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Tourists to get more help in Swedish mountains

Mountain safety for tourists is set to improve in Sweden, with authorities introducing more signposting and guides in English as rising numbers of foreigners head for the hills.

Tourists to get more help in Swedish mountains
Hikers in northern Sweden. Photo: Fjällsäkerhetsrådet

Around 800,000 people are expected to visit Sweden's mountain areas this season, with up to 20 percent coming from abroad, according to the Mountain Safety Council of Sweden (Fjällsäkerhetsrådet).

Dutch followed by German travellers are set to make up the majority of foreign visitors.

The Mountain Safety Council of Sweden says it is increasing the amount of mountain safety information in English as a result of the influx of travellers.

All shelters in Sweden are set to get guidelines in the global language and will be provided with journals so that visitors can record their names and next planned destinations, to help authorities keep track of tourists who end up getting lost.

Mountain safety officials say the advice for backpackers will include advice on handling the long distances, colder climate and poor cell phone reception that can characterize expeditions in Sweden, where snow remains on the ground in some areas during July and August.


A hike in northern Sweden can include snow even during summer. Photo: Fjällsäkerhetsrådet

READ ALSO: Top five tips for climbing Sweden's Kebnekaise

“Visitors have to be able to choose suitable equipment, the right things to wear and not pack their bags too heavily,” Per-Olov Wikberg, coordinator at the Mountain Safety Council of Sweden tells The Local.

“They also need proper weather forecasts available in English and correct directions in order to follow the tracks…then they’ll be perfectly fine,” he adds.

According to Wikberg, the most popular summer activities in Sweden's mountainous regions include hiking along the Kungsleden track in the far north of the country, biking, and kayaking. Both camping and staying in the area's small hotels are popular.

“I believe people come here to explore the nature that you can’t find in most other parts of Europe,” he says.

“Apart from for example Sweden’s highest peak Kebnekaise, it’s the vastness of the land, peace and quiet as well as the differently challenging tracks that appeal to many.”

Some of the most popular summer hotspots in the mountains include Fulufjället next to eastern Norway, Sånfjället in mid-Sweden, Sarek in the far north and the area around Åre, which is also the country's biggest ski resort in winter.

Research by Elin Jönsson

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IN IMAGES: Spain’s ‘scrap cathedral’ lives on after creator’s death

For over 60 years, former monk Justo Gallego almost single-handedly built a cathedral out of scrap materials on the outskirts of Madrid. Here is a picture-based ode to his remarkable labour of love.

IN IMAGES: Spain's 'scrap cathedral' lives on after creator's death
File photo taken on August 3, 1999 shows Justo Gallego Martinez, then 73, posing in front of his cathedral. Photo: ERIC CABANIS / AFP

The 96-year-old died over the weekend, but left the unfinished complex in Mejorada del Campo to a charity run by a priest that has vowed to complete his labour of love.

Gallego began the project in 1961 when he was in his mid-30s on land inherited from his family after a bout of tuberculosis forced him to leave an order of Trappist monks.

Today, the “Cathedral of Justo” features a crypt, two cloisters and 12 towers spread over 4,700 square metres (50,600 square feet), although the central dome still does not have a cover.

He used bricks, wood and other material scavenged from old building sites, as well as through donations that began to arrive once the project became better known.

A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The building’s pillars are made from stacked oil drums while windows have been cobbled and glued together from shards of coloured glass.

“Recycling is fashionable now, but he used it 60 years ago when nobody talked about it,” said Juan Carlos Arroyo, an engineer and architect with engineering firm Calter.

Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid.
Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid. Photo: (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

The charity that is taking over the project, “Messengers of Peace”, hired the firm to assess the structural soundness of the building, which lacks a permit.

No blueprint

“The structure has withstood significant weather events throughout its construction,” Arroyo told AFP, predicting it will only need some “small surgical interventions”.

Renowned British architect Norman Foster visited the site in 2009 — when he came to Spain to collect a prize — telling Gallego that he should be the one getting the award, Arroyo added.

Religious murals on a walls of Justo's cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Religious murals on a walls of Justo’s cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The sturdiness of the project is surprising given that Gallego had no formal training as a builder, and he worked without a blueprint.

In interviews, he repeatedly said that the details for the cathedral were “in his head” and “it all comes from above”.

Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The complex stands in a street called Avenida Antoni Gaudi, named after the architect behind Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia basilica which has been under construction since 1883.

But unlike the Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral of Justo Gallego as it is known is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as a place of worship.

Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral's completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral’s completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

‘Worth visiting’

Father Angel Garcia Rodriguez, the maverick priest who heads Messengers of Peace, wants to turn Gallego’s building into an inclusive space for all faiths and one that is used to help the poor.

“There are already too many cathedrals and too many churches, that sometimes lack people,” he said.

“It will not be a typical cathedral, but a social centre where people can come to pray or if they are facing difficulties,” he added.

A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

Father Angel is famous in Spain for running a restaurant offering meals to the homeless and for running a church in central Madrid where pets are welcome and the faithful can confess via iPad.

Inside the Cathedral of Justo, volunteers continued working on the structure while a steady stream of visitors walked around the grounds admiring the building in the nondescript suburb.

“If the means are put in, especially materials and money, to finish it, then it will be a very beautiful place of worship,” said Ramon Calvo, 74, who was visiting the grounds with friends.

FIND OUT MORE: How to get to Justo’s Cathedral and more amazing images

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