The Wild Life of Kiruna

Kiruna, the very small city that was my base in Sweden, is an unusual place.  It was founded a little over a hundred years ago, when the local Suomi people helped out the new settlers by pointing them in the direction of iron ore.  It turns out the locals really new there business and the proof is that today Kiruna hosts the world’s largest iron mine, which is in the process of forcing the city to move (due to digging under the city) and also employs the better part of the local population.

Not a bad looking mine...

Not a bad looking mine…

It seems that job stability has lingered here longer than in much of the modern world, because in addition to the descendants of those early miners, the Suomi people are still in the area herding reindeer.  In fact, traditionally the Suomi lived of a diet consisting exclusively of reindeer and some still do.  While I also had the opportunity to taste reindeer – like very lean beef and a bit like moose – I must confess I prefer them alive.  Fortunately I had the opportunity for seeing them that way as well at a local Suomi reindeer farm.

It's not every day you get to pet reindeer.

It’s not every day you get to pet reindeer.

Reindeer aren’t the only interesting wildlife in the area either.  Despite the harsh climate, a number of exotic animals make this area their home.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to explore wild as much I would have liked, nor did I spot a silver fox or some of the other exotic predators, but I did see several arctic hairs (a.k.a. huge, fluffy, white bunnies) and, while not exactly wildlife, some of the area’s hard-working huskies.

They're faster than you'd think.

They’re faster than you’d think.

In fact for those interested in transportation alternatives, Kiruna is a pretty

Not all transportation alternatives are adventurous.  Behold the kick!

Not all transportation alternatives are adventurous. Behold the kick!

exciting place.  Snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding and even reindeer sledding are all pretty common up here.  Still, I can’t imagine a better way of getting around than with a pack of beautiful huskies, feeling the cool (cold) wind in your hair and watching the northern lights burn across the sky.

A lot of people thought I was crazy when I said I was planning a trip to the north of Sweden in January: perpetual darkness, frigid temperatures and extreme isolation.  To be honest there were a lot of challenges up north and I’m not sure it makes my list of places I’d like to live.  Even so I’m reminded once again of how much is to be gained from visiting an out of the way place.  I’ve been to a hundred beaches and would be lucky if I could still remember ten of them, but the dance of the northern lights, a hotel made of ice and the sound of huskies waiting to run free will all stay with me, probably forever.

Worth remembering.

Worth remembering.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost 
Categories: An Out of The Way Place, Photography, Sweden, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “The Wild Life of Kiruna

  1. This might be my favorite of your posts so far. I have no desire to live in the north but I love how alive you sound telling us about it.

    • Thank you very much Melanie! I hope to have plenty more passionate posts full of life as the spring starts!

  2. Howse

    So did you know that the whole mythology of reindeer flying comes from there ingestion of mushrooms (the type that we all grew up thinking were the smurf’s lived – red with white spots) – the reindeer would literally get stoned and then the locals would drink their urine to get the high in a concentrated form (instead of having to eat like 20 shrooms). Food for thought.

    Howse music all night long.

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