To Hell and back

Trip Start Aug 17, 2010
Trip End Sep 16, 2011

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Flag of Sweden  , Jämtland and Härjedalen,
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's a cold, dark snowing afternoon when we land in Trondheim. We grab our bags and rush to the railway station, worried we’re going to miss our connection. In fact, we are so harassed we jump on the first train that arrives, only to discover that we are travelling away from Hell, not towards it. Contrary to what you may be thinking at this point, this was not a good thing for us !

The conductor then displayed that mixture of friendly helpfulness and direct efficiency we soon discovered common among the Scandinavians, he simply called the conductor on the oncoming train to wait for us at the next station – where upon they helped us change trains, and put us back on our way to Hell.

Hell, it turns out, is a small train station one stop out from the airport, where one changes for the train to Duved and Are, where we will be living. So, note well, one has to travel to Hell to get to Duved from Trondheim airport !

Our friend Lotta picks us up from Duved station and drives us up the steep hill we shall soon get to know so well walking, to the little bedsit she has organized for us. It is very cosy and comfortable, and a relief to settle into after so long on the road.

We have 2 days work immediately, an emergency created by an unexpected request from an owner of an apartment block to have them ready for season opening. No rest for us, up at 7:00am the next morning, -30 degrees and waiting for a lift. Cleaning all day, we briefly notice it getting light at 11:30am, then the sun was gone by about 1pm. The same the next day, and we collapse into the weekend – frozen toes and tired heads, concerned we will not be able to take the cold. Fortunately we discover that even the locals consider it extremely cold, and after a week of -30 degree temps, the weather turns, and be assured, after -30 deg, -10 deg feels positively balmy ! ( The locals amuse us by omitting the minus when talking about temperature, as in "it is 15 today" or “it was 25 last night”. We joked, “no, it was 25 last night in Australia ! )

Our first week is taken up with getting organized, and man, did that take some effort !

1) Signing up with SkiStar and meeting the head of housekeeping for Duved / Tegefjall where we shall be working – Asa, and her assistants Jenni and Marie. Asa shows us around the Hotel Renen where we shall be working – handily located at the foot of the hill we are quickly getting to know so well. A 45 room hotel, which by the end of the season, we will be able to completely changeover in a day with just the help of Jenni !

2) Opening a Swedish bank account so we can be paid, and discovering we need a bank certificate from Australia – get onto the email and hope the CBA is responsive ( they were ).

3) Realising we need a tax file number from the Swedish Tax Office to give to SkiStar, and going through the panic of trying to work out what to do from the Swedish Tax Office site - thanks Google for the language translator !

4) Procuring a Swedish mobile phone and Internet service – Telia has the only coverage up here, so that was an easy choice.

5) Exploring the Swedish migration site to try and figure out how we secure permission for Lauren to work the season – leveraging Jim’s British passport and so EU status. ( Lauren’s got a Swedish Residence Card now ! )

6) Establishing a larder, so we stop eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner and actually start saving some money !

Whew. No wonder it took into the second week before we even looked at going out skiing ! Jim put his foot down, and we went to the SkiStar hire shop and hired skis and boots for “he who is going to learn to ski” Jim and skis for Lauren. We had bought ski boots for Lauren in London, and Jim’s snowboard kit had been sent out from Australia to Lotta, who was glad to get the bag out of her house !

Luckily there had been good snowfalls already, so the conditions were fair, and the Duved runs were open. At last – onto the snow, Jim on his snowboard and Lauren on her skis, up the chairlift to the top of Duved to see what the local slopes have to offer. We were pleasantly surprised to find the Duved / Tegefjall area possessing wide variations of slopes and conditions. Tegefjall accessable by link lifts meant that we could step straight out of our bedsit, onto the slopes and enjoy the day without needing to use buses ! Luxury ! Maybe that walk up the hill is not so bad. ( Yes it is, says Lauren ! )

We fall into a routine of working Sundays and Thursdays, doing chores on Monday, and going out on the slopes on the other days. There is little daylight, so effectively only a couple of hours of snow riding available per day – but when you have a whole season ahead of you, that’s OK !

Wishing to take advantage of being in northern Sweden, we also determine to take side-trips out from Are, the first of these being up to Kiruna in northern Sweden for Jim’s birthday. Kiruna is famous for northern lights, seeing which is a goal of Jim’s, and also the original ice hotel. Unfortunately a massive blizzard comes in when we head-off, disrupting the trains, blinding everyone, and generally causing chaos. Oh well, at least we got to see the Ice Hotel !

Christmas is coming, and we have to get ready for visitors !
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