After arriving at the ICEHOTEL and finding out that I had to wait over two hours for the next tour (in Engish), I decided to tag along with two Canadians I met to some church and museum at the end of the street.
The church and museum apparently were both focused on by the Sami people (the indigenous people of Scandinavia).
When I was in Stockholm I met a Sami guy who was protesting outside of a government building. I had asked him about his flag and he explained to me it was a Sami flag and that he was protesting the mining operation up in Kiruna because it was encroaching on Sami land and destroying the land in general (the entire town of Kiruna is actually being moved 15 km due to the mining operation putting the town's foundation at risk for collapse).
Typically, I am not a huge fan of museums, but apparently this particular museum had reindeer – reindeer that you are allowed to pet – so I happily accompanied them (because if there's one way to get me to do something it's to tell me there will be something fluffy to touch).
A short (but slightly treacherous) walk later we had arrived. Inside we were greeted by a woman who stole ten dollars from each of us and who also sold us some lichen (because that's what reindeer eat?).
The “museum” was more of a snowfield featuring various reproductions of traditional Sami dwellings, tools, and reindeer accessories accompanied by informational blurbs. Nothing too thrilling.
After absorbing the entirety of the Sami history and culture in a matter of minutes (the goal of every museum) I could no longer help myself – I headed for the reindeer pen.
It was terrifying.
The reindeer, who knew immediately that I had brought food, ran up to me once I was inside. They battled for position with one another, shaking their heads (and giant pointy antlers) whilst trying to get in closest to me for some deliciousness (I tried some – delicious).
Trying to run away I soon found myself stuck in knee-deep in snow (now at eye level with the beasts).
I kept hearing the voice of the woman inside, “just make sure you keep your hands flat when you're feeding them,” she said, and now I understood why. Reindeer teeth scraping against my palm as I attempted to meet their demands without losing a finger or an eye, I circled the pen and eventually just threw out the contents of my bag onto the ground.
Once the food was gone, the reindeer lost their interest in me, and they proceeded to dig stray pieces out of the snow. There was some serious fiending going on.
Ultimately, I made it out of the pen and back to the ICEHOTEL unscathed, but I would not forget the psychological torture these helpers of Santa put me through.
“What did I do that night in Kiruna?”, asked nobody.
Glad you asked, everyone. I ate myself some reindeer. It was delicious.