Studying in Sweden gives you an amazing opportunity not only to deepen your knowledge and meet fascinating people, but also to explore the beautiful sceneries of the Nordic countries. After a weekend in Finland, along with my friends I decided to visit the Northern part of Scandinavian peninsula, just above the Arctic Circle. The whole expedition took 5 unforgettable days, with each of them being full of new experiences and activities, therefore the best idea is to present them separately:
Day 1. God kväll Kiruna!
First, we agreed that we want to go to the centre of the Swedish Lapland by plane. We took the commuter train to Märsta and then one of the numerous SL buses going directly to Arlanda Airport, not paying any extra fees apart from those for the regular SL student card. Our flight was on time despite unfavourable weather forecasts, and after 1 hour and 20 minutes we safely landed in the capital of Norrbotten county. Interestingly, Kiruna is inhabited by many Swedish ethnic minorities, so it is not uncommon to see trilingual roadsigns: in Swedish (Kiruna), in Meänkieli (the language spoken by Tornedalians – Kieruna) and in Northern Sami (the most prevalent one from the Sami languages group, spoken obviously by Sami people – Giron).
Unfortunately, the road from Kiruna to Abisko was closed this day due to the heavy winds and snowing, and we had to look for some emergency hotel, where we could spend a night before setting out to Abisko. We managed somehow to find a place for 8 people in a quite desolated Järnvägshotellet. The main advantage of this place was the frukost included in the price.
Day 2. Ice hotel in Jukkasjarvi
Before going to Abisko, we rented snowmobiles to visit the Ice Hotel located in a small village called Jukkasjarvi (by the way, 18 km from European Space Agency Satellite). I cannot even describe how exciting it was to ride such a vehicle on your own.
The Ice Hotel consists of several separate suites (18 if I’m not mistaken) and every year has to be rebuilt, as the whole building with its foundation naturally melts down around April. All of the building materials are extracted from the Torne river, at the bank of which the whole complex is situated. Additionally, next to the hotel located are the Ice Club and the Ice Church where couples can get married. Cost of the wedding for 2 people only (not guests, only those getting married) equals to 800 euro.
After some substitute of a lunch, we leaved Jukkasjarvi and Kiruna for a Katterjokk, a tourist station in Riksgränsen, the last city before the Swedish-Norwegian border (the town name roughly translated means national border – Swedish simplicity). To get there, we rented two cars, with me being honoured to be a driver. Surprisingly, I wasn’t even asked to show my driving licence, what I took as just another example of Swedish well-known trust! The road was open again, but the weather conditions remained critical so I barely could see anything ahead of the bil. Luckily, our courageous octet survived the blizzard and in the evening we already were unpacked in our room and prepared for aurora hunting. And then we saw it:
Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights or just simply random photons emission from excited nitrogen and oxygen atoms present in the atmosphere. The whole physical performance was plainly miraculous and I really regret we were able to see it only once.
Day 3. Velkommen til Norge!
Next day we woke up very early because we had to drive (I had to drive, the rest was sleeping listening to Norwegian pop charts) approximately 150 km to get to Narvik, a reasonably small city in the Norwegian county called Nordland (yes, everything refers to the North), known mainly for the battle that took place there during the WW2. This is how we crossed the border:
Then, even as a driver I could admire magnificent landscapes of the Northern parts of the country of Edvard Grieg. The geophysical formations that embellished the road from Katterjokk to Narvik can only be depicted on the photos:
The city itself is kept in a typical Nordic style, with colourful small houses prevailing other architectural styles. After visiting certain viewpoints and having a hot chocolate in the caffeteria, we decided to go back to our hotel in case the road is closed again. This day was unlucky for us as the aurora was hardly visible, so some of us spent this time on sequential sauna and ice baths. Highly recommended!
Day 4. Explosions and Sicilia
On the penultimate day of our trip we wished to see the Kiruna iron ore mine, but due to some explosions that occurred that day all of the tours were cancelled. Quite relieved that at least nobody was injured, our expedition started looking for a place to eat. To our amusement, the nearest restaurant in Kiruna was called Sicilia (this is how Swedes compensate for lack of the sun during winter; in turn, the only one restaurant we spotted in Narvik was called Viva Italia!) so we decided to give it a try. It fascinates me how strong the national tastes are, as despite the fact that Italian cuisine is known worldwide, 70% of the Italian dishes served abroad are non-existent in Italy. In Kiruna, spécialité de la maison was a reindeer pizza with an oriental sauce (sic!) that for me was relatively tasty but, nevertheless, the Italian part of our trip manifested their disapproval by discussing, reviewing and taking photos of these Swedish-Sicilian meals sending them afterwards to their families. Simply lovable!
Day 5. Getting back to Stockholm
Nothing more to add. Packing, going to the airport and flying back to the huvudstad.
So far this was the best trip I had being in Sweden and I can really recommend anyone to go to Lapland and admire its virgin beauty. And, as a last word, I would like to thank the photographer of the trip, Adrien, who let me share our photos with you on this blog. Merci!