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Published: December 12th 2007
When I was a little girl every Christmas Eve my Mum would read me ‘The Night Before Christmas’. It was a lovely tale about Santa Claus - accompanied by brightly colored pictures depicting his wooden house in Lappland with a snowy roof and candles glowing at the window. Santa would be beavering away in his cozy cabin to make lots of presents for every child in the world - obviously with the assistance of his elves (we all know that Santa couldn’t manage this task on his own - well unless he bulldozed the log cabin and opened up a multi-line production factory in Luton). Anyway, back to the point I was making….which is that I’ve found where Santa lives and it’s the village of Jukkasjarvi in Northern Sweden - well it looks very like “The Night Before Christmas” and that’s good enough for me!
The route to my winter fairy tale was via Stockholm and the first person I bumped into in the airport was my boss. Turns out he’s also going to Jukkasjarvi, also staying at the Ice Hotel, also going on the Snowmobile day trip and also having dinner in the table next to me in the
restaurant (both nights). Lucky thing really that he’s such a nice guy and didn’t appear to mind myself and my boyfriend crashing his family holiday.
When we touched down at Kiruna airport I was surprised to see that the runway was totally covered in snow (how the plane lands and takes off I have no idea because half that much snow in the UK and everything would grind to a horrible halt). The drive to the Ice Hotel is only about 15 mins from Kiruna, but the village of Jukkasjarvi really feels like it is in the wilderness. It’s a small sleepy place of only a few colourful wooden houses (Santa being one resident) and the locals say that there are more huskies than people - certainly sounds like it at night when you can hear them howling!
The Ice Hotel itself is constructed a new every winter from the frozen river. At the average temp of -20 the structure lasts from Dec to April. It had only just opened for the year so some part weren’t quite finished, but it was still very impressive. Inside it’s a constant -5 no matter how cold it gets outside. Everything
inside has a soft blue glow from the reflection of the ice, but the strangest thing is that it’s is totally silent. All of the guest rooms have a double ice bed which is covered with a mattress and reindeer skin. The deluxe rooms each have a theme, for example the Argentina room has an ice sculpture of a couple dancing Tango and the Star Trek room as an ice Enterprise Bridge. I was quite happy to do a tour and then retreat to our ‘warm room’ in a log cabin - although it is possible to stay overnight in the Ice rooms.
Because Jukkasjarvi is so far north it gets dark around 2pm. From about 9am-2pm it’s a kind of twilight with the sun dipped just below the horizon. After 2pm it’s just plain dark with the exception of the Northern Lights which wisp across the sky most nights. We braved the cold and dark to take snowmobile and dog sledding tours out into the wilderness. With the sky glowing pink and all the pines dressed in puffs of pure snow the landscape was as breathtaking as the -25 chill. I think the dog sledding had to be my highlight. The pack of twelve dogs that pull the sledge are so excited about the task. Before the sledge takes off they yap and howl with excitement to get going. All the dogs are cross breeds of Huskie, some have shockingly blue eyes while other have the characteristic flurry tails. They are tough little things and are bred for their performance rather than looks, given this I was surprised at how soft they all were and lapped it up when you patted and made a fuss of them. I think if I were Santa I’d trade in the Reindeers for some flying Huskies.
Speaking of Reindeer, Reindeer meat is a very popular dish is Lappland. The only thing is it gave me terrible, terrible farts. So, not only have I discovered the secret of where Santa lives I also discovered how Reindeers fly. It’s the gas!
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