Each winter, deep in the boreal forests of northern Sweden, a hotel is built anew, all of ice. Reindeer hides cover the ice beds, where guests are ensconced in down sleeping bags. There is even a wedding chapel, akin the Snow Queen’s palace in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale. Or so I imagine, for the touch of frostbite I got at the Norwegian Olympics in 1992 has left me with little inclination to sleep on ice, no matter how well insulated.
However, I was still curious, so I did the next best thing and visited the Ice Bar in downtown Stockholm.
“Your feet will freeze,” the attendant said with a laugh, looking down at my sandals. The weather in Stockholm was unusually warm, 80 degrees and no wind, practically sweltering by Swedish standards. But we were about to leave all that behind, as my 26-year-old daughter and I pulled on blue hooded ponchos that hung below our knees with attached gloves - but no foot coverings.
Nonetheless, we walked through the double doors. About a dozen people were standing around, including a group of women from Southern California. The room lived up to its name: the bar was made of ice; the shelves behind were ice; there were blocks of ice topped with reindeer skins to sit on and more blocks of ice forming alcoves and walls. Some of the blocks had designs carved into them. And yes, my feet were rapidly cooling.
The first drink was included in the entry fee, and the beverages fit the theme, with such evocative names as Torne River (a version of a lemon drop named for a northern waterway), Wolf Paw (lingonberry jucie and lime with Absolut 100), and Snow Flake (vodka with coconut, peach, pineapple and cranberry juices). All but the three virgin drinks were based on Swedish Absolut vodka. Tina had the Husky Sledge (vanilla vodka cinnamon, and apple), while I went for the Northern Light (raspberry vodka, crème de cassis, lime and raspberry puree).
The drinks were rather strong. That, plus the prices (95 or 125 Swedish kronor per drink , depending on whether you retained the same glass, or about $15 and $20 at the time) and the cold kept us to one. Despite my lack of appropriate footwear, I enjoyed our brief sojourn in a winter wonderland. We walked through the exit, returned our ponchos, continued past the gift shop, and back out into the still-warm summer twilight.
Note: This piece first appeared under the same title on the travel blog ePicaro (http://epicaro.com/hp_wordpress/). For more on Swedish cuisine, go to www.swedishkitchen.com.