Friday, August 05, 2005

DAY 05 - two churches, an ice bar and a WUZ

we have to get up in time for the 09:10 bus to jukkasjärvi, just 20km from kiruna. the day promises to be just lovely! downtown kiruna is quiet, the bus is on time, and off we go. jukkasjärvi is famous for the ice hotel they build there every winter - of course we are a little late for the actual hotel, but they have a large hall with ice sculptures as well as an ice bar which can be visited year round.

but we get off at the old church - a neat little building with a colourful altar piece showing scenes from the life of laestadius, a 19th century preacher who became very popular with the sami people, because he spoke in their language and because his fiery sermons (often condemning alcohol, smoking, and other vices) made them ecstatic - and ecstasy always played a big part in sami culture.

"Faith is not enough for a Leastadian. It's not just a question of being baptised or confessing your sins or putting money in the collection plate. Your faith has to be a living faith. An old Leastadian preacher was once asked how he would describe this living faith. He considered for quite a while, then answered thoughtfully that it was like spending the whole of your life walking uphill."
(Mikael Niemi, "Popular Music"; Harper Perennial, p 26)

painting in jukkasjärvi church

we find a quiet spot on the shore of the träsk near the vicarage - i wish i had brought my swimsuit, it's that warm! the water is calm, it's peaceful and quiet - all we can hear is the humming of insects, chattering of birds, the faraway quacking of ducks, and voice drifting over from somewhere along the shore. there's a rock that's perfect for sitting, just about half a metre from the shore, and that's where i write a few postcards, enjoy the silence and sunshine for a while. sepp discovers a wooden jetty, where we stretch out in the sunshine for a bit. almost too good to be true!

blissful moments!

eventually, we walk down to the site of the ice hotel and join a guided tour of the site and the exhibition "john bauer in ice". the guide tells us where and how the ice hotel is built, lots of interesting facts about how many tons of ice they use, and so on. i am quite happy to find out that i can actually understand a lot of what she says in swedish - but of course she also repeats most things in english as well.

radical change of temperature - dressed in huge, warm ponchos we enter the hall where the temperature is kept at -5°C (i think that's 23F) all year. ice sculptures are on display - absolutely beautiful. my favourite is a sculpture made of snow, but it doesn't look as good in the picture as it does there. we are served a hot drink at the famous ice bar. cold drinks are actually served in glasses made of ice! (for all those who want to try that, you don't have to go to jukkasjärvi - there are ice bars in milan and stockholm, and one is about to open in london.)

beauty made of snow

they're showing a video of how the hotel is built - the ice they will use for the next season is actually stored now. all the artists involved in designing suites were filmed, it's amazing how they manage to build all that from blocks of ice. lots of neat little details - and needless to say, all the suits are unique. there's also an ice chapel where quite a few couples get married every year, and babies are baptised. and not to worry, the water they use in the ceremony is warm! :)

the documentary is actually so fascinating that you don't quite notice that you are in a room below freezing point!

i would love to see the actual ice hotel once, and even stay there, call me crazy. of course, it is not exactly cheap.

i was stunned to hear that this year, because spring was rather late, the last guests stayed until late april, and the last bits of the hotel only melted away about 5 to 6 weeks before we visited!

returning to the world outside means another temperature shock - it's really warm in the sunshine! but clouds are moving in, and just when we are about to head out into the woods for a walk, it begins to rain. the problem is there is no bus until later that afternoon, so we have to stay in jukkasjärvi. while it's really raining, we wait at the ice hotel reception, and then i am off for a walk. sepp decides to stay. the sun's out for a while, but once i am out in the woods, i can hear thunder, and dark clouds are moving in from all directions. i can see lightning on the horizon, and there's more thunder, so i think it's wiser to make my way back to the village. i wouldn't want to be out there on my own in a thunderstorm.

on my way towards the church, i stop at the supermarket, and as i am approaching the church, i bump into sepp. we have a quick bite at a picnic table on the playground, but then it starts to rain again - so we go and sit in the church. just 20 minutes before the bus arrives, the sun comes out again, and once again it is nice and warm.

back in kiruna, we decide to visit the famous church. i love those northern scandinavian churches, they are so cosy, completely different from the churches at home. even such big churches are inviting, and rather plain. the girl whose summer job it is to tell tourists about the church turns out to have studied in innsbruck, tyrol, austria! her german does sound a little tyrolean! :)

kiruna church, bell tower

we have to dash then, to go pick up our car! a silver vw polo is parked in front of the reception, its number plate reads WUZ 823. i say "i want that one, its name could be WUZ, we wouldn't even have to think of one!" and i'm lucky - wuz is ours for the next 11 days!

i am still the world's greatest co-pilot, of course, which explains that we drive 6 or 7 km without causing an accident. :)

a trip to the supermarket, home-made dinner - and then it begins to rain. by 10pm it's pouring down, there's thunder and lightning as well. and - small world, i discover a mobile home with a number plate from my hometown parked next to our car!

rain, rain, rain - and so we go to sleep.

day 05 photos


free2bme said...

Thank you for this delightful travelogue. Lovely photos and wry commentary. BTW, I found you by technorati-ing (a word?) "Laestadius," as I have a blog for former adherents of that mad Sami at I've been dreaming of a trip to my ancestral land and now your virtual tour has made it a necessity.

michi said...

thank you for your note! :)
and thanks for the link to your own blog, i went and read a bit, and will be back. very interesting.

cheers, michi