Otepää, Estonia

I’m looking from the empty dining room of my hotel at the Thenvandi Winter sports stadium. There’s a digital sign which is flicking between the time (00:23) and the temperature (-2 C). Snowfall from 2 days ago lies several inches thick surrounding the hotel and glitters from the streetlights. Electric light is everywhere: clocks, adverts, lights but no one moves.

There should be an adjective for the feeling one gets when staying in an empty hotel in a relatively empty town in a relatively remote part of the world. Hollow? Inert? I don’t know. When I arrived yesterday there wasn’t even anyone on reception. I was imagining a smiling young Estonian woman full of the normal welcoming courtesies but instead I just found my key card in an envelope in the post box.

Bright orange lights are on permanently as if to expect the next customer or member of staff but nothing happens. Time slows and I start to take in the minutiae of a building running on its own for the purpose of me, just me. The buzz of a fridge, the loud ticking of a clock, the bright green man running towards the fire exit, the stripey, orange carpets and those incessant orange lights like balloons about to pop.

I even went in sat in the empty sauna, the pine slats scrubbed clean and turned on the blue lights but couldn’t get the coals to work. It’s now 00.43 and still -2. The snow is piled up in drifts along the roadside. Nothing stirs. I think I should try and sleep.

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