For many, many decades, Gösta Åkerlund served as the innkeeper for Jokkmokk, a small town just north of the Arctic Circle. As such, he has seen people come and go, experienced people and events, and the transformation that the municipalities of Lapland have undergone. Here is a summary based on the publication “The innkeeper at the Arctic Circle,” where he collected some stories and reflections from past times.
The old inn
The old inn (or guesthouse), called “Gästgifvaregården” in Swedish, was traditionally a place where travellers could receive food, shelter and transportation for a fee. Guesthouses has a long history in our country. Their existence was documented as early as the year 1280, and more recently controlled by a regulation (last issued in 1911).
In 1925 Göstas parents Olof Axel Åkerlund and his wife Emma came to lease the inn in Jokkmokk for three yearsby the County Council, who then owned the house. “The lease price was SWK 2,000 per year and which included the regulation requirement that they would keep horse carriages for transportation to Koskats and to Murjek (about 60 kilometers one way), and west to Kvikkjokk (about 120 kilometers).”
The inn originally consisted of eight guest rooms and a salon. The salon was used as a coffee room where the guests socialized and discussed. The building was also a dining room and a combined storage room and dance hall for parties.
The kitchen of the inn was well equipped for its time. All water was carried from a well in the yard and waste and slush had to be carried out. The working days were long and arduous, and the regulation stated that that guests could arrive at any time of day which resulted in long working days.
During the winter, at least two farmhands were stationed at the inn to take care of horses, transporting guests and drive home firewood. Dry pines were cut and sawed to the appropriate logs which were then chipped into pieces of wood suitable for burning in the stoves.
The laundry room was adjacent to the inn. Laundry was made by cooking water in a large pot and then run down to the closest river for the clothes to be rinsed. In the winter, a hole had to be sawed in the icy river to make it possible to rinse the laundry. Once rinsed, the laundry was taken back to be hung up to dry in a warm room located above the the laundry room.
Refrigerators or freezers did not exist during this time and therefore suitable blocks of ice were cut from the ice of Lake Skabram, then transported back to the inn where it was put in a cellar. The ice was covered with sawdust to prevent ice from melting. Because of this, the ice could be preserved well into the autumn, which was necessary for cooling food and cooking cream.
The dominating food consisted of reindeer meat and fish catched in nearby lakes and rivers, and milk and farinaceous food. The porridge was a mandatory and always included as one of the daily meals.
When the regulation for inns and guesthouses expired in 1932, the inn continued to operate under its own management and changed name to Hotell Gästis – a name chosen to relate to the high standard that travellers had come to expect from the inns (gästgiveriet).
During this time, Hotell Gästis bought the nearby farm Vajmatgård, and in 1940 when the brothers Gösta and Göte Åkerlund took over the business from his father Axel, the expanded the building to house more guest rooms and a larger dining room.
In 1945 and 1954, the brothers Åkerlund made further expansions. The kitchen was moved to the lower level. A new dining room and even more rooms. In 1955 the restaurant received full rights to serve liquor.
In another renovation during 1987-88, the rooms were re-equipped with shower and WC, and in the years 1993 and 1995 the restaurant was further expanded with the addition of a “log cabin” and a wooden hut, by then with Gösta Åkerlund’s son Kenneth at the helm.
Axel Olof Åkerlund was also a pioneer in cinemas. In 1935 he built Bio Norden, right beside the hotel. The building was designed by the local builder Kristiansson. Cinema history has subsequently been written in Jokkmokk over the years, and Gösta Åkerlund managed to get numerous premieres shown in Jokkmokk. The film “4×4, by Jan Troell was recorded with Gästis as its starting point. Allso, the French master director Jacques Feider filmed in Jokkmokk with his big star Michele Morgan. Other film directors and stars who stayed at Gästis during filming are forester Stig Wesslén who for four years had Jokkmokk Gästis as the basis for his films about Lapland in the 1940s. Arne Sucksdorff also filmed in the district during the 1950s and Mai Zetterling lived at Gästis when she starred in scenes for his English television film about the country at Arctic Circle. The list can be much, much longer.
But it was not only cinema that took place in Bio Norden. The Swedish National Theater (Riksteatern) had an organisation in Jokkmokk in 1935, and the full house could accommodate 264 people. There were atleast four theaterh performances per year and the association had more than a hundred members of Jokkmokk.
In 2015 the hotel was sold to new owners: Annelie Päiviö and Katrin Bagge. By then, the business had been owned and managed by the Åkerlund family for three generations. In connection with the sale, Hotel Gästis changed name Hotel Akerlund, as a celebration to its history – and as a promise to keep the strong history and traditions of the life work of the Åkerlund family alive in the future.