The town welcomed us with snowflakes and winds of sub-zero warmth. Carpets of snow-covered the trees, houses, cars; the entire landscape, but the road. I am from the tropics, so to me Kiruna, which was 145 kilometres north of Arctic Circle, was exotic, like a sunny white beach might be to some.
Rising up from the stocky cubical structure, against the metallic grey horizon, was a skeletal clock; we were near the Town Hall of Sweden’s Northern Most City. Further away in the distance was Kirunavvara Mountain, with rock terraces that coiled down to earth’s bowels, towards world’s one of the largest iron reserves that was 4 km long, 80 m thick, and stretched to a depth of 2 km. Next to the Kirunavvara Mountain was Lossavaara Mountain that held a research mine and a ski slope.
Kiruna Town Hall
Entrance of the Ice Hotel
I lay on my side trying to shield my face from freezing cold. The stench of reindeer skin, similar to a wet dog, made me smell like a Neanderthal. No wonder the hominid is extinct! The zip of my sleeping bag was stuck halfway. I managed to pull and hold it close to my chin; I was lazy to go back to the reception to get it replaced. Just when I was starting to feel warm, I had an urge to pee. Ice Hotel did not have toilets inside the average rooms; restrooms were yards away, near the reception. Dashing through the icy corridors, in a pair of thermal undergarments, became my only option.
Earlier that afternoon, we had checked into the world’s first Ice Hotel at Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. It stood on the banks of frozen River Torne. The dream began 25 years ago with inspiration from snow festival in Sapporo, Japan.
Every year, the construction took place on the river banks from October with ice harvested earlier in March. A composite of ice and snow, called snice, was a substitute for mortar. The only common feature in each year’s hotel was the corridor with ice chandeliers; the design and the artworks changed annually. This year’s Ice hotel had 55 rooms and it spread over an area of 5500 square metres.