Wednesday morning I took the bus back to Kiruna, checked back into my hospital, and hopped on a bus over to Jukkasjarvi, home to the famous Ice Hotel. The outside was less impressive than I would’ve thought. I guess I was expecting to see a gigantic ice city rising out of the river. Those were probably unrealistic expectations. Instead, it was a gigantic ice city with a regular set of support buildings completely surrounding it. Not as dramatic an appearance.
But the inside was far more impressive than I ever imagined. I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.
The rooms were amazing (each of these photos, save the last one, is an art suite). The central hall in the last photo was an endless hallway of ice sculptures. The next highlight was the Absolut Icebar, also in the hotel. I had to check it out and have a drink. I can’t remember what they called my drink, but it was Absolut with Lingonberry Juice. Quite tasty, a delicious color, and drinking out of an ice glass makes all the difference.
And while it was all so cool, I couldn’t find any reason to actually stay here. I could just pay an entrance fee during the day and walk through the entire hotel, every room. Then I could go back and sleep in my warm, cozy room. Or I could pay a lot more, have to deal with other people walking through my room all day, and then freeze all night. It just doesn’t add up. But I’m glad enough people want to do it that they can building them, because it is truly a sight worth seeing.
Here’s where I maybe got a little crazy. I decided to walk to the airport the next morning, about 5 miles, for my flight leaving at 6:50 AM. Given the circumstances, it was a little nuts, but the reasons were two fold:
1) I still hadn’t seen any northern lights and this was my absolute last shot.
2) A 5 mile taxi ride would’ve cost me ~$60. I don’t know any where in the world that is that expensive. London maybe?
Anyway, after staying awake until midnight looking in vain out both sides of the building to the sky for any signs of green or red, I arose at 3:30 AM, donned four layers and my backpack, and headed out into the cold. While I was immediately hopeful about the faint light to the east, I quickly realized it was the earliest hints of the sun. I was already out of luck, no northern lights. The biggest goal of my trip was a bust. So sorry guys, no northern lights pictures out of me. But to quell the uprising, here’s some.
So there was nothing to do now but just keep walking, I was already up with time to get to the airport and I sure wasn’t paying the $60 for now a 4 mile ride. I guess I’m just stubborn like that. It actually wasn’t a bad walk at all, it wasn’t too cold (though I think my four layers of clothing had a lot to do with that) and I got to see a gorgeous sunrise. There were three things I found funny on my walk:
1) I actually passed a guy about halfway there in the middle of nowhere. And he just walked by, as if he saw crazy foreigners with backpacks walking out of town every day at 4 AM. My “hej” wasn’t even answered.
2) The last two kilometers were along the airport access road, that only went to the airport. Even so, no one stopped to offer a ride. I hadn’t expected anyone to, and at that point in my odyssey, I probably would’ve turned them down, but I did find the whole thing kind of funny.
3) This awesome sign at the airport. It tells you where to park your dogsleds.
So with that, my trip came to an end. To do a quick “Take Two” type recap:
Highlights: dogsledding, Ice Hotel
Lowlights: no northern lights
Lessons Learned: hospitals can be cheap and nice places to stay, trains can be simpler and cheaper than flights+taxis+hotels (it took me the same amount of time to get to Abisko in the end and it would’ve been cheaper on the train), and northern lights are hard to see