|To the end of the earth and back|
|A chronicle of a Viking adventure|
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|Lapland / Lappland|
Lapland (Swedish: Lappland) is a not just a part of Sweden, but a nation without a state. Its people, the Saami or Sami, live north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
Upon safe landing in Kiruna, the principal town in Swedish Lapland, I was slightly disappointed to not find the place shrouded in darkness. Even this far north (67.5° N) and in the middle of winter, there was still some "light" in the sky after 2pm, although it was really like dusk. Despite the sun never creeping over the horizon in mid-winter for 51 days a year, the dusklight reflected on the snow is enough to make the place really bright around midday. I was hoping for permanent darkness, but you can't have it all. The temperature on arrival was around -12° C, so although it wasn't dark, it certainly was cold enough for me to believe I was north of the Arctic Circle.
Kiruna is a very strange place. The only real reason it exists at all is to serve the PKAB iron ore mine, Europe's largest underground mine. It is quite surreal walking around a town which is completely deserted. Of course, nobody in their right mind would want to hang around in those kind of temperatures. It is a very sleepy town, and with it being relatively new, its modern architecture is more functional than æsthetic. Its open urban layout and being surrounded by forest makes you feel like you could be in a remote part of Canada. In fact, geographically it's not far off if you take the short route over the top of the North Pole!
From Kiruna we were picked up by our guide, Henrik, to take us by Husky sled to the deepest arctic wilderness. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, it was quite liberating and exhilerating to get in touch with the harsh realities of living in a freezer. On the sled, despite wearing goggles, my glasses still froze over due to the condensation. In the end, I was forced to forego my vision correction and all I could see was white with a few splodges of green.
On our eventual arrival at our destination, we were warmly greeted by fellow travellers who were about to make the reverse trip, and more importantly by our guide's friend Arne and his delicious Reindeer-meat pasta.
We stayed in an authentic replica of a Lappish hut which formed part of a small settlement centred round the main hut in which meals were prepared and taken. There was also a Sauna (Swedish: Bastu) where you are recommended to try the invigorating Lappish technique of running out into the snow and rolling around in it before returning to the Sauna.