Europe Sweden

A Night in the IceHotel

The Icehotel was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had!  We flew up in the morning to stay there for a single night.  The airport is tiny, with one runway surrounded by snow and ice.

Once we had transferred to the hotel itself, we checked in and started exploring.  We were spending a night in one of the ice rooms, although it’s possible to stay longer and spend nights in warm rooms as well.  They have cabins and a main lodge, as well as two separate ice structures.  During the day, all the ice rooms are open to the public so that everyone can see the incredible snow and ice sculptures.

There’s a portion that’s “IceHotel 365,” which is ice rooms inside a building that are available year round and the Ice Bar.  Then there’s another ice structure that’s just available during the winter.  They build it in October or November and then it melts down in April.  For this one, they invite anyone to submit ideas for rooms, regardless of whether they’re artists or have ever worked with snow or ice before.  From the submissions, they pick the best and invite those people up there to design the rooms.  They change every year in what’s essentially a temporary museum of ice, which is so cool!  We stayed in a standard room, not an art room, but I think I’d like to come back and splurge for one of the art ones.

After we were done looking through rooms, we borrowed some snow suits from the hotel so that we could walk around.  They let us borrow boots, mittens, hats, and full body zip up snow suits, which kept us nice and warm.  It wasn’t as cold as I expected – I think the temperatures were around 15 degrees for most of the time we were there.

There are tons of activities available up there as well.  We saw people go by on a dog sled, which is still one of my bucket list goals, but there are options to bobsled, take a reindeer-drawn sleigh, ride on horseback, and try to see the Northern Lights.  Although we’d hoped we might see them while we were there, it started snowing shortly after the sun set.  We didn’t do any of the activities since we weren’t there for long, but I’d love to go back and try some of these out.

We had a late dinner reservation, so we went to the Ice Bar beforehand for a drink.  It’s been a dream of mine to go to an ice bar for a long time.  Sarah and I tried to go to one in Helsinki, but it had closed down.  It was worth waiting for, though, because I got to drink out of an ice glass and it was amazing.  We talked around our ice table until it was time to go to our dinner reservation.

Dinner was at the cheaper of the two options, which was about a 20 minute walk from the hotel itself down the only road in Kiruna.  We initially passed it and had to backtrack, since it was in a section that looked residential.  We had a great meal over candlelight and enjoyed our last night traveling together, since the next morning I had an early flight to Rome and Anna and Laurel were heading to Copenhagen.

Once dinner was over, we headed back to our room.  They had given us orientation earlier.  We got down to our base layers, locked everything into our locker, and took heavy sleeping bags into our room to zip ourselves up for the night.  In the sleeping bag, I felt pretty toasty.  Because the room itself is so cold, they don’t recommend bringing in electronics, so they do wakeup calls for everyone.  Since my flight was so early, I slept fairly poorly and got anxious, imagining I would miss my flight, so I ended up going back to the lodge earlier than I needed to and getting coffee and breakfast.  I had arranged a transfer back to the airport, and when I got there, I don’t think there were any other passengers there.  I had a flight to Stockholm and then a second flight from Stockholm to Rome, which was a long day of travel!  But it was so worth it to get up to the IceHotel – it was an otherworldly experience, and I want to go back someday.

Europe Sweden

Stockholm: Viking Ships and Singing Along to ABBA

I sometimes think about what it would be like if I had gone to DIS Stockholm instead of Copenhagen.  It wasn’t an option when I was applying for study abroad, but it was opened right after, and they had a Forensic Psychology class so I likely would have considered it.  Anyway.  I liked Stockholm, it was very nice.

We visited the Stockholm public library, which I had seen on some sort of social media on a list of cool libraries.  We tried a couple cafés that Anna and Laurel had found as well.  My favorite place we tried was a place on Gamla Stan that was down in a basement.  There were candles lining the stairs, and it was so cozy.  Anna and I also had wine at a swanky bar near our hostel, which was nice.  It was good to catch up with her, since she’s currently living in Scotland.

We also explored the main shopping street and visited the island where all the museums are.  The first one we went to was the Vasa Museum, which is where they excavated a Viking ship and reassembled it in the museum.  It was massive, with intricate carvings on the bow.  There were a number of exhibits on what life was like in that era, and they even had skeletons they recovered from the wreck that told them more about the types of people on the ship.  It was pretty incredible.

From there, we went through a park, which was covered in snow and ice, and worked our way over to the ABBA Museum.  We had a fantastic time there.  It started with a room full of guitars from famous musicians, where Anna and Laurel played several rounds of Guitar Hero.  Then we went into the ABBA portion, which started with a hype video.  I think whoever edited the video was on acid mixed with cocaine, because it was very fast-paced clips of various ABBA music videos, but I did leave it wanting to go watch all of their old music videos.  The museum was interactive, so there were areas where we could sing in a mock sound booth and pretend to mix the audio for their tracks.  The best part was the one where you can take a selfie and then it photoshops your head on their body, and then you dance around and it makes it look as though you are dancing around on the screen in an ABBA costume.  The program didn’t work that well, and we ended up laughing so hard we were all in tears by the end of it.  It was amazing.

From there, we took a ferry back to Gamla Stan and spent some more time wandering the narrow streets.  It’s a beautiful area, and it was a nice place to end our time in Stockholm.  We had a casual night drinking wine and eating dinner back at our hostel before heading up to Kiruna.

Europe Sweden

Uppsala: Viking Burial Mounds and Circus-themed Dining

I recently got back from a two week trip to Europe!  Sweden was the first stop, where I met up with a few of my friends from high school.  The flight to Europe went smoothly, and I ended up running into Anna in the airport in Amsterdam.  For our first whole day in Sweden, we headed out to Uppsala, which is a town about 40 minutes outside of Stockholm.

Our first stop was Gamla Uppsala, which is a site of Viking burial mounds.  We took a bus outside of town and started at the museum, where we learned about the lifestyle of Vikings.  Apparently, it was used as early as the 3rd and 4th centuries, and every 9 years the Vikings used to sacrifice people in this area.  We walked out to the burial mounds themselves and climbed most of the way up them until it got too icy to keep going.

From there, we took the bus back to town and wandered around Uppsala, stopping at the cathedral and walking around the entire city center.  We stopped for dinner at a circus-themed app-based tapas restaurant, which was a strange dining experience.  When we walked in, they made sure that we had downloaded the app and then gave us popcorn at the table before leaving us alone to use the app for the rest of dinner.  It was rather nice.  Afterward, we walked back through the city to try to find the perfect picture angle that Anna had found online before heading back to Stockholm for the evening.  Overall, it was a great day trip from Stockholm, and I would recommend visiting!

Europe Study Abroad Sweden

Malmö: Wandering in the Rain

As part of my process of saying goodbye to the wonderful people I’ve met here, I spent my second to last day in Europe on a day trip to Sweden with Courtney and Amy!  My other friend from my core course, Joey, couldn’t go with us, but he at least came to meet us for hot chocolate in the morning.

Malmö is similar to Copenhagen, which is unsurprising given its proximity.  It’s only half an hour away by train.  We walked down the main street (Strotoget, as opposed to Copenhagen’s Strøget) and went in some shops and enjoyed the Scandinavian atmosphere.  If you’re in Malmö, I recommend the science fiction bookstore!

I have one full day left here.  I can’t believe it’s almost over!