Day 31 – off the sleeper and into the Arctic

Stockholm Central – Boden C – Narvik

There is definitely something magical about a sleeper. I turned the lights off and watched the view out of the window for a while. It was a cloudy night so as we got further north and the route became more remote I soon couldn’t see anything at all, barring the occasional house or small town. I closed the curtain and settled down.

The bed is comfortable, and the journey was smooth and steady, but I’m a dreadful sleeper at the best of times, so dozed rather than sleeping for much of the night. That said, I was woken by my alarm, which I’d set for a very lazy 8:15.

The train was just leaving Jörn as I peeked outside. The photo is perhaps a little more dramatic than the reality, as it points at the sun, but it gives a feel of the area.

First look out of the window, at Jörn
First look out of the window, at Jörn

My cabin had an en-suite shower. I did wonder if the tepid water was a trick to make sure that people didn’t stay in there too long! I dressed more warmly than previous days as we were quite a way north now, and headed for the restaurant car.

It was a little busier than the night before but there were more tables than people. A few were eating picnics they had brought with them. I settled on something from the buffet, including a fairly decent cup of tea, so all was well in the world.

Sleeper train breakfast
Sleeper train breakfast

I left the train around 10am at Boden. It continued a little further to Luleå, but I had a half hour connection to Narvik. So much for dressing warmly to stand on the platform – I barely needed a coat.

From here you are in touching distance of the Arctic Circle. This photo was taken through the rear window of the train fairly close to the invisible line that was crossed with no fuss at all around midday next to a place (by which I mean a couple of houses) called Polcirkeln.

The Arctic scenery is predictably stunning. The thing that got me was the scale of it all. You go through miles of open wilderness. No obvious sign of farming, enclosures, animals or indeed development of any kind beyond the railway boundary. Occasionally you see a road. Mostly you see huge open spaces, or natural woodland that is either conifer or silver birch.

It was a bit of a surprise to arrive in a large town, Kiruna where the iron ore mines dominate the landscape and have recently extended to the point where it has been decided that the town is going to be moved, partly because of subsidence, but also so that they can dig where it is now.

We changed direction here, and like many people, I stepped off the train to stretch my legs, finally setting foot into the Arctic – without a coat!

Five hours on a fairly basic train is quite a lot. That said we were well looked after, despite there only being two carriages, there was a buffet with hot and cold food – that turned out to be very tasty.

As we got closer to Narvik, I’m not sure if we climbed higher or the clouds got lower, but we spent some time in fog before crossing the border into Norway (in the middle of a tunnel, where the relevant flags are painted onto the wall.)

As we started our descent to the coast, the views opened out and were quite spectacular. We were a little late into our destination but I’d made it all the way to the most northerly station in Europe.

This far north it is already light until well after 9pm, so I dropped my bags at the hotel – which had a great view of this tiny city – and went for a wander.

I had dinner at a restaurant recommended by the hotel I as staying at. I decided to pass on the whale (a delicacy in these parts) but very much enjoyed the reindeer-based bourgignon.

When I got back to my room, I spent a while looking out of the window as it got darker, hoping for a glimpse of the Northern Lights, but the cloud was way too thick, so it was never going to happen.

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1 Comment

  1. Celia Lyon

    Ok, so another trip for my To Do list!! Looks brilliant.

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