(the longest train ride ever)
28.02.2014 - 02.03.2014 -2 °C
Our last day in stockholm saw us venturing down to Gamla Stad (the old town) and the oldest surviving medieval town in europe. We wandered the old cobbled streets and went ........ shopping! No culture, no museums just lots of interesting little shops! Mind you there are plenty of big palaces and cathedrals but they look very square, unadorned and quite plain after all we have seen. We made it back to the hotel just before the rain and bundled ourselves off to the train station - and our big overnight train trip north.
We had a sleeper with three bunks above one another up one wall, a bottle of red and a selection of rolls etc and a lot of laughter! The trip took 17 hours!! We had dinner, drank the wine had a few laughs and all slept surprisingly well. We awoke to a winter wonderland with snow everywhere - it was a little disconcerting as this train changed directions several times - seemed to zig zag its way up the length of sweden. Despite manda trying to access strange men's cabins with our key we all arrived in good shape at 11.00am. As there is only one train line you have to keep stopping on sidings while freight trains pass. Here in Kiruna is the biggest iron ore mine outside of the Kimberley's. It looks very odd here in the snow.
We were driven through to the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi on a beautiful sunny day - no wind and only minus 2. Checked into the warm hotel for the first night - stunning new scandinavian looking and very comfortable (unlike what's coming up!) We then went on a tour of the actual ice hotel where we are staying tomorrow night - and inside we all decide that was the coldest we have been on the trip so far - including the steppes of Russia! However it is amazing, great carved blocks of the clearest ice, every room different - over 50 rooms ! It is minus 5 inside so it will be an interesting night - if we survive we get a certificate! We are carb loading in advance and so if you hear no more from us you will know what happened......
We are off on a 6 hour wildlife snowmobile safari tomorrow - have been promised moose and other local wildlife - have been fitted (and I use that term loosely) with huge overalls, boots etc for the big ride and also to wear over our jammies on the way to our icy beds tomorrow night! We should be fairly frozen by then anyway after the wind chill factor of the snowmobiles.
Manda led us on a long march along the ice road but i got bored and popped into the local IGA and bought a nice plopp bar (chocolate!) We bought a beer in the supermarket for $3 as it is $25 a glass in the hotel - after 20 mins outside in the snow it was ready to drink.
We are surrounded by the cunning lingon berries that are hard to find in the wild but appear in every meal - even in the coffee. I have bad news for you all - this Christmas Santa will be one reindeer short because today we ate him for lunch! ( I think it was Prancer)
The best thing is they have these fun sleds that you stand behind and skate along like a scooter ( look very much like a walking frame on skis) Mel and Manda muttered someting about small minds being easily amused but I have done lots of scooting about and use it at every opportunity! ( Mel also had a go and liked it!
It is a very beautiful place - we have taken so many photos it slowing down my computer - we have no frostbite yet and we are looking forward to tomorrow! As you can't take anything into the ice hotel with you (everything freezes) there will be no blog tomorrow night - and the following night we are catching a chairlift up the mountain at Abisko to the sky station - so might be the next day before you will know if we have survived with all extremities intact!