Sunday, February 6, 2005

The Coolest Spot in Sweden

Our good friends Aurelie and Aurelién, two graduate students from France spent a lot of their free time travelling around Sweden, Scandinavia and Northern Europe. I'm pretty sure they have seen more of Sweden than most Swedes. But being a "immigrant" myself I suggested the most exotic trip that I could imagine; a trip to the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi followed by a trip to the 400th annual Jokkmokks marknad the first weekend in February.They were up for the adventure and we booked a flight to Kiruna, the nearest town where we rented a car. We spent the first day in Jukkasjärvi visiting the Ice Hotel, which is open for visitors until 5PM when the guests get to move into the rooms.

The entrance to the Ice Hotel, Kristina on a "spark"(Swedish for kick) the traditional transportation
Guest bartender Aurelien
Check-in for hotel guests is 5PM, during the day visitors are allowed to view all the suites and rooms in the Hotel.
The chandelier, chairs and drinking glasses are made of ice
There is even an Ice Chapel where you can get married, or simply enjoy the peace and quiet.
Bed formed as a dog sled, pulled by dogs of ice

After spending a couple of hours in the Ice Hotel we made the three hour drive to Jokkmokk to explore the market.
Traditional Sami festival clothing
Wild Hasse, one of the traditional participants
reindeer racing in Jokkmokk

After leaving the Ice Hotel in the afternoon we headed towards Jokkmokk for the 400th annual Sami market. Jokkmokk which normally has 3000 residents, swells to 30,000 during the market making finding accommodations a bit of a challenge. We wound up staying in a sleeper compartment of a train parked in town. 5 people with baggage in a compartment for 6, it was cozy to say the least.

The Samis are the indigenous people of the Arctic region called Sapmi which includes Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola peninsula of Russia. One of their main livlihoods throughout history has been reindeer herding, and reindeer is not only a chief source of nuturition and hides, but also a source of material for some of the most exquisite handcraft you can imagine. The primary materials are reindeer horn, birch burl and reindeer skins, and during the Jokkmokks marknad you can see the crafts from many different artists on display at Ájtte the local museum and school.

It was difficult to photograph the crafts, so I would suggest a visit to one of the many sites that do this, such as Risfjell.
One of the foremost Sami artists is Erik Fankki who has his own website with a gallery of his work.

Although it's rather cold in this part of Sweden in February, the humidity is very low, and it is usually not windy, so it is quite bearable with the right clothes, and if you're lucky you might be able to see the Northern Lights.

More images from this trip can be seen at my website

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