Travelogue: Sweden – Stockholm & Kiruna, Swedish Lapland

Moving on to Sweden! It was important we had no delays in reaching the hostel cos we had a dinner reservation at 8.30pm and so it was a challenge to get there in 1.5 hours flat. We landed 10 minutes late and luggage took 7 mins so we made a beeline for the Flygbussarna which is the airport bus to Stockholm city. The journey on average took about 45 mins, and I will recommend to use Flygbussarna cos they have longer operational timings. It is definitely wiser to buy your tickets online prior to save the hassle. Don’t worry, you can do it at the airport, there’s free wifi connection 😉

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Bye Rovaniemi!

We literally speed walked with luggages all the way to Citybackpacker Hostel and then to Rolfs Kök for dinner. Chose Rolfs Kök cos it was mentioned on spottedbylocals and read reviews this place is recommended by locals. The place was pretty crowded even though we reached close to 9pm

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This was taken when everyone had left. ha

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I like the edgy industrial kind of feeling

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Complimentary bread

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Warm salad of crab with brown butter, lemon & crispy onion 175kr

Well, it was not quite what I was expecting. This is literally crab meat on lettuce. I think flavours are generally on the salty side, with not much contrast. All I could think in my mind was, waa, this is bloody salty

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Pork broth with rind noodles, pork frikadeller, yellow foot mushrooms, cabbage & cumin 145kr

It was rather salty when you first taste it, then it slowly dissipates. The noodles were chewy and the pork ball was soft. I would have prefer the pork to be of a firmer texture and more chewy. It was rather strange to me but the friend liked it a lot. Even though she told me to put a disclaimer that she like soup (in general) a lot. Lol

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Scallops with marrow of ox, root vegetables, veal jus & gremolata 295kr

The scallops were well cooked and I like the flavours of the sauce though I will prefer if they use a little bit less salt

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Comes with free mashed potatoes

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Pork confit with cabbage, beer braised onions & roasted garlic 245kr

Beautifully cooked pork with tenderized meat and cracking skin, but the friend says it gets gelat after awhile

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Comes with free fried potatoes

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And cos the friend doesn’t take unknown stuffs, I tried it first. It was rather interesting

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Pancake mille-feuille with coffee, grappa, almond & blood orange 125kr

Millie cake with coffee filling. Nothing outstanding. I think I’ve tried better mille cakes. The blood orange icecream was good though

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For the starters, I see a hint of Asian influence. But for us, I think it was a little ‘trying too hard’ on the take on Asian style. I think Rolfs Kök serve decent mains, so I will advise to skip the starters and go straight to mains and forget the dessert. Perhaps you can have better desserts elsewhere

Rolfs Kök 

Tegnérgatan 41, 111 61 Stockholm, Sweden

We wanted to take pictures of the harbour so we walked towards Gamla Stan, but we ended up couldn’t be able to find a nice picture. So we head back to our hostel and wrapped up the night

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Stockholm Central Station

We stayed at the Citybackpacker hostel for a night. It was a convenient location with a short 10 minutes walk to the central station and everywhere else. But that’s probably it

Peektures of the hostel!

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Living room

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Reception

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Our room

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And other common area

The hostel has a nice interior, though the rooms are really small. It’s good if you really are just sleeping for the night and you don’t care about anything else. Breakfast, bed linens and towels are chargeable and the hair dryer is located outside at the private showers area

Breakfast was at a cafe called Cafe Esaias just cos since we had to pay for breakfast at the hostel, we must as well ventured out and eat elsewhere. It’s a small little cafe located a stone throw away from our hostel and apparently had the best coffee in town

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Bright & sunny

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The cafe is small, cozy but was filled with sunlight

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The smell of coffee and pastries ❤

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Hot Chocolate 40kr

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Cinnamon pastry 35kr (left) Latte 40kr (right)

I actually really like their coffee. It wasn’t acidic but light in taste with a smooth finish

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The cinnamon pastry has a touch too deep of cinnamon taste. It was so strong I think it might be this that caused me to have a negative reaction to cinnamon throughout the trip

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Chocolate croissant 30kr

The croissant was rather normal

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Breakfast!

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It’s a small cafe packed with a good deal of coffee. I’m not too sure about the other food they serve, but I think you can drop by for a cup of coffee if you are in the area

Kafé Esaias

Drottninggatan 102, 111 60 Stockholm, Sweden

We decided to make our way on foot to Gamla Stan next since it was a pretty good weather. Passed by the shopping area that was soon bustling with the morning crowd and also the Parliament House and Royal Palace

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Stockholm Palace

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And we accidentally bumped into the guard changing ceremony at the palace! It was 10am at that time for those who are interested

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So we stood there to watch till it ended

Gamla Stan, or old town, was really quiet (perhaps we were too early) so we just spent time taking in the sights under the bright sunlight (and cold wind)

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Pretty buildings

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This was how strong the wind was #poorplants

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Make our way slowly towards our lunch place which was at the other side, located near the Opera House. This place seems to be pretty famous and recommended for their meatballs so we decided to give it a try. And since we are in Sweden, meatballs are a must!

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And since we were still early and the place only opens at 1130am, we witnessed some kids ice skating at the park nearby

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Opera House

Bakfickan or also known as “The Hip Pocket” is the casual sister of Operakällaren Matsal. The place does not accept reservation and so we promptly queued up at 11.25am. Glad we went early cos the place became a full house at lunch time

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It was a little hard to get their attention

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A generous bread basket

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Lingonberry sauce and pickled cucumbers

Their cucumbers were actually quite yummy

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A huge bowl of potato puree

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Swedish meatballs 195kr

I think we got a heart attack when we did the conversion back to sgd after we ordered

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But at least it was tasty. Firm, moist with good flavours, dressed in homemade lingonberry sauce with a hint of acidity

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Raspberry souffle with dark chocolate sorbet 135kr

I love the perfectly cooked souffle with a crisp outer layer with inside moist, eggy and soft with punchy raspberry flavours, complemented with sweet taste of chocolate

Bakfickan serves both European and Swedish cuisine but do note they close the kitchen early for the Swedish one so if you want to try the meatballs, do go earlier. The friend said the flavours generally tend to be on the heavier side and I do agree but personally, I think the meatballs here are pretty decent and if you are looking for a meatball place, perhaps you can drop by Bakfickan

Bakfickan

Jakobs torg 12, 111 52 Stockholm, Sweden

And then marks our crazy speed walking journey back to hostel to collect our luggages, then to the Central station and off for our flight to Kiruna. This is what happened when you cramp your itinerary. lol

Personally I didn’t really enjoy Stockholm cos it was dark, gloomy and eerily cold. I know it’s winter, but it is even colder than Rovaniemi for some strange reason. When J told me to skip Stockholm cos she heard I was going Scandinavia, I should have listened. I think there are probably more interesting places elsewhere in Sweden to explore but for now, Stockholm is checked and off the list

So few hours later..

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Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the Kiruna airport and yes, it’s just like this

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And the plane stops like this too. They literally just barricade the way it is

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Whoohoo, -10 degrees!

We pre-booked a taxi prior to arrival (300kr for 2 pax, shared cab) to take us to our bed & breakfast cos dragging luggages in the snow is very challenging. And pre booking is necessary cos they have limited taxis in a small town. The cheapest taxi provider is Taxi Kiruna, recommended by our host

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Our pretty b&b! (This was taken the next day)

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Living room downstairs, which we hardly get to use it

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Our room

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The pretty beds

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That comes with a luggage storage room inside our room, big enough to sleep inside

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Shared room next to us

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And the toilet that is so clean & white

We stayed at 68 degrees bed & breakfast owned by a couple. The airbnb is pretty close to town and has nice interior furnishing though they have pretty strict rules to adhere to, like no eating of hot food in the house, no bathing after 12am, keeping the heater below 25 degrees etc (we were freezing during the night). Well, not that the rules are difficult to follow, but we felt like we were in a school with strict discipline masters :/

So anyways, since we cannot eat cup noodles in the house, we made our way to Arctic Thai & Grill, located 20 minutes walk away for dinner. Although we heard it wasn’t a far walk, but walking there in unknown territory at night in howling cold wind with hungry stomach felt like forever..

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And the place looks really dark

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Tom Yum Soup 90kr

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You can choose the level of spiciness and I went for the hottest. Best decision ever. It was freaking spicy but super shiok with milky coconut flavours and generous amount of ingredients

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Green curry chicken with bamboo shoots 85kr

The green curry chicken was pretty good too

Having spicy, hot food in such weather was amazing. There’s even a salad station that you can help yourself too. Nope, I didn’t have any cos they looked strange to me. The time we were there, they were many people who came in for takeaways. I guess there is a certain degree of popularity for this place. The restaurant is located next to Hotel Arctic so in case you were wondering if you are at the right place

Arctic Thai & Grill

Föraregatan 18, 981 34 Kiruna, Sweden

And we made our way back to our b&b so fast it felt like we only took 10 minutes. ha

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Breakfast provided the next morning!

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There’s an egg! =O

I’m not sure about the relation between no hot food but they fried an egg for us for breakfast #soconfusing..

..The egg was hot by the way

Wanted to visit Ice Hotel in the morning which the hosts kindly provided directions and also some other advice to do in the area. We took bus 501 at a bus stop outside the hospital which leaves at either 9am or 1pm. The bus costs 58kr round trip, youth price

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Route to the bus stop

Since there are only 2 timings, if you miss the bus… Then good luck

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What we see on the way

The bus driver will announce when he reached Ice hotel so don’t worry if you don’t know when to alight, and also, possibly cos you won’t be the only one

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The famous Ice Hotel (right) and Ice Bar (left)

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And cabins

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You have to buy tickets to visit the hotel which includes a guided tour in English at 12pm.

Adult 325kr / Youth 200kr. So. Freaking. Expensive

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Entrance to the hotel

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The mould of Ice hotel is made using snow + water which keeps the shape in place. And the ice here is from the river that is located behind the hotel cos it comes in the cleanest and purest form that enables one to see through the ice

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Throne to the Ice Queen #imkidding

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Walkways to the rooms

So we learnt from the tour that the ice hotel invites artists each year to design their rooms and they have themes to adhere to. So some of the themes this year includes Art rooms, Ice rooms, Aurora rooms, etc. The first 2 weeks were the most amusing to watch cos most of the artists have no experience carving ice so it was a mayhem everywhere

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Just some of the more interesting designs

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And the rest of the rooms

Well, I think the ice hotel is cool but honestly it’s not that impressive. The rooms somehow all felt somewhat similar after awhile. I’m surprised they sell out their rooms every year cos it’s rather cold in there. It was so cold just standing there listening to the guide our toes turned numb. I know they provide you with a sleeping bag and reindeer skins for warmth but still, not like you can put a heater in your sleeping bag right. The tickets cover the ice hotel, but you can visit the ice bar and ice church for free so honestly, I personally think it’s not worth it to spend on the entrance fee

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Ice Bar

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The friend says this is totally a scene from Frozen

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Icebar Menu

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And the balcony upstairs

And this is the first time the Ice bar is 2 stories high

Moving on to the Ice church, which stinks by the way

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This year’s theme is Universal, in hoping to create a church for all religion and hence, there is no cross. The friend was like huh?! then how is it called a church? lol

The guide explained the church is used mainly for weddings and baptism for babies, and it’s so popular they have 2-3 weddings per day which doesn’t last more than 15 minutes cos everyone cannot wait to escape from the church which is so cold. And baptism takes place in the ice basin (infront). So initially when they place the water in, the water turns cold in less than 15 minutes and you can hear screaming babies =X

But later on, the priest learned to keep the water in a thermal flask #welldone

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Went on to explore the surroundings

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And this is the lake (that they take the ice from). But well, the snow was so deep we can’t really tell if we were standing on the lake, or near the lake actually

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And we spotted huskies! But I concluded the ones in Rovaniemi were so much cuter

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Had lunch at the restaurant opposite the Ice hotel cos we were famished. It’s buffet style at 155kr per pax

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I think everyone had the same idea as us. And I’m glad the restaurant is not made of ice

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It was a simple buffet spread

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Food was a little overly salty. I felt like my kidneys have to work doubly hard in Sweden, seriously

And well considering we were at a rather inconvenient location, we don’t really have much choices but to dine there

Icehotel Restaurant

Marknadsvägen 63, 981 91 Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
We wanted to visit the old church located 15 minutes walk away from the ice hotel before heading back to town

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So making our way in hasten speed cos we wanted to catch the 2pm bus back, if not the next bus comes at 3.30pm

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There’s a Sami place you can visit just next to the church if you are interested to learn about Sami culture, and of course it’s not free

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The small little church

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Spotted a house next to the church though I don’t really know what it is for but if the snowfall gets any higher, the house probably cannot be seen anymore. lol

And finally making back to town!

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The townhall, which they are moving since they are moving the whole of Kiruna city

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And the famous church

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Probably the only attraction

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Which is actually pretty nice

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The town

The town is very small and we headed to Cafe Safari to chill and get warmth. It felt like there was only one cafe, and the whole town is there

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Mocha, Hot Chocolate & Swedish Tosca Cake 85kr

The classic Swedish caramel almond cake was absolutely delicious. The friend didn’t know what she’s ordering but it turned out a good choice. It was soft, a little creamy and had a good nutty texture with a little sprinkle of cinnamon

Even though there was only one cafe, but they seemed to serve pretty good drinks and desserts. But we got stares from the kids there which made us a little shy (ha). I know they hardly see pretty Asians

Cafe Safari

Geologgatan 4, 981 31 Kiruna, Sweden

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And so this was dinner since we had a northern light photography tour later in the evening and we had to wash up and pack before that

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And we caught a beautiful skyline on the way back 🙂

The tour we joined was Scandinavian Photo Adventures which was highly recommended. Anette from Scandinavian Photo Adventures came to pick us up and collected a few others before we were driven to some location towards Abisko. And she happily informed us it was -26 degrees that night =/

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Briefing before we head off

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They provide you a camera each while you just need to bring your own SD card. I was very happy to see Canon. Tripod is included as well

And here comes the chronicle of catching light. The car dropped us off in absolute middle of nowhere which we had to make our way on foot to no idea where. But it was certainly unforgettable to walk in 40-50cm deep of snow, sank knee-deep, tumbled into snow and falling on the knees repeatedly in order to reach our location, panting, huffing with bags and tripod and watching out for reindeers in the dark. I wanted to cry and give up. If Rovaniemi was bad, this is like a whole new experience

On a positive note, we were very lucky to catch the light once we reached the location cos activity was very low that night with only kp of 2. So we were keeping our fingers crossed

Here’s some wonderful pictures of the aurora!

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Some of the stronger aurora

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Love the contrast of the sky here

And then we moved down to the lake which I am very positive the temperature went down even further

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And then it was gone, forever. lol

The light only lasted for 15-20 minutes before they disappeared completely, so honestly we were really fortunate.  I have to say catching northern light is really not easy. To stand on the frozen lake in -30 degrees through the night with your hair frozen (not kidding) and fingers numb, I’m just very glad we caught it initially. It was so cold everyone retreated to the teepee for warmth after half an hour after which it marks the end of our tour. ha

Personally, I think Scandinavian Photo Adventures is worth the experience since they provide you with all the necessary equipments and advise you how to go about it. I’m sure you will probably have an unforgettable adventure in catching light though the best advice I have is to keep your hair away from your face =/

So by the time we crashed, it was close to 3am and marks the end of our Kiruna trip

Undeniably, Kiruna is freaking cold, especially if you come from a climate like Singapore’s. It was so cold we spent most of the time singing ‘Let it go~’ to distract ourselves. But it is the place to go if you want to catch the lights in Sweden cos I read somewhere it is actually better to catch it in Kiruna than Abisko, and to think we actually wanted to go Abisko initially. When we were there, daylight is pretty short. It may be 2.30pm but it felt like 5pm already. But I think a few days here will suffice since the town is only this big. So for those who planned to go, just keep calm and carry on

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Catching the flight at 7am to Stockholm. Onward to Gothenburg!

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