In March we went on a holiday with a difference, a cruise from Bergen along the Norwegian coast stopping off at various towns along the way which culminated in a stay at the SNOW HOTEL,KIRKENES on our last night. An experience in itself!
The SNOW HOTEL is situated about 1,200m from Kirkenes in the Gabba Reindeer Park and the method of transport we took to get there was a kick sled. Once you were co-ordinated it was quite a fast method of transport. At 69 degrees north and well inside the Arctic Circle it is the most northerly situated snow hotel.
Before we entered the snow hotel we had a traditional meal in a Sami tent cooked over an open fire which was very warming and a convivial evening was spent talking with other holiday makers and our guide. We were shown how to get into our sleeping bags for the night as the temperature in the snow was about -2 to -4 degrees. We were advised to wear hats, gloves and warm socks for sleeping, not normal bedtime wear! As the hotel is so well insulated the temperature stays constant whatever the temperature is outside.
We had chosen our room prior to our meal and we were staying in the Wolf Room – each room had a motif etched in the ice walls. The SNOW HOTEL consists of 15 snow suites, inside each room is either a double bed or twin beds, surrounded by ice blocks along the sides and headboards. The rooms do have some lighting and you only take a small night bag of essentials over as larger luggage could freeze! Other luggage was left in another building where you could shower and sauna in a warmer environment. There was an Ice Bar in the main reception area and seats of ice covered in reindeer skins. The back of the bar was sculpted as a salmon's head and the bar itself was made of pure ice – no need to chill the wine!
At the far end of the hotel was an Ice Chapel with an Ice Altar – some couples come here to get married – I don't know however if any do spend their first married night in the hotel as you will see how we had to sleep as later described.
For the evening we dressed in thermal boiler suits to keep us warm in the Arctic night, not the height of fashion but practical and kept us warm. Getting into the sleeping bags was an art in itself and cause for great hilarity – once zipped in there was no way that you were getting out in a hurry! We were advised to go to the toilet before settling down for the night and not to drink too much fluid as the toilets were situated outside the hotel.
We did sleep fairly well, there are no windows in the rooms just two small vent holes in the roof which I found quite disorientating in the morning. Strong sunlight came through these holes at daybreak and as I awoke I thought the time was much later than it was. One memory of the night in the SNOW HOTEL was the quietness,the walls were very thick and everything was very still. Quite a refreshing experience when most of us live such busy and noisy lives.
The hotel is rebuilt every Winter and lasts until about May when it is knocked down for the Summer. To build it we were told that they use huge inflatable balloons on which they mould the snow and then deflate them to leave the hollow rooms. Once the hotel is built, sculptors are employed to build the ice bar and other designs in the hotel. Some of the things that we will remember about this holiday are the amazing scenery along the coastline, the clearness of the sea and the freshness of the air. The SNOW HOTEL was the ultimate experience and one we would recommend although not for the faint hearted or anyone with severe claustrophobia.
It is memory that will last and should definitely be on a person's 'must do' list.