Lapland 2014: Narvik

Another point to Sweden: the lovely light fresh bread I bought at lunchtime yesterday was still lovely and light and fresh at lunchtime today, which is more than I can say for the slice of bread I ended up borrowing from breakfast. I have double windows here, the inner one opens, the outer doesn’t. It’s a fridge for my cheese! And very nice the cheese was with my assorted breads.

Two more points in Sweden’s favour: 1) The town of Gällivare, the last big town before Kiruna, is pronounced Jellyvahray 2) Kiruna is covered in powdery or crunchy snow. Narvik is slightly warmer, so it’s partly melted,leaving a glassy coating of very slippery ice everywhere.

I woke up this morning to blue sky, sunshine and white mountains out of every window. I took the tablet to breakfast so I could update this blog while eating and enjoying the view and then flew straight across the road to the gondola.

I suspected I’d probably want to go up the mountain but I hadn’t realised it was right across the road. The tickets are actually sold at the ski school just up the hill rather than at the station but I could manage that. The gondolas come in trios and I was advised to go in the last one for the best view.

Yes, the view. Narvik sits on the edge of a fjord ringed with white mountains. Dark blue fjord, blue sky, white mountains – definitely up in the Arctic Circle, so much prettier than Kiruna, although to be fair, maybe it’s prettier in the sun too.

I took about a thousand photos of the view. I thought it wasn’t very popular for skiing because Narvik itself is a bit of a utilitarian industrial city rather than a picture-perfect village. It turns out I’d simply got up there half an hour before most of the skiers started to turn up. It still wasn’t Mayrhofen-busy but there were definitely quite a few people up there and a surprising number on foot, just enjoying the view.

After a while I got cold and they’d opened the restaurant so I went in for a cookie and a cup of hot chocolate – getting warm and enjoying the view from massive windows both at the same time!

After two and a half hours of enjoying the view, I decided it was time to descend. I was freezing and I’d seen the view from every angle possible and besides, I planned to come up later to see if the Northern Lights would come out to play over this amazing setting. The only ugly bit of the view was the port – owned and run by LKAB, the Swedish company that owns and runs the mine in Kiruna. That’s no mere coincidence. Narvik is nice and close to Kiruna and provides an ice-free port to export the iron ore. I came here because it’s quickly and easily (in theory) linked to Kiruna which is becuase of the railway bringing the ore to the port.

I spent most of the afternoon eating and sleeping – well, by the time I’d arrived and calmed down and got to bed last night, it was a bit late and I planned to be out in the evening. I sat in reception, using the wifi (it’s a fairly major flaw, as far as I’m concerned, having an entire corridor out of wifi reach), watching the sun set and turn the mountain pink. I’ve never yet managed to get a good photo of a sunsetty snowy mountain.

I happen to be here during the Narvik Winter Festival and according to the website – and the lady at reception agrees – the gondola should be open until 11pm. I don’t plan to stay up there that late, not least for fear of being trapped up there overnight but maybe go up at 9 and see if any lights come out.

There were no lights. My gondola got stuck just outside the top station, so the operator had to force open the doors and let me out onto the snowdrift leading up to the station. It was bitterly cold and there was a breeze round the side of the station. I stuck to the platform out the back, took long-exposure photos of the view and the full moon (I think most of them are very blurry), got utterly frozen and fairly quickly came back down, whereupon it took an.extremely hot shower for me to stop feeling like a human icicle.

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