Hurtigruten – the original coastal voyage

My colleagues know that I am a better person in the afternoon, ie. I am not quite as nice in the mornings. Therefore they booked breakfast for me on board Hurtigruten in the morning! Thank you!
I started my trip in Harstad at 8.30 and had a lovely breakfast while we left for the Vesteraalen Islands. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurtigruten.
Unfortunately, the weather was grey and foggy so I did not make any pictures.
We arrived in Stokmarknes and in the harbor you find the Hurtigruten Museum. It is a museum free of charge for Hurtigruten travelers. Here it is possible to go on board on one of the old Hurtigruten ships and to learn about the importance of the Hurtigrute for the people living in the remote norwegian coast.
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At 18.00 we arrived in Svolvaer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svolv%C3%A6r , the capital of Lofotenhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lofoten . Immediately I took the bus down to the southern part of Lofoten. The more south you come, the smaller and more winding the roads get. The more south you come, the more stunning the nature is and you have a feeling you are “in” the nature.
In Tind, 500 meters from Å (Å is the small village where the road ends), Haman Group has a small rorbu-cabin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rorbu For me, Tind is the paradise on Earth!!!
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Goodbye Sweden – Hello Norway

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Abisko is very close to the Norwegian boarder so when I left I headed west and very soon I were in Norway. There are two ways of going from Sweden to Norway here. One possibility is by car and the other by train. The first time I came here was about 20 years ago and then I went by train http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Ore_Line. I still remember that I wanted to write in my diary during the train ride, but had to stop because it was so beautiful outside that I just had to look out. Some 10 years later I was here again and full of joy I drove my car from Sweden to Norway and was so disappointed because by car you miss this incredible beauty. So now, another 10 years later, I go by train.
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I left Abisko together with a Chinese student. We talked a bit during the tour. When we crossed the Swedish-Norwegian boarder and we saw the first glimpse of the Rombaksfjord he just turned to me and said; – You must be very proud living in this country. I don’t know if he ment Sweden or Norway, but it doesn’t matter, I live in both countries. And Yes, I am very proud of my part of the world!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rombaken

Narvik has a very interesting history, but unfortunately I had just some minutes to catch the bus to Harstad and arrived there in the evening.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narvik
Tomorrow I will embark the Hurtigrute and sail through the Vesteraalen Islands to Lofoten.

Abisko – the best place for Aurora Borealis

After my visit in Abisko, I experience my life a lot richer than before I came. I arrived with train from Kiruna, a journey of ca 1,5 hours. Abisko is a National Park and was one of the first 8 to be established in Europe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abisko_National_Park
This area was made accessible when the train tracks were built in order to transport the valuable iron ore from Kiruna to the Norwegian harbour Narvik.
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Abisko does not only have an amazing nature it is also appointed by NASA to be the best place in the World to see Aurora Borealis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora_borealis
The reason is geographical. Abisko have a special location, surrounded by mountains and lakes that make the sky clear and pure. Even if it is cloudy, the people in Abisko talk about the “Blue Hole” that normally comes in the evening. The Blue Hole is a hole in the sky without any clouds (and there are a lot of clouds around) that makes Abisko so special.  I experienced this myself because it was cloudy during the day and suddenly in the evening it cleared up and there was a kind of Hole in the sky that was totally clear.
I stayed at Abisko Tourist Station and they also operate the Aurora Sky Station at the mountain Nuolja. At the Sky Station they have aurora borealis 85% of all evenings. That is much more than other places inside and outside Scandinavia has.

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Abisko Tourist Station is a typical Swedish Tourist Station with accommodation in different categories. The HoteI itself is not very spectacular but you feel at home and relaxed. And since the nature is so spectacular, you don’t really need a spectacular hotel – the nature is enough. There are a lot of nice small rooms to sit by the fire, to read and to have a drink.

In one way I lost my heart in Abisko. There are many reasons for that. The nature really impresses me and it goes under my skin.
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I tried Icewall climbing for the first time. It is me you see above – it is no joke! Considering that I am afraid of heights I was so proud and felt like a queen! The last reason and perhaps the main reason is that I was the luckiest person in the world and had the Aurora dancing over my head all evening.

It was invited by Jens, the Sales Manager of Abisko, to join him up to the Aurora Sky Station in the evening. We took the probably slowest chairlift in the world up the mountain Nuolja. At the Skystation had dinner and after that I joined the lecture about Aurora Borealis. Tim, our guide, showed us the first glimpses of aurora on their live camera. http://www.auroraskystation.com/live-camera/9/

Suddenly Tim came from outside and asked us to come out. – There are some powerful Auroras outside. I think we were around 70 people up there. During dinner everybody talked and the sound level was high. When I went out and looked in the sky, the Auroras covered the whole sky from north to south. Everybody was so affected by this experience and it was totally silent. Can you imagine 70 persons together and nobody say a word?
Tim made a small film and I shared it on Haman Scandinavias Facebook page. You can see the film here: http://www.facebook.com/HamanScandinavia

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Abisko has a lot to offer. You can do Ice climbing, you can go skiing both cross country and downhill. Jens, told me that the freeriding at the Nuolja mountain is known to be one of the best in Europe when the snow is good. There is a husky camp beside the hotel (but the dogs are well behaved – no disturbance) so you can go for dog sledge tours. You can also do a photo tour with Chad Blakely and learn how to do photos of the auroras. Chad is one of the most known aurora photographer and he lives in Abisko www.http://lightsoverlapland.com
The Tourist Station offers a “City tour” of Abisko. That is a lot of fun… because I never found the city. You get an oil lamp and then you start the walking tour around Abisko.

Of course you can also go walking in the summer but I save that until my next summer tour and summer blog 🙂

Arriving in Kiruna and Jukkasjärvi

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In the evening I arrived in Kiruna, a city mainly known for its important iron ore. During World War II this iron played an important role even if Sweden did not participate actively in the war. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiruna.

Today travelers come to Kiruna to visit Jukkasjärvi (18 km outside Kiruna) and the ICEHOTEL http://icehotel.com/
My first impression is that this is a really well organized and professional place. Everything is logic, effective, designed and “makes sense”.
There are guests from all over the world and it is a kind of strange to find a small village in a middle of Lapland that is like a melting pot of people from all over the world. The last time I felt equally international must have been on the Dubai Airport.
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Arriving at the ICEHOTEL I was warmly welcomed by Beatrice, from the Press and Marketing department at the ICEHOTEL. We had a fantastic dinner (I feel like an old gramophone that repeat myself all the time) and we had capercaille. My spell check keep on showing a spelling error but it is not – it is obviously a very rare word. See here … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capercaille You can eat them and it was good!
At the ICEHOTEL the main chef is a globetrotter and extremely good, experienced and internationally trained in his profession.

My plan was to sleep in one of the cold rooms of the ICEHOTEL and I needed some mental build-up and that gave me the best reason in the world to visit the bar.
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2 glasses of wine later and it was almost midnight, I decided it is time to go to bed. It was an experience to sleep in a room made of snow and ice. You sleep in a thermal sleeping bag on a bed built by ice blocks, a wooden frame, mattress and it is topped with reindeer skins.
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In ICEHOTEL it never gets colder than –5 to -8ºC, regardless of the fact that the outdoor temperature sometimes drops down to -30º. After a bit of practicing how to keep my face warm by wrapping the sheets around it but still have free space in front of the mouth I slept the whole night. In the morning a lovely lady woke me up with a cup of warm lingonberry juice.
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The ICEHOTEL is a unique hotel and product with a lot of things to do. I tried Ice driving that is not only a lot of fun; it is also a good training if you drive on snowy roads like I do.
Fredrik showed me some exercises with the four-wheel-drive Mini’s he has in Jukkasjärvi.
At the end we changed seats and he drove… WOW! I have a lot to learn how to drive on ice.

Britta’s Guesthouse – The Treehotel

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The Treehotel is actually two hotels. One part is the 5 rooms/cabins in the trees. The other part, where you also get breakfast and dinner is Brittas Guesthouse.
The contrasts between these two could not be bigger. Brittas Guesthouse is like coming home to Grandma. The furniture, china, wallpapers the pictures on the wall are from 1940-, 50- and -60. I had many flashbacks from my childhood and my grandparents.

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Britta's Guesthouse - The Treehotel

I expect everybody to talk about the stylish rooms when they have been here, but I must also talk about the food. It is served at Brittas Guesthouse and that means it is like in grandmas kitchen. You get a full plate with the most delicious food and you will definatly not leave hungry.
I had the most tender reindeer filet I ever tasted, and I tasted many.

The staff at the Treehotel are also amazing. They are so easy going, talkative, friendly and keen to make your stay the way you want. I saw a picture at the fire place of the Swedish Crown princess and her husband together with the owners visiting Britas Guesthouse and they looked very proud to welcome members of the Royal Family.

The Treehotel with the 5 stylish and cool designed cabins are totally different. Here you find a design; creativity and the architects must have had a lot of fun creating these unique exteriors and interiors. I slept in “The Cabin” and it looked like this when I arrived.
In general you can say that if the tree room is spectacular from the outside it is a bit less spectacular and dark inside. The tree rooms that look a bit less spectacular from the outside are absolutely the most interesting and fascinating from the inside – often letting the the forest and nature being a part of the design. www.treehotel.se
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