Reykjavik-Keflavik-Seattle-Anchorage I had been debating about what to do on my last day in Iceland: more exploration in Reykjavik, a final visit to Reykjanes Geopark (where I began this trip), or some hours at the world-famous Blue Lagoon Spa..? I’d seen most of what I wanted to see in the city already, outside of visiting some museums and I simply wasn’t …
Today was my urban day. All told, I walked about 10 miles around Reykjavik today, checking out downtown, the docks, the Phallological Museum, public swimming pools and bars selling locally crafted brews. Things I learned today, in no particular order: Greenpeace is in Iceland. Most mammals, humans being one of few notable exceptions, have penis bones. Beer in Iceland is uniformly good, and really strong. Public pools are the community center.
Reykjavik is a totally walkable city. The population is about 200,000 and it’s fairily compact, making it easy to get around. It’s clean and has a decidedly European flair, with some interesting public buildings. It is still, for a small city, remarkably quiet like the rest of the country. Going to a public pool today was interesting. Pools are common here in communities of any real size, but I was often outside even those and so didn’t have much opportunity to visit them. Unlike the Myvatn spa where most of the patrons were obviously tourists, this pool seemed to be where local Icelanders go to hang out with friends and family: multigenerational families, fathers with their babes and small groups of college-aged kids were there, all seeming to know one another and moving frequently from the lap pool to the “hot pots” to the saunas and back again. Instead of the English, French, German and Spanish polyglot I’ve heard for the last two days, most of conversations I heard were in Icelandic.
Dinner tonight was at Sægreifinn, a little hole in the wall on the docks. There is family style seating for perhaps 30 people, at three long and closely packed trestle tables. Customers included quite a few locals, some tourists and a Brazilian film crew eating their way around the world. The menu is simple: lobster soup, fresh bread, and skewered items of your choosing. Skewers available included cod, redfish, salmon, char, Minke whale, vegetables and potatoes. I opted for soup, bread, veggies and yes, Minke. I’ve had mixed feelings about eating puffin, pony or whale but decided my Iceland adventure wouldn’t be complete without trying at least one of those meats. And I have to say, it was pretty damn good. Not so good that I will become an ardent proponent of whaling for commercial food purposes; not so good that I’ll go,out of my way to eat it again… But it was damn tender and mighty tasty.
Another home-style day: windy with horizontal rain, all day. Not a good day necessarily to be topside but underwater is a different story! Incredibly clear water at Silfra, at least 100 feet and probably way more than that. The water is glacial melt that has gone through miles and miles of filtration through volcanic soils – it’s drinkable straight from the lake, though I didn’t try this as I wasn’t sure how well I’d accomplish drinking a mouthful of water while still managing to breathe with my regulator. Not a whole lot to see but be able to swim in the rift between tectonic plates is just pretty damn neat.
Silfra is in Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, so I spent a bit of time walking through park of the park when I got done diving – until my feet were squishing in my shoes and the water was wicking up my socks. I was right next to the edge of the North American plate – I could’ve (and probably should’ve, since my shoes were already soaked) waded across a creek to touch it. The Eurasian plate is a kilometer or so distant – couldn’t see it because of the weather – and the area in between the two is laced with deep cracks and ponds/lakes like Silfra. The two plates spread a bit less than an inch per year.
After a warm shower and some fresh dry clothes I headed to Matur of Drykker for dinner – fantastic meal using all locally grown/caught/collected ingredients, including an Icelandic white ale flavored with thyme, cod chips, cod liver, cod tongue and cod head. Who’d o’ thunk cod parts could taste so good?!