Monday, July 14, 2014

Town on the move

What if your cities’ foundations are starting to show cracks? No panic, just move the entire town!

It is the fate that awaits the mining city of Kiruna. Kiruna is Sweden’s northernmost city within the Arctic circle. The town thanks its existence to the local iron ore mine, the world’s largest underground mine. It is the economic heart of the region employing the majority of the cities’ inhabitants for the past 100 years. Iron ores are rocks used to make iron and steel.

It is the exploitation of the mine which now necessitates the move of Kiruna. Part of the cities’ buildings are in danger of collapsing, because of fissures starting to spread towards the centre. Moreover, the local mining company wants to dig deeper, making it possible to release some 800 million tons of ore that are still in the ground.

A project of some scale: dazzling numbers

The entire town will be moved three kilometers to the east. In total, some 23.000 inhabitants will be relocated. Some buildings will be tore down and rebuilt at a new site. Others will be taken apart and put back together at the new spot, like IKEA furniture so to speak. This will happen to the old church of Kiruna. 

The church of Kiruna was built in 1912 and is Sweden’s largest wooden building, voted the most beautiful Swedish building in 2001.

Moving a town is a vast project involving a great number of actors: city planners, architects, landscape designers, biologists, urban designers, civil engineers, construction workers, social anthropologists… Moreover, it is not something which is completed in just an instant. It will take up 20 years at least. Some even speculate about 40 or 50 years. The city centre and the shopping street are scheduled to be finished in 2018.

Not to mention the cost of the project. The mining company already spent a good 4 billion kronor on the project and has earmarked another 7.5 billion. The company first has to buy people’s homes, for them to be able to buy a new home at the new site. A difficult exercise when it comes down to estimating market value!

A second chance in urban design

To be honest, Kiruna was not the most inspiring of Swedish towns, seen from the touristic angle. Apart from the church, not too many noteworthy buildings solicited a visit. This whole move means there is a great opportunity for urban planners to develop Kiruna along new and well-thought of  visionary lines. So the city council issued a design competition, which was finally won by the project Kiruna 4 Ever, by White Arkitekter AB.

And what about the people of Kiruna? Are they sad they have to part with their familiar places and corners? Not at all! The people are quite happy with the move. Apart from getting a good price for their property, they also get to live in a town which incorporates modern ideas for sustainable development with ample opportunities for leisure, culture and sports and guess what: new opportunities for tourism as well.

The airport of Kiruna is the starting point for most holidays to Swedish Lapland. Also the holidays of Abisko Aurora to the ICEhotel of Jukkasjärvi, to the Pinetree Lodge - deep in the wilderness  - and of course, to Abisko, the perfect base for those wanting to experience the northern lights.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How to spend a winter's day in Swedish Lapland?

Absolutely everybody would love to see the magic of the northern lights dancing in the night skies at least once in their lives. It should be an inevitable feature on everyone’s bucket list, as it is absolutely a unique natural phenomenon. It can only be seen near the earth’s magnetic poles, above the Polar Circle at 66° north, between September and April.

In this time of year, this Nordic region is covered in snow and faces negative Celsius temperatures. Northern lights can only be seen in the evening, when the sky is dark. So, what should you do during the daytime?

Luckily, there is plenty of choice! Whether you are a sporty adventurer or comfort traveler looking for a taste of the local ambience, there is an activity to suit everyone’s taste. Here are some suggestions: 

Local culture
A day excursion to the Norwegian Fjords is an absolute highlight of the High North. For example from Abisko in Sweden you can cross the mountainous border to Norway by minivan with an experienced local guide, and admire the panoramic view over the fjords of Narvik.

Reindeer remain an important part of life of the Sámi people, the native inhabitants of Lapland. Getting to know their traditional way of life, exploring an authentic reindeer farm, and hand-feeding the reindeer is definitely an interesting trip. Besides, not only Santa drives a reindeer sled, you try it yourself!

The original ICEhotel of Jukkasjärvi, constructed out of the bluish ice of the Torne River, is probably the most famous Swedish spot in the world. A hotel that melts away every year when spring comes, and is reconstructed in autumn by ice sculptors and designers from all over the world, is something you shouldn’t miss when you are nearby! 

Active and accessible for everybody
Try husky sledding! It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The dogs love running in the snow and pulling your sled through winter wonderland. Take your chance and go for a sled dog ride! 

Remember the tennis-racket shaped shoes the Eskimo’s wear in cartoons? It might look funny but it makes walking in the snow a whole lot more comfortable! Instead of winding up in the snow up to your knees, these snowshoe maintain your weight up the thick layer of snow. Go for a walk to experience it yourself, and don’t worry, the modern version of snowshoes look not bad at all!

Bet you never driven a snowmobile before? The good news, you don’t have to be a superhero to go out for a drive. An experienced instructor will provide you with all the instructions you need for a safe drive over the taiga. Conquer your fears, and you’ll see that it’s a lot easier than you though, and a lot more fun!

Adventurous tours for sporty explorers
Looking for something more? Go for a full day snowmobile tour in the Abisko mountains. At lunchtime, an on-the-road campfire is lit for the outdoor lunch. Drive up to an icy mountain lake to go ice fishing, and if you’re lucky, prepare your fish for dinner!

Waiting for the northern lights to appear in the evening can become very interesting when spicing up your days in the High North with unique activities during the day. If you consider a trip to Sweden, combining the northern lights with all these exciting activities, the incoming tour operator Abisko Aurora is a good choice for a tailor-made program catering to all your wishes.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Swedish cuisine: there’s more than just meatballs!

One of the best extra’s when traveling to Swedish Lapland is definitely the cuisine. Truly fresh and high-quality food which most of us haven’t even heard of, and often can’t even pronounce! Leaving Sweden is always with the feeling that your appetites have been completely satisfied.
Although Swedish meatballs are enjoyed in Ikeas all over the world, there is far more to this Scandinavian country’s cuisine than the ubiquitous meatball. 
Swedish food can’t be talked about without mentioning berries. There is no chance you won’t eat a dish decorated with lingonberries or a toast with cloudberry jam. Native only to Swedish Lapland, these tart berries were a key ingredient in an ancient Scandinavian medicinal tea and no breakfast is served without cloudberry jam.
Obviously, there is an amazing variety of fish, from the famous Arctic char and crayfish to Kalix Löjrom, known among the caviar enthusiasts as the ‘gold of the North’. It is frequently served at the Nobel prize banquets.
You should definitely try Elk and Reindeer as well. They are delicious in combination with local forest mushrooms.  Reindeer meat has been used in the native Sámi diet for centuries.
And of course, there is Smörgåsbord. This is a typical meal served buffet-style with a variety of hot and cold dishes. Bread, butter and cheese are standard items. It’s customary to start with cold fish dishes, which are generally various forms of herring, salmon and eel. Afterwards, people usually continue with other cold dishes, moving on to the hot ones. Dessert can also be served as Smörgåsbord! 
If you are looking for a spot in Swedish Lapland with exquisite local cuisine, try the small-scale Pinetree Lodge, the up-scale ICErestaurant in Jukkasjärvi, or the restaurant of the Abisko Mountain Station. 

Enjoy your meals in Swedish Lapland! For sure, that will not be a problem at all!