Aurora Borealis, Blue Lagoon, dramatic landscape, Esja, geography, Geysir, Harpa, Iceland, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Kanchenjunga, Kolabrautin, natural phenomena, Nordic, Northern Lights, Reykjanesbaer, Reykjavik, Sikkim, silica mud, skyr, Tchaikovsky, volcanic soil
I was away for the past week on meetings in Iceland and spent the weekend recovering and the two days after that catching up with work. Our Icelandair flight was surprisingly very full; it seems tourism is doing really well. In Reykjavik too, despite the cold, there were quite a few tourists and many of them Chinese. As soon as we left Keflavik airport, we headed straight towards Blue Lagoon passing through Reykjanesbaer – a more affordable option to living in the capital – for residents and tourists alike. My colleague and I splashed about happily in the mineral-rich waters, slapping on silica mud packs and taking in the sun. The water was nearly 40°C while it was about 6 degrees outside.
Driving towards Reykjavik after bravely resisting the temptation to purchase expensive silica mud to take home, I was amazed to see the landscape. The earth especially was black and looked upturned. I was told it is volcanic soil. It also seemed to support vegetation in some areas but we did drive through miles where it was just black. The capital itself looks extraordinary – there aren’t too many tall buildings, perhaps some in the financial district, and most hotels and even restaurants are situated in colourful houses.
We caught up with another colleague in the evening and had a wonderful dinner. It’s quite nice to actually eat in one of these little houses – it does give a cozy, homely and warm feeling. Food is never a problem for me in the Nordics – they do lovely things with their vegetarian food too and Iceland is no exception. Like Norway, Iceland is expensive (perhaps to a lesser degree) and this was well reflected in our bills. For those who enjoy a wider palette it should come as no surprise that giving its fishing tradition, Iceland is known for its various types of fish. It is also known for its sheep, and therefore also its succulent goat meat 😦
One of the nights we toyed with the idea of taking a tour to catch the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. The tour would have driven us far from the city into the countryside and returned us back at 1 am. This was a real temptation but unfortunately after our first day, the weather turned cold and wet until the end of our trip and seeing the Lights with such cloud cover would be impossible. Instead we decided to catch the opening night of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra at Harpa – built during the heart of the crisis when three of the largest Icelandic banks failed (within a week). We managed to get three seats together just a few minutes before the show started. I was glad I went. It’s lovely to see musical instruments up so close in addition to the joy of hearing so many types in perfect harmony. The mood turned slightly dark when the Orchestra played Tchaikovsky – it was perfect. Needless to say, the concert hall was packed. During the break we made reservations for dinner at the restaurant at the top, Kolabrautin. The view was excellent – we looked down at the harbour and the water glittering under the lamps in the night. Lovely.
One of the other nights, we dined with two other colleagues from another practice who also happened to be visiting the city at the same time. This was yet another cozy restaurant and I really liked the ambiance here. A word on dessert – with all the meals we had there, this part of the dinner was consistently spectacular. Blueberry pudding, warm chocolate cake and other such heavenly delicacies. I personally loved skyr foam on my dessets, buying a pack at the airport before I left the country. This form of yogurt is served sweetened with desserts in foam form. It’s lovely though I have to say I wish I’d bought a flavoured form because it is a bit sour on its own.
Returning back to the airport, the landscape looked even more stunning with the dark clouds looming low on the horizon. Looking out at the turbulent ocean stirring under the rain across the dramatic surroundings, it almost seemed cataclysmic was going to happen. Perhaps another volcanic eruption?
I would love to visit this country again. One for its geographical features – the volcanoes, the soil, Geysir, Esja (a gorgeous volcanic mountain range, visible across Reykjavik, made of basalt and tuff-stone). And to check out the Northern Lights. And to see whales. And to drive around the country. Hopefully with my trusty camera this time! I have to say this trip has really reawakened my interest in geography and natural phenomena. Enough to make me change my holiday from Thailand to Sikkim in North East India – to catch the sun rising up on the Kanchenjunga and its range – it’s only the third largest peak in the world after all 😉 Mighty Himalayas – I’m coming back!