467 words on Travel
I sympathise with Scandinavian countries and Iceland has always fascinated me. It is said have beautiful landscapes, friendly people (including a bunch of our favourite bands) and a great atmosphere. The country is both nearby and far away: a European country, yet close to the Arctic circle, part of the Schengen area, yet half-way to North America. Despite not being a big outdoor lover, I’ve always wanted to visit.
I had the opportunity to do that now. Not quite the big tour all the way around the island, but just a two-day stopover in Reykjavík for the time being, thanks to Icelandair offering such flights from Europe to North America with the option to enjoy a few days in their country. To us, the days in Reykjavík seemed worth the effort of doing the stopover. We stayed at 4th floor hotel near Hlemmur bus station (it looked bigger in the film) which has small rooms but was affordable and fine.
This very short stop in Iceland left a good impression. Everybody was friendly, helpful and totally used to the nuisance that are tourists. Somehow they manage to strike the right balance between being helpful and being blatantly commercial: You can buy pretty much any touristy attraction or convenience you may be interested in, but it doesn’t seem like anything is forced on you.
Downtown Reykjavík is conveniently small and easy to explore by foot. After just a day you start coming to streets, thinking “we’ve been here before”. So we looked at the city, the harbour, their new Harpa concert house, went up the concrete Hallgrímskirkja to enjoy the view on the city, peeked at the city hall, parliament, national library and took a short walk up a hill to Perlan a bunch of hot water tanks with a glass dome containing a cafeteria and restaurant on top.
Hot water is Iceland’s big source of energy. And there’s enough of it to heat pretty much everything to comfortable temperatures without a second thought. This leads to poorly insulated houses and quite a few buildings seeming to master everything without having chimneys. It also seems to result in a slightly sulphuric smell in the hot water, which takes some getting used to.
Before leaving, we indulged in a few hours of soaking in the Blue Lagoon spa which is fed by the wastewater of a power station. Luckily the power station is a geothermal one as well, so we’re just talking about a lot of hot water here – without a noticeable sulphuric smell even.
After that attraction we were dropped off at Keflavík airport again – offering a trip from your hotel to the airport with a spa-stop on the way just seems like a brilliant idea – and were comfortably tired for the flight to Toronto.
I also took advantage of a “free” Reykjavik stop-over on the way to Stockholm years ago and had a great time. I’ve wanted to go back for a longer visit every since, which makes this program a very smart move by Iceland’s tourism industry! Safe travels.