Sunday, January 27, 2008

SWEDEN - Ice Hotel & Stockholm

For those of you who are back in Australia, who reach for another blanket when the temperatures drop below 15 degrees, please take note - Claire got hot sleeping at minus 5!!!

We decided to take a trip to see what it was like to be in a seriously cold climate. Choice: JukkasjÀrvi, 200km north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden. Average January temperature ranges from minus 19 to a balmy minus 10.
The Ice Hotel is exactly that. A hotel made of snow and ice that is sourced directly from the Torne River. In spring the hotel melts back into the river and is rebuilt in December each year.

The entrance to the Ice Hotel
There are 2 types of rooms at the hotel. The majority are a simple box with a bed (what we chose). Around 30 of the rooms are known as Design Suites and have been artistically decorated. Either way, the beds are still a slab of ice covered with a thin foam mattress and reindeer skins. We were thankfully given some heavy duty sleeping bags as well.

Our room Some of the design suites
In order to fill in our days we signed up for the activites. First up was snowshoeing. Not the most comfortable of shoes we have ever worn and the little pointy bit at the back doesn't help when trying to turn corners. After a short hike uphill we came to the lookout for a pretty spectacular view back across the river. In order to get to the start point we took a drive in this contraption!

Started to get a little worried about here, as there was an arrow with 10km written on it. Thankfully we only had time to cover around 1500m. Still quite a workout though.
It looks like there is quite alot of snow around, but our guide told us it was about half the normal depth for this time of year - 45cm instead of 90cm.

I thought I should make sure he was telling the truth!
Activity number 2 was Dog Sledding. The dogs, they look cute but let that brake go and off they went. Being extremely talented they can also go to the bathroom (alot) without stopping. We noticed that many of them were eating snow quite regularly during the run and then found out that -8 is a little hot for them. They are more comfortable at -15.

For our third excursion we decided to leave the Ice Hotel and head off on snow mobiles to some wood cabins for the night. It was an interesting ride in the dark as we took off across the frozen river and through the forest. We thought we were going pretty fast at around 40km/hr until the guide told us he would ususally ride at closer to 90km/hr. Claire decided to wait until daylight to try driving, but apparently wasn't going fast enough as Steve was quite keen to swap at the first stop.
No electricity so candles to light the way

Amazing sunrise to drive back with
We couldn't leave the Ice Hotel without a trip into the Ice Bar. Like the hotel this is made entirely of ice including the glasses. Oh, and with each drink you get a little more as it melts from the inside out. There are a few other Ice Bars around the world and each one gets the glasses and ice blocks from the River Torne.

Naturally we couldn't leave the best snow we have ever seen without making a snow angel.

After so much activity we decided to take the last couple of days easy and catch up with some friends in Stockholm. Less tourist stuff, more relaxing.
Claire's school reunion was on the same weekend and lucky for us one of her friends from school lives is Stockholm. Jo took us for some fantastic tradional swedish food and played tour guide on Saturday as well.
This boat never made it out of the harbour but took over 300 years to find.
We went to see the animals at Skansen Outdoor Museum, but sadly all the bears were hibernating (it is winter after all). This was as close as we could get.

They have an animal of the month. Let us present - The Wolverine!
Sunday we spent with Steve's friends Andrew and Stefanie and tried some ice skating. Mixed success. Both of us felt the ice but only Steve's made it onto film. Stefanie did take some great shots of us.
You can do it......
Steve after (unintentionally) attempting a pirouette
Claire after a successful lap of the rink
Finally a shot of Gamla Stan or the Old Town of Stockholm. One of the best holidays so far.