Day 12 - Kiruna (SE)

How to move a town two miles east over 2 decades!

Kiruna is principally known for its iron-ore and the largest and most modern underground iron ore mine in the world is located here. It was founded in 1898 and has an annual production capacity of over 26 million tonnes.

In 2004 the state-owned mining company, Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB (LKAB), sent a letter to the local government explaining that it needed to dig deeper into a hill just outside the town. This would cause the ground beneath thousands of apartments and public buildings to crack and give way. “It’s a dystopian choice,” says Krister Lindstedt of White architects, the Stockholm-based firm charged with the biblical task of moving this city of 23,000 people away from a gigantic iron ore mine that is fast gobbling up the ground beneath its streets. “Either the mine must stop digging, creating mass unemployment, or the city has to move – or else face certain destruction. It’s an existential predicament.”

By Heinz-Josef Lücking - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 de,

Kiruna is a part of sápmi and has been home to Sámi for many generations. The Sámi people are one of the world’s indigenous peoples, and for millennia they’ve lived close to nature. Although the Sámi lifestyle has developed over the years, their traditions and culture are still very much alive.

Kiruna is the northernmost city in Sweden and is situated in the province of Lapland. This vast area covers about a quarter of Sweden and stretches across the very north of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia. It is a great place to see the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis if you are lucky enough - we have downloaded the Aurora Forecast app and it is not certain that they are going to appear for us! There are so many fun activities to do here from snowmobiling, riding on a husky sled or reindeer sleigh, skiing, ice fishing and the list goes on. You can also visit the ice hotel which is reconstructed every year in December and stays up until April when it melts! The rooms themselves are designed by different artists and have many different themes. You could even get married at the ice church which is also built in the area!

We were staying in a great hostel/hotel which was so comfortable. We had out en-suite room but there was also a communal kitchen and lounge in each chalet. The main building was great too and we had a super breakfast before wrapping up again in all our layers. We ventured into the old town to explore in the snow and take some photos. It is not really a picturesque town but the scenery around the town is beautiful.

Malmfältens Logi & Konferens

Here are some pictures of the church in the town and it is one of Sweden's largest wooden buildings. The church was built between 1909 and 1912 Its design was inspired by the traditional hut homes of the indigenous Sami people. There are bronze sculptures by Christian Eriksson found along the church’s roof representing different human feelings. Next to the church is a free-standing bell tower, supported by masts built with wood from Russian forests on the White Sea. Remarkably this old church, voted Sweden's most beautiful building in 2001 will be taken apart, piece by piece, and rebuilt in the new city of Kiruna along with many other key buildings - just like an IKEA

flat-pack project!

Later in the day we caught the train to the nearby town of Abisko or to the village of Bjorkliden to be exact. We sat with a delightful group of young people who live in Stockholm and we had a lovely time chatting and laughing with them. They really brightened up our journey. So much fun travelling by train and you never know whom you will meet!

Eventually we arrived in this remote and unpronouncable place - Bjorkliden - and stepped off the train in a blizzard!!! We knew that it was a 20-minute walk to the hotel and we tried to call a taxi but unfortunately there wasn't one available! We then met a lovely group of young doctors (from Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands etc) who were attending a European medical conference in Bjorkliden. They were getting their luggage picked up by the hotel and then walking up. So we joined them!!! With head torches on we fought our way through deep snow and a blizzard up a steep hill to the hotel. We oldies were grateful to be with a team of young doctors in case resuscitation should be required! We finally arrived only to find that we had been allocated a cabin half way down the hill again!!! I was not happy - the weather certainly didn't help! Anyway, after a little chat with reception, we were upgraded to the main hotel and now everything is great again! What an adventure but then that is the fun of travelling and particularly by train!

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