This might be my longest blog ever...Photos:[link][link][link]Backstory:
My brother is studying in the city of Luleĺ, but he was visiting us in Glasgow for Christmas.
I headed over with him on his return.
To get to Luleĺ, we had to fly to Stockholm first, and then get a really long train north.Day 1:
Arrived in Stockholm!
I've seen so many towns and cities in Europe that they don't really interest me anymore. The buildings in Stockholm were pretty and all, but I just couldn't get too excited about them. We wandered through the old town, which has the king's palace, the prime minister's house, and lots of other old/important buildings.
Got a wee tour of the area later, including history lessons. But after walking around all day, the cold was starting to get to me, and I just wanted the tour to end.
It wasn't actually too cold in Stockholm, but it was really wet, which amplified the cold a lot.
I'm not sure how all the ducks and swans manage to survive in half frozen water.
One thing did impress me though; the Vasa Museum. It contains a huge salvaged 17th century warship!! (spoilers: [link]
Apparently it was even more impressive back in the day, when it was all painted and equipped and stuff.
So that was a cool thing to see.
We also visited a viking souvenir shop! They had rune stones, armor, bronze rings, drinking horns, and other random viking stuff.
I really wanted a drinking horn, but it would have been quite hard to pack in a suitcase, and I'm not sure if the airport would even let us bring something like that into the UK.
Oh well. I got a ring and a rock with runes instead (looks like the viking monolith from my games!). I like runes.
At the end of the day we boarded our 14-hour train to Luleĺ!!Day 2:
Taking the train was a bad idea. Even though I had a bed, it was still extremely crowded, noisy and shaky, and I barely got any sleep.
Apparently it's not even much cheaper than getting another flight.
Though, one advantage is that you can steal blankets and stuff! Cause my brother's flat didn't have enough for me.
I also chatted with the people in my cabin, and they gave me protips for surviving the cold.
Anyway, when we were approaching Luleĺ, it was like -20c outside!!
I got up in the morning, and went to see my bro who was in a different car.
I was wearing casual indoor clothes, so moving between cars was freezing and terrifying!
And I had to do it like 6 times...
When we got to Luleĺ, we spent most of the day resting, getting to know my brother's flatmates, and restocking the fridge.
Most of his new flatmates were French, but there was also this German guy and this Korean girl.
Everyone seemed cool. A lot of them were studying geology, cause there's a lot of mining going on in northern Sweden.
Towards the end of the day, me and my bro went out for some cycling practice, as that would be my main method of transport for a while.
Unlocking the bikes and sheds was the hard part. Everything was frozen and snowed over. Cycling on compacted snow wasn't actually too hard.
The temperature dropped down to -24c.
It's quite bearable when you're dressed warmly, but if you ever have to take your gloves off to unlock your bike or something, you gotta be really quick about it.
Not sure how deep the snow was; it was so thick you couldn't even reach the bottom of it.
As it turns out, that was actually the coldest day I experienced on the trip.
It never got down to -30c like I was promised. ):Day 3:
Got a train even further north, to the village of Abisko!
We passed the mining town of Kiruna on the way, and it looked, er, like a mining town. It had mines and stuff.
We were in for a shock at Abisko; it was raining!!!!
We traveled to like the northern most part of Sweden, and it was almost 30c warmer than in Luleĺ. Wtf?!?!?
Getting to our hostel was actually quite hard though, because it was up a hill, and all the rain quickly froze over when it got dark.
It gets dark pretty quickly in Sweden in winter. (this is also true in Scotland, though to a lesser extent)
Anyway, we tried some cross country skiing.
I did not enjoy it at all. It seemed like a lot more effort than walking normally.
I also had no idea how to go down hills without falling over.
Then it was sauna time!
The owner was a very traditional old man and made sure everyone was completely naked. It was all very awkward.
There was a bunch of really hot girls in there too, but it just wasn't sexy at all.Day 4:
Time for the main event of the whole trip!!
We went dog sledding!!!!
First we got to go into the dog cages and equip the dogs!! I got to equip the puppies!!!!!!
They were all hyper and kept jumping on me. Dogs own.
Some people had trouble equipping their dogs, because they either didn't understand English very well, or because they were feeble women and couldn't control the dogs.
Each person got their own sled and 4 dogs. Bigger people got bigger dogs.
The biggest guy got a crazy alpha male beast dog on his team! This dog was huge and mental, it didn't listen to anyone and even attacked the other dogs for no reason!!!
The dogs pretty much followed the trail, so you don't have to steer. All you have to do is hit the brake when the dogs are running into the other sleds, and help the dogs push the sled up hills.
So we sledded along for two whole hours! It actually got quite exhausting towards the end. My dogs were somewhat underpowered I think.
I only fell off once, and it's cause I was getting overconfident and didn't pay attention during a sharp turn.
The big guy with the crazy dogs fell off a few times.
Then it was sauna time again!
Even hotter girls this time, but still awkward.
Then we heard there was northern light activity, so we went out and wandered through the village and onto the frozen lake.
The lights weren't as colorful as they appear in photos, or maybe it just wasn't the best night, so that was a bit disappointing.
They kinda just looked like a long strange cloud that moved around a lot.
Still good though!
We tried to take some photos, but they turned out terrible. You really need some proper gear and knowledge to get photos.Day 5:
Drew a picture of a dog driving a snowmobile in the hostel guestbook. There was actually a lot of awesome drawings in there, most of the best ones being done by Asian girls, unsurprisingly. Said farewell to some of the previous hostel guests, and chatted with some of the new ones.
Spent a lot of the day on the train to Luleĺ again.Day 6:
Slept in, played the 3DS, etc.Day 7:
Went alpine skiing!!
I stayed on the tiny baby slope though, and that was scary enough. I only went down twice before I get sore and fed up.
Skiing just sucks in general.
Took a sled down the big ski slope, that was fun! I still fell off though.
It's really embarrassing when you see all these 5 year old kids who know how to ski properly, and you're just falling over the whole time.
Second semester orientation week had started at Luleĺ University of Technology, so it was time to start partying!
All the parties were hosted in a laundry building for some reason, so there were rooms with washing machines and a sauna.
All the people there were exchange students, most of them new, so most people didn't know many people. It was a cool environment for meeting people.
Met some Scottish dudes, a German comp sci student, some Slovakian guy, and a ton of other people, from all sorts of countries.
The theme of the party was white shirts, so I just drew cats on random girls once I got drunk enough. They were just happy that it wasn't more dicks.
Drunk cycling back to the flat was awesome! You can't really do that in Glasgow, cause you'd get hit by a car or something.
I did fall off my bike though, and was pretty sore the next day, from that and the skiing.Day 8:
Went for snacks and coffee with the other students.
Talked to some American guy for a while, about America! Apparently he was studying in some really bad university in Germany (or maybe Austria...) for a while, and had a lot of stories about that.
Went to another party. This time the theme was hats, so I brought my wolf hat!!
My brother's flatmate brought along a matching bear hat. I think some people thought she and I were a couple cause of that.
Most of the people I met at the previous party didn't show up at this one, so I had to meet new people all over again.
I met this awesome Swedish girl who I thought was hitting on me, but she wasn't.
We talked about cultural differences, movies, music, and crap like that for maybe 2 hours.
We ditched everyone and sat around in the sauna room, where it was quiet. I think my bro and flatmates thought we were up to something in there, but we weren't!!!Day 9:
Oh boy. This was perhaps the craziest day of all.
We went back to the skiing slopes with all the exchange students, and a pile of circle-shaped sleds. There must have been around 150 of us.
We warmed up by going down the big slope. Those sleds are impossible to control, and I spun around a few times and mostly went down backwards.
After that we stayed on the baby slope, which although smaller, was steeper.
At the end of the slope there's a ramp that's supposed to stop you. But our sleds were too fast, and many people just went over the ramp and crashed!
If you go really fast, that's like a 2-meter drop at the other end.
Later on, people started joining together, and going down in groups of 10 people or more. This would result in massive pile ups of people after the ramp.
I'm surprised no one got seriously injured.
Even if you didn't go over the ramp, you still had to get up quickly, and get out of the way while dodging all the other people who were sliding down at the same time.
It was insane.
After the sledding it was sauna time!!
It wasn't as awkward this time, cause we were allowed to keep our shorts on this time, and there were separate rooms for men and ladies.
Not sure how high the temperature got, but it was hotter than the previous place, and got pretty uncomfortable. D:
There was a hot tub outside, and a bunch of us rushed to get there first. I think it was -14c on the day.
We ran out through the emergency exit from the sauna building, and through 2-foot deep snow in our shorts. I had a fine collection of scratches on my legs after that.
When we got to the patio with the hot tub, our bare feet started instantly freezing to ground, so we had to be quick.
We victoriously occupied the hot tub until our hair froze solid, and the other guests got angry and kicked us out. Day 10:
Did some minigame type events with the other students at the uni!
First we played rounders (kinda like baseball...?), in the snow, in the dark, with a basketball!
I couldn't even run to the first base without falling over, the snow was just too deep. It was a riot.
All the snow that built up in my shoes solidified too, and I couldn't get it out. Me feet were freezing for the day.
Then we had to do a short run with 5 people on 1 set of skis. That actually turned out okay, and we did better than some of the other teams.
Then we had to do a short, improvised theatrical performance based on random words were were given. We got "space", "dragonfly", "pineapple", and "awkward silence".
It was very silly.
Later on we celebrated Burns supper with the flatmates, and had haggis and whiskey! I hate whiskey!!!!
It seemed most people liked the haggis, even though it's not supposed to be anything special.
We brought it with us for the occasion.
Then it was time for the final party!!!
The theme was masks. I just wore my wolf hat again, cause it has a face, so it's kind of a mask, right?!
A lot of the masks people had were self-made, from duct tape, newspapers, and random stuff. So that was kinda amusing.
I drank more than usual this time, so I don't remember everything.
Actually managed to do some dancing.
Had some epic banter in the sauna.
Some guy let me taste some crazy alcoholic drink made with ghost peppers or something similar. It was dead spicy.
I arm wrestled some really strong French guy and lost horribly.
Got lots of hugs cause it was my last day in Sweden! ;_;Day 11:
Got up early, got packed, and went home.
The journey was extremely long and uneventful, and very, very sad.
I was totally devastated that I had to go home.
I think I did more socializing in those last 4 days than I did in the last 4 years in Glasgow.