Saturday, October 02, 2010

Iceland

It felt like I had been preparing for this point forever so when I got everything done on my list I headed to the airport early; very early. I ended up getting there before the gate crew did so I couldn't even check my luggage, but it was fine since I found a comfy seat with a nearby outlet to charge my laptop and phone. As luck would have it another London college student sat down next to me with a few hours to kill. I was able to pick her brain for all the details for living in London. When I was able to check my luggage I found that my bag had ripped that was carrying my bike but it turned out to be a good thing because the gate agent saw it was a bike and only charged me half of the suitcase rate (I didn't know there was a cheaper rate for bikes) once she saw my visa she didn't hassle me for being oversized for my carry-on weight.
I gotta say, I like Iceland air. I don't have to sit spread eagle because the seat was far enough away, and there was a USB port in every chair so I could charge my phone. As soon as we were airborne I was out cold until we started the decent.
When I saw I could have a 9 hour layover in Iceland and I took it. Getting through Iceland customs was the easiest experience I have ever had. All I said was hello and he stamped my passport. I had reserved a car and had opted out of the extra insurance. It was dark and raining when I got the car and of course once it was light I found a dent and a scratch that were not declared. I thought for sure when I turned in the car I, along with every person before me that refused insurance, would be charged highly for the scam of the same dent. The rental person had said to call her if I found anything when it got light but my phone was not picking up a signal for some reason and I think it is the first time I was dependant on pay-phones and realized that they do not exist anymore even at gas stations or hotels. The person I turned the car into ended up not seeing the dent so I just made sure to get a final receipt. But, that didn't stop me from kicking myself all day for trying to save a few bucks instead of peace of mind.
I had been so busy that all I had time to do as far as planning things to see was to just ask on an Internet forum what other people liked that had gone. I started out by going to the state cathedral Hallgrímskirkja. (It was on a hill and easily seen and I realized that the map that came with my guide book was crap so it was the only thing easy to find without a GPS.) Once I had my bearings, even without a GPS, it was pretty hard to get lost since Reykjavik was small enough that I could just head towards the water and get to a known point. I had planned on going to a museum but kept getting mixed up instead. The first time I ended up at the furthest point west for Europe and the second time I ended up at a Saturday swap meet. Both things I found cool and I don't think I could have found had I been trying. I drove down the famous shopping road Laugavegur but did not see any stores that looked interesting (All expensive tourist traps). For lunch I ended up at a shack in the harbor that was recommended from the forum (Saegreifinn / The Sea Baron). I had mink whale kabobs and Iceland lemonade (it was orange). Whale is tasty, mostly like steak, if not a little tough. While in the city I guess I fit right in because even in the touristy areas when they greeted the person in front of me in English they used Icelandic for me. (I always try to look non-tourist and I guess it works.)
For how plain European Reykjavik was, the scenery was amazing. I didn't have enough time to drive to the volcanoes but I could see them in the distance. The lava flows made it look like I was driving over a lunar surface and the thick green moss on everything just added to the other worldliness. I drove to the Blue Lagoon. The minerals in the steam and pools of water gave it the most beautiful blue color to offset the green moss. I wanted to stay longer but knew better than to push my luck.
Driving to and from the airport and while being lost I listened to a lot of radio. Icelandic sounds like a cross between Dutch and Swedish. The music was almost all recognizable even if it was covers of songs they were still sung in English.

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