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“One grey morning the first snow began to fall in the Valley of the Moomins, It fell softly and quietly and in a few hours everything was white.”   Opening lines of ‘Finn Family Moomintroll’.

Kirkenes Snow Hotel Ice sculpture Norway - photo Zoe Dawes

And snow has fallen recently at Kirkenes, a few miles from the Russian border at the very top of Norway, and the whole world is garbed in a glittering blanket of white.  A small group of us are standing in front of a circle of icy pillars listening to a guide describe how the nearby unique structure was created.  “We spend many months creating the Kirkenes Snow Hotel from more than 15 tons of ice.  It comes from the frozen lake nearby.  We cut the ice with chainsaws and pull it with snowmobiles into the snowhotel. 

Kirkenes Snow Hotel Guide Norway - photo Zoe Dawes

In the middle of winter this ice is 70 centimeters thick and is a very good insulator.  When it is -30 degrees outside it will still be relatively warm inside the snow hotel a stable -5 degrees celsius.”  At the entrance a little flame flickers in a brass lantern and a blue door beckons into the arched darkness beyond.

Entrance Snow Hotel Kirkenes Norway - photo Zoe Dawes

We are told that each of the 20 bedroom suites has its own unique ice sculpture, carved by highly talented Chinese ice artists, who are given the designs then stay inside the hotel for a month until all their artistic creations are complete.

The Snow Hotel bedrooms are 5 metres in diameter and equipped with everything needed for a comfortable night. Each double bed is framed with ice blocks and they have comfy mattresses with thermal insulation on top. Guests sleep inside a sleeping bag graded for -35 degrees celsius. Colourful cushions and reindeer skins decorate each bed.

Bedroom in Kirkenes Snow Hotel Norway - photo Zoe Dawes

In the central ‘lounge’ area benches cut from huge ice blocks are also covered in reindeer skins and coloured lighting slowly fades from red to purple to green, giving this cool room an eerie yet strangely warming glow.  A couple of bedrooms are hidden behind a massive chunk of translucent ice.  Trying to make out a large sculpture beside it, I realise it is a young woman getting up from a frozen loo!

Girl and loo - ice sculpture Kirkenes Snow Hotel - photo Zoe Dawes Off the arched entrance tunnel are many bedrooms, all similar in design but each with its own distinctive works of art.  Father Christmas, Charlie Chaplin, a pair of penguins, romantic swans and unfamiliar figures from Scandinavian folklore are immaculately carved around the walls.  And there, in cosy harmony, is the little Snork Maiden whispering to a very attentive Moomintroll in a bed of delicately etched flowers.  The Moomins are a family of cute trolls from Finland who have strange adventures with a group of very quirky friends.  These two have obviously come over to Norway to experience this  romantically whimsical hotel …

“The Snork Maiden put her trembling paw in Moomintroll’s and he felt very protective and manly.”   Chapter 3 ‘Finn Family Moomintroll’ by Tove Jansson.

Moomins in bed, Kirkenes Snow Hotel Norway - photo Zoe Dawes

This unusual place included in the Kirkenes Snow Hotel Tour organised by Hurtigruten UK.  I enjoyed a memorable cruise along the Arctic coast (one of my favourite posts!) of Norway from Tromso to Kirkenes and back.