It’s almost Christmas 2015 and we’ve come to Swedish Lapland for the weekend to be somewhere snowy, drink hot chocolates and chase the northern lights.
There are several lifetimes worth of things for you to see on earth, but what takes your breath away here in Kiruna is that just stepping outside your door feels like one of the wonders of the world.
In the forest, every tree is a Christmas tree, decked in baubles and wreaths of snow. We booked a dog sledding trip and headed into the forest on a sleigh. As our sledge travelled through the dark, the snow flakes caught like star dust in the light of our driver’s head torch and you understood why so many people have written fairy tales about wild forests. The younger trees were bent double with the weight of the snow, like old men, and others were so laden down with it that you could see the faces of strange creatures, the snow creating crooked noses, bulging foreheads, the younger, thinner branches seeming to reach for you like arms.
The Sami are the native people of Swedish Lapland and like so many other native peoples there are stories of battles and death. They still keep reindeer as a source of food and income but tourism is of course a key activity now. We stopped at Jukkasjarvi for photo opportunities with solemn looking reindeer, the chance to buy Sami crafts and a visit to the beautiful wooden church with its rust red walls and glittering tree outside.
The northern lights are best explained to you by someone who understands the magnetosphere (not me). They’re a phenomena that appear on most people’s bucket list, natures own light show, fireworks without the noise, spectacles of colour in the sky.
We stood on the frozen lake outside our cabin and looked north trying to decipher the silver stream of light in the sky. It ebbed and flowed as if it was travelling somewhere and I was reminded of the Philip Pullman books and wondered if I was watching souls take flight. It wasn’t the luminous display you see on tourist board websites, but as a small funnel of light moved upwards into the sky it felt otherworldly.
Lesson number 1 Atticus, you may not get what you hope for or expect but find joy in every experience.
What we learned:
1. Don’t spend your whole evening trying to capture stars on your iPhone, just gaze and enjoy. If you recognise any constellations point them out and say their names aloud, so that you register every detail and can keep the memory for later.
2. Rolling around in the snow at -15 may seem crazy, but there is something so exhilarating about dashing from a steaming sauna and diving into a drift of white powder you’ll feel reborn.
3. Reindeers are cute but don’t let that stop you enjoying a reindeer kebab. Awesome.
4. Do things that scare you. Sometimes when you get older, the weight of responsibility can mean you do the same old things. Snowmobiles may not be for me. I was convinced that I was going to crash and scorch my face along the ice and write off thousands of kroner, but I drove one anyway, because you should always try new things.
5. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t like something. After a happy/terrifying hour on said snowmobile I almost hit a tree. At that point I felt comfortable saying I’d had enough and wanted to be a passenger because I’d given it a try. I think the population of Lapland secretly sighed in relief at that point.
What we listened to:
Cristina Perry – Merry Christmas (War is over)
John Lennon is of course a legend and the original still has the same impact today as it did then, but this is a nice listen if you’re in a cabin, wearing fair isle jumpers and feeling kitsch
Crazy in love – Daniela Andrade
Oddly not a fan of Beyoncé (it’s a shame because she likes me a lot). There’s something a bit too big, too famous about her, but THIS is a tune and a sign of a good song is when someone else takes it, strips it back, changes the mood and it STILL impresses.
XO – John Mayer
So this is actually another Beyoncé song, (I know I said I wasn’t a fan but these songs were playing at the bar we visited) listen to her original and then to Mayer’s version. He gives it a bit of heart.