8.12.2009

First Impressions of Iceland

Waking was hard.  It was like unbecoming a rock.  I have not slept so soundly in a good long time.

The sun was already high, and I heard chatter across the street at the American Embassy through the open window.  Vaffla ("Waffles") the cat was purring and snuggling away, licking me with her raspy little tongue as I opened my eyes to the white.

Gylfi was already gone to work at the shipping company.  I stepped on Vaffla's tiny race car toy as I made my way half blind to the bathroom.  The half barrel roofs of the National Gallery spread in Impressionist blotches across the blue of the picture window, leading to the kirke steeple.  The shower water was scalding...and smelled heavily and unambiguously of sulfur.  I laughed out loud.  Welcome to Iceland, I suppose.

Gylfi texted me the place to meet for lunch.  Wait, what time is it? - I texted back.  I had T minus 5 minutes to make it to the cafe I had never been to at an intersection that sounded like two saga titles meeting in the street.  Take the bike, he said.

I rode downhill as Reykjavik exploded crisply around me in the summer sunlight.  Giant stone cliffs rose far off over water, wrapped in mist.

***

Gylfi met me on the Square after work.  Protesters across from Althingi, the parliament building, periodically raised a din with rattles, bells, and a giant gong.  An EU flag rose on a pole with a giant red cross-out slapped over the ring of stars.  Someone had placed piles of grass on the stone posts in front of the building itself.  It appeared even the elfs were angry.

We enjoyed a beer amidst the crowds out to enjoy the rare full-blast of sunshine.  We caught up, we met some friends.

Then, after a burger at a tiny incongruous "Burgerjoint" in a miniature art deco building down by the harbor, we headed out across the chaos of the scrabble-rock lava plains to the Blue Lagoon.  Volcanoes rose in perfect dull blackened cones at the far edge of the view along the route.  No tree broke the horizon.  Off across the water, Snaefellsjokull, the glacier-topped volcano of Jules Verne fame sat ominously.

The Blue Lagoon itself took my breath away as we wound in through the tortured lava rock now covered with endless globs of seafoam green moss.  Steam rose in weak clouds before the mountains.  Then we saw the water itself.  Gylfi didn't blink an eye, but I couldn't believe it - the water was a perfect, slightly chalky electric kool-aid blue.  White minerals enameled the edges of the surrounding black rocks at the water's edge.

We headed in to take a dip.  It was surreal, I must say.  My contacts died halfway through after a run-in with the white-gray muck that people plaster on themselves, dug from rocky nooks and crannies in the pool.

So, on the way back home, I faced the lichen-wrapped wooden bones of an old fish-drying station with my eyes alone, half blind once again.  We ate kreukaberries from the squat bushes on the heath and played around on the wooden fish-drying bars as the sun finally nearly-set sometime around 11 p.m.  

****

It's lovely here - very tranquil and safe, a sort of sanctuary.  I feel almost as if I've stepped out of the ravages of Middle Earth and gone to live for a time with the elves in Rivendell.

And now I'm off to do some whale watching.