Saturday, March 03, 2007

Last full day in Sweden

First off, we have received an internet-ready photo from mum:

We will put up some more pictures once I have re-sized them...

Now on to the real business. Today started with a quick breakfast at the Hotel (meatballs, waffles, pickled herring, bread, cheese etc.) before heading to the tourist information to try and book the day's activities. We signed up for a tour of the Kiruna iron ore mine at 3pm and decided to spend the morning relaxing around town. After a quick second breakfast (coffee, juice, bread, cheese, pate) we booked ourselves in for a full body 1.5 hour Swedish massage (no, not that kind of full body massage...!) to relieve ourselves of the aches and pains we inherited after yesterday's skiathon.

The massage place was across town and we managed to find it with not too many false turns. I blame the iron ore deposits for putting off my internal compass... The masseuse was lovely and ushered Holly in for the first massage. I sat in the waiting room and read my book with a coffee and a cake. To the dulcet tones of pan pipe hits of the nineties (not as bad as it sounds) Holly was pummeled and stretched for a full ninety minutes. Then it was my turn. Despite my attempt to point her at the leg and arm muscles that I hurt a bit yesterday, the skillful masseuse quickly found the real problem areas in my shoulder blades and fore-arms (the legacy of a lifetime spent at a PC) and pummeled the offending tissue in to oblivion. The pain was worth it though as afterwards muscles that had been permanently tense for 15 years got to relax and stretch again.

Fighting the urge to melt in to the floor, Holly and I thoroughly relaxed then had to dash back to the tourist information office to catch the coach in to the bowels of the earth. A short coach ride later we began the descent "to the underworld" (as promised on the side of the coach). 10 minutes saw us half a kilometre below the surface at the LKAB InfoMine Our guide kitted us out in hard hats and led us around the information centre where we saw an LKAB propaganda video (did you know that LKAB iron ore requires 80% less carbon to turn it in to steel compared to other iron ores?!). A little walk in to the pitch black of the tunnel, round the corner and we were suddenly face to face with the huge tunnel digging machines used to work the mine. Plenty of photo opportunities there.

An interesting point here is that the iron ore seam that they mine in Kiruna is a lot deeper and richer than was originally thought. As a result the mining is continuing deeper than originally planned. The downside of this is that Kiruna is built on the hanging face of the mine, meaning that in the next ten years or so, much of the town will have to be moved to avoid encroaching subsidence. Plans involve moving the town hall in one piece!

A quick coffee and biscuit was then followed by a look at the products extracted from the ore dug up in the mine, and a quick wander around a little museum showcasing the history of the mine. Then, carrying one small bag of iron ore pellets as a memento of the trip, it was back on the coach and back to town.

We freshened up in the room and then moved out in to the VIP Champagne lounge on the 5th floor to use our 2-for-1 coupons that had been in our room. After enjoying a couple of beers, strawberries dipped in chocolate, and half a ton of spicy nuts, we decided to brave the icy chill of the north and head out in search of some dinner. Not much was on offer (the best restaurants are apparently a pizza place and a Thai restaurant) so we opted to sample the local fast food establishment and had a burger and a kebab between us.

After dinner we took a walk up to the gorgeous church which is built in the style of a lappish tent (a lavvu) I tried to take some pictures, but I doubt they will come out. Still no northern lights. Then on the way back to the Hotel we dropped in on an exhibition of snow sculptures in the park. They were a little the worse for ware as they look to have been out there for a while, but were still very beautiful.

And now to bed. Tomorrow, Finland awaits! Helsinki, here we come...

Joe (and Holly)


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