Friday, February 24, 2006

Iceland Travelogue by Naomi Edelstein

Great weekend reading. Jonathan Edelstein's wife does a great post about their stay in Iceland. I'm ready to make plans.

Our first night, we dined in a place called ViĆ° Tjornina, which was in a renovated home. Eating there was fun; the place looked like a cross between a bordello and your grandmother's home (try putting those two concepts together) and was full of foreigners. What's interesting about Iceland and Europe in general is that English is now the common language that everyone uses. So we were sitting next to this group of diners comprised of some Italians, a Dutch person and their Icelandic host. They were having a discussion about European politics and Jon almost jumped in when they began talking about lawyers, but chose not to.
We finished off [another] evening at the Blue Lagoon, Iceland's most well-known geothermal pool. Almost every city and town over there has one of these pools, heated by natural geothermal water, but this spa is the biggest (and presumably the best). The lagoon itself is man-made, but the water is pumped in from a nearby volcano and is a perfect 100 degrees. It was a little odd changing into a swimsuit when it was 40 degrees outside ... and then swimming outside, but boy, I tell you, I can get used to geothermal swimming, especially when it's in an outdoor place with beautiful scenery. Comparing it to a hot tub or relaxing bath isn't appropriate; the feeling it evoked for me was like when it's cold outside and you're in your warm, comfy bed drinking hot chocolate and don't have to worry about getting up for work or anything. It was just very relaxing and peaceful and felt kind of like you were bundled into a warm blanket.
On our last day, we went hunting for elves. Yes, you read that correctly. One of Reykjavik's suburbs--Hafnarfjorour--is famous for its elfin population. A local seer, Erla Steffansdottir, apparently knows how to speak with these creatures, and runs a tour and put together a map of where to find them. We didn't take her tour, but we did purchase this elf map. We then visited the park where Hidden People live and stopped by the stomping grounds of a 500-year-old hermit. This map contains her drawings of the elves, as well as her account of an elf dinner she once attended. It has to be seen to be believed. Yet the city takes the elf situation seriously. You can't build on an area unless it's been deemed free of elfin habitats. And many people have small houses on their lawns that look like dog houses. They're not; these are put there in case the elves need a place to stay.

We did not see any elves, nor did we see the Northern Lights, which proved to be as elusive as the elves in the cloudy weather. Everyone kept telling us, "Oh, they're here all the time"(the Lights, not the elves). This didn't make me feel any better!

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