Crying out loud

While on the subject of the weather…

torne-35Once, a long time ago, BK (before kids), Sir Pe and I decided to go up to the very north of Sweden again – to Lapland – and stay at the now world-renowned Ice Hotel. Yes – you guessed it! It is a hotel made entirely of ice that melts and then is re-built every year with the ice sawn out of the local river: The Torne River. The huge pristine ice blocks are truly beautiful to behold and are of a shimmering greenish colour.

Situated 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, it gets pretty darn cold! And it’s dark all day long when the days are at their shortest. You never would have guessed it: but cold and darkness are experiences that people from all over the world come for! (Hey! They could come and live with us for half the price…) The hotel boasts its own bar, bowling alley, chapel (for christenings and weddings) and cinema, amongst other things. The suites are sculpted by ice sculptors that compete to come here from all corners of the globe (well, if a globe had corners, that is).

icehotel-entrance-4

The suite we stayed in had a big ice bed covered in hides, a fireplace and logs carved out of ice, prettily lit up with candles as well as ice chairs and table. When you check in, you are given a big snowsuit and thick boots, hats and gloves to borrow because the average indoor temperature is about – 8 C. Luckily, the year we went was the first time they had indoor toilets. Still, it was quite a chilly walk there and back in the middle of the night. And although I got into the ultra-warm sleeping bag with hat and socks on, I was very warm during the night and ended up taking off the hat as well as a jumper.

Thanks for asking: yes, I had a delightfully refreshing sleep! I urge you all to try it at least once in your lives! And, of course, one of the main attractions of the deep, bone-chilling cold are the northern lights. Natural fireworks, sheets of shimmering silk, scarves of untold beauty.

norther11Anyway, although it was March when we went up there, it was still pretty cold. Bitterly cold, in fact at a perky – 35 C! I repeat: minus 35 C. The cold is a dry cold, which makes it far more bearable, and for a while it was OK. Sir Pe and I used a ‘spark’ – a kind of sled thingy that you kick (you can see a whole load of them parked outside the hotel in the big blue photo above) – to visit the local church and then a Sami tent, where we ate polar bread and heard Sami stories.

The problem arose on the way back to the guesthouse (we only stayed at the actual ice hotel one night). I guess that I had cooled off a bit too much in the smoky tent, so once outside again, kicking our way back along the road – about 2 km – to the restaurant, my body decided to whimper out on me and shut down without so much as a thank-you.

My hands were the first to go: they were so cold that I lost all feeling. In fact, I just wanted to stop and lie down and go to sleep. Luckily, Sir Pe nagged and cajoled me until we reached the warmth of the restaurant.

That’s where the problems really started! You see, going from -35 C to +20 C is quite a temperature difference for the body to cope with, and as the blood started rushing back to my white dead fingers, the pain was excruciating. Unbearable. So unbearable that I started wailing and crying out loud. That got people looking! We even skipped the queue as we were shown to a table immediately.

repan07_bb

More whimpering meant that we were served in double quick time. The other tourists looked on with barely-concealed horror, but the locals regarded me with pity.

I got the feeling that they too, at least once in their lives, had experienced the pain of the cold that makes you cry out loud.

29 responses

  1. I have seen stories on the news about that hotel. Looks so beautiful. I don’t know that I could brave such cold temperatures though. You may be tougher than me!

    January 6, 2009 at 16:04

  2. PH

    I saw a TV documentary at The Discovery Channel about the construction of The Ice Hotel a couple of months ago. I had never heard of The Ice Hotel before that documentary but it was quite interesting to watch.
    They sell it as DVD here http://shopping.discovery.com/product-57066.html

    January 6, 2009 at 16:16

  3. Wow sounds like a very exciting adventure. With such cold temperature, I think I will froze to death….lol. It sounded like living in a very cold refrigerator. Dont think I had the guts to try it out. Glad you had the experience. The photos of the hotel looked so beautiful.

    January 6, 2009 at 16:17

  4. Meg

    I’ve heard of this hotel. I’ve been dying to stay there! The closest I’ll get is the one in Canada probably.

    January 6, 2009 at 16:22

  5. I’ve read about this hotel and even discussed it with my kids during the holidays. How exciting to think you’ve been there! The crying out loud part, though. How horrible…

    January 6, 2009 at 16:47

  6. Jen

    There seems to be a ice hotel in Montreal? At least I think that I saw a show on one, sounds fun.

    The frozen fingers do NOT sound like fun!

    I really don’t care if you tell me it is a dry cold or not, cold is cold! LOL

    Glad to hear that you survived, and still have fond memories of it.

    Jen

    January 6, 2009 at 16:48

  7. Oh Lady Fi – what beautiful photos. Mum is so envious. She would love to go there but she doesn’t think it would be good for her ’cause she has this syndrome thing that makes her fingers and toes go white (Raynauds). So she can truly sympathise with the problems you had with your hands. Mum gets it whenever she experiences quick changes in temperature (it doesn’t even have to be very cold) and if it happens too much, or over a prolonged period, she gets nasty chillblains. However, stangely, it’s not so bad in dry climates. She wants to see those northern lights before she dies – they’re on her ‘bucket’ list.

    January 6, 2009 at 17:19

  8. Very very cool experience! (well, cold too!) But I will have to make do with the pictures and your story as I don’t think anyone could ever persuade me to go and stay there….

    January 6, 2009 at 17:25

  9. Fascinating and beautiful, but I think that is one experience that I will pass on. Not a fan of the cold and dark. Especially not a fan of the freezing and thawing process!

    January 6, 2009 at 17:45

  10. Wow! That is amazing. I have never heard of the Ice Hotel. What a unique memory to have.

    The frozen fingers sound horrible, though!

    January 6, 2009 at 17:48

  11. Your trip is as close to that icy place as I wanna get! brrrr I would have been frozen solid! I have to get a second cup of coffee just to warm up after reading your post! eeeeeee

    January 6, 2009 at 17:49

  12. Unbelievably beautiful….

    January 6, 2009 at 18:44

  13. wow…. that is crazy! I think this sounds intriguing, but I am wondering all the 33% of the Danish population that SLEEPS NAKED would do in a place like this…lol

    January 6, 2009 at 18:48

  14. I always thought this hotel was just gorgeous! but I dont know if Id have the fortitude to do it!

    I will most definitely give you my interpretation of why boobs are taboo in the US, but not guns at some point. It is an awesome question….but I need to really think about it, so it might be a few days!

    January 6, 2009 at 19:24

  15. Wow, the ice hotel and the northern lights-so beautiful, lucky, lucky you!! And I didn’t know there was one in Canada- will have to go and look it up!

    January 6, 2009 at 19:36

  16. Po

    I have only one thing to say: yak person!!!

    That place sounds amazing though, but strangely I feel satisfied just reading about it.

    January 6, 2009 at 20:39

  17. Po: I agree! I will never set my foot there…brrr….

    January 6, 2009 at 22:10

  18. Meg

    Yes, its in Montreal somewhere. I don’t believe its as spectacular as the one in Sweden tho.

    January 7, 2009 at 04:09

  19. I have heard about the Ice Hotels, but never heard a first hand account from anyone that actually slept there! Thanks I enjoyed your story! And yes, It is painful to un thaw..and most people cry..so you were very brave:)

    January 7, 2009 at 05:50

  20. Lee

    It sounds a fascinating place but I am allergic to cold. You too, by the sound of it.

    January 7, 2009 at 08:22

  21. What a cool holiday story!
    June in Oz

    January 7, 2009 at 09:24

  22. ladyfi

    Thanks for your comments everybody! I really didn’t mean to put anyone off – after all, you do NOT have to go out at night in such crazy temperatures! It wasn’t so cold inside the hotel (especially when compare to the outside temperatures) and the whole experience was wonderful! Really beautiful!

    So – go on! Do it!

    January 7, 2009 at 09:24

  23. SirPe

    I have to agree! It was a wonderful, beautiful, almost poetic experience, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

    January 7, 2009 at 11:47

  24. I have read about that place but I really don’t like the cold so I am not sure I would try it. My son went to a bar in Sweden that was made completely out of ice, I wonder if it was the same place?

    January 10, 2009 at 16:54

  25. That’s one of those experiences that I’d only do to say that I’ve done. I don’t like cold or snow, so I’m not sure that I could enjoy it at all!

    January 10, 2009 at 21:42

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  27. Ack! I’ve been there. Back when I had a horse I’d ride a bike to the stable every day and in the winter the wind chill would sometimes do this to my fingers and toes. Thankfully the ride wasn’t long enough for it to spread further – it’s truly excruciating.

    January 27, 2009 at 14:01

  28. OMG that sounded really painful!!! How long did it take for your hands to get back to normal?

    The hotel looks absolutely amazing!!

    C x

    July 30, 2009 at 13:36

  29. Pingback: Riders on the storm « Quirky Quest with Lady Fi

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