Visiting Iceland

Flashback 5th grade, Miss All-breath’s class: Ok kids, the big country is called Greenland, but it sucks. It’s just a big glacier and very difficult to live on. But notice this smaller chunk. It’s called Iceland and is really a cool place to live. It’s actually fairly warm and in about 10 years there will be a band called the Sugarcubes, then Bjork, then Sigur Ros will transform what is thought of as music in the world. So the moral of the story is don’t believe what the Vikings always say. Sometimes they lie. Like when I bought the 50 lb chunk of cheese from Vikings-R-Us and discovered it was really just plastic. Bastards…

Ever since that fateful day in Miss All-breath’s class I’ve wanted to visit this mysterious, fraudulently named country. It was one of my top goals when I moved to Paris in 2006. Fortunately the Icelandic economy crashed a few months ago and I could suddenly afford the trip. Sometimes Bush’s disastrous policies can lead to some good. An international economic crisis can mean good opportunities for travel.

In case you are wondering, we called her All-breath because she drank about a dozen cups of coffee and Tab soda mixed together every morning and her breath would make your hair stand on end.

So here I am eating muesli at my hotel on Sunday morning. The sun won’t rise for about an hour, which is a good thing. I’m going to grab my tripod and camera and photograph the rising sun over the shoreline. I’m sore from yesterday’s tour of the country. But mostly, I’m content. I’ve finally made it to Iceland and it has been wonderful.

The Icelandic people are very friendly and polite. The water tastes like candy. The air is crisp and clear. And the weather is cold, especially for this Californian, but it’s not crazy cold like Chicago or Buffalo. It’s certainly not Alaska or Montreal cold. It’s cold like the coffee you poured 30 minutes ago and thought, ooh coffee…

Speaking of traveling, my lesbian sisters need to get their butch and femme asses over here. Show some support for the new Prime Minister. Don’t expect Dinah Shore Weekend; but you will find an open-minded, friendly country that desperately needs your travel dollars.

Swimming pools

Everyone here swims. Reykjavik has a great Olympic swimming stadium that the city uses as a social area, exercise space, and relaxation. It costs about 1 euro to enter, that includes a locker/key. You can use the indoor Olympic sized swimming pool, but most head outside to swim or soak in heated water while their heads slowly freeze. I didn’t see the hot tubs during my first visit. There is a set of tubs with different temperature water next to the large sauna. You can soak those tired muscles and backs for hours in these while meeting the locals.
Iceland 2009
Today I am going to the Blue Lagoon. It’s like Salton Sea in California, only without the retching stench of rotting who knows what, decaying buildings, and fish bone shores. No, it’s like Salton Sea in that it was created as an accident.

A geothermal energy plant began pouring the cooled water they brought up from the deep below the surface into a shoreline covered in lava rock. This water contains all sorts of minerals, salts, clays, and mysterious healing goodies. People began swimming in this oddly blue pool and bragging about how wonderful it felt. Soon it became the “blue lagoon” with its clay sold in Nieman Marcus makeup areas.

Geothermal goodness

Icelandic Geothermal PowerplantAs a Southern Californian, I feel guilty taking long hot showers. First there is the ever-present drought. Add the energy needed to heat the water. Hot showers equal hot dirty sin in my mind. So imagine my relief to be in Iceland where there is unlimited water and it’s heated by the ground. No energy is used to make the water hot. It feels so good to take a sin-free hot shower.

I visited a geothermal energy plant yesterday. It’s what you would expect: big pumps, turbines, lots of pipes. It also had some interesting guides and even an earthquake simulator. Speaking of which: Where’s my earthquake? I miss them and was hoping to experience at least a 4-5 richter jolt while in Iceland. They have them all the time, but do they save one for me? Nooo.

Falling on my ass

I’m a city-slicker. A warm-weather city slicker. I spent 6 weeks in California this year to avoid the winter in Paris. This leads to my shoe collection. There ain’t a damn thing I own for walking on ice. I went to BHV but they don’t carry shoes for people like me that wear pontoons for shoes. So imagine me trying to walk on icy paths leading to waterfalls, geysers, and overlooks. Oh, it was entertaining! My ass is black and blue from falling all day. Combine that with a backpack and camera fanny pack and I am one tired, sore fool this morning. I think I fell more than the entire tour group combined. I was ready to just sit on my ass and skoot around like a beggar in a Flemish genre painting.

Icelandic food

It’s a good thing I’m a vegetarian. There’s some really gross meat products over here. There’s a shark dish that rots in the ground for three months to be dug up and allowed to aerate for another 3 months. They also eat dried sheep faces and ram balls. And this was before the country went bankrupt!

I brought some goodies from Paris in case the news reports of mass famine were correct. I brought some Poilane bread, clementines, and comte and mimmolette cheeses. Luckily I haven’t been forced to eating crumbs from the bottom of the bread bag. There’s plenty of food here. There’s also some nice restaurants that are quite inexpensive. I had a great mushroom soup an garlic bread for about 7 euros the first night and an Indian meal last night for about 10 euros.

I think I may buy some sheep faces for my friends in Paris. I’m sure they’ll enjoy them.

Search for the mythical Northern Lights

i went on a Northern Lights tour last night. It was doubtful they would appear as the sky was filled with clouds in Reykjavik. However, there was a very slight chance and what the heck.

Our tour bus made a quick stop at a Viking museum next to the Alcoa aluminum smelting plant. They had a mockup of a fantasy theme park based on northern European culture. We then went to the most western part of the country in hopes of escaping the clouds. Although there were gasps of potential wonder, we just stood around in the cold and took photos of eachother and the non-Northern Lit ocean.

Iceland Photographs

I’ve uploaded a bunch of photos to Flickr. I am trying to get used to the digital SLR. The more I use it, the more I think I prefer film. I also realized I ignored much of the advice I gave to my students.

I had my light meter set to spot instead of center-weighted, which requires much more care. I also kept forgetting to cover my eye pieced during long exposures, light can come in and change the meter reading. I didn’t buy a filter for my new lens and the lens got smudged. I forgot a grey card and/or to set my camera’s exposure and white balance to work with snow scenes.Oh, and I forgot to fully charge the battery. I still got some interesting photos and my trusty Panosonic point and shoot worked like a viking trooper.

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  1. I think your article was a hoot! Well written, smart, funny and above all, happily sardonic. Love your take on the sheep faces. Iceland sounds like a fun place to visit. I agree, film is so much more appealing. Good luck. Joy

  2. Ted, your travelogue made me laugh out loud, several times. I hope I don’t find any sheep faces or ram balls in your fridge when I come visit in a few weeks. And please tell me you’re joking about the shark meat that rots in the ground for three months!

  3. Oh and about Mrs. Albright… er Albreath… I had her for sixth grade, too, and your description was no exaggeration. For Christmas one year, the students secretly left several packs of Dentyne on her desk.

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