Today was our one full day here, and we saw everything except the Northern Lights. All day, the skies were so clear that we thought tonight would be a good one, but there wasn’t enough solar activity. We even drove out of the city tonight, away from the lights of Reykjavic, and still nothing. The aurora forecast shows a good chance tomorrow morning, so I may try again then.
We did have a fun day though, driving for all of the 6 hours of sunlight we had. Thrifty Car Rental was great, responding to my emails since I don’t have a phone, and met me at 9 am to give us a new car. Its not often we are up for the sunrise and sunset, but here it was 10:30 am and 3:45 pm. For the one day we had, the Golden Circle was our best option, a 140 mile loop. War on Drugs felt like the perfect music for the drive, the beauty and the pain of the incredible landscapes in the harsh conditions. Not helped by our lack of warm clothes for the short hikes.
- Þingvellir National Park, site of the oldest parliament, formed in 1000 AD. Viking pride! Even includes the shooting location for Game of Thrones, which I have not seen. And the best view from a bathroom.
- Geysir. The geyser that erupts every 10 minutes.
- Gullfoss Waterfall.
Iceland is split by the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, which are separating an inch each year. People can even scuba in the snow melt that fills these ravines. There are also ice caves and glaciers to explore, but none of that could fit into one day.
We’ve been looking forward to swimming in the natural, geothermal water. Before we went, I saw this article about pool etiquette that led to just Michele and I going. They have mandatory (and enforced!) pre-swimming showers without swimsuits on. They take their swimming and etiquette seriously here, so just two of us went. The Laugardalslaug pool was great, lots of lanes for swimming laps and several hot tubs, each at a different temperature. The indoor pool was packed with swim teams using all 18 lanes. The shower rules reminded me of my experience at the onsen in Japan, and far worse, the trauma of high school gym class.
Another differences we noticed here is that lack of alcohol for sale, outside of restaurants. I found out that it is only sold at state owned liquor stores and they all close at 6 pm. The tax makes it very expensive. Beer was banned here from 1915 to 1989. I learned too late that the trick is to buy beer from the duty free shop at the airport.
Also, everything is super expensive. A box of pasta in the grocery store is $4, espresso shots are $5, and I saw a winter hat today for $60. Gas is $7.50 per gallon, when their liter prices are converted to gallons. We bought Subway today to take on our hikes and it was $10 for a 6 inch. Everywhere else, its a minimum of $20 per person to eat. I don’t believe they don’t have an official, legal minimum wage, but it sounds like its customary to pay at least wages that equate to $17 per hour. To be here, it helps to have Iceland wages. And to be able to pronounce their street names.
Today, we saw the sunrise…
…and the sunset.
And the geyser and heat vents in between.