Dutch couple Luck (L) and Maya sit on a bed before spending a night at the first Dutch ice hotel in Zwolle on December 15, 2011. - Photo by AFP

ZWOLLE (Netherlands): It could be any standard hotel room in the quaint northeastern Dutch city of Zwolle, with a bed, a minibar, bathrobes and two pairs of slippers. Except for the room temperature, which hovers just above freezing.

Welcome to the first Dutch ice hotel, all the comforts at eight degrees Celsius.

“If you take a shower before bed, make sure your hair is dry or it will freeze. Do not drink too much alcohol, or eat too heavy a meal. Make sure you change clothes before entering the room,” hotel manager Annet van Limburg told first-time visitors.Laughing a little nervously, Luc van Heijst and Maya Zhang, both 42, listened carefully to her advice, their luggage stuffed with several pairs of pants, sweaters, gloves and hats.

“No, I'm not afraid, but I am still a little nervous,” admitted Van Heijst, from Veghel, an hour-and-a-half's drive to the south. “We came for the experience,” he said, adding: “I feel like a little boy.”

Built for an ice sculptors' festival in Zwolle and managed by a local hotel, the structure has three rooms and stands in a refrigerated warehouse, where the temperature hovers between six and eight degrees C, depending on the number of visitors.

It is the first time in Europe that an ice hotel has opened this far south, Van Limburg said. Indeed, the idea comes from the north.

With some 47 rooms for the 2011/12 season, the largest ice hotel is at Jukkasjarvi in northern Sweden's Lapland.

“Unlike Canada and Lapland, the hotel here is not situated in nature,” Van Limburg said pointing out: “There, the guests sleep in minus 20 degrees.”

Inside, abstract patterns carved from the ice adorn the metre-thick walls of two of the rooms. A third has a nautical theme, including a giant shell carved into its ice. A thick black curtain serves as a door.

Carved from a solid ice block, like a giant ice cube, the room's main attraction is a square bed, which lights up in pink, blue and green lights through lamps installed underneath in its ice.

It took about 10 days to build the three rooms, where guests can stay from Dec 3 to Jan 29. A night for two including breakfast will cost $259.

“It's not dangerous if you're healthy,” Van Limburg said. But just in case, a room at a real hotel was set aside in case guests change their minds and a free taxi ride there was provided.

The following morning, visitors Van Heijst and Zhang seemed not to have suffered to much from their frosty experience.—AFP

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