Babylon Is Everywhere: The City as Man's Fate

By Wolf Schneider; Ingeborg Sammet et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
THE "LARGEST" CITY ON EARTH

TRAVELLING ON the Nordpfeil ("Northern Arrow") express from Stockholm to Narvik, one passes through the northern part of Sweden and looks out upon one of the most barren and sparsely settled countrysides of the European continent. That is Lapland. North of the Arctic Circle the evergreens gradually disappear, and only meagre little birch trees provide a few dabs of colour in the brownish wilderness of mountains and lakes, where during the summer mosquitoes are in command. If one asks the name of these parts, the answer is Kiruna.

Some time later, a snow-covered mountain peak appears to the left on the horizon -- it is Sweden's highest mountain called Kebnekaise -- and one is told that this too is in Kiruna. Half an hour later the train stops at the railway station of a small town; above its friendly, colourfully painted houses rise two high mounds of rubbish, and the name we read at the station is Kiruna. The stranger is beginning to feel somewhat puzzled; he had come to believe that Kiruna was a region or a province, and now it appears to be a small industrial town.

After leaving the railway station of Kiruna, the express roars for an hour along the shore of the Torne Träsk, an icy, foaming lake, and when the train before crossing the Norwegian border reaches the spot where the Torne Träsk vanishes into the dark gorges of the mountains and the stranger inquires once more where he is, the answer again is Kiruna.

What then, for heaven's sake, is this Kiruna? the stranger will finally ask. And the answer is: The entire wilderness which we have been passing through for the last two hours is called Kiruna, because Kiruna is vast. In fact, it is the largest city on earth.

This strange creature of a city came into existence because Nature saw fit to embed a sheetlike deposit of the most excellent iron ore in the desolate land of the Lapps 93 miles north of the Arctic Circle. This layer of iron ore, which rises from unfathomed depths in an almost vertical direction and is embedded in brownish rocks, forms two hills; between them lies the centre of Kiruna, whose work is largely responsible for Sweden's being the biggest iron ore exporter on earth.

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