I Got Lost Going to the Pool in Iceland
I can't believe how safe Iceland is,even in Reykjavic-the capital of Iceland. I am currently on a trip to Iceland and customary with me whenever I go on a foreign trip is, I read and familiarize myself of the country I am visiting so that I am not in limbo when I arrive there. With guidebooks and you tube videos ,I had been briefed that Iceland is laidback and easy to navigate. After all, there are only 320,000 something people in a country the size of Portugal. So, I already had pre-conceived ideas about Icelanders even before I arrived in Reykjavic. First thing I noticed when I boarded an Icelandair flight from Seattle to Reykjavic are the physical features of the flight attendants. They are extremely tall , with probably an average height of 6 feet. It is a known fact that flight attendants are normally tall as height is somewhat of a requirement in their job .What is unusual and interesting is that not only were the flight attendants tall , they were also femininely stocky and muscular which is clearly evident in their impeccably formal flight attendant uniform in blue pill box hats and blue suits. With the physical demeanor that I had been initially presented, I already assumed the impression that Icelanders are reserved, straight as an arrow and no nonsense kind of a deal. The cliche " looks are decieving " once more proved its point.One night after a long sightseeing trip from southern Iceland,I decided to experience the famous geothermal pools that Icelanders are very proud of and rejuvenate my tired body after 7 hours of hopping in and out of the tour bus.I had to walk to the geothermal pool for about 20 minutes from my hotel.Open air geothermal pools and swimming even in the midst of winter's subzero temperature is a must for Icelanders for health reasons.Up to this time,I still wonder what the fascination or the merits of swimming in sulfur infested water pool. As the saying goes,when in Rome ,(in my case ICELAND) do as the Romans do.It was dark ,snowy and cold while walking but I had no choice.I already knew through readings in guidebooks that Iceland is pretty safe and Icelanders are nice.You see,when you are in Iceland, the viking spirit rubs in very quickly.I thought i'd put myself to endurance test braving the icy cold slippery winter weather walking to the pool. Guess what? I got lost going to the pool. GPS in my smart phone called Iphone says it is .5 km. It wasn't. It was 1.5 km after I got lost.Apple phone technology is not as smart as what it is hyped up to be.I think the late Mr Jobs will have a lot of explaining to do if he was alive today.A little later, an Icelandic man saw me walking and he figured I was lost. He asked me If I was lost.I told him yes.He asked me where was I going.I told him, I am going to the pool.Noticing my distinct, exotic Filipino accent probably prompted him to ask me curiously,oh where are you from.I told him I live in California. He said,oh no! that is far but he meant the pool. I think 1 km for Icelanders is considered the end of the earth. I walk 4 miles a day in my neck of the woods called California and 1 km to me is going next door to my neighbors Trish ,Mick and their white sheepdog Lucky whose favorite place of canine excretion is my front yard and does not even say excuse me after he does his impending call of nature. Lucky thinks my frontyard is his frontyard too. Well, so much for Lucky,the dog. Back to the Icelandic man.He told me his flat was just across the street and he told me to wait in the middle of the street while he gets his car. I wonderingly and politely asked him, what do you mean "you are going to get your car ? He then said he was going to drive me to the pool.He said it just like that. No frills about it.He did not even ask me if I wanted to ride in his car. I was thinking ,no way,Buddy ! How am I supposed to know you are not some kind of an ugly troll from the movie THOR who is going to kidnap me and hide me in your little mountain house?I heard that elves and trolls are part of the indigenous population of Iceland.LOL! I was afraid at first and being the former girl scout in me, I was prepared.I have a pink pepper spray that lights up with a little flashlight LOL! I made sure of that .No one is going to get me .OH no, not even mister Icelandic troll and his magic tricks .LOL!! Since I was the only one in the road walking around 9 pm and not a soul around and I was already freezing in my bones, my gut feeling told me , buddy troll is a good samaritan and he is just trying to be helpful to a tired and weary traveller. Either I take up on buddy troll's offer or walk to the pool with my fear and freeze to death before I even get there. Well ,I chose to live and survive so I said yes ,please take me to the pool. LOL! I should be really thankful to him.This never happens in California or anywhere in the world that I have been(except Iceland , I learned that later) because in California, you just don't go and hop in other people's car whose driver you don't even know. That is unheard of and totally unsafe.I learned later through other guests in the hotel and the reception desk that in Iceland,it is customary to help people even if you don't know them.Icelanders are known to pick up hitch hikers and put them up in their homes especially in the countryside where it is sparsely populated.People in the highlands are happy to welcome fellow humans as they don't see many of them wandering in their neighborhood often, especially in the dead of winter where they are isolated and cut off from the rest of the world.They see more of the indigenous Icelandic horses or sheeps roaming around more than people.So anyway, GUNNAR i. e. my pool driver aka Troll Thor hahaha! dropped me to the pool, I said my thank you and he went on his merry way.How cool is that?
So now, I got to the pool already around 930 pm - 3 very big olympic sized pools steaming with sulfur that you can smell all the way to the front door of the Gym as they call it in Iceland.Icelanders got it down to a science when it comes to their geothermal pools.Very high tech and never seen anything like it.For 500 Icelandic krona (about $4) ,you get a water proof bracelet in different neon colors and you can swim as long as you want for 24 hours.These are infrared bracelets you wear as an ID,as a key to your locker and to get in and out of the gates to the pools.You can swim with it , scan your wrist with the bracelet through the infrared light and your locker opens ,the gate opens and the shower room door opens.Even the toilet doors open.These pools are open 24 hours complete with big hot tubs and saunas all geothermally heated.It was minus 3-4 Celcius outside temperature but the pools are geothermically heated to 27 Celcius.I have to tell you that when it comes to being fit and living a healthy lifestyle, Iceland tops it all.Long life expectancy here is only second to Japan. An everage one hour of sunlight exposure everyday, in the midst of winter has not tempered the Icelanders thirst for healthy living. They don't hibernate in the winter .Instead, they strap on their boots, go out and say hello to the great Arctic outdoors. Long live the Icelanders!
Swimming in a sulfurized water was initially strange but after being there for two hours it became second nature.It felt invigorating. It rendered me sleeping like a log in my hotel room.By this time , I now met an older Icelandic woman.Her name is Anna.While we were both swimming,we strike up a conversation easily. I have to admit I give myself credit for initiating the friendly conversation we both became comfortable with.She is probably in her 70's and she is retired being a former director of Reykjavic Orchestra.She comes to swim here nightly for 3 hours. Anna is a very interesting character. She never got married ,never had children and had travelled the world in the strangest places.Her latest conquest was diving in the icy cold waters of Barents Sea near the Arctic Pole with a bunch of Russian Marine Life Scientists to go look at and observe marine life for hours submerged underwater .You pay money to do that? I thought you get paid for doing that ,not the other way around. Ewww! No siree! Not me.That's digging your own grave.That's what it sounds like to me. Talk about death with all its horrifying connotations ,this is definitely an unconventional way out from mother earth. I can assure you, I definitely do not intend to leave this way.LOL! .
The whole time , I am in Iceland, people never stop to amaze me. After all, what country prides itself for erecting an infamous penis museum in the center of town and being the major focal point for tourists to ogle at and take pictures. What can be so interesting to see a private part of the male anatomy that warrants the construction of its own museum? Once you see one, you've seen them all .Unless the Icelanders equate this particular male body part as a piece of an exquisite work of art that pretends to rival the MONA LISA, then that is a different ballgame. ART is a state of mind,my friends Lol! Nevertheless, I still have difficulty reconciling the fascination of a male private body part to be blatantly exposed for public viewing and expect people to rave about it. My good guess is, this is Iceland's version of taking a walk in the wild and sexy side. Hahaha!
But yet ,beneath the Icelanders' seemingly cold, reserved demeanor , there is an underlying kindness and hospitality that defies even the greatest expectations from human beings. I was in the grocery store near my hotel buying some basic food staples to stock the fridge in my hotel room and the grocery store clerk took the time to orient me with unusual and bizarre Icelandic foods that only Icelanders are brave enough to eat- smoked whale belly, sheep head with its eyes staring at you, fermented shark that has been buried and cured for six months before consumption at the dinner table . These I can handle and have tried to taste them just for the novelty of it.I am brave enough to have Orca the whale or Jaws the shark for dinner but smoked sheep testicles? Good heavens! No, I won't go that far.I am not quite ready to face the wrath of Dolly the cloned sheep yet. I have limits to my risky daredevil like adventure when it comes to eating indigenous foods in foreign countries .Refusing to eat smoked sheep testicles is definitely one of them. Onother surprise for me in Iceland are the legendary Icelandic muscle strong men who looks incredibly organically structured INCREDIBLE HULKS without the steroids. These men look like lean mean machines ,typically pumping iron guys who can literally lift 400 pounds with a flick of their thumbs. I chanced upon a bunch of them in the pool, one night, practicing their whale flips.Wowowo !!! This is a whole different culture here.I flew out of the pool as soon as I saw them. I ducked to avoid them in the locker room but only to find out they are real gentlemen. One of them ,even showed me where to get a towel and soap as I did not know where the towels and soaps were kept. Yes, locker rooms here in Iceland are unisex. It was like a scene directly created from Woodstock. LOL!
The whole Iceland adventure is quite something beyond ordinary. It opened a whole new experience for me. Maybe I was quite observant and diligently took notes of the differences of cultures and people. Iceland is a very hospitable ,kind and humble to its roots country and I love it. I will definitely be back.