The day of the concert had arrived and I was super excited. I had some admin to attend to before then (namely buying my train ticket to Abisko) so took a walk to the train station. But as with almost everything in Kiruna, this simple task turned out to be truly bizarre.
Kiruna’s current train station is apparently temporary; it’s about 1.5km away from the old Central station and so is fairly isolated on the outskirts of town. I didn’t know any of this at the time, but it kind of explains my confusing and frustrating experience with the place.
…But the walk was pleasant enough.
Again, Kiruna’s not the prettiest town…I found the design of the Sami Culture Centre particularly uninspiring.
Trains carrying ore to Narvik came by frequently, but apart from that there was nothing and no-one around at the station. I’d expected to buy my ticket to Abisko there but the place was deserted.
Once inside the only other person turned out to be an Australian tourist. He tentatively asked me (in English) if I was a local and knew how the place worked. We chatted for a bit and he explained how he’d missed the train he’d intended to catch and the next one wasn’t for like 6 hours. He’d also expected to buy a ticket (also to Abisko) at the station and hadn’t found anyone around to ask for help. He also didn’t have internet access on his phone.
We walked around the place, but there was nothing resembling a ticket machine or any info on how you were supposed to acquire tickets. A noise made us jump more than it should have (the place was pretty spooky in its deserted state) and two elderly cleaning ladies appeared up the stairs. I assured the Australian I could speak some Swedish and would ask them for help. The one literally shrugged and said something along the lines of ‘I just work here’ by way of explanation/apology. The other said you had to use the internet, that was the only way to buy a ticket.
A car arrived and ferried them away and the Aussie and I were once more all alone.
We took a walk around outside towards the freight building opposite the road. Some men in overalls appeared and we repeated the questions. The one was sure you could buy tickets on the train. The other agreed with the old lady that it had to be done online/by phone. Both suggested we go to the tourist centre in town.
I explained all this to Aussie Guy and said I had to head into town and would try the tourist centre. He decided to take his chances and stay at the station. We wished each other well…I never saw him in Abisko and wonder sometimes if he ever managed to leave Kiruna.
Back in town I went straight to the tourist centre. There was lots of cool stuff on display, if I’d had more time I’d’ve liked to have checked more of it out. The town model was pretty interesting though, and showed the scale of the relocations and the mine.
At the information desk a friendly lady explained that you could only get tickets via the website and gave me the wifi password. I sat and struggled with this for a very stupid reason – the website refused to accept my credit card. I tried several times with mounting panic and each time it gave me an error right after I confirmed all my details.
I didn’t know this at the time, but later found out from my cousins (who had been living in Stockholm for a few months) that you need a Swedish card/bank account to buy stuff online in Sweden. I haven’t been able to confirm this but what the hell kind of system is that?! I was able to prebook all my flights, accommodation and other train tickets well in advance from home with no issues, and the whole thing made no sense to me. In fact the only reason I hadn’t booked my Abisko ticket from home was because I’d heard about a thing called the Arctic Circle Pass and was keen to get that rather….but it turns out you can only get that in person, in Stockholm…none of it made any sense.
Anyway, by this point I was frantically whatsapping my mom back home and explaining it all to her (hooray for matching timezones) and trying to walk her through the booking process remotely. She was having no luck either.
Meanwhile I overheard a conversation from the info desk – someone else was having the same trouble I was. I eavesdropped a bit and heard the info desk lady offer to buy the tickets with the company card in exchange for cash. With this ray of hope I frantically typed to my mom (who was now on the phone to the bank and raging that nothing was working) to wait, and that someone was going to help me.
I frantically interrupted the help desk lady and the Korean tourist and told them I had the same issue and begged for the same solution. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without that lady, she bought the tickets and printed them out and was so helpful.
Meanwhile the sun was setting; I ran back to the hostel and then headed back to the centrum to wait for the bus to the concert, grateful the train ticket saga was finally over.
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