2010
Aug 
28

Reykjavik

Filed under: Iceland — Russell @ 2:42 pm  

We landed yesterday at 6:30am in Iceland.  The hotel wasn’t going to be ready for several hours so we took a bus to the Blue Lagoon Spa.  They are set up to host travellers in transit with regular buses to the airport and secure luggage storage.  As we got closer we could see huge plumes of steam rising from the old lava fields.  When we turned off the main road people gasped at the colour of the water.

When we arrived at the spa we were issued electronic bracelets.  These opened the lockers and worked as credit cards inside the spa.  Outside there is a large pool with warm blue water.  Similar to the water at Lake Louise, the colour comes from a combination of algae and minerals.

At the far edge of the pool a miniature (fake) geyser pumps hot volcanic water.  The pool gets hotter as you approach the geyser.  Around the edges of the pool are pots of silica mud.  Applying this mud to the face for 10 minutes does leave the skin feeling smooth.  After a dip and a visit to the steam cave we retired to the relaxation room.  There several of us practised deep meditation (sleeping) combined with harmonic throat singing (snoring).

After another soak and a light lunch we grudgingly left the spa and took the bus into Reykjavik.  Determined to start acclimating to the new timezone (GMT) we wandered the streets of the city.  At 64 degrees north latitude the sun doesn’t so much set as flirt with the horizon before reluctantly disappearing.  Eventually, we went to the hotel where we slept like the dead.

Reykjavik seems like a modern European city with clean, well maintained streets.  This was surprising given their recent financial crisis.  Today we bought tourist cards which give free admittance to most of the museums as well as local bus service.

At Culture House we saw several old Icelandic manuscripts.  The Icelandic sagas inspired Tolkien and Wagner and until the 1920s were taught in school as history until scholars objected.

Iceland has always been very literate and there was a demonstration of how to make a book, starting with the creation of parchment.

and the mixing of ink.

Settlement Exhibition was constructed around an archaeological dig.  Conveniently located in the heart of old city it houses the oldest known human settlement in Iceland.  This exhibit had some of the best multimedia displays I’ve seen in a long time including a miniature of the site with annotations projected onto the model from above.  Touching these annotations revealed more information in the language of your choice.  It could have doubled as the subterranean layer of an evil genius.

Finally, we visited the National Museum where I finally learned the Icelanders had thrown off the shackles of the Norwegian king in a manner that would be familiar to any Canadian.  They negotiated and won a series of concessions over many years finally resulting in independence in 1944.