Abisko & Stockholm
My second and final night in Abisko was unfortunately as foggy as the first. Jun and I went outside in the early morning chasing auroras but had no luck. we did however get to watch a beautiful sunrise before going our separate ways.
When it started getting lighter we headed to the lake. It was so calm and totally quiet.
While we missed the Northern lights during the night the clouds magically lifted for about 20 minutes at daybreak and the effect was magical. The cold night had left a sprinkling of frost in the low areas and everything looked golden when the sun appeared.
Since we’d left the hostel in the night with the goal of seeing the lights I’d only taken one lens (wide angle) with me but luckily Jun was also shooting Canon and lent me his 24-105mm for a few shots (thank you!) – this was the only glimpse I had of Lapporten, and indeed any of the mountains, during my stay at Abisko. I’m sorry the weather wasn’t better but I’m so glad I at least got to see this.
The mist rolled back in while I waited for my lift – the train didn’t coincide with my flight so I looked the private Visit Abisko shuttle to take me to the airport. It does the rounds of all the Abisko accommodation; I was the only one from the Abisko Guesthouse and that was the shuttle’s first stop. It was quite cool to see some more of the area and some of the other hostels.
Back in Kiruna, everything looked so different in just 2 days! Especially the ski slope where I’d seen the lights on the first night.
At the airport I bumped in Duncan from the concert again, he was was also heading to Stockholm before returning home. We took a few last photos of the Kent posters still up around the place before saying goodbye.
At Arlanda I bought a 72hr Stockholm Travel Card, I still don’t know if it would’ve been cheaper just getting metro tickets (probably) but the freedom of just getting on and off any of the city’s public transport gave me great peace of mind.
My trip into Stockholm took a while because I went the long way around, via Märsta, and had a mild nervous breakdown at the Central Station. After the isolation of the North the crush of the crowd at Centralen was almost my undoing. I don’t get claustrophobic, but the strangeness and speed of it all was very overwhelming and I had to stand on the side watching for a while before I could head into the Tunnelbana properly.
And when I got on the train it took me 4 stops to realise I was going in the wrong direction…so I got off and walked to the other side of the tracks and onto the other train. The whole process (from taking the wrong train to the 4 stops to the right train) took like 20 seconds. The speed blew my mind. I know it’s a super mundane thing but I’d never been on anything like a metro train before and it was all very new to me.
My hostel in Gamla Stan was super close to the metro so that was good. I made my way to the Archipelago hostel (which was an odd place overall but in a great location) and settled in till nightfall when I went out to explore a bit.
So many souvenir shops – though they were all closed by the time I walked around, I quickly learned that Gamla Stan is 90% tourist/souvenir shops. Must say I liked the souvenirs on the whole though, and having every second shop selling the same stuff made it easy to shop around and get good prices when I did so the next day.
I rounded a corner and came face to face with the Palace. Exactly as I arrived it went 8pm and soon the sound of the chiming clock was replaced by marching feet and barked orders as I witnessed the changing of the guards. I was literally the only person there, watching them – I know the ceremony would have gone on unchanged without a single spectator but still it felt so strange, like I was watching something I shouldn’t have been, or getting a private show, I’m not sure which.
Some areas were quite busy and in others there were only a few people around and in restaurants; it was a chilly night and for the most part I had the feeling of having the streets all to myself. It was amazing and quite eerie.
Because I’m an antisocial and thrifty traveler, I didn’t go to any bars or restaurants but bought some cheap local beer in the grocery store on the way back to the hostel and got tipsy in my bed instead – it was great!