Iceland and morePosted: September 21, 2010
Well here I am. Back at the Free School Apparent. As my last post suggests, I have been away from writing here for a while. Did not have much to say, and the summer was brutal. We got away as much as possible. Also, with the prospects of our local cafe closing down, and the blog that was connected to it, my last few posts have been on the Vox Pop Literati, which had its farewell post as of last week. So now Free School Apparent, I am all yours.
But hold on just a minute. My life right now is full of many experiences, and maybe, just maybe, I want to write off topic for a while. Is that permissible?
As the sole administrator here I say yes.
So that said, I will give you at least a preliminary report of our summer.
We recently returned from trips to Iceland and Denmark. Denmark was okay, but I think I may be a bit tapped out on Europe right now. Copenhagen was a very nice city, but a little too much like New York. There were some interesting things I observed in Copenhagen. Specifically their commitment to a bicycle commuting city, with a full bicycle borrowing program that relies on trust. The first thing you notice when you get into Copenhagen is the amount of bicycles parked around or near train stations. In addition, there is a dedicated lane for bicycles and you have to watch your ass when you step off a curb there. It is not a painted lane like we have in NYC. There is a curb on the narrow sidewalk, which leads to an asphalt bike lane, which then has another curb which separates it from the roadway. Bikes are parked by the stations in droves, just about everywhere in the city, with a lock that seems to have a common key. There is another system aimed at tourists that requires a 20 DK coin to be inserted into a designated lock, which releases the bike. You ride it to where you have to go, then at another similar station, lock the bike, and you get back your 20 DK (about $3.50.)
There were other things of interest in Copenhagen, but overall, the site of 7 Elevans and Blockbuster Videos was just a reminder how alike the world has become. On the plus side, we visited the Louisiana which is Denmark’s MOMA and probably the nicest modern art museum I have been to. The Dansk Design House was worth a visit. The Danes are known for great design and this was an inspiration for both me and Sheryll as well as Noah who did not get bored. The saying we took away from this is “Good Design is Good Business” which was posted on one of the walls in the museum. Almost all Danes speak English so getting around the city is not a problem. But overall, Copenhagen is expensive.
The first leg of our journey was in Iceland. In truth, if I could have ended my vacation at 8 days in Iceland, I would have been completely satisfied. The impressions of the landscape were so strong, that when we were leaving, I felt full and did not need anymore.
The flight in, is about 5 and half hours from JFK. We left at 2 pm and arrived our time at 7:30 pm. But it was already after midnight there. We arrived at our guesthouse at 2 am and our gracious host was there to meet us and show us to our room. We had a 1 bedroom apartment, with a small kitchen, 2 burner stove, living room with a bed made up for Noah and TV with all of Iceland’s 3 channels. One of which show the Alpinghi, the country’s Parliament. It show the Alpinghi, which is the oldest Parliament in Europe (1000 years old) even when it is not in session, so you are looking at an emtpy room. When we arrived, everything was closed. Fortunately there was some food left over in the fridge. I was able to pull together a pasta dinner for us before we retired to bed and try to adjust to their time frame, which we never completely did.
On our first day we, we walked into Reyjavik which was only a few blocks to to the town center. It turned out we were located just up the street from the US Embassy. The only embassy, I might add, with barricades. When we got to downtown, we were treated to an unusual event. The local college was in it’s first day of school ceremonie. Below are a few pictures which I will explain.
It was explained to us this way. The students who were charging up the entry way wearing togas, were the current seniors and would be graduating that year. The next group to charge up the walkway (to the soundtrack of Orff’s Carmina Barana, the soundtrack frequently heard in movies) were the current students. At the windows and looking down, dressed in white shirts were the freshman students. This was the welcoming ceremony for new students.
After our first day, and a little research, we decided to rent a car, rather than use the bus tours. It was more liberating and definitely cost effective. To boot, the company brought the car to my guest house on a flatbead truck. They delivered my Toyota Yari right to my door (and picked it up from there as well.) The only issue I had was that it took me a day to get used to the manual shift. I dreaded being on hills, but once I was out on open highway, it became easier.
Most of our meals were made in the room. Restaurants tended to be a little costly, so we stuck to shopping and cooking our own food. For road trips, we made sandwiches and brought fruit and beverages. Food on the road in Iceland tends to be hamburgers and Coke. It seems Icelanders are some of the biggest Per capita consumers of Coke in the world.
I am not going to say much more other than the landscape is other worldly. When you drive through this country, you are met with ever changing terrain. Every couple of minutes, another completely unique landscape comes into view. If you want to see some of those pictures, I have posted them on Flicker. The tempeatures by the way, were a constant high of 55º F and low of 51º. It was overcast most of the time we were there, but we were prepared with raincoats, which were really useful in this environment.
The last day we had the car, we dove over to the Blue Lagoon. The guide book suggested that if we were in Iceland, we owed ourselves a visit to this bit of extravagance. It is the biggest tourist attraction in the country, and most take it in as a stop before they fly out of the country. This hot spring spa was a real treat. The water is kept at a constant 38ºC (100.4º F.) It is located on a natural hot spring. Thermal fields are common all over Iceland. This was our one big tourist experience. I will leave you with a picture and then say goodbye.