It’s been cold. Not cold like “why can’t I just wear my duvet today”. Cold like “when I walk to university my lungs hurt because the air is so cold and so dry”. Cold like “three pairs of ski socks are just NOT enough”. Cold like “it is warmer in my freezer than it is outside”. Cold like that.
Hence the secret and growing longing for a polar fleece balaclava:
In this cold you should not be outside for longer than an hour (a Finnish girl told me, so she knows). -10’C is invigorating. -25’C is just pitiful.
So there have been no outdoor funtimes this week. No ice skating or cross-country skiing. No snow men, snow angels or snow ball fights. Its just too flipping cold (although, to be honest anything under positive 10’C feels the same to me).
That said, there was other fun to be had. On Sunday about 40 of us bundled up and set off by train to a town called Kemi. Kemi does not have much to offer the international traveler. It has a few coffee shops, some Apartheid era looking municipal buildings, a church painted pink and da da daaaaa…. A snow castle! Every year they build a massive snow castle. They make it out of ice and snow and it took many architects and designers and sculptures many hours of hard work.
Some quick quick overall stuffs:
The castle is single story but with high ceilings.
The walls are thick, like maybe 75cm.
It is made up of different areas and corridors which are decorated with wall art and ice sculptures of sports.
There is electricity in the snow castle and there are low grade lights throughout the castle.
All in all, it takes about 15 minutes to look through the whole castle.
It was surprisingly warmer inside the castle (-5’C). In that moment I understood the purpose and value of igloos.
There was also a nice warm wooden restaurant on the same property which allows fingers time and opportunity to defrost while holding on to a cup of hot chocolate.
In the snow castle, there are different areas:
the snow chapel
Apparently this is treated as a normal church by the Lutheran community as church services are sometimes held here. People (mostly Asian people) get married here. I think this probably gives new meaning to the phrase “chosen frozen”.
the snow bar
A bar, made of snow with various ice sculptures around. Pretty similar to the snow restaurant. Grabbing some gluwien from here might just save your life.
the snow restaurant
You have to book to eat at the restaurant and I think it cost you the big bucks. But we went in, had a look-see and pretended we were made of money. There are stools covered in reindeer fur and the tables are made of very thick ice. I think there may be glass or perspex in the tables that forms the top layer of the tables because it didn’t feel like ice on the surface. They lit the room in eery blues and witch’s potion greens. The decorations on the wall were 3D friezes (excuse the terrible pun) depicting some or other sport (are you picking up on the theme).
the snow hotel
Well, I think the description “snow hotel” is a bit of an overstatement. “Snow rooms”, “Snow inn”or “Snow holes in the wall that you can sleep in” might have been more appropriate. Basically there are two corridors with doors going off to the side. The doors are painted wood and somehow attached into the snow wall. The rooms are smallish room sized rooms (Um. Ok. not the best description ever. Let me try that again…) The room that fits a queen sized bed in only just fits the bed in and there is NOTHING else that could fit in that room. The ceiling is high, but laying on the bed and looking up at the high ceiling, imagining that I was sleeping there for the night I did feel the creeping clawing of claustrophobia at my heart and suddenly it was time to leave the room. Fast. Sorry, that’s enough of my crazy phobias. The beds are real beds covered in bear fur (which I think was fake). If you stayed there, you would have to sleep in a sleeping bag for sub-zero conditions. And drink many warm drinks.
(For the official website or the snow castle, you can click here).
Like I said earlier, it takes about 15 minutes to go through the castle. We arrived just before 10am and our train home was at 20:00. So we had a lot of free time to fill up. We had a long lunch (that included reindeer and peach pizza), napped, took photos standing on the frozen ocean, played children’s games from our different parts of the world, chatted and drank copious amounts of hot chocolate. We drank so much hot chocolate that they halved the price of the hot chocolate for us. I think in South Africa, they would have doubled the price if that had happened, but these Finnish people are nice. They are not all about the money.
So ja. That was that.
It however still does not solve my crises about the polar fleece balaclava. I heard that next week it will be warming up to -10’C, so maybe I won’t need it after all?