After a wonderful first day in Sweden, playing in the snow and dogsledding in Abisko National Park, we decided to call it an early night instead of walking down to the lake behind our cabin and waiting for the northern lights to make an appearance. As it turns out, that night the aurora came out in all her multi-colors and put on quite a show while we were just snoozing away! I wasn’t too awfully upset – at least we got to see the lights at the Aurora Sky Station the night we arrived in Abisko. I sure would have loved to see those purples and pinks everyone was talking about, though!
On our second day in Sweden, we woke up to a pretty snow storm blowing through and, unfortunately, a storm brewing in Lexie’s belly as well. We nixed our plans to go snowshoeing and spent the morning watching the snow and a couple of movies in our cabin while Lexie’s tummy tried to settle itself. A few hours later, she was feeling well enough to leave the cabin which was good news because we had a train to catch – one that would take us on an exceptionally scenic route from Abisko to Kiruna, our second destination on our Sweden trip.
Getting to Kiruna
The Abisko train station (if you can even call it a station – it’s about the size of the waiting rooms on tube platforms in London) is right across the road from the Abisko Turiststation, so we didn’t have far to go to wait for our train. It blew in half an hour late (Sweden time, we’re told) in a cloud of snow and we hopped aboard. The train is how we would have traveled to Abisko the night we arrived, but our plane landed late and we missed the last train out. Taking the train is cheap and fast, but the best part about it is the scenic route it takes through the mountains and frozen lakes of upper Swedish Lapland. I could have taken my camera out and attempted to capture some of it, but for maybe the first time ever since I got my DSLR, I decided to keep it packed away and just enjoy the scenery passing in front of me. Much too quickly (a little over an hour) we were making our way into Kiruna and watching a brilliant sunset as we pulled into the train station.
The Town of Kiruna
One thing I know now is that there is a free shuttle bus that will take you from the Kiruna train station to the town’s center, but I didn’t know this helpful bit of info when we disembarked from the train, so we got out our map and began walking the 1 km, more or less, to our hotel. Now, 1 km doesn’t seem like a long distance…unless you’re walking through thick snow and dragging a heavy suitcase behind you, in which case it definitely is. By the time we arrived in the town center, I was sweating. Sweating, you guys, in like -10°C temperatures. That was a first for me.
On the plus side, because we had to stop every now and then to catch our breath, I got to take some pretty pictures of Kiruna under snow. They had had a snow storm pass through that morning, too, and the fresh snow over the rooftops was gorgeous, especially in the fading daylight. Because we weren’t going to be staying long (we’d only traveled back here for the night so we’d be close to the airport to catch our plane in the morning), I hadn’t done much research on Kiruna, but what I had seen online didn’t look very attractive. We were very pleasantly surprised to discover that Kiruna is actually a beautiful place! And it’s so much bigger than Abisko. Were I made up of hardier genes, I could totally see myself living in a place like Kiruna – there’s a real community here with shopping and restaurants and everything else you’d find in a medium-sized town. I really wish I’d had more time to look around, but we really needed to make it to our hotel before the tiny amount of daylight we had left was completely gone.
Where to Stay in Kiruna
Since we were only staying one night, I looked for the cheapest place in Kiruna that could accommodate three people in one room and found Hotell City. It’s a hotel/youth hostel (we stayed in the hotel section) and it’s not much to look at, but it’s clean, comfortable, and provides a free breakfast for a really cheap per night rate (by Swedish standards anyways). The only one of us who spent any amount of time in the hotel for anything other than sleeping was Lexie. She still wasn’t feeling well enough to go on our northern lights snowmobile tour, so she stayed behind, spread out on the bottom bunk watching movies. (Thank goodness we’d brought Cory’s laptop and a bunch of DVDs on this trip. We used it way more than I thought we would!) You want to talk about feeling guilty for having fun, though? Our snowmobile tour was the most fun I had on our entire vacation, but I could not stop thinking about Lexie back at the hotel all by herself. Everything we saw and did that night made me wish she was with us. We’re just meant to always do things as a trio, I think.
Things to Do in Kiruna
The next morning, our last in Sweden, we got up early so we’d have time to do a little looking around Kiruna before hopping on our plane back to London. Kiruna offers lots of outdoor activities, but since we’d just gone snowmobiling the night before, we decided to take it easy. We walked through the shopping area where we saw a few stores we recognized (H&M!) and a bunch more we didn’t. And I saw just about the coolest baby supply ever – a baby buggy sled! It’s like a baby stroller (pram, for my UK friends) but customized for the snow. I’m probably getting way too excited over something totally normal, but when you don’t live in a snowy environment, you never get to see stuff like this! I had to follow that family, as discreetly as I possibly could, all the way down the road to take a photo of it.
Since I don’t shop at home, and I certainly wasn’t going to start while on vacation, we left the shopping district and stumbled on something even cooler than baby buggy sleds – an ice park! There was a maze made entirely of snow and ice and even a few slides which Lexie discovered are not so easy to get down when you don’t have something like a sled (or a trashcan lid if you’re redneck like us) under your butt. Across the street from the park was an ice sculpture garden filled with some rather creative sculptures. Naked lady cozying up with a goose, anyone?
I’m sure there’s a lot more to do in Kiruna – I’ve heard there’s a nice church, plus the famous Ice Hotel is nearby – but without a lot of time to go anywhere or do anything, this was the extent of our Kiruna explorations. We walked back to the hotel and caught a taxi to the airport, which ended up being a story in itself. I’ve never been in a smellier enclosed space in my life. I had to hold my breath as long as I possibly could, then when I couldn’t take it anymore, I’d draw a really deep breath from inside my scarf, which means by the time we arrived at the airport, I’d almost passed out about 15 times. I love it when things like that happen, though. I never remember the taxi rides where everything goes according to plan, but this one I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
I’ve only got one more post to write about Sweden – our northern lights snowmobile tour in Kiruna – and then that’s it. At only 2.5 days (not including travel time), this was our shortest trip, but it also ended up being one of the most memorable. I don’t think we’ll be taking anymore vacations into the Arctic Circle anytime soon, but I’m so grateful we had the chance to go in February! What a trip!
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