luleå (Kallax airbase) where he picked me up with a car. During those few days, we also visited some other places: Luleå, Kalix, and Haparanda/Tornio which lies on the border with Finland. (Haparanda is Swedish name, and Tornio is Finnish name.) You can see all of those places on the map. He bought some spirit drinks in Finland (the shop is named "Alko"), and I bought a bunch of Finnish salmiak/lakris candies. It was interesting to see people in Alko pushing FULL shopping carts of various drinks. Apparently, Haparanda has just recently gotten an IKEA shop, which has boosted the local economy. It is the nearest IKEA shop for that part of Sweden and Finland. Otherwise, it's been a very relaxing and interesting weekend, and they even got me to play bowling; the bowling hall was very nice for such a small town.
I was amazed by Swedish roads. Even though we were kinda in the middle of nowhere, the roads were in good shape (no holes or such) and very well cleansed - there was some snow/ice on them, but despite winter conditions it was possible to drive at speeds over 110 km/h (though with "piggdekk" - spiked tires). Norwegian roads are really bad compared to Swedish roads. (And I mean bad - even in Oslo you can find roads with holes at size of a football-ball in diameter.)
On the way back, I tried to take two cans of surstromming, but it was unfortunately taken by the security officer in Luleå. (BTW, he was really nice - told me that I should have checked that in, asked me whether I was coming back soon [he wanted to store it..]. It's rare to meet a nice security guy.. I guess that small towns have their advantages too :-)) BTW, there's also a technical university at Luleå.
Being far up north, near polar circle, I wanted to experience the "perpetual darkness". Well, it's not perpetual, but pretty close. So I have some pictures too. This picture is some kind of meeting place for young people in Piteå (the two arcs); the most interesting thing is that the picture has been taken ca. 15h.
This picture has been taken at the brightest time of day (though, cloudy one). It is a road that approaches the friend's house. It's a representative picture for most of the roads that we've been driving on.
The following picture shows the frozen sea. It's impressive. Later during the winter, the ice gets so thick that the easiest way to the town is to use a snow scooter and just cross the water.
This picture shows the entrance to the IKEA in Haparanda. I have taken it because the leftmost flag is that of the Sami people.
The last picture is mostly for amusement: it's an announcement in local newspapers that, due to maintenance of the electrrcal network, there will be a short power outage. But notice the time of day :)