The walls of the palace were driven snow. The windows and doors were the knife-edged wind. There were more than a hundred halls, shaped as the snow had drifted, and the largest of these extended for many a mile. All were lighted by the flare of the Northern Lights. All of the halls were so immense and so empty, so brilliant and so glacial!…Empty, vast, and frigid were the Snow Queen’s halls. The Northern Lights flared with such regularity that you could time exactly when they would be at the highest and lowest. In the middle of the vast, empty hall of snow was a frozen lake…

Andersen’s tale “Snow Queen” fascinated me from the first time I read it. There was something magical about  Gerda’s  journey. And I was spell-bound by the Queen’s palace. While my peers drew pictures of sunny islands with palm trees and sea birds, looked forward to a hot summer vacation with their parents at the sea-shore,  I dreamed of making the same journey that Gerda did, I dreamed of going to Lapland. In my dreams I saw a vast land covered by glittering snow and a deep blue sky. In my dreams I entered the Queen’s palace and walked inside. I met the Queen and she was as perfect as in the story:

The snow-flakes grew larger and larger, till at last they looked just like great white fowls. Suddenly they flew on one side; the large sledge stopped, and the person who drove rose up. It was a lady; her cloak and cap were of snow. She was tall and of slender figure, and of a dazzling whiteness. It was the Snow Queen…Kay looked at her. She was very beautiful; a more clever, or a more lovely countenance he could not fancy to himself; and she no longer appeared of ice as before, when she sat outside the window, and beckoned to him; in his eyes she was perfect, he did not fear her at all, and told her that he could calculate in his head and with fractions, even; that he knew the number of square miles there were in the different countries, and how many inhabitants they contained; and she smiled while he spoke. It then seemed to him as if what he knew was not enough, and he looked upwards in the large huge empty space above him, and on she flew with him; flew high over,the black clouds, while the storm moaned and whistled as though it were singing some old tune. On they flew over woods and lakes, over seas, and many lands; and beneath them the chilling storm rushed fast, the wolves howled, the snow crackled; above them flew large screaming crows, but higher up appeared the moon, quite large and bright; and it was on it that Kay gazed during the long long winter’s night; while by day he slept at the feet of the Snow Queen.

I grew up but I have a feeling that a tiny part of the Queen’s cold breath from my dreams always hung with me and made me day-dream about Lapland. Until the time I came to live in Sweden. I have always stuck by the motto “Follow your dreams” and once in Sweden I could not resist the temptation to visit the Snow Queen. The first time I visited Queen’s country it was a summer time and she was away. I wandered around great valleys, hiked the mountains and enjoyed the midnight sun. And I came to love Lapland. I made myself a promise that I will come back in the time when the Queen is around. I kept my promise. I am just back from a week in Björkliden, Lapland.

Björkliden is situated 250km north of the Arctic Circle. Sometimes the bare facts are not enough for us to imagine how far into the North this is. Here is a map with the Circle shown on it which I believe will facilitate our imagination.  Lapland in the winter turned out to be exactly what I expected-an enchanting place of snow and blue sky. The time runs on a different scale there. The air is clear, frosty and you can almost feel it with your fingers. Soon you forget the anxieties of your life, the big, busy and crowdy  southern cities become an illusion. Nothing else exists but yourself and this place, now and here.

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Disclaimer: The photos shown in the slideshow were produced by me. The photography  of the Aurora Borealis belongs to Dr. Bertalan Juhasz.

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