ALL THE WRONG PLACES: Sweden Micronations Road Trip
Sweden has it all perfectly sorted. Spotless trains, balanced budgets, smooth roads and leggy blondes. So for most Swedes it's hard to move beyond this idyllic Scando life. However some dare to rebel against this conformity by establishing their own micronations within Sweden. Krishna and Chris drove the MINI Coupé all over this ice-laden country to meet a few exceptional Swedes who’ve created their own micronations: self-declared jurisdictions with unique constitutions, ceremonial citizenry and outlandish heads of state.
First MINI stop was the Kingdom of Ladonia. Lars Vilks, a wild-eyed sculptor has spent the past 30 years creating this micronation to protect his giant, crazed art installations of reclaimed wood scraps, erected on a nature preserve near Malmö. Why'd he build it? To piss off his fellow Swedes. But for Co-Pilot Chris, walking through the artworks made him feel like Peter Pan, so they couldn’t make people too angry. Check out this and other bonus content on MINI Facebook.
When government authorities tried to destroy the sculpture, Vilks sold the massive wooden lattice to Joseph Beuys, the German artist who later bequeathed it to world-famous installation artist Christo. And because according to Swedish Law, private property cannot be claimed by the state unless its owner agrees, the Kingdom of Ladonia was saved. Point to Vilks.
But Vilks admits that Ladonia is in some way a joke. The "President" of Ladonia is an old pair of loafers. And though no one can live on the small, rock-strewn shorelines of Ladonia, its very presence is a thorny jab at the Swedish conformity. That's Vilks' lifework and it irks those who would otherwise support him. Case in point: Vilks is an Al Qaeda target and under 24 hour Swedish Secret police protection, after drawing a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed as a dog, thereby managing to offend about 1 billion Muslims around the world.
After fitting the MINI Coupé with studded tyres, Krish and Chris headed towards the snowy north to meet Ewert Ljusberg, President of the Republic of Jämtland. In the 1960s, big Swedish corporations attempted to own much of Sweden's natural resources. Jämtlanders, denizens of hunting and homesteading, declared Jämtland a micronation in order to foil corporate Sweden.
A comedian and troubadour by trade, Ewert's duties are few. He's basically a tall, white-bearded deep-voiced mascot. He'll start a boisterous round of the Jämtland national anthem, and each year he delivers a whacky speech at the Östersund Summer Festival dressed up as Robin Hood riding an elephant or something. But the perks of his "job" are legendary: He has his own Presidential Beer replete with his face on the label, which Chris and Krishna sampled at length. Sore heads in Sweden.
For some, the Jämtlander outsiderishness proves super lucrative. The guys ploughed the MINI Coupé through snow to visit the tiny village of Skyttmon and met Peter Erickson, the descendent of an original homesteader. Peter lives in a hunting lodge full of stuffed animals, grows his own potatoes and hunts bear and moose alongside his trusty pack of champion bear hunting dogs known as Jämthunds.
Peter taught Krish and Chris the local sport of moose hoof tossing and let them fire off some of his giant bear guns. But things got almost too creepy for the guys when Peter showed them his DIY butcher shop and freezer full of bear and moose trophies. There's a hillbilly-chic to the Jämtlander way. Snowmobiling, shooting guns and drinking home-distilled spirits filtered through bear intestines rank among the region's favorite pastimes. And who can argue with that?
Sweden might be a cold, snowy hive of conformity. But on our unlikely adventure to remote Sweden we met some fantastic, world-class, micronation-creating weirdos.
To check out the mind-bending journey to ALL THE WRONG PLACES: SWEDEN MICRONATIONS ROADTRIP watch the full episode above.
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Episode 2: The Taxi Hit Squads of South Africa
Episode 3: The Scissor Dancers of Peru
Episode 4: Swedish Micronations Roadtrip
Episode 5: Jamaica — Obeah Magic Man
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