Northern Adventure and then some

Sorry for the long wait between posts! I’ve been super busy as of late, what with my trip and then two finals. But here it is…my long awaited tale of Lapland!

The eight of us going on the trip from Umeå were picked up late at night and got on the bus right as they were converting all of the seats into bunk beds. Let me tell you, seats that convert into bunk beds should have been warning enough, but that was some of the worst sleep I’ve every gotten. Despite the fact that the top half of the beds moved precariously throughout the night and I was terrified of being crushed, the bus swayed and jerked all night making me think at times we were about to tip over.

Looks comfortable doesn’t it?

Very fun to say the least but an adventure nonetheless!

Upon arriving in Kiruna the next morning we went to our hotel and the first batch of us piled into another car and headed over to the dog sledding place. Once there, we were given huge snowsuits to change into and seated three to a sled. It was extremely fun, especially when going down bumpy bits. Apparently the lead dog on our sled won the biggest cross-country race in the world.

After stopping for fika, we then switched with the other half of the group and jumped on some snowmobiles.

Melanie on an extremely touchy snowmobile.

Also extremely fun, but I wish they had let us drive around for longer as I was having too much fun.

The next day, we got on the bus and traveled ten minutes to the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi. After a mini tour in which we learned about the construction and design of the Ice Hotel we got to explore for 45 minutes. Not nearly enough time as I could have spent all day exploring and ridiculously posing with everything!

In the main corridor of the Ice Hotel.
View of the Ice Bar with glasses made from the river water.
In front of a wall made of ‘snice’ (not quite snow, but not quite ice).

Next we went to a Sami reindeer farm nearby.

Inside a Sami hut.

There we had some reindeer meet and some curious looking drink which I assumed was made of some reindeer part. Very salty and not delicious I must say. Afterwards we were given some moss and lichen and allowed to hand feed the reindeer. They were surprising shy and kept running away from us.

The Sami we met were also selling some handmade bracelets, trinkets make from antlers, and even the antlers themselves. I was sorely tempted to buy a full set of antlers (can you say best souvenir ever!) but unfortunately I thought the TSA agents in the airport might object. You don’t mess around with airport security.

The next day we got back on the bus for a few hours and arrived in Abisko where we let off the few people on their way for Ice Climbing. Too intense sounding for me and I stayed on the bus heading to Narvik, Norway. The trip there could be described as less than fun as we traveled the winding roads and I got inexplicably car sick from sitting backwards. But once we stopped at a few scenic view spots, I promptly forgot about any unpleasantness.

Seriously beautiful. Even covered in snow, I was amazed and determined to go back to Norway one day (hopefully soon!). The town of Narvik was relatively small in and of itself, but the scenic views were astounding.

That evening, we ventured to the lake about a 15-minute walk from the hostel for some ‘Arctic Swimming’ and the sauna. Surprisingly very fun and I didn’t die from the cold, which is always good. The sauna house was extremely tiny and at one point was up to 94 degrees C.

I don’t particularly like to be ridiculously hot (read that as absolutely hate being hot) so after about 10 minutes in the sauna, a fellow North American (Canadian) and I decided to be the first to go arctic swimming. While it sounds extremely intense, in reality it was a 1 meter by 1 meter hole cut into the shallow lake with our tour guide standing by to pull us out if need be.

Our first sighting of the site was Joseph taking off the chucks of ice that had formed since the last visit.

Ridiculously cold, but not as bad as you would think. Especially when you can quickly run back while your feet start freezing to the snow on the ground and into the excruciatingly hot sauna and thaw out. I think our small group from Umea surprised our tour guide as we were constantly coming back outside, both for second dips in the frigid water and for copious amounts of pictures.

Overall, an amazing trip that I would highly recommend if you ever find yourself in Sweden.

Well there is just a tidbit of the exciting events as of late. Sorry for the long-awaited post. Life has been pretty hectic as of late, especially today as I’m frantically getting ready for my trip to Prague to visit with my parents and to meet up with Jana and Marianna, our old foreign exchange students!

Short and sweet—Things I’ve noticed:

1) Most Europeans think their English is much worse than it actually is. While I happily oblige with request to teach American slang (though admittedly still struggling to come up with said slang) it feels very strange to answer questions about English grammar. Usually I just end up telling them which one sounds right but have no explanation for when to use it. Somewhat frustrating as I want to help! Though I do somewhat enjoy my newly appointed position of English guru within my buddy group! I’ll try to not let the position get to my head…

2) Swedes harbor a surprising love of tacos. Stereotypically, when thinking of Swedish food one thinks of bland, mysterious looking meals. Hearing about Swedish food before arriving, I was bombarded with stories of Kalles Kaviar (literally fish flavored paste in a toothpaste looking tube) and pickled herring. However, while Kalles Kaviar has it’s own prominent corner in the grocery store (one which I avoid like the plague) the food is pretty standard except for the surprising amount of shelf space dedicated to taco supplies. This coupled with the taco buffet put on every Friday greatly amuses me.

3) I am greatly spoiled when it comes to water parks (Thank you Wisconsin Dells for ruining my expectations). A group of friends and I decided to take a day trip to an Adventure Bath/Spa about two hours away. Upon arriving, I was greatly surprised at the size of the place. Granted, I knew not to expect Noah’s Ark but still. Though…that disco slide was pretty fabulous. The spa was definitely worth the trip.

4) My love for peanut butter by European standards borders on obsession. I discovered this on the bus during the Lapland Trip as I got bizarre looks from my Dutch friends when eating an apple with some peanut butter. Apparently, not only is eating peanut butter on anything but bread somewhat strange, after finishing my apple and eating straight peanut butter they looked absolutely revolted. They equated eating peanut butter plain with eating straight butter. Interesting. And yet, they’ll never quench my love…

Well, that’s all I’ve got time to write today. I still need to pack and do laundry before making my way to the airport brutally early in the morning. I swear I will write an exceptionally long post upon my return!

Till then, Hej då!