Scanian Sven Engholm (67) has built up the lodge concept by the river in Karasjok since the mid-eighties. Now he has six cabins, has turned sixty-seven and called himself a pensioner, and truth with modifications.
Sven has won the Finnmarksløpet eleven times and lived on the North Calotte for thirty years. In the dog sledding environment, everyone knows who he is, Sven lives and breathes for the dogs and the wilderness life on the Finnmarksvidda.
Searched for the adventure in Finnmark
Thirty years ago, Sven Engholm at Stockholm University worked with glacier measurements and had gradually started with dogs on a hobby basis. A friend said that he had gotten the dream job in Kiruna by paddling a canoe and walking in the mountains. Sven especially the same, and applied for and got the job as a teacher in outdoor life in Kiruna in northern Sweden and stayed a year.
Thirty years ago, dog sledding was a curiosity that few people did. Sven was the first in Kiruna with eight sled dogs. He researched how he could make money on dog sledding and crossed the border into Norway.
When he arrived in Karasjok, no one else had sled dogs there either. His idea was to get hold of a disused farm and create his own business with dog sledding. He marked all the houses on the map where there was no smoke from the chimney. One cold January day he wants up to the first house so it was alive and knocked on.
There I stood, a hippie from Scania in biting cold dressed in a Sami reindeer fur with eight dogs in tow and asked for a place to live.
Skeptical of dog sledding
Sven had to stand nicely on the stairs while the steam was inside. “Could he set up in the courtyard”?
“Yes, yes, yes,” replied the bearded man kindly.
When Sven returned the next day, he could not escape the heat either.
– I showed him the map and said I needed a car to find out who owned the houses.
“Can I have your car”?
“Yes, yes, yes,” men replied again.
Patience challenge live
It turned out that the bearded man was a forester in Karasjok. It was not until 1985 that the land application for Sven went through the eye of the needle, when five years had passed. Sven experienced massive opposition from the municipality, signature campaigns and thirty-six people defining as neighbors, as he was unwanted. They argued that they would not be allowed to sleep at night due to barking, that the dogs would bite the kids and moreover he was a foreigner. All bodies had to comment on the case. The museum director even signed a declaration concerning ancient monuments, the document exists in a local archive. “The gods at Haldde do not like screams of children and dogs barking.” (Editor’s note: Halddetoppen is located just across the road from Engholm’s place.)
Started building cabins
In the end, the county governor of Finnmark cut through. Sven himself chose a plot on sandy ground, which will be dry immediately. He could get as much land as he wanted, and it cost him just one penny per square meter. Sven staked up the plot himself, then the technical agency from Karasjok municipality came with an invoice. Building the first cabin was like building with lego, he says. The following year he set up another cabin in the same style.
– Then I thought, I have to learn this in a proper way. I started with handcuffs.
Homemade is well done
The style of the cottage is casual, a little cowboy, a little hippie and very little traditional. Sven got the idea for the ceiling lamp with black natural feathers when he visited and art museum in Copenhagen.
The lodge owner shows me where to find the on-off button for the bedside lamp, guests before I have struggled so fiercely.
After he leaves, I discover a small glass shelf high up on the wall above the bed. My first thought is that I’m going to peel during the night, but it can not be felt. Sven has designed the interior with millimeter precision.
He even designed the sink in the bathroom, carved in stone according to all the rules of art, sanded and sanded until it became silky soft on the surface. He can not fathom how the Chinese manage to deliver stone sinks for five-six-thousand kroner as it can take so long to make.
Petter Smart solutions
Sven settles down at the kitchen table after the guests have eaten dinner, elk stew with cranberries. The kitchen is designed for a maximum of ten people and has a number of whimsical interiors. You have to look around carefully to find glasses, plates, spoons and so on. Something is under the bench, other things you have to look up to discover.
The wine glasses hang dangerously high under the roof, in solid rope and upside down. When a hundred have gnawed on all the meat on the bone, Sven still makes toothpick holders from the rest. They stand like white design icons on the tables!
Dog sledding and house building
The concept has been the same in all years, dog sledding in the winter, building of cabins and design of interiors in the summer. Sven plans furniture before the cabins are set up and stores everything. Takes the trees early in the summer, does not have a tractor and works on the cumbersome option.
Sven kept the lodge closed in the summer for several years before he decided to open to tourists. Now we sit here and can enjoy the late summer evening with wine in the glass and fire on the fireplace while Sven tells his story.
Still new ideas
The house I am housed in is made of concrete clad in stone with large windows in the front. Another idea from creative Sven? Not quite, it was his ex-cohabitant who wanted a more private house. What about concrete?
“How about digging a house into the ground” ?, Sven thought.
Then he started drawing a house with large windows that slipped the light in. But the contractors said they wanted drawings from a proper architect. The sketches for Sven were useless as working drawings. Sven had never been to architects before, as he liked to do everything himself, but understood that an architect was needed to get to the goal of the project.
Thousand artist with obstacles in the way
When the architect’s drawings were ready, the contractor set up the concrete walls, afterwards Sven could put the stones on the outside of the cladding so he could choose. Sustainable material use is important for the self-builder in Karasjok.
– I could of course get the stones for free, it was the race that was thrown. I asked the supplier to drop me off instead of crushing them. I ended up having to pay the same for the cut as for the new stone.
– You must be happy to create?
– Yes, it’s funny. When the need arises, I start.
Sven claims that the projects he starts are simple. Once, some male guests feared that the wives wanted a “handyman” of his caliber.
“At least I’ll not bring my wife here.”
“Why not”? asked Sven.
“She’s just going to tease me, you can not do this and that.”
Our conversation continues around flickering candles in the log cabin;
– Do you use the roots on the wall for something, or are they just for decoration? asks the photographer.
– The roots on the wall are tyrived which I use to light fires with instead of buying lighter briquettes.
Sven does not want the lodge to be bigger than it is today. He takes a maximum of five guests on a sleigh ride at a time, and will himself be out in the front line on rides with the guests. He will not sit with big belly and manage, as he says. Sven is officially retired, but works full time and has three employees. In the winter, it comes to employees. Sven arranges overnight trips every week from mid-December to mid-May.
Sven is alone now. He is not removable and not interchangeable. He will die with his boots on, he says. The dogs are his biggest passion, they give so much back. They are happy souls.
– The dogs live such good lives here, nothing is random, concludes Sven from the wilderness paradise by the river in Karasjok.