We’d been away for a few weeks at the end of the summer (late August). We came back to a landscape that had just lost most of its vivid autumn colours – a cold, windy place with orange leaves blowing around the streets and rain dripping from the bare birch trees.
But Kiruna never leaves you long with a frown on your face. The airport bus takes visitors to their hotel (it’s such a small town) but the driver was a bit challenged by the idea of a bed and breakfast. There are relatively few visitors here, after all, compared with a hotel, and we’ve been here less than two years, so you can understand him not knowing it. After we’d sat down further back in the bus he got out the map and asked people around him where the street was. No problem, he called back to us, he’d drive us to the doorstep. No, we said, it’s hard to turn round in the street so dropping us at the main street would be fine. ‘I’ll take you there,’ he insisted, ‘it’s only a small bus’.
Reaching the end of Airport Road the bus stopped suddenly and the driver got out. He shut the doors to the luggage hold and got back in. We noted that we hadn’t driven round any sharp corners so all the luggage was probably still there. And off we went.
A few minutes up the main road, instead of turning right we turned left and pulled up outside the supermarket. The woman in the front row needed a cash machine. We watched as she ambled over the road to the cash machine, and then back. ‘Now, let’s be off!’ the driver declared with a cheery wave. It was more of a magical mystery tour than an airport bus service.
The bus turned round and drove back up towards our street. The driver didn’t manage to turn his bus into the street, which was a great relief, as I had visions of him reversing into our fence in an effort to turn round and get back down again. But he got out, unloaded our luggage, and wished us a very good holiday. So despite the dripping weather, we arrived at our front door with a smile on our faces.
Later we went off on our own magical mystery tour, a quick spin round the town that will one day be King – or fall into a pit.
Some changes here happen very slowly – like building new flats and houses – but some happen rather fast. In the three weeks we were away the last train had left Kiruna’s old railway station. The station is too close to the unstable ground so they’ve had to stop the trains further up the line and extend it round the back of the mine instead. For the time being the station is no more than a glorified potting shed, with ‘Waiting Room’ grandly printed on a piece of plastic signing on the front. There’s a slightly more substantial station building planned nearby.
Let’s hope that particular change happens fast, because I for one don’t fancy the chances of 25 Japanese tourists, 8 Norwegians, 4 visiting Swedes, and 5 locals trying to shelter from minus 30 degrees in a small hut.