Scandinavia Pt 2 – Kiruna & Ice Hotel
First, a note. As I said before, we didn’t once take our camera out during this holiday, since I couldn’t be bothered, I didn’t want cold fingers, and there are always better photos on the internet. ell, since the highlight of the Kiruna leg was the Ice Hotel, I’m using photos from their website: Ice Hotel, Ice Suites, with full credit and thanks to them!!
OK, so from KobenhavnH we took the train through to Stockholm. Although scheduled to leave at 1430, the train was delayed for two hours, and so any hopes of seeing our first glimpse of Sweden through a delicious sunset were dashed, as it was already getting pretty dark when we left. It also blew the three hours we were to have to spare in Stockholm, since we literally had time to change platforms, have a smoke and speak to a Swedish family who were going skiing. A common theme was starting to enter our conversations with the locals. None of them had ever been as far North as the Arctic Circle, none had seen the Northern Lights, and all of them seemed to consider we were mad, as though we were heading into the desert without water! The kid was getting a bit cold, so I suggested he pulled his hoodie up and zipped it – he was wearing a onesie. Now, who’d ever have thought that closing your hood would be a novel idea to a teenager in a onesie in a really cold place – but that’s clearly what he thought!!
It was from THAT station that we ot our first glimpse of the Northern Lights. Despite it being pitch black, to the North we could see a glow in the clouds. Not like the orange city glow over Stockholm, but the clouds were white, with a greenish tinge, as though it was light above them. Not spectacular, but awesome enough to make us stop and wonder! SO, the train that came in was the longest I have ever seen, and naturally we were waiting at the wrong end of the platform. We kinda raced as fast as we could walk down the empty side of the platform, but of course there was no need, the train was going nowhere without us! The cabin was cool. The duvets and sheets were crisp, the window was nice (if a little on the small side), and it was GREAT having our own private bathroom! We snuggled up on the wide bottom bunk, not bothering to pull down the top one, to check the scenery, which was spectacular. Through our cupped hands which were pressed against the windows. There was about three foot of snow, and it was covering miles and miles of rolling hills covered in fir trees. OK, so we didn’t miss much scenery that night, but the villages we passed through were so quintessentially fairy tale, I wouldn’t have been in the least bit surprised to have seen Hansel and Gretel out for a walk.
Eventually we had to sleep, since we were also due a long ride in the morning after changing trains at Boden. The next train was just a regular second class ride, but still it was beautiful. The snow was gently hanging in the trees, which were intricately weaved with lacy branches and twigs; and the whole lot was glowing pink for most of the daylight hours! When they weren’t pink, they were golden and red. The most amazing sunrise I have ever seen!
So, at Kiruna, I knew we wanted to stay at the Ripuna chalets, and we had booked a room, but no transport; since the website said it was a five minute walk from the station. I think they meant if you were a cross country champion wearing skis, who knew where they were going! Luckily there was a young couple who HAD booked a ride, so we jumped in with them and were told to sort the fare out at the hotel. The hotel overlooked it, which was a relief, since taxis in Scandinavia are extortionate.
The chalet they gave us was amazing,, with a lovely bed and duvets, and great view and it was about half a kilometre away from reception, so was peaceful too. Only three of the chalets were occupied, us, the couple from the taxi, and another young couple who were working on boat tours. The other side of the campsite was packed with Japanese tourists, who were really cool, but very organised! They happened to visit the Ice Hotel the same day as we did, and we kept bumping into each other. They had a bus to take them, we shared a taxi with the young Swedish couple – which was over fifty quid each way, so lucky they asked!
Once at the Ice Hotel, we paid for the day’s entry, and wandered off to the ice rooms where the sculptures are. Every year, the hotel is rebuilt, and rooms are allocated to budding artists. About 450 apply, and 40 get chosen to care these melting masterpieces – but you can read about that on their website.
We were relieved that we had decided not to stay overnight. Everything was so cold, and you had to walk miles to get to the toilets, and you couldn’t have your luggage with you or it would freeze, and guests couldn’t go to their room until after the gallery had shut, so they were forced to sit in the bar or spa buying drinks when you got cold and fed up. Marc and I went to the bar for one hot chocolate each. That cost us 16 quid. Luckily we had also taken a few flasks of the stuff with us, and managed to sneak a few swigs in the ice chapel, sat on the deerhides. It was the warmest place there except the warm bar!
Here is where we first saw the Northern Lights for real when we went for our midnight walk, and since it’s what stood out most in my mind, I guess I already posted most of that experience here: The Northern Lights for My Birthday Treat!