Monday, March 2, 2009

Not Quite a Good Night's Sleep

On our second night in Finland, the hotel we were staying in was overbooked. To free up a room, they asked us if we were interested in spending the night at the nearby ice hotel. The otherwise costly 240 euros/night stay would be free thanks to our flexibility. We thought about it for a little while, but in the end decided that we could not pass up the unusual opportunity.

We were driven to the hotel after supper. I warmed up my feet by the fire before we left hoping to start the night off as warm as possible. The young couple that run the hotel was very welcoming and proud of their endeavour. They showed us around the ice/snow buildings: six large suites, a bar, a chapel, two ice saunas, and two large buildings with numerous small bedrooms. We stayed in one of the small rooms. The mattress sat atop a bed made of ice, and there was a bedside table made of ice. They assured us the temperature inside the bedrooms remains between 0 and –5 ˚C, regardless of the outside temperature. We rationalized that we have spent the night in our tent around 0 ˚C, so it couldn’t be that bad, right?

They also have a large, heated, wooden lodge. This facility is available for use all night long. Among other things it contains bathrooms, a large sauna, fireplaces, and two rooms with beds in case their guests choose to abandon the icy rooms in the middle of the night. They provided us each with a pillow and two sleeping bags: a thin, fleece mummy bag to be placed inside the large, thick mummy bag. They suggested we keep only our base layer on to be in close contact with the sleeping bags.

Once in our room, we undressed as quickly as possible and hopped into the two bags. I kept my gloves, socks, base layer, and toque on the entire night. At first I was nervous of sleeping under a snow roof, but soon forgot about that for another fear: suffocating. It was hard lining up the two face openings of the bags. As soon as I rolled over, one of the bags was always covering my face. We did manage to get a decent sleep. I was not cold, but not really warm either. Our faces were very cold, and there was frosty condensation from our breath covering the sleeping bags. It was much colder than the cold camping experiences of our past. The couple greeted us in the morning with warm juice and certificates for having survived a night in arctic conditions. It was a worthwhile experience, but I was certainly glad the hotel was not overbooked the next night!

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