Exactly three years ago we were in Sweden. When we came home I wrote a post about the first part of our adventure (which included being lost in the wilderness after dark on a snowmobile, beautiful ice sculptures and making house-sized hearts in the snow, you can read about it here), but by the time I came to write the second bit a week later, I found that I somehow couldn't do it; the months beforehand had been so stressful that after the relief of such an incredible holiday I just wanted to pick myself up and carry on without looking back.
However, it's an adventure that we talk about often - images from it float into my mind frequently and so, when I stumbled across some photos of it earlier today, and realised that freakily they had been taken exactly three years earlier, it felt like a good time to finally do the Part B blog post that I'd always intended to do.
I mentioned in the original post that we'd stayed at the Ice Hotel for a few days. It's hard to capture what it's actually like in photographs: quite how skillful the artwork that has gone into every room is; how every single element of it really is made entirely from ice; how enormous it is; how incredibly beautiful. This is the central atrium. On the end wall, there's a kind of futuristic alter with a chandelier made entirely from ice hanging above it.
Each bedroom has its own theme, each created by different artists.
I love this one where polar bears would overlook a sleeping couple. The bed is entirely made from ice, the only exception being the animal skins that are draped over them, which are essential, being both waterproof and warm. It's perfectly possible to stay for the night in the actual ice hotel, but we stayed in one their 'warm rooms' instead (simply because my daughter had looked utterly distressed at the idea of sleeping on an animal hide - we're vegetarian, so proper animal skins felt a little too 'real' to her - and we didn't want to risk having to decamp in the middle of the night).
The food was amazing. Warm lingonberry juice (and actually Lingonberry Crumble even more so) goes into my top ten favourite comestibles. This is an internal window in the breakfast rooms. I love how you can see such different wallpapers.
A few days later we went up to Abisko National Park. We stayed at the Abisko Turistation, which was possibly one of the strangest places I've ever been - part youth hostel, part halls of residence, part dream luxury location, due to the incredible views that surrounded it. When the bus finally arrives there it feels like you've reached the edge of the world. The photo below was taken from one of its windows.
On our last morning we went out walking. The views were unlike anything I'd ever seen before - so many layers of blue.
In Jukkasjärvi it had been -40 degrees at times (somewhere between 0 and -40 degrees your eyelashes freeze - it was very exciting!), so when we reached Abisko and it had warmed up to -4, we felt so well thawed that I remember we walked around with our coats open and no gloves on. In the headiness of such unexpected warmth, when we came back from our walk, we found an abandoned plastic sledge and spent an hour taking it in turns to whizz down an enormous hill, delighting in attempting to avoid, but mostly sled-jumping over or crashing into, a large rock at the bottom, until our brain-freeze cleared and we suddenly realised that it was an activity that carried a potential death risk.
It seems a little odd to be sharing some holiday photos from three years ago, but it's always felt odder to have had a Part B post that I'd intended to write hanging off the edge of the Internet (there are actually many posts that never get written, but most of them get forgotten about - this one didn't), and there were so many amazing sights, that for posterity it feels right to have some of them recorded here. I hope you don't mind the quick detour; normal sewing service will resume shortly.