After the intensity of the last 5 days, it was welcome relief to have a free day. It is now time to describe the smaller details, the curious
or unusual things, even the straight out mundane but oddly Icelandic things.
I haven't mentioned much about where we stayed. We were at the 6th
(top) floor of a centrally located medium sized hotel in Reykjavik. http://www.centerhotels.com/our-hotels/hotel-plaza
There was a glass alcove with a sloping ceiling which was a nice spot to sit with a cup of tea, eat Icelandic pastries and watch small planes fly very low overhead. With the window open, the skateboarders and plaza
noise was loud, but the double glazing was very good. The curtain was
not all that effective at blocking out the light because it had a way of finding its way around corners, so sometimes the complimentary Emirates
eye shades were useful.
Icelandic breakfasts, at least in this hotel, had a Nordic/Scandinavian flavour. Nothing too unusual or disconcerting, except the jar labelled "strawberry jam" which contained beetroot, which was positioned next to
the rollmopps, cucumber and lettuce. Icelandic bread and baked products
are really tasty and there was a fine array of wholesome, home-baked varieties on offer at the buffet breakfast to have with hard boiled egg, thinly sliced cheese or ham. There is a traditional oat slice called
Happy Marriage. It's sickeningly sweet but OK with a cup of tea or coffee.
A word about booze.
Other words about Booze:
If you drink alcohol, buy it all at the Duty Free upon arrival. The government runs the alcohol outlets so opening hours could catch you unaware and leave you empty handed and alcohol free for the night.
Chilli hot liquorice and salty liquorice liqueurs or a hot caraway flavoured liqueur are famous. Beer was illegal in Iceland until 1989.
There is a dairy product called Skyr. It is like a semisolid Greek yoghurt/cream cheese. What makes Skyr so amazing is that it is packed
with protein (12%) but very low fat (0.5%). My taste buds had trouble convincing my brain that this product was low fat but natural because it was so creamy and dense. It is very popular in Iceland and is sucked up
by body builders and protein fanatics. The natural was a bit to "udder" flavour for me, but the berry one was nice. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skyr
Fresh produce is pitiful and pathetic here. Limp, wilted, drab
offerings. Enough to make you weep. Some fresh produce can be grown in greenhouses, but most of it has a large carbon footprint (Sadly it looks like some of it has been stepped on, for real).
Prompt, clean, expensive and driven by articulate, well dressed,
educated drivers. Educated drivers. Even had a woman in her twenties
drove us to the domestic airport one morning. It must be a safe place
to be a taxi driver.
Icelanders are highly literate and well educated. High school ends when you are 20. They have more Nobel Prize winners per population than any other nation. We enjoyed visiting two art gallery/museums and a free outdoor sculpture garden as well as incidental street art and
architecture. Although I can't say I "enjoyed" Einer Jonsson's outdoor sculpture park. That man's psyche must have been a dark place. He made some quite disturbing pieces
My lasting impression of Iceland is an enigmatic place full of
contrasts: Ice and fire, dark and light, modern and ancient, water and rock, mystery and fact.
I also feel a strong sense of myth.
That I was ever there at all.