Done The Ice Hotel? Time To Sleep In A Sandcastle

Open Jaw

Dutch sand sculptors have taken a childhood fantasy to a new level by creating the world's first real-life "sandcastle hotel," complete with drawbridge and turrets.

Two sand hotels were built in the Netherlands this year at venues where annual sand sculpture festivals are held: one in the southern city of Oss and the other in the northern Frisian city of Sneek.

Curious tourists flocked to spend a night in a specially-built room deep inside a massive sculpture made entirely of sand reinforced by wood. The room gives those spending the night the unique experience of sleeping in a real-life sandcastle, and décor features sand-carved sculptures.

"It's crazy!" said Dutch mechanic Erwin after sleeping in the sand hotel to celebrate his "twelve-and-a-half year anniversary" with his partner. "I wanted to do something special and it's a bit of a childhood dream of mine to sleep in a sandcastle," Erwin, told AFP.

Hotel manager Maud van Leeuwen says the idea was inspired by the ice hotels that spring up in Scandinavia and Canada each winter. "We have many artists who work with both sand and ice and suddenly we thought -- why not build a sand hotel?" she told AFP. Conditions are less harsh than at ice hotels. Overnight stays cost 150 euros. But like the Scandinavian ice hotels, the sand hotel is built as an ephemeral artwork and will be broken down at the end of summer.

Guests need not worry about sand in the sheets: the hotel offers a 'regular' bed and the floor is lined with plush grey carpet. "People say: 'It's a sand hotel, it's going to be a like a muddy puddle' but in fact it's very luxurious," Van Leeuwen says.

In Oss, hotel guests can marvel at a collection of life-sized sand-sculpted dinosaurs, medieval explorers and robots while a "trip through Asia" is the theme in Sneek.

The decor and structure is made from sand treated with a special lime to help it bind and harden, thereby preventing the room from crumbling in on its residents. "I think for some people it's a childhood fantasy to sleep in a sandcastle, while for others it's a bit like going on an adventure, or for a special occasion," Van Leeuwen said.

The sand hotels are expected to be back at same two venues next year -- and will perhaps also make appearances in Germany and Britain.

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