Sweden on location-NovDec 2015

Sweden on location-NovDec 2015
Sweden on location-NovDec 2015
Sweden on location-NovDec 2015
Sweden on location-NovDec 2015
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Transcript of Sweden on location-NovDec 2015

  • 46 | prevue magazine

    Natural and manmade marvels reveal ingenuity in art and ice.

    Sweden[ON LOCATION] JOHNALEE JOHNSTON

  • prevuemeetings.com | 47

    TTheres always something in the ice. Lena Kristrm, master sculptor of our workshop, leaves this statement a bit open-ended as any serious artist would. We gaze into the blocks positioned on pedestals before us, chisels in hand, and it isnt long before Kristrms talk of ancient ice fields and art nudges us into motion. Its harder than it looksthe purity of the ice, completely free from air bubbles and sediments, seems perfect on its own. But a closer look reveals within it another world, and like many explorers who have come before us, intrigue quickly turns to conquer.

    Every year since 1989, artists from around the world have faced a similar test at the Icehotel, located in the village of Jukkasjrviaptly named meeting placein Northern Sweden. An annual harvest from the nearby Torne River borrows the several thousand tons of ice needed to create the 60,000-sf hotel anew each year. The walls, floors and ceilings of the hotel then become canvases for around 50 hand-selected artists of various disciplines. Its a cross between Wonderland and Smurf village, with ephemeral masterpieces tucked away beneath shimmering mounds of ice and snow.

    The ice that we use to build Icehotel is on loan to us from the Torne River, CEO Monica Wollmen explains. Thankfully, its still in its natural state, having never been used for industrial purpose, and its water is still so clean you can drink it straight from the river bank. We make something out of frozen water, and after a few months, it melts back to its former state, rejoining the river from where it came.

    THE WILD RIVER FLOWS Dog sleds dart across Arctic taiga, shimmering plateaus and frozen rivers to deliver us to the Icehotel from Kiruna airport. Midway, we stop for lunch in a traditional Sami lavvu, where hot lingonberry juice and reindeer stew are cooked over an open fire. The tipi-like structures show up periodically throughout the snow-dusted landscape, tracing the paths of indigenous Sami as they follow their reindeer herds. Later that day, we would experience the Sami culture firsthand at the Nutti Smi Siida, a Sami-run lodge offering cultural experiences such as storytelling, joik (Sami folk songs), reindeer sledding and racing, and a northern lights tour into Abisko National Park. Were told photography excursions, snowmobile tours deeper into the taiga, (which include a surprising amount of popup places to eat along the way, we would later discover) taking to the ice on MINI Countryman Coopers, wildlife survival teambuilding and authentic Swedish Lapland experiences like kokkaffe (boiled coffee in the wild) are offered back at the hotel.

    After filling up and warming by the hearth, the howls of anticipation from our pack outside pull us back on track to the hotel. There are more dogs in Jukkasjrvi than residents, Gunnar Elinder, our musher during the 90-minute ride says. And they love to run.

    Dog sledding has been a way of life in Jukkasjrvi for hundreds of years. Meandering through the spruce, pines and occasional birch is like time traveling. Finally arriving at the hotel, the view opens up into an infinite expanse of white as we scuttle across Torne Riverits

  • 48 | prevue magazine

    The ice we use to build Icehotel is on loan to us from the Torne River. We make something out of frozen water, and after a few months, it melts back to its former state, rejoining the river from where it came.

    as if were donning the top of a frosty wedding cake. Wollmen says most visitors find the hotel much larger than

    they had imagineda kicksled tour of the grounds finds this on point. A warehouse stores what appears to be thousands of 2-ton ice blocks harvested from the river March to April. Beneath the manmade grid and machinery used by the hotels crew to navigate the ice field, the wild river still flows.

    We also explore 65 suites, including 19 individually-themed art suites, a church, main hall and reception area before hunkering down in the Icehotel bar for specialty cocktails based on art suite themes served in the rocks, or in ice glasses made on-site. Across the road is the Icehotel Restaurant, where a sprawling breakfast buffet starts the morning off right and dinners are heartily served on plates of crystal clear ice.

    Positioned on the Torne in an 18th century schoolhouse-turned-restaurant is the Homestead. As delicious as the local delicacies are, the highlight of our meal is the impromptu arrival of Aurora Borealis and her magical green hair that swooshes across the night sky. For most of us, its a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Also once-in-a-lifetime, sleeping in -15 degree (F) temperatures.

    Aside from not having toilets and showers made of ice, I think the most common surprise groups have is that you actually have a pretty comfortable sleep in sub-zero degrees, Wollmen says. My suite, fittingly called Polar Night, artfully conveys a confrontation between a pack of wolves and lone lynx under a full moon. The bed is covered in reindeer furs, and a polar-tested sleeping bag is

    quite warm with only mild layering on my part. An adjacent warm buildingwith a cozy lounge, bathrooms, showers and other modern conveniencesis open throughout the night, with keyed cubbies containing our luggage, outlets and a bench for changing, but few people need it. Warm accommodations are also nearby with single or double beds and all of the usual hotel amenities, including WiFi.

    A 13,000-sf expansion powered entirely by solar is in the works for 2016. Like the Icehotel, the permanent sub-zero ice experience and its 20 suites, bar and gallery will have a life cycle whereby it changes guise every year.

    ELEGANT, ECLECTIC & EXTREMEA short flight to the south, Stockholm delivers its own brush with the extraordinary. Our experience began with the 19th century Grand Hotel, fronting the waterfront across from the Royal Palace and Old Town. The regal, yet modern and sophisticated hotel was inaugurated by King Oscar II, with the first Nobel Prize ceremony and banquet taking place in the Hall of Mirrors ballroom in 1901. The hotel currently draws celebrities, high-profile events and Nobel Laureates, who receive prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine and literature every December at the Stockholm Concert Hallthe Nobel Banquet and ball follows at City Hall.

    The hotel offers 22 venues in all, each with its own theme and color palettefrom lavish to laid back. Although the Grand Hotels culinary offerings are touted as some of the best around, we head

  • prevuemeetings.com | 49

    to the Grill restaurant to experience the citys quirky side. Making your way through this restaurant is like being

    shrunken down and pasted into the middle of Lady Gagas personal scrapbook. Its a hodgepodge of vintage furnishings, swanky sofas, mounted animal heads and scarcely clad mannequins spread over eight themed areasfrom Moulin Rouge to the Orient Express. Everything on the menu has been grilled to some degree from local takes on surf and turf to grilled pineapple and coconut sorbet. After dinner, Magnus Lindbergh of Visit Sweden, which organized the FAM, surprised us with a horse drawn carriagecomplete with blankets and hot lingonberry juicethrough the city back to the hotel. The ride is one of the more laid back tours of Stockholmwere told many groups opt for rooftop hikes, food, photography and Viking tours and kayaking tours through the archipelago. The Stockholm subway system is said to be the worlds longest art exhibit, with over 150 artists sculptures, mosaics, paintings, installations and engravings on display.

    The Vasa Museum was one of our last encounters with the extraordinary. The museum was built around a 17th century Swedish warship that capsized within minutes of starting its maiden voyage. The meticulously preserved and elaborately carved ship is

    really a work of art and telltale of local traditions and superstitions. Huddled around the mighty ship in the Ship Hall, groups of up to 800 seated or 2,000 standing regularly partake in candlelit dinners with Nordic cuisine and guided tours around the ship. We dined on traditional Swedish meatballs and other local fare in the on-site restaurant, which can also be used for musical performances. Our guide suggests re-creating the Vasas maiden voyage through the archipelago and arriving by boat at the nearby jettyonly this time, with a much happier ending.

    icehotel.com; grandhotel.se; vasamuseet.se; visitsweden.com; stockholm.se

    The Vasa Museum was built around a 17th century Swedish warship that capsized within minutes of starting its maiden voyage.

    Left page (l-r): Grill restaurant, Stockholm; Icehotel art suite; Below clockwise (l-r): Dog sled safari through the arctic taiga; Stockholm waterfront; dessert at the Grand Hotel; Stockholm. Photography credit this page: Johnalee Johnston