While on the subject of the weather…
Once, 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).
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.
Anyway, 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.
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.