August 12 2008, 09:35 PM
Day 5: Luleå to Kiruna
Location: Gammelstad Church
Click here to enlarge this panorama or see an ultra high-resolution version.
I keep on running into World Heritage sites I've never heard of before. Today it was the turn of Gammelstad, "Old village", where Luleå was in fact first founded as a fishing village in the 14th century. In what is a most unusual catastrophe for a fishing village, the land kept on rising, at 90cm per century, and soon the harbour was too shallow for fishing boats. In 1649 the whole town decamped to a spot closer to the sea, at present-day Luleå, leaving a remarkably intact medieval town center.
As with the other photos I've taken on this trip, the panorama you see above is the result of patience. The sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds, so I set up the camera and just waited. The best part about the waiting is that you actually get to see so much more — there is nothing else to do — and you also get to appreciate the changes in the light. Ansel Adams has gone on about this at length (and I am not comparing myself to him!) but I now realize he had a point. Added bonus: Cloudy skies are so much more interesting in a panorama than just monotonous blue — there is actually something to see when you look up.
The drive north to Kiruna was faster than I expected (though not exactly short) mainly because the road is so straight and wide. The landscape is comprised of pine trees as far as the eye can see, with the odd hill in the distance, and ever hour or so a mining town or paper mill factory. Rain clouds chased me all the way up to Kiruna.
As if ordered by the ministry of tourism, an elk finally appeared out of the woods and crossed the road ahead, right in front of the sign announcing the polar circle. It was a picture-perfect setup, and I would have taken the picture were I not too busy avoiding said elk. (Or is it a reindeer?) I got a photo of the beast a bit later:
This is by far the furthest north I've ever been, and my very first time above the Polar Circle — yet another thing to check off from life's to-do list.... Though, to be fair, of the two Polar circles, this is definitely the easier one to cross.