A newcomer finds peace in Skellefteå's spiky center

Nicola Foleher enjoys exploring her new hometown by foot, and was pleasantly surprised by the lush cactus garden. But what she loves most about strolling around Skellefteå city center is the sense of safety.

Cactuses in Skellefteå.

Cactuses in Skellefteå.

Foto: Donna Richmond

Engelska2023-10-16 09:00
Det här är en krönika. Åsikterna i texten är skribentens egna.

One Friday, before the recent snow, I met my husband for lunch in town. As we stood in the square next to a beautiful, colourful and somewhat large flower display we discussed what we fancied to eat. 

There is no doubt that the options are becoming more abundant with the choice of Swedish meatballs, Thai, sushi, Chinese, tacos, pizza, Eritrean, Turkish, vegetarian and others. In the end, we settled on Indian food and visited our local curry spot and enjoyed a delicious meal. 

Afterwards we headed down towards the river and as we strolled past the rows of bicycles we commented on how many of them were not locked up or chained to the bike racks. We noted that people had left their helmets hanging on the handlebars, and we were surprised by how many of the electric bikes and scooters were left unsecured.

We walked around the edge of the neatly gravelled square and took time to look at the stunning flowers, grasses and blooms swaying in a gentle breeze. 

They have clearly been well planned and cared for, and we discussed how we really need to up our garden game for next year.

People were enjoying a moment in the afternoon sunshine, relaxing on benches and chatting with colleagues and friends. We passed joggers and dog walkers who nodded 'hello' and smiled and all felt well with the world.

Cactuses in Skellefteå

As we walked towards the river my eyes lit up. I was absolutely delighted to see the most amazing and unique display of very unlikely plants. Cactuses and succulents! It looks like something you would find in a dusty desert town in Arizona or New Mexico; not in Skellefteå.

The display is breathtaking, and I take my hat off to the people who came up with the concept, designed it and indeed planted it. No mean feat considering the amount of sharp prickles and spikes.

We marvelled over it for quite some time.

Throughout our afternoon the main thing that we both noticed was just how clean, cared for and tidy the city centre is. How safe it feels to walk around enjoying the sights. How there is no vandalism or graffiti in the public areas and that people can go and sit quietly and relax without clinging on to their belongings or locking up their bicycles. 

Back in the UK, when I visited our local town I would dash from shop to shop, clutching my bag under my arm and holding my children's hands tightly as we raced through the centre, avoiding hanging around in one spot for too long. Sadly, what had once been a beautiful market town in West Yorkshire has now become a run-down, uncared for place, the streets lined with empty shops.

Every day that I head into town on my own, or with my daughters, I always make a mental note of how liberating it is to feel safe. Since moving to Skellefteå I have never experienced the anxiety that I did back in our home town in the UK. 

I have never felt the unease of someone walking behind me down a quiet street, and I have never once felt like I should speed up my pace to increase the distance between myself and someone behind me. 

Not once have I taken my car keys and held them tightly in my hand, ready to use as a weapon, or spoken loudly on my phone even if I'm not actually talking to anyone. 

Nowhere is perfect, I know that. But for me, I think we have it pretty close here. Cactuses and all.

This is a column and the views are the author's own. 

This column was originally published at norran.se/english, the English section of norran.se.