Our next day in Sweden began with what became an almost constant, beautiful light, a big positive for the short daylight hours at this time of year. When there is light is wonderful.
Today was our first train ride of the trip taking us from Lulea to Kiruna. Kiruna is the biggest town in the Lapland area and is essentially a mining town as it’s home to one of the biggest iron ore mines in Europe.
The interesting thing about Kiruna is that the town is actually sinking into the mine. They are having to relocate the whole town a few kilometres away to prevent the mine giving way. The whole move (as you would expect) is being paid for by the mining companies which just goes to show the amount of money they must be making!
Our train was at around 10am and took a few hours. Once we had all bundled onto the train, found our seats and positioned our suitcases in a way that weren’t going to fall on us we settled for the journey.
The train itself was fine, fairly clean, seats were comfortable but the windows, well you could barely see through them. They were pretty grim. Which was annoying but there isn’t much you can do as it’s a public train and I doubt they have time to clean the windows.
The snow got deeper the further north we got and we passed over the Arctic circle…which was underwhelming. So much so we missed the tiny sign in a mass of blue whizzing past the window. You would think there would be a big sign saying “Welcome to the Arctic Circle” but I suppose that would be a little tacky!
We had bought supplies, flask of tea, snacks but still decided to partake in some train refreshments. They came in the shape of two wraps, one of ham and cheese and one of reindeer in cream cheese. Both pretty yummy and were purchased a few times on the trip.
We arrived in Kiruna around 2pm and caught our bus to the hotel – Camp Ripan where we would be for the next couple of days. The lovely thing about this hotel was that we were all housed in cute little cabins. Ours had 2 rooms and could sleep up to 4 people. We dropped bags in rooms, added a couple more layers and headed out for a walk into the town before it got dark.
This is a downside to travelling as a group of 6…it can take a while to get going. I had read in my Lonely Planet guide that the church in Kiruna had once been voted a top building in Sweden. 2001 most popular pre 1950’s building to be precise. It’s also the largest wooden building in the Northern part of Sweden.
It was a beautiful building (that we visited again in the daylight) and almost didn’t look like it was made of wood. This afternoon it wasn’t open so we couldn’t get inside but we took a look at the exterior and walked back up to the hotel. Kiruna town seemed quaint, covered in snow so it was quite hard to tell what was what but pretty.
Once we had made it back up the hill to the hotel we were all a little peckish. As it was my Mother-in-laws birthday we sat down to some cheese, crackers, nuts, whiskey and wine in their cabin before heading down to dinner. I love unofficial celebrations (especially when cheese and wine are involved) with good people in relaxed environments. I also happen to think going on holiday with people you care about is a great way to celebrate another year of life!
Our dinner this evening was the sequel to an Aurora slideshow in the hotel’s Aurora room. Which was a little unnecessary if you ask me. At this point all I wanted was to actually see the lights not watch someone else’s pictures but I understood as a tour to see the Northern Lights that it fitted the bill.
Once we had drunk our Lingonberry fizz we sat down at long tables for dinner. Which was 4 courses (if I can remember correctly) made of rye bread with fish, mushroom soup with Ptarmigan pieces, raspberry sorbet, reindeer steak and coffee with ice cream.
Oh did I mention that the coffee had chunks of cheese in it!? Yes you read that right, coffee with cheese. We initially thought we had misunderstood what the waiter had said but he was spot on. Annoyingly I only took pictures of courses 1 and 2 (wine may have played a part in this) so I can’t prove to you there was cheese in my coffee but it was kind of rubbery a bit like Halloumi and didn’t really have a flavour.
I didn’t hate it but wouldn’t choose to have it again. According to Wikipedia it’s Leipäjuusto (Swedish name Kaffeost) which is the cheese….that you add to coffee. Hmmm. I can’t see it catching on globally if I’m honest.
The quality of the food was exceptional and the wine we had was lovely, apart from the typical Swedish price but when it’s a birthday anything goes!!
What’s your idea of a good birthday? Spa day, exotic location or just lots of cake?!
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