© 2017 by Dale Zurawski

Icelanders

August 24, 2018

 

 

The Secret Lagoon, along the Golden Circle, was the first outdoor public pool in Iceland. It is fed by a geyser with the water entering the pool just below boiling.

 

Icelanders are quirky; their sense of humor subtle. They brag that the only crime in Iceland is the occasional bar brawl and wife beating. The Festival of Lights opened with an avant-guard film that progressed through close-ups of skin, living cells, and a pig's nose. Music blared as the film was projected on giant fuel tanks recommissioned to hold-up a domed restaurant. 

 

 A government commissioned Reykjavik muriel on a side street in an industrial zone.

 

We stood outside, along with a small group of locals, until the end of the 30-minute screening. After tolerating the wind in our face, we rode an elevator to the spinning restaurant sitting on top of the six tanks. Traditionally Icelanders ate cod, lamb, and potatoes. Since tourism has increased, so has the diversity of the restaurant food. This upscale place offered trout roe over fried romaine, whale meat, and loin of horse, along with hamburgers, a staple of most menus. 

 

 A small group of locals braved the night time winds to watch a film to celebrate the beginning of the Festival of Lights.

 

The Icelanders seem to like it dark, what few lights they have are dimmed like there is about to be a power outage. Visiting the clean, modern bathroom, it had black walls, a black tile floor, and black porcelain toilet.

 

 The lukewarm sun makes an appearance mid afternoon while we were hiking back from a waterfall. 

 

My husband and I went to Iceland in February intentionally, not just for the free seven-day stop over offered by IcelandicAir. We were looking for a winter experience: the Northern Lights, that we never saw; hiking a glacier, that exceeded our expectations, and thermal geysers, that were worthy of a trip on their own. More important, we discovered the best reason to visit Iceland in winter.

 

Warning; crossing streams can be treacherous.

 

Walking the streets of Reykjavik huddled in our parkas, we entered a dimly lit, modern bar, and sat on a comfortable couch. We ordered one of the many Icelandic brewed beer and a very weak cocktail. Throughout Iceland, cocktails have precisely 1.0 oz of liquor. Ordering a double, you’ll pay around $25. Like the bar, our Scandinavian-style hotel was so appealing because we were no longer in the freezing wind. The hotel had thin, rough-to-the-touch towels and a complimentary bottle of wine in the room, impressive given the triple-digit cost of wine.

 

 A bottle of Costco, Sonoma County wine costs $160.  Many restaurants display their wine collection in the dining room. 

 

Like the other tourists, we decided to take a drive along the Golden Circle to see the sites outside of Reykjavik. In half a day’s drive, we were able to visit, Gullfoss, the Niagara Falls of Iceland. Even in white-out blizzard conditions, the force and sound of the cascading water melting off the mountains lived up to its reputation. There were also geysers galore along the drive. We chose the town of Geyser for our stop. The other tourists were sparse enough not to interfere with the geysers erupting every few minutes. 

 

 Just after the blizzard passed, we could photograph part of the Gooafoss cascading falls.

 

Finally, lunch inside a bright, warm, tomato greenhouse gave us a chance to sit and rest. They bragged about using Iceland’s cheap geothermal electricity and the unlimited hot water to grow tomatoes year-round. This enabled them to have a zero environmental footprint.

 

 Featuring tomato soup, margarita pizza, and tomato schnapps, the Frioheimar greenhouse was comfy stop for lunch. 

 

Looking back, the Icelanders didn’t leave much of an impression. Instead, we left with a sense of place. Like an annoying little brother, you might wish would go away, the ever-present wind was a part of our winter of experience. We came for the Northern Lights, but what was memorable was the isolation and the connection to the land, even with the snow blowing in your face.

 

 The main highway around the island had few cars. 

 

 

For my family who would like more photo....

 Volcano in the background just before a river crossing. Four-wheel drive was required on backroads.  

 

 

Before the  8-hours and 8-time zone flight to California, passengers have to deal with the ice one more time.

 

 

Iceland is located between Greenland and Ireland.

 

 

 Blaskogabyggo River crossing at 3 pm with another blizzard threatening from the right.

 

 

'Cheers' from our hotel's private spa, heated to temperatures not allowed in the safety-conscious US. 

 

 

 

Black sand on the snow-covered beach in Vik. A sign warns of sneaker waves just off the shore.

 

 

 

 

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