Adventures in the Arctic Circle

Posted on January 24th, 2015 by

As a student with some knowledge of the Swedish language I figured I would try to teach you all some as well. There may be some mistakes in it but here is a little about me in Swedish with the English translation below.

Hej! Jag heter Hannah Birkholz. Jag kommer från Plymouth, Minnesota. Jag är en andraårsstuderande och jag pluggar statistik och svenska på Gustavus. Jag kom till Sverige för att lära sig mer om svenska och samiska kulturer och förhoppningsvis förbättra mina kunskaper i svenska. Jag ser fram emot att se mer av Sverige under de närmaste månaderna.


Hi! My name is Hannah Birkholz. I come from Plymouth, MN. I am a sophomore and I study statistics and Swedish at Gustavus. I came to Sweden to learn more about the Swedish an Sámi cultures and hopefully improve my Swedish language skills. I am excited to see more of Sweden in the next few months.

After 8 hours on a bus we arrived at our hostel in Jokkmokk, a small town located just inside the Arctic Circle. We got dropped off at right at our hostel thanks to our kind bus driver and Maria having the courage to ask. Thanks Maria! On the bus ride those who were awake were able to spot some moose and reindeer! We have learned that doors don’t always work the same way they do in America which resulted in a few of us temporarily getting stuck on the bus when we tried to get off to use the bathroom during a longer stop. Oops.

We spent our first night settling into the hostel and getting our grocery shopping done. Those who were eager to explore went for a short walk after dinner.

Since we have a few free days before our activities in Jokkmokk start many people have spent time exploring some trails near our hostel. A group of us ventured about 3 km into the Swedish wilderness, it was about 6 km (just under 4 miles) total. Pat and Zach went off the path in search of a cliff for some amazing pictures- they may have wandered farther than they expected and didn’t find a cliff but they did see a heard of reindeer.


It may not look like it but if you step off the path you sink down to your knees!


On Friday we went to the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi. We only visited for a day since the rooms are so expensive. Outside the temperature was around -33 degrees Celsius but inside the Ice Hotel the temperature is kept at a balmy -5 degrees Celsius. This year was the 25th Anniversary of the Ice Hotel, every year the the Ice Hotel is built from scratch and melts back into the Torne River. I found it really cool that they can build something so incredible with almost no impact on the environment. None of us realized how well this would tie into our environmental science studies on the trip.

Many of the rooms have special themes that the sculptures came up with. The themes range from clocks to chess to fairies to the inside of a pepper. Here are a few pictures.


Entrance to the Ice Hotel. Photo by Amelia Napiorkowski


The ice chandeliers are the only things they build exactly the same every year. Photo by Amelia Napiorkowski


Amelia just inside the entrance of the Ice Hotel

10535777_10203383135245560_8856653060059707964_o 1965440_10203383128965403_5628167253638963328_o 10928945_10203383131005454_7957575806039464506_o Inside some of the Art Suites.  Photos by Lindsey Reiners

If you notice how clear the ice is in the second and third pictures that is because the Torne River is so slow and deep that very little sediment is stirred around making this ice cleaner than a lot of drinking water! Inside the Ice Hotel there is even a church and bar.


Ice bar. Photo by Alexa “Petrie” Giebink


Even the glasses were made of ice! Photo by Alexa “Petrie” Giebink

As we were leaving we had some excitement when one of the vans we rented got stuck! Luckily there is strength in numbers and we were able to free the van before making the 3 hour drive back to Jokkmokk.


Photo by Britta Johnson

We are all looking forward to learning more about the Sami over the next few weeks!



  1. Roland says:

    Du skriver på svenska, Hannah, så jag tackar dig och fotograferna på samma språk. Fint att ni hade tid att åka till Jukkasjärvi och att ni inte behövde gå hem! “Strength in numbers,” så sant som det var sagt.


  2. Maria Jeremiason says:

    I feel like I was there with you! Thanks for a great post, Hannah!

  3. Doris DeVries says:

    Hannah this was so interesting – can’t wait to read more!

  4. Beth McCabe says:

    Excellent blog Hannah!!

  5. Krister Stoor says:

    En mycket bra svenska, bättre än min egen. Vad månde bliva som man sa förut. Nice, I wish I was there in my home country. I’m born in Jukkasjärvi Parish. Did you have time to visit the town Kiruna?