At the end of 2017, I had the chance to visit a special Star Wars-themed exhibition: the collection of ice sculptures made by some of the best European ice-sculptors. The yearly winter exhibition in Czech mountain resort in Krkonoše (“Giant Mountains”) has dipped its feet in geekdom this time. Princess Leia, R2-D2, Chewie, as well as Rey, Kylo Ren and others will be the guests of the Ice Palace on top of one of the mountain peaks at least until March 2018.
The Ice Palace in Špindlerův Mlýn, the busiest ski resort in Czech Republic, has been hosting different sets of ice sculptures already during the past few winters. Two years ago, the theme was characters and monuments from medieval Czech history, in 2016, there were fairies and a temple reminiscent of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. The specific film theme this year is a novelty, but for a Star Wars fan, certainly something to appreciate.
One has to admire the sculptors’ work. Not only are the characters instantly recognisable, but the statues also possess a fine level of detail. What is probably the most noteworthy sculpture, however, is one you may not focus on at first sight: the Imperial/First Order shuttle, depicted with its nose up, just taking flight. According to the chief sculptor, František Bálek, the construction weighs tons, and making and balancing it was the most difficult feat: not only the nose, but also the shuttle’s long, flat wings are in the air. Even for Bálek with his 29 years of ice-sculpting practice, it was quite a feat.
Aside from the ship, the exhibition hosts all the necessary characters. Since the theme is closely tied to The Last Jedi, however, we are going to find only the protagonists of this film. Leia gets the prominent place, which was also intended as homage to Carrie Fisher. Kylo Ren and First Order troopers form their own cluster on one side, but we find also BB-8, Rey and Master Luke Skywalker. Chewie, C-3PO and R2-D2 represent recurring characters from the Rebel faction.
The Star Wars exhibition might be a nice diversion especially for those who visit Špindlerův Mlýn for some skiing or hiking in the mountains and want to see something extra. The exhibition is free, and the Ice Palace is conveniently placed few meters from the top station of the Svatý Petr cable car. One can ride up, drop by at the exhibition, and then either ski downhill, or have a nice walk/skiing following the tracks atop the mountain.
If one is up for some heavier hiking, there is a way to walk up the mountain by yourself in a bit over two hours from Špindlerův mlýn. Depending on the conditions, however, it may be a fairly challenging endeavour. Taking the Innogy line cable car is by far the most convenient option, with price about 10€ for two-way ride – the owners have introduced a special “Ice Palace ride” ticket just for those who want to see the exhibition. In good weather, it also means having a nearly ten-minute ride with spectacular view of the surrounding mountainous landscape. Unfortunately, it also still means having to queue for something between ten to fifteen minutes with the rest of the skiers while waiting for the cable car, and depending on the time of the day, also for the tickets at the ticket office.
The exhibition is open daily from 11:00 til 15:30, and it is safer to go as early as possible to avoid queuing for tickets to the cable car and for finding a parking spot, if one isn’t staying in the area. That applies especially to those who are, for example, just visiting Prague and would like to hop over to Špindlerův Mlýn (a 2 to 3-hour journey by car – bus trip is closer to 3 hours).
In any case, those of you who are Star Wars fans and contemplating a winter holiday in Central Europe, this is a very tiny plus to consider. What I consider a more important aspect of this exhibition, however, is that perhaps, even after the Ice Palace statues have melted, somebody else might pick up the idea and we could see more, and different, Star Wars ice sculptures in different places of the world.