As a restless soul, this time my studies brought me to Kiruna. A remote place in Swedish Lapland, in the middle of the woods and too far away from anything I am used to as a city guy. This is all part of my Erasmus Mundus project. I have to say I would have liked writing some more and there are no excuses, but writing something every now and then is better than nothing.
In the middle of February, after very intense months in Würzburg (Germany) time to move to Kiruna arrived and I had no better way to move that by train. So I could be sure I could bring as much as a I wanted and make some stops on the way. At the end I realised that by coming by train I also had the chance to really feel how far away I was going and have a glance of that is between my new life and what I knew so far.
The 14 hours train ride between Stockholm and Kiruna is something I can’t recommend more. I’ve taken it three times so far. I always had a bunk bed compartment, which made the trip pleasant and for just a few extra euros.
Kiruna was going to be the climax of the whole program: experiencing very long and harsh winter with short days and not much more around than snow and ice covering the landscape. Still, it is one of the places where you thing that if you can make it there for some time, you can do it anywhere else for the rest of your life.
When I arrived, alone and by my own means, temperature was minus twenty-something, the Sun would set at 15.30h but I could not be happier to be here. The campus is very far away from town but a very welcoming atmosphere. After the excitement of the first days, the lack of Sun hours and feeling of loneliness stroke me but that meant it was also time to take some action. So I bought myself a pair of second-hand skis and started regularly going to head to the slopes, spending the afternoons remastering my skiing skills I took from Austria during my first years abroad (by abroad I mean away from my parents house).
Until now, unless since I’m more aware about these things, I’ve lived places with some much history and background that it seemed they have always been there and even the small villages I grew up in, had a connection with their surroundings. Kiruna itself is a miners village with around 100 years history, and the people didn’t move here because it was fun, but because the biggest iron ore mine on Earth was found. Today, many industries around the world are supplied with Kiruna’s iron! For this reason, it is enjoyable that when you walk a couple of meters away from the city centre, which constantly resembles a Christmas postcard, you find yourself surrounded by nothing but silence and nature.
The highlight from Kiruna has been having the chance to spot the northern lights. Unfortunately I don’t have much material with them, but no picture can express the connection with the universe I felt for the minutes the events were happening. To see auroras, many things must happen: high Kp level due to solar activity, dark and clear sky, no city light around and you must have lots of patience to wait in the cold for the moment the sky turns green with dazzling blue and lilac dancing lights. During the dark months, every week there would be like three chances to spot them.
This is definitely not a place to be alone and my house/classmates made an important contribution to my mental and emotional balance. The biggest challenge? Learning to do and teach things to myself while being at home. It was a challenge, taking into account that back in Spain I barely spend at home the required time to sleep and cook and my calendar is fully packed of events.
Second biggest challenge? I (used to) feel disappointed when grocery shopping. For obvious reasons there’s not much choice, even in the two big supermarkets. Though I’ve tried my best to eat something different every week, I can’t wait for the Summer break and taste again fresh fruits and veggies from the local market as well as tasty and not over expensive meat and fish.
Now Winter is gone, snow melted, thick jackets and thermal tights are not needed anymore. We went from long nights to endless days, where somethings getting some sleep is hard, but gives space to enjoyable outdoor evenings with friends that make you think the time is not running and life is going to last for ever.
This is just what happened in four months. I’ looking forward for next semester, when I’ll experience the famous polar night and lots of new experiences, life lessons and new friends will come along. At the moment I have to live with some final assignments and exams before the super promising Summer, with Spain as my checkpoint.