March 28, 2005 on Travel
I just got back from an amazing trip to Kiruna, Sweden, which is about 20 hours by car from Lund, north of the Artic Circle. I went with two of my friends that live on my hall, they are from France and their names are Marielle and Marion.
We took a plane from Lund to Stockholm and stayed in Stockholm for part of the day last Tuesday, and it was beautiful! Then we took an overnight train because all the planes were full from Stockholm to Kiruna. We slept on the train and woke up in Kiruna! Luckily, it wasn’t as cold there as it normally is so it was about -1/-2 C.
The first day we went to Jukkasjarvi, about 20 minutes south of Kiruna, to see the Icehotel! Ah! The Icehotel is like a giant igloo/ice museum/hotel. People can stay there but it is about 4000 SEK (krona = Swedish Crowns) for one night, and that is about $600–ridiculous. And if you stay at the icehotel then you don’t get your own bathroom and you freeze to death (it is warmer outside than inside, it is about -5 degrees inside at all times). Anyway, it was so beautiful. It was full of sculptures and there were some people getting married there and a baptism! (there is a chapel too, made of ice). There is an ice bar (sponsored by Absolut Vodka–a Swedish brand) where you can get a vodka drink in a glass made of ice! But of course we didn’t get a drink because one drink cost about $15. Artists from all over the world come to design the different rooms inside– one was a model of NYC with skyscraper sculptures and street signs, and one was a rock concert with a stage, guitar, microphone, and bar, all made of ice! There was beautiful ice chandelier also, it was absolutely beautiful.
After the icehotel we went back to Kiruna, and the next day we took a ride on a dog sled–whoa! There were about 10 dogs pulling us for about an hour and a half through the woods, snow was everywhere and you could see the mountains in the distance. It was so peaceful and beautiful– I wish everybody could have been there.
After the dog sled ride, we rode the bus north about an hour to Abisko–where an enormous national park in Sweden is– Abisko national park. We walked for about 4 hours there, or hiked however you want to think about it–but it wasn’t very strenuous (of course, this is me we’re talking about here). If you stepped off the path where the cross-country skiiers had packed down the snow, you would fall into snow up to your thighs! Of course we had a blast playing in the snow and pushing each other off the path. The whole time, Marion and Marielle really wanted to see a reindeer (or what they, in their version of English, refer to as “rendee!”), but unfortunately the best they got was me with two sticks stuck on my head. We also saw a river that was covered in ice, and we walked on it, it was so amazing! We were about one hour from Norway (we wanted to go see the fjords but it cost $$ to get there and we were broke), so we were in the mountains of Norrland–snow and ice and mountains!
Unfortunately, we had a bus to catch at 8:17, so we drug ourselves back to the lodge and dried our socks which were then soaking wet from the snow, then went out to the bus station, where we waited until 9:00. So we went inside and asked and they said it was late, it would come at 9:30, so we went back and waited again. Then at about 9:45, we saw a train pass on the tracks. So, that’s what happens when you’re in sweden and you don’t speak swedish and you can’t read the fine print on the bus schedule which says 8:17 **** (*Bus=Train). So we had no $$ and no way to get back to Kiruna, where we had a place to stay, food, and our stuff. So we spent the night in the (heated) train station, sleeping on benches. Uncomfortable, but an adventure, of course. Then we woke up at 5 am (another first for me!) and walked about 4 miles to the next bus station down the road where there was supposed to be a bus coming at 6:15–which never came (of course). So at about 6:45 we finally saw a car, and got it to stop, and the driver said he would take us back to Kiruna (Yay!–I don’t believe in hitchhiking, but it was cold, snowing, and the next bus was due in 5 hours, and it saved us $12!). It was all good, the driver was very talkative, told us all about how he grew up on the mountains and the ice on the lake we saw from the road was about a meter deep from December to June, can you believe it!?
When we got back to Kiruna, after a shower and a nap, we had a tour of the mine. Kiruna is a town based around an iron ore mine, which is about 2,000 meters deep. We went down inside the mine to about 400 meters, it was crazy! There was a museum inside and we saw the machines they use and everything. Quite scary walking through the dark though! We even got to wear hardhats…haha. After the mine tour we went to see some reindeer at a reindeer farm, and then it was dark. We really wanted to see the Northern lights the other 2 nights, but it was too cloudy, but the last night was finally clear so we went out to see them! And we did! It was so crazy! It is a black sky and then suddenly a green light fades in, all different shapes and it is so fluid, moving in and out of the sky in different places and directions. We sat on a snowy slope and watched it for about an hour.
We came back to Lund the next day. We were supposed to stay in Stockholm another day but because of the easter holiday we ran into unexpected costs etc so we came back one day early. It was an amazing trip! I think everybody should go as far north as possible someday–it is so different from anything I have seen. It is like the desert only the exact opposite!