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Gallivare, Stockholm, Sweden
Gallivare, Stockholm, Sweden

Jul 30, 2001



Gallivare is located in Northern Lapland, North of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, at the top end of the Inlandsbanan, a scenic railway on which we planned to travel south. Besides 3 million mosquitos, there isn't a lot to see in Gallivare. You can visit Europe's largest open-cast copper mine (20km outside the town), but that sounded a bit too much like a geology field trip... so we gave it a miss. Still we managed to occupy ourselves for 5 days there.

The youth hostel in Gallivare is close to the station and provides accomodation in small wooden cabins. Each cabin has 3 bedrooms with a shared lounge and well equipped kitchen. The lounge is also well equipped... it even has a TV! In Sweden most TV programs are shown in English with Swedish subtitles, which suited us perfectly... Shame they only seem to show American daytime Soap Operas!

Through the Gallivare Tourist Office we arranged to visit a Sami Camp. We were taken to the edge of the forest by taxi and met at the entrance to the camp by our Sami guide whose name we could not even pronounce... let alone spell. He set up this camp with the hope of teaching people a little about the Sami culture. The Sami are the indigenous people from the north of Scandinavia and their main occupation is reindeer farming.

We were welcomed into a hut made from logs, and coated with bark, peat and moss for insulation. At first we wondered if we were going to suffocate, since the fire burning in the middle of the floor generated so much smoke. But sitting on the ground, on reindeer hides laid over small branches and dried leaves, we were below the smoke, and very comfortable. The Sami keep a fire burning in their homes all year around. In winter it provides warmth, and in summer the smoke keeps the mosquitos away. While we chatted and learnt about the traditional Sami lifestyle our host made us a cup of coffee. He took three large spoons of coffee from a "coffee bag" made of reindeer hide (a work of art!) and boiled it up in a kettle on the fire. After the coffee had stood for a while to allow the grains to settle, he poured it into three wooden cups and added a few lumps of cheese to each. Yes... cheese! The Sami drink black coffee with cheese in, instead of milk and sugar. It sounded like a strange combination, but actually we both really enjoyed it... and had several refills!

The Sami language has about 400 wowrds for "reindeer" and another 100 for "snow" which gives you a good idea of what their lifestyle involves. We heard all about how they look after their reindeer throughout the year and how they now live in the town, own mobile phones, and round up their reindeer using snow-mobiles. We even had a lesson in how to lassoo a reindeer. Paul threw his lasoo, right on target, and turned to Tonya expecting to be congratulated on his catch, but instead got a whack across the forehead... to remove the 7 mosquitos that were happily feasting on him. You could almost see the bood draining from Paul's face as they drank!

We took shelter from the mosquitos in our Sami friend's office - a log cabin with an anti-mosquito coil burning. As we were stood chatting and admiring some Sami handicrafts we heard a strange sound:
"Bzzzzzzzzzz, Bzzzzzz, Bzzz, Bzz, Bz, Splat"
This is the sound of a mosquito dying. It was just like in the cartoons. They spiralled around buzzing a few times, then splatted onto the floor... dead!

From Gallivare we hiked up to Dundret Mountain to see the Midnight Sun. It was quite impressive, aside from the mosquitos, which still swarmed on us in their thousands ignoring the fact that we were covered in 100% DEET and Autan and Baygone!! The sun finally set at around 1:00 am, and we were prepared to hike back in the dark, but that wasn't necessary because almost as soon as the sun set, it started to rise again. It was strange to see the sun set not in the West, but at NNW, and rise at NNE.


We spent so long in Gallivare that we didn't have enough time to take the Inlandsbanan railway, and ended up taking an overnight train to Stockholm instead.

Fiona, one of Tonya's friends from London got a cheap flight to Stockholm and spent the weekend with us. She also acted as a courier for us, bringing supplies out from home and taking back a library of heavy guidebooks on Europe which we no longer need. Thanks Fi!
We spent one night on the Gustaf af Klimt, a hostel on a boat moored in Stockholm harbour. It was a dump! So we moved to a hotel for Fiona's second night. This was outside our budget, but when we have "visitors" our budget has to be broken!

Highlights of Stockholm included:

Eating reindeer meat - after we had heard so much about reindeer farming from our Sami friend we just had to taste his "product". And tastey it was too!

The Vasa Musuem - The Vasa warship sumk 333 years ago on it's maiden voyage. It hardly made it out of the harbour. This ship was raised 40 years ago and now sits in this museum in PERFECT condition... Incredible!

Skansen - an open air museum with lots of traditional Swedish houses and shops to wander around. This is also a good place to see some Scandinavian animals.

Hermitage Vegetarian Restaurant, Stora Nygatan 11 - for $7 each we had a huge vegetarian curry with salad, and as much homebaked bread and tea or coffee as we could desire.

Fiona caught her flight back to London and left us to spend the night in a prison cell! No... we didn't get ourselves arrested... we checked in voluntarily, and would recommend the Langholmen Prison Hostel as the best place to stay in Stockholm. We had our own cell with bunkbeds, lockers and a heavy iron door which clanged shut. The prison has been stripped out completely and the decor is simple, clean and modern. Exactly how a hostel should be.

Onwards to Finland...