In these parts the Ice Hotel wields considerable power and influence, which is understandable given what a large and successful tourist business it is. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that its influence strays into less obvious areas – the weather, for instance.
I exaggerate a little maybe – its influence has probably not reached us here in Kiruna – but out in the village of Jukkasjärvi people are living in a low-lying, cold mist, as if blown in from some distant sea, and it’s the Ice Hotel that’s to blame.
Lots of ‘snice’ (snow and ice) is needed to bind together the ice blocks, and to create this just add water to snow. Huge machines shoot water into the air, falling as soft ‘snice’, which must be like play-doh for the builders. The humidity spreads all over the surrounding areas, creating cold damp conditions and soft luminous skies. Snice. Thirty thousand tons of it.
There’s an excitement around this time at the site of the Ice Hotel. You watch it take shape, the tractors moving the blocks into place, the walls of ‘snice’ appearing around huge metal arches. I get the feeling that people involved in its creation see it as a performance. Will it be ‘alright on the night’?
Perhaps it’s because it’s different every year that it keeps its buzz. You could easily be cynical about it – the money that pours into it, and the inevitable marketing ‘hype’ that pours out – but it’s always got an element of freshness about it. The beauty of the ice, the setting, the weirdness of it all never fails to win us over.
We were showing some people around the village this morning, and after watching the building works at the Ice Hotel, we recommended a visit to the local church up the road. It’s a sharp contrast, moving from the ice hotel to the old church. For one thing, it’s a lot warmer (Swedish churches are great places to get warm).
Mainly though, it’s a building which has existed for five centuries, rather than five months. The ice church (which is built every year as part of the ice hotel) officially belongs to this old church – it is consecrated each year, and is used for (short) services and weddings. The local priest moves between the two, changing into suitable clothing for the indoor climate she meets. Very old, very warm; very new, very cold.
So let the show begin – in a week’s time the Ice Hotel (and ice church) opens its reindeer skin-covered doors to the public. In the meantime, at this time of year, I’m very glad I’m living in Kiruna, and not in the cold, sea mist that is Jukkasjärvi.