I am here in the land of fire and ice! Yes, this may be an overused cliché to describe Iceland, but it´s so accurate, I can’t help but think of it. And one’s introduction to Iceland certainly is a reminder of her volatile volcanic story. Flying into Keflavik, the international airport on Reykjanes Peninsula 40 minutes away from Reykjavik, one is instantly stunned by the sheer loneliness and stark beauty of a wind-swept expanse of black lava plains covered in nothing more than a blanket of muted olive green moss. It reminds me most of a coffee cake crust, crumbly and uneven. The few houses look out to sea, perched on their rocky, coffeecake foundations so perilously, I imagine the inhabitants to be sturdy, weathered folk of the ancient Viking variety who make a living fishing the stormy waters of the North Atlantic.
The plane flight from Minneapolis was not a particularly long flight by trans-Atlantic standards, but my fibromyalgia still did not appreciate sleeping cramped up in a coach seat, so my plan to stop at the infamous Blue Lagoon before continuing on to my hostel in Reykjavik was inspired. Is this steaming lake of blue surrounded by slag-like heaps of volcanic rock an overpriced tourist trap? Absolutely. Is it still a must-experience regardless? You may form your own opinion, but I decided to turn my back to the resort side of the lagoon and focused instead on the soothing soak of liquid heat, medicine for my achy muscles and joints. Thousand times better than a heating pad and much better scenery than my couch!
The Blue Lagoon started as geothermally-heated runoff from the nearby geothermal power plant. The resort has built up around it. All of Iceland’s energy comes from geothermal energy. This is after all the country where you can bury dough in the ground and 24 hours later dig it back up for wonderfully tasty hverabrauð. I simmered in the pale milky aqua waters and finally believed I am really in Iceland!
Reykjavik, the capital of this small, but friendly country, at first glance seems like any other small town by the sea. Until the bus pulled in to central Reykjavik and my feet finally hit the pavement. It was not necessarily love at first sight, but definitely a beautiful friendship is forming over long walks along the bayfront as I gaze out over the fog-shrouded mountains of the fjord where the first few settlers from Norway settled Iceland. I call up my studies of the Sagas, Iceland’s treasure-trove of legend, heroism, history, and genealogy, of the daring men and women (and in the Sagas, there are definitely strong three-dimensional women!) who sailed into the bay and built their first settlements.
So far, I have established a favorite restaurant and favorite cafe, both along the harbor. Icelandic Fish & Chips is the place to try the fiskur dagsins (fish of the day) in finger-licking battered goodness, dipped into a unique concoction that is all Icelandic, their national yogurt-like dish called skyr mixed with a variety of flavors. Today I tried the mango skyr sauce with the red fish and chips. Generously topped with sea salt. Delight! And why don’t our restaurants use sea salt as the table salt?
Coffee shop? Hands-down the Cafe Haiti, right on the harbor. Icelanders, it turns out, much to my convenience, worship their coffee. And they like it STRONG. If you live by American-style lattes, the latte brewed up here is not for you. On the other hand, I am now a fan of a latte!
I am trying out my Icelandic little by little, like a baby slowly discovering their fingers and toes, or taking that first step. It is an issue of confidence, I suppose. I have always been stronger with reading and writing a foreign language than actually conversing. Call it the barrier effect, as I usually need to see in my head what the other person is saying, then see my reply in my head visually before I can say it. However, my attempts and mistakes bring smiles all around. Icelanders are not used to an American learning their language.
Tomorrow I fly to Greenland, and as the Internet situation is of yet unknown, I may or may not be able to blog for the next week. I will try to post again tomorrow before my flight with some further thoughts on Reykjavik still in their infancy in my head.
Otherwise, here I come Greenland!