Like a rustic treasure-hunt or a tale from Middle Earth, enthusiasts track the bright yellow “N” markers painted on trees from the tiny pastel-coloured fishing of Arild. With no official signs and a bit of a scramble down rough rocky stone stairs, this short trek in Sweden’s south-west has a real feeling of adventure. But the prize at the end makes the rough path worthwhile – a chance to explore Sweden’s most infamous sculpture.
Eccentric arts professor, Lars Vilks, constructed a grand driftwood and dry branch structure of towers, pathways and tunnels called Nimis.
Scrambling around this giant wooden playground, people enjoy a bizarre sculpture on a wonderfully peaceful peninsula of verdant green forests, chilly water and natural reserve – in sharp contrast to the decade long court battles and arguments with the Swedish authorities to have the construction torn down. Whatever the official position, crawling and walking around and over the remarkable construction site is entertaining and eye-opening with several groups enjoying picnics on the dark, sandy shores.
The highlight is a climb up the fifteen metre Tower of the Winds (one of several climbable towers), an impressive freestanding tower on the water’s edge. While feeling a little rickety, many make there way up this main tower while others look nervously below.
Some years alter, Vilks added a second sculpture. This time Vilks built a concrete and rock based artwork called Arx, which is supposedly a stone book (each page being part of the overall monument) but it doesn’t share the same fascination as Nimis. Page numbers litter the dissolving sandcastle-like structure with the tome weighing in at a hefty 352 pages but the reader needs to move to access each “page”.
Going to absurd levels to protect his artwork and to fight for the sculptures’ very existence, Vilks created and declared the micronation of Ladonia with a flag, motto and a shopping list of strange ministries (including the Ministries of Deeper Mysteries, Procrastination, Folktales and Postcards). Anyone keen on “citizenship” (there are around 15,000 such folks) can apply for free at the micronation of Ladonia’s website, though obtaining a ministry is chargeable.
Three thousand excited Pakistanis keen to leave their country applied for citizenship of Ladonia and sought its nearest embassy, to find a disappointing result that no-one actually lives in Ladonia.
Returning to Arild, lunch can be a truly Swedish affair with a range of the freshest seafood and seasonal berry drinks from the local fishing co-operative. Try the bright purple, richly flavoured elderberry juice.
There has always been a thought that some of the most eccentric and most tortured souls have produced some of the world’s finest artworks and music. While Vilks and Nimis hardly rate in that category, it is an extraordinary travel wonder that melds into the natural beauty of this tiny Swedish peninsula.