The adventure started on Thursday night. Between the bus and two trains, it took roughly 18 hours to get to Kiruna, Sweden. We arrived, three hours later than anticipated. We were picked up by an LKAB bus that took us to the iron ore mine that is effectively the reason for Kiruna’s existence. We went over 500 meters down into the ground to a showroom that describes much of who LKAB is and why this mine in particular exists. Very cool and a great way to start off our trip. Even crazier is the fact that the town of Kiruna will be moved soon as there's a little cracking several hundred meters below the surface that no one knows what will happen if LKAB continues to drill further down.
After 18 hours of traveling which of course included a couple adult beverages on the train, everyone was beyond starving. We stopped in an area that I’d equate to a small American strip mall that had more restaurants than shops. A handful of the 40 exchange students decided on pizza for lunch. Turns out, ordering pizza to go infers that you receive a discounted price and thus are not allowed to eat it inside the restaurant. So we took the pizza to the bus and ate it there. It definitely hit the spot!
Thirty minutes later, the group arrived at the original Ice Hotel. It was different than I expected as I assumed the hotel would be in the middle of nowhere. Our guided tour highlighted why the hotel started, the fact that their church (which only really exists for 5 months out of the year) is the fourth most popular in Sweden, and the hotel is different every single year. Traditional rooms are rather boring, but the art suites is where indivudal artists apply to create something new. Unfortunately, the hotel had a power outage, so none of the suites were lit up. Instead, the best way to decipher the “art” was to take a picture. I’ll admit, I’m happy I saw it, but I definitely didn’t need to stay the night. Brrr…
We arrived at our hotel just in time for dinner – another 2 hours on the bus from the Ice Hotel. The food was absolutely amazing – every day – all meals! That night, we were given one piece ski suits, warm gloves and warm shoes. After dinner, a number of us went outside to the snow covered (approx 2 feet) lake and played in the snow. Saturday was busy – including making the base for Sunday’s snow sculptures, dog sledding, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. I did not partake in the last event, however, everyone who did said it was a blast!! Sunday morning started with half of us going to a reindeer farm to feed, lasso and drive a reindeer sled. Overall, an incredible trip! Though I didn’t complete nearly as much homework as I anticipated. Will hopefully post pictures later.