I had not won a prize
Some years ago, some friends and I decided to travel around Sweden by train. We slept in youth hostels or church social rooms (they often have sauna rooms, and several rooms for Sunday School, youth activities, etc).
The trains in Sweden are very punctual. You can literally set your watch by them. And they are clean and frequent.
We started in the south after getting the ferry in Germany, and we finished in the south, returning on the same ferry.
In between, we ventured through cities and villages, and saw wilderness and lots of wild animals. Reindeer are common but I saw a real Elk. Sweden has a fairly low population considering its huge size. There are vast areas of forest and lakes. It is a very beautiful country.
The trains are well used as the government has the sense to keep ticket prices low. Yet despite the high use they get, the trains are in good shape, with no signs of vandalism or graffiti.
It is hard to say “I drove a train over the arctic circle”. Not that I say it often. The last time I said aloud, while watching a documentary about acrtic animals, my friend said somewhat scoffingly, “Oh they came and invited you in person!”. The truth is not so different from that, but that it was me who crossed the circle is pure accident.
So, our group had travelled quite a way north after about twenty days. We had decided to visit the friend of a friend in Kiruna. As we went farther north, the less people there were on the trains. The day we headed for Kiruna, the were maybe fifteen people on the train as far as we could tell. Gradually, people got off and our train proceeded north. At a stop, the driver (if that is what he is called) came to our little group and asked if we would like to see the cabin at the front. We were unanimous in our “yes”.
Off we went, following the man. We arrived in a very simple cabin. It had one seat and a large windscreen. I’m sure there were other things too, but I don’t recall them. I was just overwhelmed by being invited to be there.
The man invited the first of us to “drive” the train. I couldn’t quite see what was involved. But then it was my turn, and I discovered that all it took was putting one’s foot on a bar above the floor. It was a dead man’s brake — the train would stop if a foot fell off the bar, whether through death, sleep, or any other reason. I found this to be rather dull and wondered how one qualified to drive trains in Sweden.
Then, the man called out for us to look at a sign. It said “Arctic Circle” in several languages. I felt much more excited then. I had known we would cross at some point.
So, this is how I drove a train across the arctic circle. It sounds so much grander than it actually is.