Have spent the last two nights at this small town in the north of Sweden, just near Kiruna on the Torre river. Daylight here is from about 9-2.30pm each day although the sun never comes up over the horizon which makes for some magical colours in the sky. It is the site of the Ice Hotel and has been for 20 years. Built fresh each year out of the ice from the Torre river, this place attracts designers from all over the world to help design and build a unique hotel every year. The art suites in particular are amazing, each one created to a different theme by a single or team of designers - will upload some pics soon...
We spent the first night in warm accommodation and went out dog sledding in -34 in hope of seeing the northern lights. Unfortunately they did not come out for us, but was still a great time out with the dogs. Their excitement to just get out and run around in the snow and their skill and focus in following instructions is really something. Had some drinks in the IceBar out of ice glasses and another drink at the restaurant that had an ice diamond in it that was quite impressive.
Yesterday we went for a wander into town and saw the 400 year old Sami (nomadic people of northern Sweden) church and a Sami village with some reindeer. Also caught the bus into Kiruna to check out the church which was pretty impressive, almost gothic inside with it's dark colours - guess it added to the feel that it was only 3pm and pitch black outside! Kiruna is also the site of the world's largest underground iron ore mine and I'm told there are no traditional mine workers underground, just a heap of people in front of computers guiding the equipment around. The mine is continuing to grow so much that they are having to relocate the town centre to accommodate it!
The highlights came last night when we wandered outside and discovered the northern lights! Was so exciting to see such a natural phenomenon - they started out dim at first but became brighter shades of green and morphed into different patterns for over half an hour by which time I had to run inside to thaw out my painfully frozen fingers... Got some photos on my other camera as it has the longer exposure time to capture the colours better.
Last night we also stayed in an ice room, sleeping on a bed of ice in -5 degrees. In my thermals and sleeping bag I was very warm - it felt like being in a cocoon and I even started sweating at one point so I had to unzip the bag briefly to let some cold air in. I slept quite well and apart from a crook neck from struggling to roll over properly inside the cocoon, I woke up feeling refreshed, even moreso after a sauna!
Has been a great experience up here, another burst of freezing cold temps sub -30, seeing the amazing northern lights, the dogs, reindeers, sleeping on ice, drinking from ice, great food and much more... Only downside is how commercial it all is but I guess that is inevitable with something as unique as this that gets worldwide attention...
Just waiting for our transfer back to the airport to catch (hopefully without any glitches) our flights to Stockholm and then onto Brussels. Got a very short connection time so going to be skating thin ice (pun intended)! Speaking of ice, I do not envy the pilots here having to land in these conditions - he sure did slam on the breaks hard when we hit the ground up here!