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Sundsvall: 'It's like living in a wok pan'

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Sundsvall: 'It's like living in a wok pan'
14:40 CET+01:00
Bird-watcher and nature enthusiast Leelene Karlsson presents Sundsvall for this week's My Sweden, explaining that a gigantic ice lolly, a cross-dressing singer, and life in a wok pan make Sundsvall the ideal Swedish town.

Thirty-year-old Leelene Karlsson was a student when she came to Sundsvall, a town of just over 50,000 people on the east coast of northern Sweden, but decided to stay when she found herself in love with the town.

The best thing about the town is the proximity to nature, according to Karlsson, who explains that residents are never more than three kilometres from the great outdoors.

"This town is perfect for nature lovers," she tells The Local.

"If you've got the stamina, you can even walk out of the town and up into the mountains. Sundsvall is surrounded by sloping mountains on three sides – it feels a bit like you’re living in a wok pan," she adds with a laugh.

IN PICTURES: Take a walk through Leelene Karlsson’s Sundsvall

As for the town itself, she refers to it as a miniature version of Stockholm - but with friendlier people.

"This is the gateway to northern Sweden," she says.

"It’s the talkative part of Norrland too, so you can get more of a conversation than if you went any further north, and the people aren't as shallow as Stockholmers."

However, what really gets Karlsson atwitter is the huge variety of wildlife on show in the Sundsvall skies. The 30-year-old claims to have been fascinated by birds since her childhood on a farm in Lidköping.

"Our TV had three channels in those days so we were always outside. We lived near an airbase, and we could either watch people parachuting all day long - or watch the birds. It didn't take me long to realize the birds were much more fascinating."

While particularly partial to a common blue tit, Karlsson has long been keeping her eyes peeled for a kingfisher.

"That’s the most beautiful of them all and I'm yet to find one. Bird-watching is like hide and seek, it’s a true game, and you never know what you’re going to find."

But there’s more to Sundsvall that just 200-odd species of bird. There are also some exotic personalities in the music industry – including Sweden’s favourite rock-and-roll son… or should that be daughter...

"Yes, Yohio comes from Sundsvall," Karlsson says, referring to the 17-year-old who sings in Japanese, dresses like Lolita, and plays guitar like Hendrix - and has taken Sweden and Japan by storm.

"He might even have a chance to represent Sweden at Eurovision this year. He’s certainly very unique, even if his song isn't."

For those not interested in the birds or the cross-dressers, Karlsson points to the town’s rather unusual landmark as a point of interest – a lookout in the shape of an ice-cream.

The Glasspinnen ("The Ice Lolly") stands atop the Norra Stadsberget, and according to Karlsson provides the ultimate view of the entire town.

But don’t be fooled, it’s not really in the shape of an ice lolly at all, and in fact looks more like something from the shelving pages of an Ikea catalogue.

When challenged upon this observatory observation, Karlsson can only chuckle.

"Well, no, I suppose it’s not in the shape of an ice lolly, but it is similar to what we call a puckstång in Swedish, a kind of rectangular vanilla ice cream stick. They even dress the tower up with candles during the Christmas period."

Strange shape aside, one thing remains for sure, standing atop the tower allows climbers to experience the town from the perspective of the birds themselves.

"When you get up to the top, you’re lost for words. It’s like – wow. It’s the perfect end to a walk around the town."

Her final advice for people who might be considering a Sundsvall drop-in?

"Get your best walking boots and ask someone to take you out into the nature, because if you love the forest and want to be outdoors, this is the town to be," she tells The Local.

"You'll be amazed. That’s a promise."

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

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