Monday, July 17, 2006

Day eleven -- Reykjavik

Wow, what an interesting country Iceland is. It's so very different from Scotland (or Germany or other European countries I've been to).

I've never been to Scandanavia before, so maybe it's more typical for Scandanavian countries, but everything is very modern with crisp lines, lots of glass, metal and stone, almost no upholstery or wood. It's also very monochromatic. Lots of gray, black and white. It's like a big ol' Ikea country.

And, I don't mean it as an insult, but the people here are much less friendly--perhaps reserved is the proper term--but they don't go out of their way to chat with you. When you remark that the particular dinner item you had was delicious, they reply with a curt, "I'm glad you like it," and hustle away. It's just a large contrast after the gregarious friendliness of Scotland.

Last night, we went to bed at 11pm, and it was still very much light outside. I awoke at midnight, and again at 2am, and the darkest it ever got was kind of dusky. We've been told that it won't get totally dark up here until later in August, and then only for a short while. Lots and lots of daylight right now, but consider that in the winter, they will get only about four hours of daylight, and not very bright either.

It's also amazingly cold. I figure it's only about 15 deg Celsius, which is probably in the low 50's Fahrenheit. That's daily high temperatures, mind you. All the people here are wearing coats, woolen hats, scarves and gloves. If this is the warmest it gets, it must be people that really enjoy the cold.

Today, we did some touring around the city, mostly on foot. Our hotel is right in the middle of the old town, so it's very convenient walking to just about anything. We bought some tourist day passes, and used them to visit the Culture Museum and the National Museum, where we learned a lot about the viking culture and the history of Iceland.

At lunch, we stopped and ate at Restaurant L├Žkjarbrekka. I had a wonderful salted cod with an almond crust, and the best tasting fresh salad in my life (the salad used herbs like cilantro, dandelion, and rocket for greens). Eddie was an eating machine. He's always loved fish and ordered the Arctic char. Arctic char looks like salmon, but is milder tasting, like a trout. Here are the before and after pictures of his meal. Elapsed time: two minutes.

Before and After

After lunch, we split up: Becky, her Mom and Dad went shopping, and I took the boys for some much needed energy release--we went swimming. Iceland has two things that are very cheap here: electricity, because of the hydroelectric and geothermal energy, and hot water, because of geothermal water. Therefore, they have a number of nice municipal pools which are quite nice and very cheap.

The pool was called the Vesturb├Žjarlaug on Hofsvallagata. It was an outdoor pool and had a 25m lap pool (and I was able to get in a very nice workout!), a kiddie's play area with a slide, and four hot pots ranging from 36-44 deg C (~90-110 deg F). I figure this is probably the farthest north I will ever swim outdoors, at nearly the 65th parallel! It was an invigorating swim, and wore off a lot of energy from the boys. Hopefully, they'll be much less hyper tonight.

Now, we're back, and it's almost time for dinner. Tomorrow, we'll be going on the Golden Circle tour, which is a must-see tourist event in Iceland. Then it's back home on Wednesday.

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