Airports are a kind of Limbo that Dante would have recognized. You are neither one place or another and generally out of control of your own movements.
We were stuck in Manchester Airport due to traffic delays that caused us to be late to the baggage drop. We were already checked in but the young lady on the desk said she could not let us through, in a way that reminded me of the Little Britain sketch where the girl just retorts that The computer says No...
We contacted Scandinavian Airlines, the carrier we used on this trip, expecting an administration charge to change our tickets. What we were not expecting was to be charged almost twice the price of our original ticket to be put on the next flight in the afternoon.
To add insult to injury, when we eventually boarded the flight we found there were a good number of vacant seats on the plane so they could hardly claim we were causing them any great inconvenience.
When I offered Scandinavian Airlines a chance to comment on this exploitative policy before publishing this trip report, their Customer Services department sent me an e-mail saying that it could be four weeks before they replied to my e-mail. Unbelievable, is that what they call customer service?
As things stand currently you can be very sure I will not be flying with Scandinavian Airlines or SAS as they call themselves any time in the future.
Back to Norwegian Air which has always offered me outstanding service, even under difficult conditions.
After such a tortuous start we were very glad to get to our hotel in Stockholm. A converted ship moored on Söder Mälarstrandskajen.
This quirky little hotel was found by Damians partner Mica and suited our needs very well.
Not the biggest or most luxurious hotel I have stayed in but certainly one of the most memorable.
Added to that, the view from our room was great.
Stockholm is one of those cities where you have to walk around a lot of water to get from one place to another.
We were aiming for the Skansen and Nordiska museums on our first day but saw these interesting fishing nets on our way.
The front of the biology museum caught our eyes as well.
Reminiscent of some of the old wooden stave churches, the carving on the entrance portal was a real masterpiece.
Skansen is an old museum that has collected many interesting buildings from the length and breadth of Sweden.
In the summer they also have living history exhibits here but when we visited it was quiet and peaceful, giving us the opportunity to wander about, sticking our noses into crooks and crannies and looking at details that would normally be easily overlooked.
The birds here are so tame that they will happily feed from your hand if you have a few crumbs to offer.
The sorts of detail that I like.
Birch bark used as a waterproof membrane under a turf roof or shingles cut to make a pattern on an otherwise simple roof.
Nordiska is perhaps a more traditional museum, containing the Swedish Ethnographic collection, including of course a few Saami artifacts.
I covered this fairly thoroughly of course in my 2013 report.
I apologise for the rather poor photograph of this but if you have ever wondered about the shape of a Saami coffee bag, this might make things a little clearer.
The coffee grinder fits into the mouth of the pouch and is secured by the binding.
I also spotted this, labelled as a Snuff Grinder in the case, it reminded me more of a fire piston including as it did the string seal at the base of the piston.
Could be wrong but I think perhaps that may be miss-identified.
One part of the collection that Debs found particularly fascinating was the Textile Gallery. Very well displayed, allowing close but protected access to potentially sensitive materials in a way that is a delight to craft workers such as Debs or myself.
So back to the boat and another museum in the morning. Trips to museums like this are a mainstay of the research my business requires. It is all very well looking at artefacts online or in books but it is often only when you see the real thing that you notice details that give you a greater understanding of how things were used or made.
These are the original finds that my own Hnefatafl set is based upon for example.
Details from runestones such as these are very useful for a long term project that Debs is working on for me too.
I need to make a new belt pouch soon and this imported ceramic cup from the Vikng Age goes some way to answering questions about the possible provenance of a type of wooden cup found plentifully in later Scandinavian contexts.
To someone like me this is all grist to the mill.
There is something romantic about catching a sleeper train, you go to bed in one place and wake up in another.
When they call it the Arctic Circle Train, I think you would have to have a heart of stone not to be excited by the prospect. This is where our journey truly begins.
(Ignore the clock by the way, it was spinning so fast it was only right about once every 5 minutes.)
The cabin was snug, Especially with three of us it it but well designed and comfortable enough. Damian had brought a few films with him on his tablet which passed some time befor getting our heads down.
We had left Stockholm in the sweltering low minuses with no snow and disembarked at Murjek at the only slightly colder temperature of -6°c Not quite the minus thirties we had experienced on our last trip.
At least there was snow. Lots of snow compared to England but still rather thin for northern Sweden.
The one destination I looked for on this sign but could not find was Jokkmokk. Our final destination and about 30 miles WNW of Murjek
We had a coach to catch that would drop us at the Arctic Camp Jokkmokk where we had booked a cabin for the week of the Winter Market.
Last time we came we booked a smaller cabin and used it as a back up for camping in the woods. We were joined by another group that were camping full time.
While that was enjoyable, we found that the inevitable camp admin like cutting wood and making snowball soup took up much of the time and left us hard pressed to see everything at the Market which was the main reason for our visit.
This time we had decided to concentrate on the Market and as it was Debs first trip to the Arctic in Winter we went for the best cabin we could get.
Cabin 53 certainly didnt disappoint.
In theory it could sleep up to ten with all the beds and sofa beds in use. That might have been a bit cosy but for three of us it gave room to spare and even space to entertain if we needed.
Temperatures were still fairly high outside so with the added difficulties that would have created we were happy with our decision.
We even had a veranda that we could sit and enjoy the view on.