For three days, our home base for Aurora Borealis hunting was the Abisko Mountain Lodge. The Abisko region in northern Sweden offers expansive landscapes of mountains, forests and lakes, and generally dry clear weather — which is great for aurora viewing at night. During the day, however, there was still plenty to explore.
This is what we saw from our lodge room. The cone of wood poles is the structure for a traditional lavvu in the Sami indigenous culture of northern Scandinavia. While the deck chairs draped with reindeer skins looked inviting, we refrained from lounging in the -20 deg C daytime.
We went for a short hike in a nearby natural park. The trail followed the curves of a small gorge, including rock-solid frozen waterfalls.
The interpretation center explained flora, fauna and history of Abisko. The exhibits, and some of the local people we met, expressed clear awareness of what climate change is already bringing to this region.
Our hike took us to the edge of the large frozen lake. We were told that the ice was about two meters thick. We were also told that, starting at half a meter, ice is strong enough for the Swedish military to drive tanks on frozen lakes.
One of our daytime activities was to take the train from Abisko, in Sweden, to the town of Narvik, Norway.
The train route follows the curve of the Abisko area lakes and valleys….
…before emerging along the edge of a steep inland rocky valley that transforms into a fjord.
The town of Narvik wasn’t particularly attractive, but it was noticeably warmer than Abisko. It was a sunny Saturday, and lots of people were out and about. We quickly noticed that many families were out strolling, dressed in what looked to us like Victorian clothing. When we asked about this, we were told that this day was the first day of a 10-day winter festival. The festival celebrates the construction in the early 1900s of the railroad from the port inland to the mineral-rich interior.
The railroad connects the harbor of Narvik with, among other places, the huge iron mine in Kiruna, Sweden. We spent the first half of our northern adventure in the Kiruna area. While we focused on the arctic landscape and activities, we were very aware of the white mountain of the mine, and the endless rail cars carrying ore.