Scandinavia (2021): From Thuringia to the North Cape and back

Welcome to Sweden?

In distant galaxies

Even when we crossed the border into Sweden, the rain didn’t stop. There were also countless potholes that we had to avoid again and again. Our first stop in Sweden was the Esrange Space Center in Kiruna. Balloons and rockets are launched from here, and space is actively researched. The area itself is well protected and entry is strictly forbidden, but there is a small visitor center right next to it, which you can also visit completely free of charge. There are also some rockets on display around the visitor center. In the reception area there are books for children as well as specialist literature. There was also free coffee, tea and biscuits. You can make yourself comfortable here with a book about our universe and a warm cup of coffee in a specially designed seating area and dive into distant galaxies. The actual exhibition in the visitor center is quite small, but still very informative with numerous measuring instruments on display, rockets and an informational film on a continuous loop. The whole thing is rather remote even for this region, but if you are in the area with a car, you have an exciting and instructive visit here.

Lots of chaos

Arguably the biggest attraction in Kiruna is the Ice Hotel. The name says it all: It is a hotel made entirely of ice. The entrance to the hotel alone costs a proud 30€ per person and we don’t even want to start with how much the rooms cost there (if you even want to sleep on ice). Nevertheless, we wanted to at least look at it from the outside, which was really very unspectacular. Due to the strong isolation you could see almost nothing. It was only when people who were actually willing to pay the price entered or exited that we could see something as the entrance opened a crack. Visibly unimpressed (the weather hadn’t improved either) we continued to downtown Kiruna.

Of all the cities we saw on this trip, Kiruna was probably the most boring. The buildings were just dull blocks and you hardly saw any people on the streets. There wasn’t anything that caught the eye negatively, but there wasn’t anything that was nice either. The only exception was the town’s old wooden church, which we couldn’t visit because a funeral mass was being held there. Sobered up (and wet from the rain, as always), we sat down in a café in a shopping center and used the WiFi to plan the next few days in more detail. Here in Sweden we had another problem that we hadn’t had anywhere else in this form: We had absolutely no cell phone reception. Neither telephony nor mobile data worked. In a forum I read that older frequencies are used in northern Sweden, which are no longer supported by our German SIM cards, but I have not been able to research further whether this is true. As if that wasn’t enough, another piece of bad news came straight away: we actually wanted to go to Älgens Hus moose park in Bjurnholm. This was to become one of our main attractions in Sweden and we used it throughout our route across the country. However, I was shocked to read in the small print on the website that the park is not open at all in summer. So that’s it for the main attraction and our planned route. After some research we discovered that there is another moose park in Sweden, Moose Garden, which is actually rarely open at this time of year but is said to have a moose walk on Sundays. The catch was that of course it was somewhere completely different from Älgen Hus. So we spent the next good half hour replanning our entire route for the next few days so that we can join the moose walk on Sunday.

No network and no water, but at least a roof over your head

The next chaos was not long in coming, because we still didn’t have a campsite for our first night in Sweden. After a short online research, we found ourselves in the reception of a much too expensive hotel, which had claimed to be a campsite online. We didn’t even look at the price list, but turned on our heels and headed for the next campsite, which was, however, fully booked. Slightly desperate, we got back in the car and headed for the next campsite. Theoretically, the right of public access also applies in Sweden, so you can camp anywhere, but we didn’t want to do without a shower and WiFi (we still didn’t have a network). If we had known how the search for accommodation would turn out for us, wild camping would probably have been a better option.

The next campsite was a mixture of motorway service area and campsite. After looking for so long, we decided to take a hut straight away. Despite everything, the first impression was quite good: the lady at the reception was quite friendly and could even speak German really well. We became slightly skeptical when we saw where the huts were. They were about a 10 minute walk from reception, while the showers, kitchen and everything else was right next to reception. We decided to drop our stuff at the cabin and just drive the car back to reception to prepare our dinner and take a shower. Since the campsite wasn’t in a good location and it was the off-season anyway, we had the entire kitchen and adjoining showers to ourselves. Especially the latter was good because you didn’t have much privacy. They were more like showers found in sports locker rooms, and there was no separation of men’s and women’s showers. We therefore placed our things demonstratively in front of the entrance to the showers, so that it was obvious that someone was taking a shower. Our plan worked, because no one entered the showers, but they did enter the service house in which the showers, toilets and kitchen were located. When we came out, we met a woman who put notes on all the faucets telling them not to use them. Behind us she also locked the entire sanitary area. As it turned out, people had accidentally blocked the toilets in the neighboring parking lot, a rest area with toilets that apparently also belonged to the same people as our campsite. Every time we turned on the water at our house, the toilets overflowed, but it was now too late at night for anyone to fix it that day. So the sanitary facilities were closed instead and the water was turned off. We were really lucky that we had managed to take a shower beforehand. When I asked about a working toilet, the lady only replied that there was a privy in the forest next to our hut. Since I, as a woman, didn’t want to walk through the forest next to a motorway service area late at night and even Kevin didn’t feel like it at all, I had to hold on until the next day.

Back at our hut we noticed that a group of Finns had taken up residence in the neighboring hut. While they were blocking our parking lot with one of their cars (I then asked them to move, which luckily they did without any objection), one of them just peed on the wall of their own hut. We barricaded ourselves in our hut and set the alarm for 5:00 am to leave as soon as possible. Since the distance between the hut and reception with the WiFi router was of course significantly greater than the range of the router in question, we were now without sanitary facilities and without a network. If we had known earlier…

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