Scandinavia08 – Day 1: Icelandic Independence Day

Highlight: Playing games set up for children during the Iceland Independence Day festivities. They were completely unsupervised and ridiculously fun. There was a hoop tossing game, bean bag toss, crazy stilts, skeeball, and many others. As the day progressed, the streets became crowded with families out enjoying the excellent weather and enjoying the live bands and activities. It was a great day.
Lowlight: Trying to fall asleep when it is still light out. This is going to be a rough night, I can see it already. I didn’t sleep much on the plane, but I had an hour nap this afternoon on a sunny hill while listening to a live band.
Fun Fact: Gimli, Manitoba has the largest population of Icelandic people outside of Iceland. There are 26,000 people of Icelandic heritage living in Manitoba – which is huge considering Iceland only has just over 300,000 people.
Money spent: 8035 ISK ($104 CAD)
Ben Frustration Index(BFI): 2 (I think I’m easily irritable because of lack of sleep).

Even though I got little-to-no sleep on the plane, I’m not tired right now. It’s tough to feel tired when it’s still light out and it won’t ever get dark. The sun sets at 12:30, rises again at 3:30, and between those times it’s dusky out – so it’s never dark. I probably should have known about this ahead of time, but it was quite the shock to me and I’m unprepared. There is a big skylight right above my head and I don’t have an eye mask. We’ll see if I can sleep tonight. My body is normally very tuned into a circadian rhythm, so this might be a challenge.

Ben and I had a good, low-key day in Reykjavik – a perfect way to fight off jet lag. We took in many of the Icelandic Independence Day festivities and also enjoyed a relaxing dip in one of the thermal pools.

There are 7 thermal pools in Reykjavik – really, they are just regular public pools, but they have hot tubs heated directly by thermal waters. This might have been a big deal a few years ago, but today all of Iceland’s homes get their hot water directly from the hot springs, which gives it a slightly sulphuric smell. You have to be really careful when you fill up your water bottles from the tap, to ensure you only use cold water (which is really good to drink). We spent 2 hours in the afternoon at one of the pools (not the big one which has water slides, but a smaller one closer to our hostel). It was cool because we were the only tourists there; everyone else was a local. You could tell because they were suntanning, even though it was only around 20 C out with a cold wind.

For dinner we ate a great vegetarian restaurant (Á Næstu Grösum) with very yummy food. After dinner, Ben chatted up a Parisian girl named Isabelle who is also staying in our hostel. The 3 of us sat on a grassy hill listening to Icelandic bands and discussing French politics. I think Ben was disappointed to hear she has a boyfriend, but he got her email anyway.

I lost my debit card already. I’m pretty sure I left it in the Running Room store in Richmond – I used it to buy a watch just before we left. I’m hoping I can get buy with my credit card and the approximately $600 in hard currency that I have. So far, everything excepts Visa. I think the whole country has been sponsored by Visa – everywhere you go there are Visa ads, and everyone accepts credit cards – even the little street vendors that set up today for festivities have portable credit card readers. I converted $100 into Icelandic Kronur at the airport, and I haven’t used any of it yet. The prices here are expensive, but not as ridiculous as I expected them to be. I think the recent plunge in the value of the Kronur has worked in our favour.

Statue of Leif Ericson  3 Trolls  Belgium Waffles in Iceland  Icelandic Police Officers  Ducks  Grass Wall  Ring Toss  Ben on Stilts  Walking on Stilts  Carnival Games  Icelandic Hot Dogs  Ben and Isabelle  Iceland Independence Day

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