Friday, June 20, 2003

This is where I'm living in Reykjavik, in the rather nice suburb of Kopavogur.


After working in the library Friday morning escaped to the countryside just south of Reykjavik. This served as a sharp reminder of the true state of Icelandic roads. The qualiter modern surface ends abruptly, and the road becomes a single track on mud and gravel with some extreme hills and bends. Tucked away in the fells is Kleifavatn, which is a sizeable lake of crystal clear, seemingly sterile, water. Local legend says that a monster lives there, and it is easy to understand why, as nothing much else seems to live here.

A little further south is the geothermal area of Krysuvik. Lots of boiling mud, stem, sulphateras and the like. Also a lake, Green Lake, which is coloured a funny shade of bright blue by the algae which thrive in the geothermal heat. Now why isn't it called blue lake ....

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Started today with a swim in an open air swimming pool, The Blue Lagoon. Weather dry and bright, and about 10 degrees. A great start to the day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

17th June is Independence Day in Iceland. In 1919 as part of the Versailles settlement Iceland was granted self-governing status within the Kingdom of Denmark with the right to independence after 25 years. The outbreak of the Second World War saw the occupation of Denmark by Germany, and in order to protect Iceland its occupation first by Britain and later by America. While Iceland presumably saw these occupations as preferable to the German invasions of Denmark and Norway they were far from popular. Independence was declared at Thingvellir 17th June 1944.

The independence day celebrations seem very subdued, but it is a public holiday, and the library and shops are closed.

So as I couldn’t work through forces beyond my control I went out to Thingvellir, and drove around the top of Thingvellirvatn.

In the middle of nowhere I was flagged down by two Czech hikers who had had enough and wanted a lift to civilisation. Took them to their destination – Reykjavik campsite. They are check-in staff from the BA and CSA desks at Prague airport taking their annual holiday. They are doing Iceland on the cheap, which I would have thought takes some doing.

A note on prices. I’ve come to the conclusion that just about everything is double UK prices. Certainly this goes for supermarket prices, restaurants, hotels, and public transport for those who have to use it. Now I’ve accepted this I don’t have to worry about it. Petrol is a little cheaper than UK. Supermarkets sell very small quantities of just about everything, which sure helps the single traveller. Lots of things are free – for example no admission fee to Thingvellir, and lots of quality information from the many tourist offices.


Monday, June 16, 2003

My first proper work day

The University of Iceland Library - is a super library, at least for the areas I’m interested in. Plan to spend the mornings here, and perhaps also get my lunch in the library’s cafeteria.

Some general thoughts on Icelandic matters.

WEATHER. Pretty good for the last couple of days – about 13 degrees, and around 8 degrees at night. It has also been bright and mostly dry. While in theory the sun sets, it is not getting dark. The birds start singing just after 1am. Gardens in Kopavogur are full of trees and a surprising variety of plants. Tulips are out now.

WATER. In the Reykjavik area hot water comes straight from the ground, and smells of rotten eggs. As everyone washes in it and washes their clothes in it the inhabitants of Reykjavik also smell faintly of rotten eggs. But after just a couple of days here it has become a background smell and I’m not noticing it. Or maybe I too smell of rotten eggs.

WORK. My target is 1000 words a day, though 1500 would give a comfort margin. So far so good.

ROADS. Reykjavik is much as any other city – in no way like the hinterland of Iceland. Roads are pretty good, and the driving style seems sedate. Most cars look as if they never go outside of the city. Mine has been washed three times, and the mud is still seeping from the cracks and crevices.

SUNDAY. Went for a couple of hours of riding with Ishestar This was through the lava fields of Helgafell, with super views as a backdrop. Horses are very much a part of Icelandic culture as they were the only viable means of transport until the roads were built, most in the 1950s or later.

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