Icehotel For New Year! Feel The Winter Magic...
It was a quarter to midnight when we arrived in the tiny village of Jukkasjarvi after a small journey by car from the arctic town of Kiruna - one of Sweden's northernmost towns. The air was piercingly freezing, and we were wrapped up against the bite of the freshest of fresh air.
The four of us walked over the road towards the fantastic Icehotel just in time to bring in the new year in a few minutes' time. Large outdoor candles lined the snowy ground and flickered in the frozen air, leading the way down to the glowing blue igloo-shaped arches of the Icehotel's magnificent entrance. We made our way by candlelight to the back of this unbelievable building, to the expanse of the all-important Torne River and the huge lake which they cut the ice from, for next year's hotel.
After a quirky little performance involving a tractor/digger and some dressed-up Swedes prancing about in James Bond costumes etc, the crowd counted down and cheered in the new year, but the real magic hadn't yet begun...
Spectacular fireworks lit up the snowy expanse of the enormous frozen lake, one after another - booming across to the fir trees in the distance, shattering the silence of the sleepy, remote Lapland village of Jukkas. After this spectacular show, a small number of Chinese lanterns begun to scatter into the sky, rising gently into the air...
"And now if you make your way behind the hotel you can collect your lantern and make a wsh for the new year..."
We shuffled in the knee-deep snow to another little area behind the hotel and a glowing orange light met our eyes. There were people everywhere lighting big paper Chinese lanterns on large candles placed on ice blocks. Lanterns floated into the still air, some drifting sideways as their owners chased them across the snow, some rising gently and perfectly into the black sky.
One of us noticed a queue for the lanterns and they appeared to be giving them out free of charge! We quickly joined in and waited as the people giving them out patiently and sweetly explained to each person how to light the lantern. After collecting ours, Richard and I took it over to a free candle and held it steady. Once it had filled with hot air we agreed to let it go on the count of three and each of us make a wish (without telling each other of course). We watched it gently float into the air and up it went, to swirl around with the now tens of other lanterns illuminnating the black sky.
The expanse of snow was filled with fiery lanterns, and all types of people making their various new-year wishes. All around us were beautiful lit-up blocks of ice with coloured fires burning on top, what a beautiful and confusing sight!
Once our friends had lit their lanterns successfully, we made our way into the glowing blue ice palace that is the Icehotel. (After a small mishap involving Richard chasing a lantern over to the lake, with holes burned in the sides of it!)
The Absolut Icebar was packed with good-natured merry-makers going about their business dressed in all their winter wear - gloves, ski-jackets, hats and all! We ordered our (very expensive) Absolut Vodka cocktails at the bar. I had 'Bedtime Story' - Absolut pear vodka with melon liqueur. Delicious! Needless to say, we drank from ice-glasses, sat on ice seats, admired the ice lighting and sculptures, and danced on the snow/ice floor! Everything is ice apart from the LED lights, the laptop which appeared to be controlling the music, and the people (well most of the people - some were nearly turning into blocks of ice themselves, including a lady wearing a sleeveless top... Bearing in mind it is consistently -5 degrees inside the Icehotel)!
After a great night with some Gang Nam Style dancing (and normal dancing), we headed sleepily back to the hotel for a good night's sleep in warm and cosy beds. I draw the line at actually sleeping in the Icehotel I'm afraid. Give me a drink in an ice glass and I'm happy :)
For more tourist and holiday information on the Kiruna and Lapland area visit my Arctic Norway and Sweden Page...
Text, Images and Videos Copyright © Lise Griffiths, 2012
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