Tue, Jan 03, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Spending a night in an ice hotel in the Netherlands

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS:First-time visitors are told to dry their hair after a shower because it could freeze at night, not to drink too much alcohol and to dress warm

AFP, Zwolle, Netherlands

Dutch couple Luck and Maya sit on a bed before spending a night at the first Dutch ice hotel in Zwolle, Netherlands, on Dec. 15.

Photo: AFP

It could be any standard hotel room in the quaint northeastern Dutch city of Zwolle, with a bed, a minibar, bathrobes and two pairs of slippers. Except for the room temperature, which hovers just above freezing.

Welcome to the first Dutch ice hotel, all the comforts at 8°C.

“If you take a shower before bed, make sure your hair is dry or it will freeze. Do not drink too much alcohol, or eat too heavy a meal. Make sure you change clothes before entering the room,” hotel manager Annet van Limburg told first-time visitors.

Laughing a little nervously, Luc van Heijst and Maya Zhang, both 42, listened carefully to her advice, their luggage stuffed with several pairs of pants, sweaters, gloves and hats.

“No, I’m not afraid, but I am still a little nervous,” said Van Heijst, from Veghel, an hour-and-a-half drive to the south.

“We came for the experience,” he said, adding: “I feel like a little boy.”

Built for an ice sculptors’ festival in Zwolle and managed by a local hotel, the structure has three rooms and stands in a refrigerated warehouse, where the temperature hovers between 6°C and 8°C, depending on the number of visitors.

It is the first time in Europe that an ice hotel has opened this far south, Van Limburg said. Indeed, the idea comes from the north.

With some 47 rooms for this season, the largest ice hotel is at Jukkasjarvi in northern Sweden’s Lapland.

“Unlike Canada and Lapland, the hotel here is not situated in nature,” Van Limburg said, pointing out: “There, the guests sleep in minus-20 degrees.”

Inside, abstract patterns carved from the ice adorn the 1m-thick walls of two of the rooms. A third has a nautical theme, including a giant shell carved into its ice. A thick black curtain serves as a door.

Carved from a solid ice block, like a giant ice cube, the room’s main attraction is a square bed, which lights up in pink, blue and green lights through lamps -installed underneath in its ice.

It took about 10 days to build the three rooms, where guests can stay from Dec. 3 to Jan. 29. A night for two including breakfast will cost 199 euros (US$259).

“It’s not dangerous if you’re healthy,” Van Limburg said.

However, just in case, a room at a real hotel was set aside in case guests change their minds and a free taxi ride there was provided.

The following morning, visitors Van Heijst and Zhang seemed not to have suffered to much from their frosty experience.

“I wore three pairs of pants,” Van Heijst laughed, adding: “I almost got too hot.”

“It was a nice experience, but it’s definitely for one night only,” Van Heijst said. “And definitely not for a holiday. We won’t go to Lapland, now that’s for sure.”

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