When we returned to Haparanda, it was the day before New Years. We all unpacked as best we could in my tiny apartment, which left us with basically no floor space. I’m telling you, that place is fine for me, who is just one guy, but you can’t live more than one person there. At least not if you want any kind of personal space. And especially if two out of three people are living out of large suitcases placed on the floor. But we managed, and it actually wasn’t too bad. Kylie and I didn’t want much space between us anyway.
New Year’s Eve is interesting in a town bordering two time zones, as you celebrate it twice. Once for each time zone. The event itself started a couple hours before new year’s Finnish time (which is one hour ahead of Swedish time) and we made our way to the parking lot of the big shopping center that straddles the border between Sweden and Finland, which is where the celebrations would be held. There was a stage and it all started with a dance number, before speeches were made and it turned out that one of the main hosts of the event was the principal of my school, who is a really cool person by the way. Following this, there was a live band that played cover songs and other performances, until just before Finnish New Year, when they lit a fire sculpture display thing in an area just between the two countries. During this, there was more entertainment, until at midnight Finnish time, they lit the fireworks.
By this time, it had gotten really cold, and the wind was biting at every bit of skin that was exposed on our faces, and finding its way inside our thick layers of clothes. Seriously, it bothered me less being in -40 but no wind than just the few degrees minus but with high winds.
For the next hour, there was more entertainment on the stage and more speeches being made, until the Swedish new years, when we got even more fireworks. It was nice, and Kylie preferred our Swedish show over the Finnish one, but she still claims they have even better ones in Brisbane. I guess I’ll have to take her word for that. It wasn’t the most intense new years celebration I’ve ever experienced either, though I think the most novel thing was having done it twice in one night! Regardless, we were pretty tired when we came home, and it was very nice to get to crawl into a nice warm bed.
The next day, we spent walking around in Haparanda. I showed them my favourite places. We went down to the beach by the river bordering Finland, which had iced over. Actually, the town was covered more with ice than with snow. That’s what happens when the weather is mild. Snow falls, partially melts, then freezes again, forming a thick layer of ice everywhere.
I must admit that I was not too happy to go out, I’d probably have preferred to stay indoors, cuddling in the warm apartment, but I know how much Kylie loves the snow and ice, and I wanted to show her the place I, for the moment, call home, so I braved the weather, though slightly reluctantly, and now afterwards, Kylie still says I was grumpy, not wanting to play with her in the icy playground. But I digress. We did get some Christmas decorations though, a christmas goat! It’s a scandinavian thing.
On the second of January, we started our journey further north, by taking a bus to Luleå, from where we would go by train to Kiruna. We stayed overnight in Luleå though, at a very cosy hotel. Probably my favourite of the hotels we stayed at. It was nice and modern, and Kylie and I had a room to ourselves, which I appreciated. Not that her mum was annoying to be around, quite the opposite, she was great fun! But it was nice to have some time to ourselves.
Luleå is a very nice town though. We walked around for a few hours in the evening and had great fun. The river was frozen over and they had ice skating tracks on it. It would have been fun to go skating there! We got to do a little skating, but only on small rinks, as you’ll see later, but nothing that really let you just skate straight forward without having to turn because you’re approaching a wall.
Nevertheless, we found a park with Santa sculptures, another iced over playground, which I did play in, I’ll have you know, and what looked like a small outdoor theatre thing where they had performed for kids. There was a lot of interesting things to find. Just before we went back to the hotel, we found a time capsule, which was installed on new years 1999/2000 and is not supposed to be opened for a thousand years, new years 2999/3000! At the time of writing, that’s only 984 years left…
Since we had to leave the hotel early for our train in the morning, the hotel allowed us to make breakfast and bring it with us in paper bags, which was very nice of them. And it was great! They also had hot chocolate and coffee and fruit and little muffins that you could take from the food area at any time, for free. We probably exploited that a bit too much… had quite a few mugs of hot chocolate.
Anyway, as usual, we ended up running late for our train in the morning. And we had to sprint though Luleå to the train station at 5:30 in the morning, lugging heavy suitcases with one hand and carrying breakfast in the other. Luckily, the station wasn’t that far away. But it seems like we have a habit of being late… I think we’ll need to work on that in the future.