I BBM'ed Sayalee. Yoohoo - our visa for Sweden had come through and we were all set to make our first trip to Scandinavia. 5th September to 12th September 2011 were destined to be super-fun filled days!
|Autumn in Swed|
Qatar Airways was our preferred carrier for this trip (the cheapest one for this sector :P). Journey to Doha from Dubai was uneventful. 2 hr stopover at Doha Airport made us enter the duty free shop. We found a cool backpack for Anvesh and some Arabic nankataai for Ananth & Pritesh - our hosts in Stockholm. Can't forget Anvesh - their 10 month old son :-)
Kaande pohe made by Pritesh made our afternoon snack; while a super meal of corn-cheese parathas in the dinner completed the day. Non-stop chattering in between as you would've already guessed :-)
We took the morning flight to Kiruna (Northern-most airport in Sweden) for a 4 night stay in that region (Abisko, Riksgransen and Kiruna).
It took about 90 minutes for us to reach Abisko. Abisko is a very small village and has hardly any establishments around. There exists a national park as well in Abisko; however we were a bit disappointed as it was hardly anything compared to sizes of national parks in India. Our hostel - Abisko Turiststation Hostel - was run by STF (Svenska Turist Foreningen - a body run by Swedish Government to manage their hostels in the country). STF also carries out pre-scheduled activities such as hiking, fishing, camping at most of its hostels for tourists. It was an easy check-in as we had already pre-booked our stay there.
The room allocated to us had a bunk bed and only basic facilities. Shared kitchen was available as well as there was a small store that had frozen food and quick bites for sale. The in-house restaurant, we thought, was quite expensive with regard to food served. Maybe we are too used to the food prices in Dubai......!
A late evening walk in the national park right upto the Vasijaure (name of a lake) rounded off our day. Not to forget - Sayalee was able to capture rainbow over Vasijaure in her camera just before our walk.
After a heavy breakfast, we went to Panorama cafe which is set at an elevation of 900 metres on Mount Njoula. It was very windy to go up in the chair-lift, but we took the chance. Trust me on this, the views from Panorama Cafe are simply breathtaking. After spending an hour there, we got back to the base station by chair-lift. Winds were literally toying with our chair!
Yes - second half of our day was going to be spent in a small town called Narvik in Norway. We had not really planned for it in advance; however with the local information available, we decided to visit Narvik and come back to our hostel in Abisko at night.
The journey to Narvik in the bus was extremely picturesque and it took about 90 minutes to reach Narvik. Narvik is a sleepy town which gained importance because of the iron mines there. Rail track was laid between Narvik and Kiruna for transportation of iron ore in 1903; that's more than 100 years ago!
One thing that we noticed in Narvik was almost all households had flower beds. What supreme colors!!!
After a coffee break, we headed back to train station to catch the last train to Abisko. Chicken tikka masala + rice felt heaven at Abisko hostel's shared kitchen for dinner. Don't get confused; we just cooked the frozen food that we had bought :-)
After a heavy breakfast (again!), we checked out from our Abisko hostel to go to a place called Riksgransen. The train journey was hardly 30 minutes from Abisko. After reaching to our hostel in Riksgransen, we got to know that this place is normally 'in-season' during winters but not in autumn. Hence, there were hardly any tourists around. And more importantly, no restaurants were open :/ Shared kitchen was available; though there wasn't any store around to buy frozen food.
Only thing possible to do in Riksgransen was to go on a trail. And we did the same!
We set off in the afternoon towards Katterjakk where we there was a store to buy some frozen food. After a nice 40 minutes of walk, we reached Katterjakk and yes, there was a store indeed :-) There was a cafe too! With some light evening snacks and coffee, we were back on our foot to reach our hostel. This time we decided to get adventurous and took a trail going right through the middle of forest. Reminded me of my himalayan hiking ventures....
After a couple of detours, we reached our hostel in Riksgransen. There was still some sunlight outside. Mind you time was 8.30 pm. We again decided to go for a walk - this time in the opposite direction of Katterjakk. After just 10 minutes of walk, we reached at Norway border... :-) There's only a small toll-booth there at the border but no patrolling as such.
We checked out from Riksgransen hostel in the morning and took a train to back to Kiruna. Though we had landed in Kiruna from Stockholm, we had not got any time to see the place. Kiruna is again a small town with iron mines in the vicinity.
Our place of stay in Kiruna (Hotel Vinterpalatset) looked like a bungalow but now converted in a hotel. Room was neat and clean. We stepped out immediately after dumping our bags in the hotel to roam around. Kiruna centrum has some nice shops offering goods made of reindeer skin. We bought some souvenirs and t-shirts from the market. Unfortunately the tour for iron mine visit in Kiruna was not available on that day. For dinner, we tried to have authentic Swedish fish preparation at one of the recommended restaurants. However, it didn't go too well with our taste buds :-(
This was the end of our journey in Northern part of Sweden. We took an early morning flight to reach Stockholm. Reaching to Ananth's place from Arlanda was much easy this time. Plan was to visit amusement park at Grona Lund in Stockholm. Stockholm city is actually a group of 14 islands and Grona Lund is one of them.All these 14 islands are connected by bridges; so traveling isn't an issue. Ferries also ply between some of the islands.
All of us could experience some of the wildest rides in this amusement park. It had 'Free-fall' as well. Was scary but also fun :-)
We ended the day with amazing bread-pudding cooked by Pritesh in dinner. Yummy it was!!
This was our penultimate day in Sweden. Ananth and Pritesh took us to Centralen area where we had a foodie time in having Spanish Paella, Dutch Pancakes, Polish Samosas (Yeah, something of that sort :P).
After pet-pooja, we reached Vasa Museum. Vasa was a huge wooden ship that sank near Stockholm in 1628 in its maiden voyage due to its faulty design. 300+ years later the ship was found by a research team and then it was pulled up. The wood had not deteriorated completely as Vasa had not entered deep sea waters when it sank. The museum literally houses the ship and things found on the ship and is temperature controlled. This is probably the only ship which has been pulled up and kept in a museum.
Next on our list was Gamla stan (another island which houses the old town area). We could buy some great quality Swedish crystal creations in Gamla Stan; one of them having Lord Ganesha etched on it.
Homemade cheesecakes made by Pritesh rounded off our day 7 in Sweden.
Our last day in Sweden :-( But we had had a wonderful time in Sweden; special vote of thanks to Ananth, Pritesh and also chhotu Anvesh who has become very friendly with Sayalee masi :-)
We reached Arlanda to catch our return flight to Dubai via Doha. Our first visit to Scandinavia had come to an end, but we know that there are a lot of places and sights yet to be seen in that region and hence at least one more visit is essential. Next time we will plan it sometime in winters so that we get to experience -
a. Icehotel - built completely with ice every year with new design
b. Northern lights
c. Hike from Finland to Sweden to Norway that includes walking over frozen lakes
After a journey of about 9 hours, we were back in Dubai but obviously with plans for our next trip running in minds ;-)
That's it from our side folks! Hope you liked this travelogue. Do let us know your comments and suggestions for next destination as well :-)
Sayalee and Jaydeep
[ PS : Pictures @ https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150801116360244.730189.850620243 ]