UpF Goes to Kiruna – 3-6 December 2021
It all started during a dark December afternoon. After a long day in school, we left campus in two rental cars and headed north – more specifically 598 km north. We made multiple stops along the way for snacks, bathroom breaks, dinner, and fuel. After driving as far north along the E4 road as we could, before it took a turn towards Finland, we headed northeast into the deep woods. It was late, we were all very tired and one of the cars was stuck with one radio station. They were trying to get a message to the radio for a song request and after several texts and calls they finally got through to the radio host! A little sample of the shout out can be found in the vlog. We finally arrived in Kiruna around 2:00 – 2:30 in the morning and once we checked into our hostel everybody went straight to bed.
The next morning was un-scheduled until the afternoon trip to the mine in Kiirunavaara. This gave us a little of a sleep-in, which was nice due to the late arrival. After a stroll around town and visiting a small Christmas market we had some lunch at Café Safari (TV famous from the show Midnattssol) before heading towards the tourist center where we would take the bus down into the mine. You could see the climate outside the bus changing on the windows and you could feel it in your ears while going further down into the mine. Before we got to exit the bus, we had to put on white visitors’ helmets and then the tour could begin. We learned a lot of things during the tour – for example how long the roads are inside of the mine (500 km?!), the many steps between drilling for iron ore and the finished product and how the tires on the huge machines are mostly filled with water to eliminate the risk of explosions.
After the educational mine tour, we had some spare time before it was time for dinner, so we all went back to the hostel. After resting, showering and hanging out for a bit we headed towards Stejk – a street food truck with a Lavvú next to it for seating. They were serving us tasty (and large!) cheese steak subs with reindeer and moose meat, along with a very interesting and informative conversation regarding the surrounding area.
Sunday morning was cold. Very cold. So cold in fact, we couldn’t get one of the cars started. We were going to Jukkasjärvi for a Sámi open air museum and to see the Ice Hotel. But since the cars didn’t start, we had 10 university students with a pair of jumper cables scratching their heads. Don’t worry, we got the cars started after a while thanks to a little teamwork. But I bet none of us will forget how to jump start a car in a temperature below -25 Celsius! After arriving at Jukkasjärvi and entering the Sámi open air museum, called Márkanbáiki, we tried our best to take in the exhibits even in the freezing cold. At least we got to hang out with the reindeers a bit before taking our frozen lashes into Café Sápmi for some warmth and some fika.
After getting warm enough to head outside again we drove the 1,2 km to The Ice Hotel. It was around -5 Celsius inside the Hotel which felt warm compared to outside. We walked around checking the exhibits out and we were all astonished by the talent of the artists creating these rooms. The details were incredible! After seeing all the rooms, I just had to try a mocktail from the ice glasses. I tried it, it tasted like sugar and the glass was super difficult to drink from. But I tried it.
When getting back to the hotel we had some time on our hands before it was time for dinner. Some of us headed to the sauna, some of us got some rest and some of us just hung out for a bit. After a while we geared up again, headed for a pizzeria close by and after we ate it was time for some aurora hunting. We drove towards Abisko to get a glimpse of this force of nature. The temperature had dropped to below -30 Celsius now and our cars had trouble getting the heat up, meaning we were freezing inside the cars as well. After a while we saw the green lights in the sky, so we stopped for pictures. We actually stopped two times before heading back to Kiruna. Once we got back we headed to bed and the last thing we heard before falling asleep was the explosions from the mine.
Monday, the last day of the trip with 1h and 35 min of sunlight in total. The group had some free time during the day, we split up and did some last-minute sightseeing and shopping. Some of us met up for lunch at Café Safari again before going back to the hostel. We were planning to go to the new town center of Kiruna together, but we ran into some car troubles again. This time the car really didn’t want to get up and running no matter how much we tried, so part of the group decided to stay back at the hotel and meet us at our next scheduled activity. Said and done – half of the group went to New Kiruna for a (very) quick visit. We were running behind schedule and our next activity was approaching so some of us basically ran into the new community center to get a glimpse of the interior, then got back to the car and drove towards the Sámi Parliament.
Luckily, we made our appointment on time. We were going to meet with Marie Enoksson, who works as a communicator at the Swedish Sámi Parliament. We were welcomed into a room with a beautiful painting, a Sámi flag and a Power Point presentation with a picture of three adorable children. The following hours were spent by Marie telling us about the Sámi people in Sweden, their history and about how the parliament operates. It was a super interesting lecture and all of us had a lot of questions which led to a very intriguing conversation. We did stay way past the set time for our visit and all of us were very thankful towards Marie who took the time to stay and talk to us after the visit was officially over.
The last activity of our trip was the last dinner together. We had a reservation at Spis, the hostel where we were staying, and they had really amazing food. We talked about our highlights of the trip and enjoyed each other’s company. A great way to end a great trip.