Ice Hotel!!!!

Trip Start Aug 25, 2005
Trip End Mar 31, 2007

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Friday, December 8, 2006

Friday morn up at 06:35 but next door had party til 5am - 'Jolene' by Dolly Parton played 6 times at least - so pretty tired setting off, the usual rudeness by the commuters on the bus to the station & then got train to airport so 08:20 check in for 9:20 flight (as usual Sas delayed 10 mins). Arrive Stockholm 10:35 but due to some weird law we had to collect bags & recheck in which takes ages. Finally get 11:55 flight to Kiruna arriving 13:30 (its getting dark now so feels like 5pm), Kiruna is small mining (iron) town of 20K inhabitants (that'd be big in Ireland but they call it small). The hotel sent a mini bus & it takes about 20mins to get to Ice Hotel in the village Jukkasjarvi (at this point we are 200km in artic circle but it's only minus 7 now - will be minus 35 in Feb.) As we were having the 1st night sleeping in the ice hotel we have to store our stuff in big locker as it will freeze in the room & the rooms are open to public til 5pm anyway. When we registered at reception that give us a map & booking ref. on a thing for around our necks & then we just put any food or drinks on that number so we needed no cash & just did one credit card transaction at the end - they don't even swipe the card 1st as they have the details from when we booked which is great.

Had lunch (unsurprisingly not too much vege stuff) & our 1st drink in the Absolut Ice bar & if you keep your glass made from ice in your room for use later makes subsequent drinks cheaper. Drink not as expensive as we'd heard - no dearer than Dublin really. Then there was check in tour - saw some of the rest of the hotel being built (will be finished in 3 weeks & says open til end April ) & talked to some of the artists. Then we had booked a 2 hour Snowmobile
excursion (C driving, me on back) - great forest scenery in the dark, the snow covered trees look like ghosts & we drove across the frozen river as well. You can get snow suits & everything else (boots, gloves, hats) too for free - you don't even have to sign for them which is nice the hotel are trusting & relaxed. We also brought our own salopettes & ski jackets which were actually warmer but it was good when they got wet we could just use their snow suits. That night we had dinner in the indoor (dry as opposed to ice) Restaurant - mine was all plate & no dinner, but I did have a special yellow ice cream desert is a dish made of ice or as C said it looed like 2 eggs in an ashtray. C's dinner was more than enough though (total cost incl. wine & tip 148euro, not so good). Then we went down stairs to the 'dry' bar for a couple & finished off of Absolut Ice Bar for last orders - closed at 00:15. Think its open til 1am in Jan & they are still building a dance floor.

Then we collected our sleeping gear (double sleeping bag & sheet) & put on our thermal long johns & tops & ski socks & sleep hats & slept in Ice Hotel, I didn't sleep a wink as was too hot, then I took off my top and took off the hood of sleeping bag & then started obsessing I was going to freeze to death, then I realised I had to go to the loo but couldn't as it was miles away & I'd have to go outside in my long johns & I'd have to wake C to come with me so we could wrap the sleeping bag around us as we ran outside, so I didn't as I knew it had taken him a while to fall asleep too (he'd only had 2 hrs sleep the night before thanks to 'Jolene'). So then I thought I'd synchronise my breathing with his but keep distracting myself by thinking of things I must do tomorrow, then I had sinking/flying sensation & thought the place was melting, finally fell into REM sleep & had crazy dreams about an hour before we had to wake up. Anyway apparently the silence causes people not to sleep either. There are no doors on the rooms but the snow & ice walls are really thick so you hear nothing. There was big drunken british work crowd in the same corridor & we never heard a thing.

At 7am we were woken with hot lingon berry juice then had morning sauna (separate for men & women with a fabulous set up) & brekker (usual stuff). Then we had booked a snowshoe excursion (like walking with plastic tennis rackets on & it was exhausting) & hiked up a mountain for an hour to get a view of icehotel (I was f*cked by the end of the hike), it was just us on the trip as it's the beginning of the season & we were the 1st ones to use the path that had only been dug the day before so as they had 2 meters of snow in last week it was difficult, & I kept using trees to pull myself up & that would shake the snow off down on top of me & in my collar & down my back, but it was hot work so no harm! Then the guides (who were lovely, in fact all the Swedes were lovely) lit a fire at the top & gave us more hot lingon berry juice (which made C throw up!) & cake & then when we got our breath back I went down hill on my ass (& got stuck in a tree) & C abseiled down 12 meters but I could see him so I took some action photos. And then we all trudged back down - walking like John Wayne as we were told to.

When we got back to the hotel we were soaked in snow & sweat so after a clean up we got our 'dry' accommodation in a log cabin which had sky lights in the bed room so we could see the Northern Lights (if there were no clouds.) Next up we had a 12 Dog-sled excursion that just the 2 of us had booked so very romantic snuggled up on the sled, after an hour (by which time our glasses had frosted over) there was a coffee break in cute log cabin in the middle of no where, the guide lit the fire there & made us the coffee which was gorgeous & we had a bit of chat with him about his life & the dogs, lovely guy, when we came out 2 of dogs got dog knotted for 20 mins (the romance in the air must have got to them)! When we got back we went for a walk around the grounds & down the main road (if anyone reading this going there is looking for the Homestead cafe its ages away past the 'Konsum' supermarket) & we found out you can just take the Kick Sled's (which are all over the hotel grounds) and are like snow zimmer-frames so we had great craic flying around on them, then after tea in our cabin, (& a quick shop for me) & snoozes we went on the Northern Lights safari on snow mobiles again & had dinner (couscous for us & reindeer stew for the carni's) in another remote log cabin with a big fire & about 16 others & a tv crew- but due to clouds we only saw green moon though (apparently the aurora borealis are always there just depends on the clouds & are caused by the collision of charged particles (e.g. electrons) from the Sun with atoms in the Earth's upper atmosphere and the colours depend on whether oxygen or nitrogen get mixed in). But it was still a good trip. Followed by nite caps in 'dry' bar. And sleep of the dead for me from 1am to 6:45am in our cabin, this time it was C's turn to have a bad sleep.

Then next day more morning Sauna & brekker & last photos & at 08:30-12:45 went on wilderness excursion in search of moose in a jeep (with 4 brits) and saw loads of mooseys which have such long legs, by now it was minus 13 degrees & we were driven into mountains where the scenery was amazing as the sun rose at about 10am - really pink sky & thick snow everywhere like a Christmas card (that I always thought was an artists impression) & we stopped off for more coffee & cake in lovely mountain café & then on the way back passed this lake with snow all around it & over the ice & the lake was steaming, amazing sight, hope the photos come out good, then sadly we were dropped straight to the airport afterwards for a lunch time flight back via Stockholm again. If we were doing it again we might stay 3 nights (& do ice hotel last) & then we'd have chance to see the mine which is meant to be very interesting, there's tarmac roads & shops & everything down in the mine. The town Kiruna was built 100yrs ago because of the mine & now they discovered they built the town on more iron ore & have to relocate/rebuild the whole town but the church has a preservation order on it as it's some cool Swedish design so they physically have to move it, sounds interesting. All in all a great ole trip. (P.S. Sweden has same smoking ban as Ireland).
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