after we finished our dog sledding adventure, we had a day to relax in kiruna, the northernmost town in sweden (pop. 18,148 in 2010). the town grew up around an iron mine which opened in 1890. (iron was discovered as early as 1696, but the climate was too harsh, and the mining techniques too primitive, to make commercial exploitation viable until the 19th century.) according to our sledding guide, kiruna was the wild west of sweden until the government began formally settling the area at the start of the 20th century. the population was 18 in 1899, growing to 12,884 by 1930.
in 2004, the state-owned mining company notified the local government that it had to dig deeper into the hills just outside town, and this excavation could cause a number of apartments and public buildings to crack or collapse altogether. sure enough, fissures began to open up around the city, and the government therefore began planning to move the entire city center two miles to the east, a move that will start this year and be completed in 2034. this is a massive project, with all sorts of psychological and sociological implications: how do you make anything beyond the most minor life decisions when your entire town is in limbo? how do you redesign an entire community, and what happens to its memories?
so, let’s look at kiruna while we still can:
|kiruna architecture: some charming, some not quite so charming.|
|i do not know what “obs snöras” means, but i like how it looks. meet me at the corner of a lot of syllables and even more syllables.|
|the city center, with inexplicable metal sculptures.|
|a fantastic clock tower on the town hall, foundlings left outside the public library, and, just outside the city center, above it all, the mine.|