Monday, November 24, 2014

Sweden - Day 1

My first full day in Sweden!

I slept pretty well and woke up a little after 8.  As soon as I came out of my room, Tommy said we needed to leave "very soon" to make it Abisko National Park and then back to Kiruna in time for him to go to work at 1:30.  All I did was layer up again - same 18 layers I had on last night - and grabbed a banana and yogurt and walked out.  He said he was qutie impressed with my ability to get ready to quickly and that I was clearly a seasoned spur of the moment traveler.  Made my day. ;)

The one hour drive to Abisko was beautiful, but a little scary!  It snowed last night and was still snowing (snowed all day actually) so the roads were snow packed.  It was snowing so much and the sky was so white you could hardly see anything.  It clearly didn't phase Tommy at all as he sped along, so I just went with it.

I got the grand tour of the tiny town of Abisko, and Tommy knew it well because he used to live there.  

Really wasnt a ton to see, as the Aurora Sky Station is closed on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  You know, just the only three days I'm in Sweden.  No big deal. ;)  It actully was just a viewing station about half way up the mountain, and you have to take an old school chair lift to get up to it.  As cold as I was just standing on the ground, I was actually okay with not going up it.  It didn't look quite as cool as I had imagined.  

After the tour, we went on a short hike to see a couple of waterfalls.  Tommy just took off down the trail, which started out easy enough, but quickly turned trecherous!  I mean I feel like I'm pretty agile and can keep up with just about anything, but he was waaaay ahead of me in no time.  Turns out my big purple Sorel boots that I love so much actually have the worst possible traction ever for hiking in the snow and ice.  I mean no grip whatsoever.  I was sliding all over the steep slope covered in ice and actually fell a couple of times.  All the way Tommy way ahead of me...

The waterfall was pretty cool to see, and I took a video of it.  (Should be on YouTube link on the right side bar.)   It was mostly frozen but you could see where it ran underneath and out to the lake.  The lake was so big it looked like the ocean, and the waves crashing against the shore kind of made it sound like it, too.

The hike back up was almost as bad as the hike down.  I mean seriously, zero traction on those shoes.  I was practically crawlilng at one point.  Diaster, haha.  And all along I thought they were going to be the perfect shoes for this trip.  They are waterproof and super warm, so I'll give them that.  Just worthless for hiking.  

We stopped at on more small waterfall on the way up - just off the trail - and it was beautiful, too.  You could see the water barely bubbling through the back of it.  It will be completely frozen over in a matter of days I bet.

Our last stop in Abisko was the tourist center where his mother works.  It had some good viewing spots of the surrounding mountains and lakes, a clean bathroom, and a restaurant, but not much else. That is where the "Lights Over Lapland" tours meet every night and I'm thinking about doing one of the tours.  It's an American couple I guess and they get you all set up with the gear to take the pictures.  Basically all you have to do is show up and push the button to snap the picture...IF the lights are active that night.  And that's a big IF to take since it's certainly not a cheap "tour."  We'll see...  Maybe I will get lucky and see them closer to Kiruna later this week.

I learned a lot about the history of the area - Tommy is a big history buff.  I tried to stay awak on the drive home, but I didn't last long.  I've just been so tired this whole trip!  Between the jet lag and the zero down time in Iceland (or so it felt) I was on the verge of sleep deprivation I think.

I woke up once as Tommy kind of swerved and said some Swedish curse word I would imagine.  The roads were bad again and they have this thing they call "snow smoke" when there is a big truck driving in front of you and kicking up the snow and you literally can't see at all.  So that was a fun thing to wake up to. ;)

Back in Kiruna, we quickly stopped by the house to grab some stuff (my backpack stuffed with workout clothes, all my toiletries, a towel, and clean clothes), and then went to lunch in town.  A really godo buffet place - they had lots of salads and some meat (beef I think), some fish, bread, soups...good stuff.  Even got a fruit smoothie for dessert!

Tommy quickly walked me around the town center area and showed me a couple of spots to get the reindeer pelts I've had my eye on.  We found the cheapest spot, and I bargained her down for two.  They're so cool.  And legit!  I mean I have a realy reindeer pelt from wild Sedish reindeer now!  :)

They're pretty big, so I walked back to the car with Tommy to leave them in there, and then he left for work for the day.  I was on my own in Kiruna!  For awhile anways.  I convinced him to ask his best friend if he wanted to hang out and do dinner tonight, and he said yes!  At least I won't be all alone all night with nothing to do!

So I walked all around the town center area and shopped.  The H&M here is even cooler than the ones on the US!  I ended up with a cool new cardigan sweater thing (not from H&M!)  LIke a big comfy old man one, and I love it.  Also got another new watch - just what I needed.  But its Swedish and it was cheap, so can't beat that!

I was planning on working out that afternoon - hence walking around with a giant stuffed backpack.  Tommy gave me the name of a couple of gyms to check out.  One was a ways away and up a hill, so I skipped it and decided to go to the one in the shopping area.  Except it didn't open until 4!  Such a weird time to me, and that wasn't going to work.  So after I had my fill of shopping (around 3) I had to make it back to Tommys apartment - across town.  My options were to take the bus (I had him write down the name of the bus stop closest to his apartment), take a cab (he also wrote down his address), or just hoof it.  Even though it was bitter cold and still snowing, I decided I was up for a little walking adventure of trying to find his place on my own.  In the dark.  (Because it gets dark here at like 2!)

All bundled up. (Reflection in a store window)

I'm not much for walking alone at dark - especially in a foreign country - but it was so early still and there were some other people walking here and there, so I set off.  All the way down the main road, right at an intersection I remembered from the grocery store, and then another right at the school, and then a right at his apartment complex, and his apartment would be on the right.  I totally had this. ;)

Snow all over my hat and scarf in 2 minutes. 

The walk was going pretty well and the coldness wasn't a factor at all.  Well, except for on my face, which was frozen.  But the rest of me was drenched in sweat. I actually took off my thick coat with the good and just wore the lighter coat on I had under it. Yea, two coats.  I was still layered up from the morning (5 layers on top and 4 on bottom) plus I was carrying my heavy backpack, and walking up hills in heavey snow - in my heavy boots.  Workout for the day for sure.

My shadow in the snow walking along the road. 

At one point, I decided to make my own path (I'm always trying that...) and it didn't turn out so well.  I mean I made it up the slope, but I fell.  I had my hands in my pockets and had the key to Tommy's apartment in my hand.  So when I fell I of course yanked my hands out of my pockets quickly to catch myelf and out flew the key.  In to the snow.  Total freak out moment, haha.  I found it right away, but that was really not cool.  And all to save a two block walk down the street to take the path and the stairs. ;)

Dark at 3pm

I only stopped to second guess myself once when I thought maybe I had walked too far past the school, but it was just around the next bend in the road.  I hadn't ever been so happy to see that door, haha. Frozen face, drenched body, sore legs...

I was just sitting down to relax when I got a message from Tommy's friend, Jon Tomas, asking if I was ready to be picked up!  So I jumped in the shower - first time I'd had washed my hair since the Blue Lagoon on Thursday - I was starting to smell!  I actually brought my little travel hair dryer, but of course it didn't work so I went out with wet hair.  I think the ends froze on the walk to Jon Tomas' car.  For real. But at least it was clean! ;)

I ran some erands to a ski shop with Jon Tomas, and then we went back to his apartment for a few minutes.  He showed me around, showed me his record player (he's really in to music), 

and showed me his traditional Sami gear.  He is Sami - like the native northern Swedes.  Kind of like the native americans in the US.  The Swedish government tried to take their land from them, too, and still is actually.  Really interesting to hear his stories and learn about the Sami traditions.  His family is going out reindeer herding next week!  They go out on snowmobiles in to the mountains for like a week to try and round up all of their reindeer for the winter!  Sounded pretty crazy!

Anyways - we eventually decided on what to have for dinner - his family's reindeer tbones of course.  We made a quick run to the grocery store to get the rest: lots of veggies and some stuff for the red wine sauce.  Jon Tomas used to be a chef so he was all about cooking.  He let me help out quite a bit and taught me some cooking skills. ;)  Or he tried to anyways, haha.  I'm not much for cooking.  I made the sauce - which actuallly turned out really well - cut up some potatoes, peeled some carrots, the easy stuff.  He did the meat and everything else.  (I actually eventually sat at the kitchen table and painted my nails!)

Turns out cooking a whole meal basically from scratch takes some serious time.  Tommy came over to the house when he got off at 9 and we were still waiting.  Beyond tired and hungry by that point.

Luckily, the wait was worth it.  It was such a delcious meal!  Moose last night, reindeer tonight.  Lots of firsts... ;)

Before and after

Also on the list of firsts: coffee.  Jon Tomas wouldn't take no for an answer and made me try a sip of two different kinds of coffee.  I thought they both tasted awful, but I can now say I've tried coffee.  (Yea, can't believe I'm 31 years old and haven't ever had it.)  Won't be turning in to a coffee drinker any time soon though.  Just not a fan at all.

I did all the dishes and cleaned the kitchen, and then Tommy and I came back to the house - aftet 11.  Such a long day.  I'm exhausted and going to bed!

Not exactly sure what the plan is tomorrow.  Possibly ice fishing.  Possibly cross country skiing or snow shoeing.  Possibly a day trip on the train to Narvik, Norway.  Althought I feel like that's cheating just to be in one town for 30 minutes to cross it off the country check list, haha.  Who knows.  Have some options and I'm sure it will be another fun day. :)

Bye for now - from Northern Sweden!

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