I reckon Joanna and Bernard have a lot to answer for. It’s one thing to decide to have your wedding overseas and invite your friends and family to join you. It’s quite another to haul them over 2,000 metres up a snowy mountain and stick them in a chapel made completely of ice.
As if churches weren’t draughty enough anyway.
We’re atop the Fagaras Mountain within the Carpathians and there’s a blizzard going on, not perhaps the first choice for a wedding you might think, but then again it certainly gives you something to talk about. Joanna, as it happens, looks amazing – a proper snow queen, Bernard however, a little incongruous in full tux and top hat, pays no heed to the sub zero temperature as he poses for pictures out in the blizzard.
The chapel is directly opposite the Ice Hotel, a 10 room structure rebuilt every year once Lake Balea freezes over. This is the signal for great chunks of ice to be cut from the lake and carved into the intricate shapes from whence the hotel emerges. The outside looks like a giant igloo, however I trudge across the snow and look inside to find an extraordinary interior; A narrow restaurant replete with ice tables and chairs, a fully stocked ice bar, and along each side, 5 bedrooms each with a unique theme. I’m invited to pick a room for the night and, guessing the happy couple want the honeymoon suite, I choose the Rock Music room, which comes complete with suitable neon lighting and ice guitars .
Fortunately, the nearby Lake Balea Chalet is a warm and cosy hostelry for those not brave enough to sleep in the Ice Hotel with a hot meal available when needed. I on the other hand, plumb for the full fine dining ensemble in the Ice Hotel; a rather tricky place to hold a knife and fork elegantly when you’re wearing thick gloves and a parka. That said, at least my whiskey doesn’t need any ice!
Having wined and dined, I turn in for the night having been given an arctic sleeping bag to put in my room and a tip to leave my hat on. For the record, I do leave the hat on and everything else too including my boots, with the temperature inside the hotel a steady -5. Mind you, as the blizzard rumbles on, the outside tumbles to -20. Here inside though it is incredibly quiet and the ambient lighting makes the whole thing rather magical. With my bag zipped up over my head, I go to sleep praying I don’t get a full bladder in the middle of the night.
Morning dawns and I peer out. The sun is shining in the impossibly blue sky and the view across the snow covered peaks hidden during yesterday’s blizzard, is simply stunning. I feel on top of the world. I feel a sense of achieved adventure and celebrate with a hearty breakfast over in the Chalet before making my way down to earth in the cable car.
Untravelled Paths is a specialist independent travel company which has exclusive access to Romania’s Ice Hotel, a winter adventure experience which I will certainly talk about for many years to come. It is much more affordable than the Ice Hotels in Sweden or Canada and you get to see some of Romania’s other sights as part of the tour; the bright lights of Bucharest, the wonderfully gothic twisty cobbled streets of Brasov and even a glimpse or two of Dracula’s Castle.
As for Joanna and Bernard, they passed on their honeymoon suite in the ice hotel and spent the night in the warmth of the Chalet! And they say romance is dead.
You need to know one thing. Quality travel is in my DNA. I have written about places and people all over the world, some good and some bad, but the bottom line for me that a place has to have a signature. It has to have something about it that will be worth the effort of going there. I’ll inform, perhaps amuse, certainly educate and hopefully entertain. But above all, I’ll deliver a snapshot that will either give you that signature or leave it unsigned, and you know what that means… Andy has been writing about world travel destinations for over 10 years and during that time has experienced his fair share of highs and lows. Never one to shirk his responsibilities, he always delivers insightful, honest pieces that just simply tell it like it is.