So I had two options — wake up late on Saturday, the usual 11ish, watch a television program, code here and there, eat and sleep, only to wake up on Sunday morning at 11 again (and repeat the same routine..) OR try something different, wander as far as i could, not lose my way and return back to the base. I chose the first option and the rest is history……….boring history.
… a week later i chose option 2 and missed my cruise to Helsinki by a margin of 10 minutes …
Finally, i booked an onward journey to Kiruna at SJ, the Swedish Rail autohrity at Stockholm Central station, far above in the Arctic. To close this planning, I quickly went to the website of Norwegian airlines and booked a return journey to Stockholm Arlanda. The rest, as they say, is Geography!!
The sleeper train leaves Stockholm in the evening and goes all the way upto Narvik in Norway! Thanks to the assurance given by my compartment folks to wake me up, and perhaps thanks to my own paranoia, i woke up on time. In fact, I did not sleep during the journey and saw the best ever form the night sky can present itself! I was just too excited.
So, rewinding back to the onward journey, I had very little time to pack my bags and quickly bought six Kanelbullars and an equal number of croissants from Coop. This time I made sure I would reach Stockholm Central station fairly early.
Thats my bag, stuffed with every possible warm thing inside, the jacket, shoes, a siberian hat, my friend’s SLR camera which I could never use 🙂
Off to Stockholm Central >>> (did i keep the microwave on? did i forget to pack my toothbrush? am i absent-minded?)
Full of enthusiasm, I wait patiently at Stockholm Central, asking a group of fellow passengers to take my photo. I get instructions to ‘put up a big smile’. Of course, i do!
The train to Narvik will arrive in 10 minutes. What lies ahead >> a 16 hour train journey, arrival at Kiruna, travel to Jukkasjarvi, exploration of the area, reindeer, huskies, the Ice Hotel, frozen Torne river, possibility of watching the northern lights! All too unreal, but yes, I see the clock counting down.
The sleeper compartment would accommodate six people.
Passengers rush to their bogies as the train arrives. Some going to Narvik, some going to Gavle, some to Gallivare, some like me off to Kiruna (the last compartment)
Traveling by the SJ sleeper train was quite an experience. The overall hygiene in the train is first class and things are handled smoothly.
For the acrobat. I just restricted myself to be the basketball player, slam-dunking my baggage to the place above.
The sixteen hour journey went smooth. My compartment folks were students my age-group hailing from Germany. We played atleast 3 different varities of cardgames. I particularly remember a game called Uno where one has to speak aloud “Uno!” once he is left with a single card. I always forgot to speak that and as penalty, had to pick up a card. I lost quite a few games 🙂
They were headed off to Kiruna too and would venture on their own. I would go to the Ice Hotel and Jukkasjarvi.
“Since I’m not particularly an early riser, please, please wake me up and do not leave the compartment without me.”
Failing this, I would land up in Northern Norway! So, despite the assurance given to wake me up, I could not sleep 🙂
That’s Gavle station and off I go to sleep………………….
Early next morning at Gallivare station. Would reach Kiruna in an hour or two. Needless to say, it’s freeeeeezing. And then i get a call from home 🙂 “are you there yet? are you there yet? did you encounter any bear?” 🙂 🙂 🙂
I bid farewell to my compartment folks and we decided to send photos of the Auroras to one another, if we got to see it during the stay in Kiruna. While I would like to believe I saw the Auroras initializing, they saw a full fledged auroral display and sent me the pictures!
Alright, now i’m on my own…i board the IceHotel cab and i’m on my way to Jukkasjarvi.
And that’s a Sami Hut, snow mobiles, that’s me with some Huskies……
Later, i saw reindeer and entered the reindeer enclosure maintained by the local Sami people. One must be careful in protecting his eyes which are in the range of reindeer antlers. While feeding the reindeer, one my my gloves was misplaced and i had reeeal difficult time insulating my palm against frigid weather.
This part of scandinavia, called Sapme, spans across four countries – Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia and is inhabited by the Sami people.
Sami folk, inside a sami hut and some more pics of this wonderful place…
That was the frozen Torne river (above).
And now, the much awaited tour inside the IceHotel. The ticket costs around 300 Kr (Swedish kronas).
……And now it’s time to say goodbye to the Arctic circle…
I’m tired, i’m happy and i’m on my way to the local airport to board a flight back to Stockholm. Needless to say, i’m on schedule 🙂